Dáil Éireann - Volume 287 - 27 January, 1976

Dáil Sittings: Motion.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach (Mr. Kelly): I move:

That notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders the following arrangements relating to business [411] and sittings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays shall apply on and from Tuesday, 3rd February, 1976 until the adjournment for the Easter Recess:—

(1) the Dáil shall meet on Tuesdays at 2.30 p.m. and on Wednesdays at 10.30 a.m. and the interruption of business provided for in Standing Order 20

(2) shall take place on those days at 8.30 p.m. or at such hour as proceedings, if any, under Standing Order 123 shall have concluded and the Dáil shall adjourn not later than half an hour after the interruption of business;

(2) on Tuesdays and Wednesdays—

(a) notice of intention to raise a matter under Standing Order 20 (3) shall be given not later than 4 p.m.;

(b) a motion that the Dáil sit later than the time provided in paragraph (1) shall be moved not later than 6.30 p.m.;

(c) the provisions of Standing Order 30 shall apply with the substitution therein of 7 p.m. for 9 p.m.;

(d) Questions shall be taken from 2.30 p.m. to 3.30 p.m.; and

(e) Government business or Private business, as the case may be, shall be interrupted between 7 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. to take private Members' business: provided that where leave has been given to move a motion under Standing Order 30 the latter shall have priority;

(3) sittings shall be suspended from 1.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. on Wednesdays and business shall be interrupted accordingly; and

(4) the provisions of Standing Order 123 shall apply with the substitution therein of 8.30 p.m. for 10.15 p.m.

I should like to explain briefly to the House the reasons why the Government propose this experimental [412] change in the sitting hours of the Dáil and also to say something about the discussions between Government and Opposition which preceded the introduction of this motion.

The present sitting hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays have remained essentially unchanged since 1936 while the pressures on individual Members of the Dáil and on Deputies who are also members of the Government have grown inordinately in that period. While it is true that habituation has led Members of the House to organise their lives around the traditional sitting hours, the Government think it would be worth experimenting, at least, with a pattern of hours which, while equalling in number the hours provided for in present Standing Orders, more nearly corresponds with the shape of a normal working day. The Government feel such a change would lead to a more business-like Dáil, and foresee for all Deputies several substantial advantages from the proposed scheme.

First, the general shift of business towards earlier hours of the day and evening should mean that all Deputies will have a more or less equal chance of Press notice, irrespective of the time of day at which they may speak, whereas hitherto, as Deputies know, speeches delivered in the late evening have had a relatively poor chance of coverage, due to the timetable of the daily Press. This fact has indeed frequently led to the time of the House being wasted through Deputies' deliberately prolonging their contributions up to 10.30 p.m. in order to report progress and thus be the first called on when the debate resumed at a time more favourable to Press coverage.

Secondly, the proposed earlier hours will give many Deputies an opportunity to spend their evenings, or part of them, at home or in the vicinity of their homes. This benefit is by no means confined to Dublin Deputies as may be suggested. A check of the Dáil roll will show that a clear majority, that is about 55 per cent of all Deputies reside within about one-and-a-half hours' drive of Leinster House; and while Deputies whose homes are more [413] distant will have no special benefit from the suspension of business at 8.30 instead of at 10.30 p.m., the remainder will probably welcome the opportunity of being able to spend their evenings as they wish instead of being confined to Leinster House while waiting for divisions.

Thirdly, the proposal will have the specific benefit for members of the Government and in some measure also members of the Opposition, that attendance at the nationally or politically important evening functions which is so often expected of them will be possible without, in most cases, any conflict with their duties of attendance at Leinster House during the sittings of the Dáil. Hitherto office-holders who have applied to be released for such functions have been mostly facilitated by pairing by the Opposition, except on occasions of particularly tense confrontation, but on the other hand, they have also been under pressure from the Government whips' side not to request pairs, and often, too, pairings have been forthcoming at the last moment only, thus causing a good deal of uncertainty and inconvenience to all. The Government make no complaint about the conduct of the Opposition in this regard, which has been generally reasonable and helpful, but would wish to free Ministers from the existing constraints and would also observe that the attendance of Opposition members at the evening occasions of political importance to which they are very frequently invited will also be facilitated.

Fourthly, while the proposed “sos” from 1.30 to 2.30 on Wednesday arises principally in order to lighten the burden on the Official Reporting staff who have very severe problems to contend with on days when the Seanad also sit, the Government hope that this hour, in combination with the following Question Time hour, will be of some benefit to Deputies who may wish, as is often the case, to dispatch some business in Dublin but outside Leinster House.

As to the history behind this motion, I raised with the Opposition Chief Whip informally on various occasions over the last year the possibility of [414] agreement on an experiment in new sitting hours. Subsequently, the Government decided in principle to apply an experimental change for a period up to last Christmas and I wrote to Deputy Lalor last October setting out a scheme which I believed the Government might adopt, under which the Dáil would have worked the same hours on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, thus envisaging morning sittings on Tuesdays, but providing in that event for the postponement—on a principle already familiar in contested Estimates—of divisions called for on Tuesdays before 2.30 p.m. Deputy Lalor's written response on behalf of the Opposition was to inquire whether this proposal might be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

The Government authorised this to be done, and when the Committee met on 29th October, 1975, and 20th November, 1975, I placed the proposal before them. Strong opposition was then expressed to the idea of Tuesday morning sittings and the postponement of divisions challenged on Tuesday mornings, and I reported accordingly to the Government. Subsequently I was authorised to propose to Deputy Lalor the scheme now before the Dáil, which respects the objections raised at the Committee; but the Opposition's response, on 19th November, 1975, was a counter-proposal which left Tuesday and Thursday sittings as they at present are under Standing Orders, and which would have innovated only by making permanent the common practice of sitting at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday and interrupting business on Wednesdays at 9.30 instead of at 10.30 p.m. Such a change, the Government thought, would make so little difference and would confer so few benefits on anyone that it was not worth adopting. The Government accordingly authorised the moving of a motion putting the scheme now before the Dáil into effect.

I emphasise to the House that the hours now proposed are experimental. If they are not found generally acceptable, they will not be made permanent, and, if no further proposal [415] is adopted, the “old” sitting hours will automatically come back into force immediately the House resumes after Easter. If, however, they prove widely acceptable, the Government would hope to propose a corresponding permanent change in Standing Orders, but of course this cannot be done without a further debate in the House, and in any case will not be done without further discussion and consultation within and between both sides of the House.

Mr. Lalor: The Parliamentary Secretary has outlined the position reasonably accurately with one notable, I will not say omission, but distortion of a fact in relation to the correspondence between himself and myself in this regard. There are a few general things I want to say about the Parliamentary Secretary's contribution before I deal with the overall principle of the motion.

The Parliamentary Secretary instanced that the real reason for the proposed changes was to facilitate members from both sides of the House to get off earlier so that they could spend their evenings at home, in the vicinity of their homes, or at important meetings. The original proposal, which met with opposition from this side of the House and from the Government side, as I was told at meetings of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, was to have what the Parliamentary Secretary called three office-day sittings. That suggestion was made by the Parliamentary Secretary at that time because he said we wanted and needed longer hours to get through the increasing volume of business.

Arising from that, the Parliamentary Secretary in outlining the correspondence which went on between us deliberately left out of his speech the fact that the last proposal I submitted to him was that we should sit for 24 hours rather than the 21½ hours suggested in this motion.

I should like to go through the correspondence in a different way from that in which the Parliamentary Secretary has outlined it. I had correspondence [416] from the Parliamentary Secretary dated 20th October outlining the proposed changes and including a draft of the motion the Government proposed to introduce in the House to deal with those changes. It envisaged three sitting days starting at 10.30 a.m. and ending at 7 o'clock in the evening. This met with resistance. My personal resistance was based on the fact that while the hours mentioned might be acceptable, the manner in which the Government proposed to play around with those hours was completely unacceptable from our point of view.

It was suggested that the sitting hours would be made longer but, while we would sit at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday mornings, we could deal with nothing contentious on Tuesdays up to the normal time rural Deputies arrive at the House. If there was something contentious before the House, the vote on it would have to be postponed. Thursdays were to be treated similarly. I believe the end product of this would be to make a mockery of Parliament. In his letter of 20th October the Parliamentary Secretary said it was the intention that the travelling habits of distant country Deputies would not be interfered with. This was on the basis of starting Dáil business at 10.30 a.m. on Tuesday mornings. He went on to say that Deputies in the habit of leaving their homes on Tuesday mornings and arriving in Leinster House around lunch time, and leaving Leinster House again for home on Thursday afternoons, could continue to do that. My personal reaction to that was that we were to come here to Leinster House and go through the motions “for the optics” to fool the people who elect us by giving them the impression we were operating dedicatedly in their service from 10.30 a.m. on Tuesdays until 7.30 p.m. on Thursdays. That was my reading of it.

I heard the Parliamentary Secretary before talking about the humbug in this House of having votes in which feet were dragged through the lobby to an inevitable defeat of some Opposition motion or amendment to a Bill. This is the format of democracy. I do not think we should give the impression to the electors that 144 or 145 Deputies are serving their needs here, [417] whereas we require only 15 or 20 to keep up a charade and cover up for long distance Deputies, and very often for short distance Deputies, until everybody gets here. I do not accept that. It was a wrong base upon which to suggest that the hours should be fixed, as was suggested in the Parliamentary Secretary's letter of 20th October. He went into detail to say how votes could be postponed and taken on Wednesday evenings, not Tuesdays. We have an arrangement that, if an Estimate is being discussed on a Thursday, the vote is postponed until 10.15 p.m. on Tuesday night. This innovation arose from the last change in the Standing Orders.

He went on to say this would work reasonably well, because, on the pattern of the past couple of years—this was on the basis of the postponed Divisions on Thursdays—something like six or seven divisions per year only are likely to be postponed, but the gain in general convenience will be considerable. I have no objection to saying publicly that the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach is dedicated to his job and that, at no stage, is he endeavouring to do anything except to see to it that the overall gain in the public performance of Parliament is considerable but, in that letter he talks to me of the gain in general convenience. I do not think he should basically be talking about convenience, because the whole object of any change in the Standing Orders of this House in relation to the sitting should be from the point of view of the performance of the House rather than the convenience.

He built in an obnoxius arrangement, from our point of view, whereby, although votes on Second Stages of Bills were to be postponed, if it suited the Government, if they needed to get a Bill through in a hurry on a Thursday, this could be done despite the new Standing Order. I can understand the reason for this. We have had this from this Government and we had it when we were in Government when there was a need to try to get in a hurry through a Bill in the public interest. We have that need at present. Peculiarly enough, [418] we have two or three Bills which are very badly needed such as the Juries Bill and some motion or arrangement for the provision of legal aid. The problem is not to try to get them through the Dáil in a hurry but to get them into the Dáil in the first place.

Mr. Haughey: That involves no money.

Mr. Lalor: There is the question of money. The Minister for Local Government tells us there is never any shortage of money. I do not want to sidetrack on this issue. I do not want to appear lighthearted. The Parliamentary Secretary in a very friendly way has told me from time to time that I spoiled my case by appearing to be too lighthearted about it. I am not lighthearted on this issue.

What was presented was a very elaborate set of changes. I felt a certain amount of camouflage was built into them. Having presented the Parliamentary Secretary's letter on behalf of the Government to the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party for discussion, my instructions were to write back to the Parliamentary Secretary and tell him that, as we saw it, this was something which should be discussed in the first instance by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. On 22nd October I wrote back to the Parliamentary Secretary and said in reply to his letter of 20th October in which he asked for an expeditious reply:

Arising from our discussion at a Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party meeting I was directed to enquire from you, in view of the fact that the draft motion proposed to alter Standing Orders to such an extent, if it would not be more proper to have the proposed changes discussed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges in the first instance.

Obviously, that was agreed by the Government with the result that a meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges was called for the following week and met on Wednesday, 29th October. The Parliamentary Secretary stated then that following experience of the prolonged sittings of the Dáil in the months before the adjournment for [419] the Summer Recess the Government had decided in favour of a more rational arrangement of the hours of sitting on an experimental basis. Consequent on this decision of the Government a motion on the general terms I outlined was drafted and sent to the Fianna Fáil Party for its observations.

The minutes of the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges of 29th October recorded that:

The Parliamentary Secretary added that the Chief Whip of the Fianna Fáil Party in reply had requested that the proposals in the draft motion be considered by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and in response to that request the matter was being raised now.

Quite a discussion followed and, as I saw it, Fianna Fáil were not alone in opposing those measures; there was not solid support for them by the Members of the Fine Gael and Labour Parties. The outcome of that meeting recorded in the minutes was:

Following a discussion of the proposals the Committee decided that consideration of the matter be resumed at the next meeting.

I should like to point out to the Parliamentary Secretary that his account of the situation as conveyed in his remarks in introducing this motion is not in accordance with the facts. The Parliamentary Secretary said:

Deputy Lalor's written response on behalf of the Opposition was to enquire whether this proposal might be referred to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The Government authorised this to be done, and when the Committee met on 29th October, 1975, and 20th November, 1975, I placed the proposal before it. Strong opposition was then expressed to the idea of Tuesday morning sittings and the postponement of divisions challenged on Tuesday mornings, and I reported accordingly to the Government. Subsequently I was authorised to propose to Deputy [420] Lalor the scheme now before the Dáil,

That statement is not so.

Mr. Kelly: What is not so?

Mr. Lalor: The Parliamentary Secretary said that subsequent to the meetings of 29th October and 20th November he was authorised to propose to me the scheme now before the House. It was during the time between the meeting of 29th October and the meeting of 20th November, which the Parliamentary Secretary did not attend, that he wrote to me setting out the new proposals. This resembles the official spokesman on behalf of the Government making a statement recently on behalf of the Government about the Irish Life report to the Government which the Minister for Finance had eventually to apologise to Irish Life about. This is a similar situation. The statements in the Parliamentary Secretary's prepared speech are not in accordance with the facts but I am not making an issue of that because I do not see it as being of any great consequence.

After the meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges of 29th October it became so apparent that the draft scheme of the Government was not going to be acceptable, even to the Government side of the House, that the Parliamentary Secretary wrote to me on 13th November withdrawing the proposal about meet-on Tuesday morning and about changing Standing Orders for Thursday evening. He made suggestions similar to those built into this motion. Those proposals amounted to the changing of times but the Dáil would sit 21 hours. I suggest that one of the motives behind the earlier change mooted by the Government was an effort to get more sitting hours for the Dáil. The Parliamentary Secretary, and particularly the Taoiseach, have spoken about the volume of business to be done. We all agree that even though the country is broke we still have a lot of business to deal with and because of this there is a need for more time to deal with necessary legislation.

[421] In the course of that letter the Parliamentary Secretary set out the following scheme:

Tuesday, 2.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. (6 hours); Wednesday, 10.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. (9 hours); and Thursday, 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m. (6½ hours).

The Parliamentary Secretary informed me that the total number of hours involved would be 21½ hours weekly, the same as at present and that Questions would be at the uniform time, 2.30 p.m. each day, and that Private Members' business would be 7 p.m. to 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday. The Parliamentary Secretary went on:

If your party are able to agree this scheme or if you were to make a counter-proposal along similar lines which the Government were able to agree, there would be some consequential changes, for example, hours before which a motion for late sitting, and so on must be moved, or at which divisions on disputed Estimates are to be held. But as this scheme does not envisage a Tuesday morning sitting, there would be no need to postpone certain other votes so as to permit distant Deputies to be absent, then, and the provision on this matter contained in our original draft motion can be dropped.

I would be glad if your party could agree this at its meeting on next Wednesday. In this event we could probably table and agree a motion to this effect on Thursday, so that the experimental new hours would operate as from Tuesday, 25th November, for the remaining four weeks of the session until Christmas.

That came a fortnight after 29th October following discussions between the Parliamentary Secretary and me. Another meeting was due on 20th November and in order to facilitate the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, on the night before they met I replied to the Parliamentary Secretary, and I will quote the letter:

I am instructed to reply to your letter of 13th November and to [422] welcome the more reasonable proposal from you as against the original draft changes. We feel, however, that there is justification in adding to the weekly hours worked and I now am authorised to suggest the following:

Tuesday, 3 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. Wednesday, 10.30 a.m. to 1.30 p.m. and 2.30 p.m. to 9.30 p.m. Thursday, 10.30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

They are similar to the extra hours we had worked in recent times. The Government found it necessary during the full session between resumption after summer and Christmas to operate those extra hours. On our part we are willing and anxious to work those longer hours in order to get the necessary business done. That was sent to the Parliamentary Secretary on 19th December. It was discussed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and an extract from the minutes of that meeting reads as follows, under the heading “Sittings of the Dáil”:

The Ceann Comhairle informed the Committee that he had received a letter from the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach in which the Parliamentary Secretary had stated that he would be asking the Government to consider a counter proposal made by the Fianna Fáil Party in relation to the proposed rearrangement of the hours of sitting of the Dáil and in the circumstances the Committee on Procedure and Privileges decided to defer further consideration of the matter.

That was on 20th November. It had been referred to the committee. That is the up-to-the-minute situation. There was a further meeting of the committee on Thursday, 4th December, but this matter was not referred to. The Government had a beheading job to do on that occasion and all the time was taken up with it.

There was never a report back from the Government to the committee to which this matter had been referred. I want to draw attention to the fact that this motion flaunts the procedure of the House. We have a situation in which the Taoiseach came into the House today and ruled out a Private [423] Members' motion of ours on the basis that there was no precedent for taking such motions during budget week. When the Leader of this Party drew his attention to it, the Taoiseach accepted that there could not be a precedent because the Standing Orders as at present constituted only came into operation during 1975. Therefore, there could not have been a precedent and the Taoiseach fell back on saying that there have been two budgets since and that Private Members' business had not been ordered during those weeks.

Mr. Kelly: Fianna Fáil never had it during financial business.

Mr. Lalor: We abided by Standing Orders. The problem is that the Government want to ride roughshod over every regulation of the House, and this motion on the clár this evening refers to a number of Standing Orders and then throws them out the window. If it suits the Government next week to bulldoze out three or four other Standing Orders, they have the neck to come in to do it. The devil quotes Scripture to suit himself and when it suits the Government, the Taoiseach comes in and quotes Scripture. He quoted Standing Order No. 73 which states:

As soon as may be following the reassembly of the Dáil subsequent to a General Election there shall be appointed a Select Committee, to be known as the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to consider matters of procedure generally and to recommend any additions or amendments to the Standing Orders that may be deemed necessary, and also to consider and report, as and when requested so to do, as to the privileges to members....

When it suited the Government and the Taoiseach to quote Scripture he came in quoting that Standing Order at the beginning of November when he wanted to knock heads on the Fianna Fáil side. His Parliamentary Secretary is now abrogating that completely.

The Parliamentary Secretary will say there is nothing in that Standing [424] Order which states that he cannot ride roughshod over it or change it, but I would ask him if he can quote me any precedent of the kind the Taoiseach is so fond of quoting which would take this matter out of the hands of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, ignoring their observations and not waiting for their advice. Of course, the Government have a majority on the committee.

Mr. Kelly: What is proposed here is not an additional Standing Order. It is an experimental scheme.

Mr. Lalor: Might I suggest that our proposal asking for Private Members' time to deal with the Irish Life matter was experimental, that it would be the first time it had ever happened?

Mr. Kelly: If it had been any other Minister, there probably would have been no bother about it. I explained that outside as well as inside the House.

Mr. Lalor: I have no doubt there are Members on this side of the House as well as the other whom this proposed arrangement would suit, but the one thing I am basically objecting to is that there was a Government decision to refer the matter to the committee. I was told last week by backbenchers who had learned it from backbenchers on the Government side that there was to be a change of hours but I was unofficially aware of it until last Thursday evening when the Whips' Office told me there was a motion being put in that evening in relation to the change of hours. Obviously, this came before meetings of the Fine Gael and Labour Parliamentary parties, but what I cannot understand is why no effort was made to keep to the rules of the House and the traditions of the House.

Quite frankly, it amazed me to hear the Parliamentary Secretary make the point in regard to the way we ordered business. It also amazed me to hear him argue that the poor unfortunate Deputy who speaks after 8.30 p.m. does not get the Press publicity he deserves. To me, this is what is basically wrong with the present Government. [425] The performances over there are for public consumption by getting them across to the media. And do the media buy it? Before Christmas I was making what I believed to be a reasonable contribution, coming in at 25 minutes past nine and finishing at 25 minutes past ten and Deputy O'Connell said I was wasting my time because no one would take any notice. I was glad the Minister for Industry and Commerce did take notice when he came to reply.

Mr. Kelly: Many Members try to report progress or adjourn the debate at 10.30 p.m. in order to get in first on the next occasion, and small blame to any one who does it.

Mr. Lalor: The Parliamentary Secretary is one of the greatest statisticians in this House. He has the facility for doing a great deal of research. I do not know whether he does it himself or gets it done for him.

Mr. Haughey: There is a difference between a researcher and a statistician.

Mr. Lalor: He has made an allegation and he can check the records.

Mr. Kelly: More than once.

Mr. Lalor: Twice. Most Deputies avail of the opportunity to speak on Estimates. There is a limit on the time permitted. On that particular debate I came in at 25 minutes past nine and I had to finish at 25 minutes past ten. That is why Deputy O'Connell told me I was a fool. But I was not interested in getting what I had to say across to the media because, as far as I am concerned, if the media can squeeze out Deputy Lalor he will be squeezed out, unless he says something stupid.

Mr. Kelly: Some Members freewheel late in the evening to keep the man on the far side out and prevent him from speaking.

Mr. Lalor: I do not know the motivation behind the Parliamentary Secretary's side of the House, but he has certainly given us some indication of it now. Believe it or not, contributions [426] from this side of the House are intended to be constructive. I am at the moment endeavouring to make a constructive contribution. The Parliamentary Secretary said that somewhere during 1975 he was in consultation with his opposite number with a view to getting the hours of sitting changed. It was my understanding in these consultations that we needed extra hours. When Deputy Barry Desmond was on this side of the House he wanted the House to sit five days a week to discuss important business. We have here now an interference with Standing Orders and with the powers of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I admit it is a sub-committee of this House and the House is in an over-riding situation. However, we are departing from established procedure.

The last record of this matter being discussed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges was when the committee decided to defer further consideration of the matter. I accept that the Parliamentary Secretary was not at that meeting. It was the only one he ever missed. He probably had important business. There was nothing, however, to prevent the Committee on Procedure and Privileges sitting last week, if it was only for the optics and to maintain the tradition of the House.

Oddly enough, the Parliamentary Secretary said the hours have remained essentially unchanged since 1936. Actually, there has been a stack of changes and a number of changes have been made in Standing Orders no later than last year. There was no reference to any change in the hours of sitting. Of course, that report came from the Committee during the lifetime of the last Dáil.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that the general shift of business towards earlier hours of the day and evening should mean that all Deputies will have a more or less equal chance of Press notice. I have dealt with that. It is almost too ridiculous to merit comment. The motivation is typical. He said: “This fact has, indeed, frequently led to the time of the House being wasted through Deputies deliberately prolonging their [427] contributions up to 10.30 p.m. in order to report progress...” I categorically say that is not so. The Parliamentary Secretary may make the statement, if he wishes, but he is speaking for his side of the House.

He went on to say:

Secondly, the proposed earlier hours will give many Deputies an opportunity to spend their evenings, or part of them, at home or in the vicinity of their homes.

This is one of the problems. We have a Dublin Government. The people down the country are beginning to realise that and the people in Dublin are beginning to realise they would be far better off with a country Government. This is the Dublin city mentality. I am one of the 55 per cent. If I drive fast enough, I will get home in an hour-and-a-half. If it is frosty it will take longer. The House is being asked to determine its business to suit the 55 per cent. Fair dues. The Parliamentary Secretary is proving himself a democrat. We should remember that it is more convenient for the Dublin Deputy to drop in here than it is for the rural Deputy. Rural Deputies do a great deal of business here in the line of correspondence and so on. The proof of that is their availability for divisions at a late hour in the night. That goes for the 45 per cent and a number of the 55 per cent also.

Mr. Kelly: Sure.

Mr. Lalor: Dáil Éireann is, if you like, a clinic for Dublin Deputies. Their constituents come in to see them in Leinster House. There are rooms available in which they can interview their constituents. This is the one place a Dublin constituent knows he can get his representative when the Dáil is sitting. That constituent who wishes to see his Deputy —perhaps he may wish for assistance in getting a job—knows that he can see his Deputy at Leinster House up to 10.30 p.m. Now that will no longer be possible. Apart from Question Time, there are more people in the Public Gallery after 8.30 p.m., although I admit I may be wrong in [428] this because I have no statistics on the matter. My concern is that we will be shutting ourselves away from the public and that is not a good thing.

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that the remainder—obviously he means the 45 per cent—will probably welcome the opportunity to spend their evenings as they wish instead of being confined to Leinster House while waiting for divisions.

Mr. Kelly: I meant the 55 per cent.

Mr. Lalor: The Parliamentary Secretary stated:

A check of the Dáil roll will show that a clear majority, that is about 55 per cent of all Deputies reside within about one-and-a-half hours' drive of Leinster House; and while Deputies whose homes are more distant will have no special benefit from the suspension of business at 8.30 instead of at 10.30 p.m.——

Mr. Kelly: The remainder are the ones who are more distant from Leinster House——

Mr. Lalor: It is easy to read the Parliamentary Secretary's statement in the wrong way.

Mr. Haughey: The 55 per cent who live within one-and-a-half hours' drive will go home. It is the 45 per cent who live further away and who are in Dublin.

Mr. Kelly: The Deputies who are more distant will not get any special benefit but the remainder who are nearer will get the benefit. I am sorry if I did not make the matter clear.

Mr. Lalor: The Parliamentary Secretary's statement was quite ambiguous. As far as I can see, the Parliamentary Secretary is most worried about members of the Government. In his statement he stated:

Thirdly, the proposals will have the specific benefit for members of the Government and in some measure also members of the Opposition, that attendance at the nationally or [429] politically important evening functions which is so often expected of them will be possible without, in most cases, any conflict with their duties of attendance at Leinster House...

The Parliamentary Secretary has said that there is a reluctance by the Opposition to allow Ministers to go to official functions. I wish to state that there has never been such reluctance provided the official function was genuine. There was another condition, namely, that I did not accept that a State-sponsored body that was under the jurisdiction of a Minister could not fix a function they wanted such a Minister to attend for a Monday, Thursday or Friday. For instance, I could never see any reason why the Minister for Labour should have an AnCO function at 6 p.m. on a Tuesday. There were difficulties about getting permission for the Minister for the Gaeltacht to attend mannequin parades that seemed to have something to do with selling Gaeltarra Éireann blouses. However, with regard to a recognised official function there was no question of not getting clearance.

Mr. Kelly: I did not mean I was being treated unreasonably but there were occasions when the Opposition Chief Whip was not sure about the status of a function, when it was not clear if a certain Minister could be released——

Mr. Lalor: It was because the Government were not in a position to tell me what the function was.

Mr. Kelly: It boils down to a difficulty for the office-holder, who would probably far sooner sit at home. It means difficulty for him and for the other people waiting for the decision.

Mr. Lalor: Yes. However, while I might have been told that a member of the Government wanted to get away for an official function, I could read on the newspaper the next morning that he addressed a Labour Party meeting in Cabra.

Mr. Kelly: I have never misrepresented in that way.

[430] Mr. Lalor: I accept that but it has happened on an EEC basis. I agree that there is an advantage in having Question Time at 2.30 to 3.30 p.m. and a sos at 1.30 p.m. That makes sense and there is no question of anyone being opposed to it. It was built into the letter I sent the Parliamentary Secretary on 19th November.

The Government are in flagrant breach of Standing Order No. 73 and they should be ashamed. In today's Cork Examiner in connection with the proposed new hours there is a headline: “Longer hours for TDs rejected”. The paper stated:

The Dáil's sitting hours are to be changed from next Tuesday but there is to be no change in the total number of hours the national Legislature meets each week, according to our political correspondent. Efforts to get TDs to work longer hours than the present 21½ spent each week on purely parliamentary business have failed once again. Fianna Fáil were against the original proposals. It is understood they will also oppose the new ones which are contained in a motion to be moved by the Government when the Dáil resumes this afternoon.

The impression given was that Fianna Fáil were opposed to longer hours. I used that quote from the Cork Examiner to draw attention to the fact that the last written proposal exchanged between the two Whips on this issue, a proposal of 19th November from this party to the Government, was that we should fix our hours to do a full 24-hour week. I wish to place on record that the Government are now introducing a 21½-hour week and we think that is insufficient. We will have difficulty on this one because when we consider there should be debate on something with which we do not agree the Taoiseach or his Ministers will move the guillotine on the grounds that we are squandering valuable time. The Taoiseach and the Parliamentary Secretary have said that the Opposition now have more time under the new Standing Orders than was the practice, that we have three hours each week. If we [431] had a 24-hour week and if the Opposition had three hours for Private Members' time, the Government would have 21 hours for Government business. Why not allow this? The reason is that provision has to be made to let Ministers off to do their thing from 8.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m., a time that Deputies have always been willing to work. I do not accept that we are less adept at doing our job after 8.30 p.m., that we get tired.

The object of the exercise in allowing the Dáil to rise at 8.30 p.m. is to allow Members time for their work. If a Deputy wants to be re-elected he cannot afford to go home at 8.30 p.m. and this applies to both sides. We would be more usefully employed doing the nation's work for which we were elected.

Since before the last summer session we have had sittings at 10.30 a.m. fairly consistently. When the Parliamentary Secretary is replying, will he tell us what he is going to do when he finds he is getting into arrears?

Up to now when this Government or previous Governments wanted to catch up on business we could conveniently start at 10.30 in the morning. Standing Orders allowed us to start at 3 o'clock on Wednesday but we started at 10.30 a.m. Standing Orders say that we should sit at 3 o'clock tomorrow but we are sitting at 10.30 a.m. because of an allowance under Standing Orders. If the Parliamentary Secretary finds himself in the position in a fortnight's time that this experiment from now until Easter is not working and he cannot get his Juries Bill, the Mergers Bill and all of the promised Bills we have had for the last three years through the House before Easter, where will he find the additional time? He cannot introduce a long day on Wednesday because it is gone. Will he get around, through this new backdoor, to bringing us up early on a Tuesday morning, which is what he had in mind last October or will he bring us back on Friday? We had that before and we can take it.

[432] I cannot understand the Government Chief Whip, who has had experience over the last three years of having to demand extra hours and extra days, coming in here and saying “Let us go home to our fires on Tuesday and Wednesday nights and act as rational human beings. We will work the same hours because we will do a 21½ hour week which is what the present Standing Orders allow”. We want to stick to the present hours because they allow for the adding in under pressure of the extra hours on Wednesday morning. That has worked reasonably satisfactorily. I know the Parliamentary Secretary says that this is only an experiment but I want to tell him that it will backfire because he will find himself very much in arrears. Unless there is co-operation from the Opposition side it will not work. It amazes me that the Parliamentary Secretary wants to steamroll this through when he could have got agreement at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Paragraph (2) (e) states:

Government business or Private business, as the case may be, shall be interrupted between 7 p.m. and 8.30 p.m. to take Private Members' business: provided that where leave has been given to move a motion under Standing Order No. 30 the latter shall have priority;

Last week a debate under Standing Order No. 30 which the Opposition sought was not allowed. Now we are told that we were unfair to ask the Minister for Finance to come in to debate a motion on the Tuesday of budget week. We have had a number of cases where a different Minister has come in on a motion. I would welcome that Private Members' motion being taken and the Minister for Local Government handling it because he did not know anything about it when the whole world knew about it in the middle of December.

Mr. Haughey: Would it not be great if the Minister for Finance did not come in at all tomorrow?

Mr. F. O'Brien: He will come in [433] unlike another Minister who did not come in.

Mr. Lalor: The Opposition find themselves in a Hobson's Choice situation, that we can have Private Members' time or subject to the Ceann Comhairle's permission we can move a motion under Standing Order 30 but we cannot have the two. At present we have both. It is subject to the Ceann Comhairle deeming the matter comes in under Standing Order 30. Under the new position if we want to move a motion under Standing Order 30 on Wednesday the second half of our debate under Private Members' business must be postponed until the following Tuesday. I hope the Parliamentary Secretary will explain when he is replying paragraph (1) of the motion which states:

the Dáil shall meet on Tuesdays at 2.30 p.m. and on Wednesday at 10.30 a.m. and the interruption of business provided for in Standing Order 20 (2) shall take place on those days at 8.30 p.m. or at such hour as proceedings, if any, under Standing Order 123 shall have concluded and the Dáil shall adjourn not later than half an hour after the interruption of business;

Mr. Kelly: That is an Adjournment debate.

Mr. Lalor: I hope the Parliamentary Secretary can explain that because it could happen on a Tuesday evening that one could have two votes. It might take 20 minutes to take one and the second would follow. Under an existing Standing Order if we overrun the time a particular Standing Order overrides and if we go past 11 o'clock we can take the vote. There is a built in clause in this motion that the Dáil shall adjourn not later than half an hour after the interruption of business. Which Standing Order overrules in that case? I am fully opposed to this because this side of the House firmly believe that there should be extra time rather than less time.

Mr. Staunton: I support the motion which the Parliamentary Secretary has put before the House. I will confine myself to realities and the actual proposals. [434] It is not my place to be concerned about the correspondence or conversations which have taken place between the Whips. The arrangement of business has been done by the Parliamentary Secretary on what seems to be a basis to suit people. I do not think his motivation has been other than that. It seems to me that there is a good deal of merit in the proposed new arrangements as far as Members of the House on all sides are concerned.

I would like to say to Deputy Lalor that the proposal is experimental and we are talking about a few weeks between now and the Easter Recess during which the proposal will be tried out. If there are certain aspects which are not working and if there are problems about the exact time at which divisions will take place, problems about the commencement of business on Tuesday or inadequate time, the few weeks of experimentation will give the opportunity to Deputies to see exactly what is involved.

The sittings have not been changed substantially since 1936 and I find that there are many anachronisms when we see how life is conducted in many organisations in 1976. It seems to me that this House has not kept pace with practices which exist in general in organisations. I see a great deal of merit in terminating the business at 8.30 p.m. because I believe, looking at what has been happening, that an insubstantial amount of business is conducted between 8.30 and 10.30 p.m. There is a tendency for some contributions to be a little bit more flippant than they might be earlier in the day. There is a tendency for lagging in the last 30 minutes. In my judgment people do not contribute their best at that late hour. If we are talking about the convenience of country Deputies who possibly that morning have driven up to 250 miles to Dublin, I do not think the House or the country is served by it.

I also think that the activities in the House so late in the evening do not always reflect to the best advantage. Deputy Lalor emphasised the difference between what he termed the country Deputy and the 55 per cent. I think that the Parliamentary Secretary [435] was merely making the case that the 55 per cent, in other words, those living within one-and-a-half hour's journey of the city, would have the opportunity on those two evenings of going home, which is the case, but I do not think Deputy Lalor can imply from that that the arrangement merely suits the 55 per cent and that this is the motivation behind this motion. Strangely, I had thought about the system of hours here before there was any question of the Government introducing a change and I had thought the reverse of the situation was true, that the resistance to changes in hours might have come from city Deputies. I thought the system we inherited was one under which you had a high proportion of legal people as members of the Parliament who sauntered into the courts early in the day and came to the House to conduct the business of the nation in the evening.

Mr. Kelly: And all the legal people are over there now, or most of them.

Ruairí Brugha: Not all of them.

Mr. Lalor: Does the Parliamentary Secretary want to disown himself?

Mr. Staunton: Having regard to the fact that there are Members of this House from Dublin, possibly not legal people who have business interests and outside interests and that the old arrangement would have suited them in that if one sat late at night one had time to attend to one's business in the day time, I do not think Deputy Lalor should emphasise this supposed division or rift between the city Deputy and the country Deputy because I do not think it is and issue at all.

Deputy Lalor mentioned that country Deputies would want to do work at night. They may well do. Many country Deputies may want to work late at night but Deputy Lalor knows that the same Deputies are invariably at meetings until quite late on Monday nights, Thursday nights, Friday nights and very often Saturday nights already. It should be possible to make an arrangement that whereas [436] the Chamber may cease business at 8.30 office facilities are available to Deputies from the country or, indeed, from the city who want to work in a personal sense longer hours than those proposed for the Chamber. We would want to differentiate between the work of the Chamber and the work of Deputies outside the Chamber because they are separate issues.

The Parliamentary Secretary referred to the Press situation and coverage by the media. He was tackled on this by Deputy Lalor. Deputy Lalor had to point to the extent that certainly if it were the motivation of Members of this House to speak to get coverage it would be less than worthy or laudable motivation and one which would be suspect. However, the Parliamentary Secretary has a case in that if we want the people of the country to get a balanced interpretation of the proceedings in the Chamber, which they get from the national newspapers, they are much more likely to get that if business can start a little earlier and finish a little earlier. I think we should emphasise the interests of the public here rather than the intrinsic interest of the individual Deputy.

Deputy Lalor spoke about fooling the people who elected us by going back to these hours. There seems to be an inference here that we are serving their interests best with the present hours. This I would dispute for the reasons I mentioned—the tiredness of people, the human lack of interest at times at that hour of the evening and the pairing system at present operating and I am not blaming the Opposition. I have no doubt that under the system that is operating if we were on the benches opposite Deputy Kelly would, perhaps, be even more tigerish than the honourable Deputy from Offaly is.

Mr. Lalor: Laois.

Mr. Staunton: The system is a bit of an anachronism. Other Parliaments have apparently arranged more rational systems. There is the problem that Deputies have engagements outside this House which it would seem rational to facilitate and this has not been happening.

[437] Deputy Lalor made a big issue of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It would be a valid point if it were coming from a Deputy whose prior suggestions had been on this line but the fact that Deputy Lalor put a counter proposal suggests that this was an area in which we could have a little horse trading between Government and Opposition in trying to arrive at a rational system in addition to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges concerning themselves with it.

The Government have the option and must have the option of extending hours if they choose to do so, if there is very urgent business which must be covered, and this protection is in the motion. Whether we close at 8.30 or 10.30 p.m. a difference of one or two hours a week is a minor point. If we are concerned about the efficiency of this House and the ordering of business in such a way that the nation is best served, the forum for discussion is not confined to within the motion before the House. We could have a much more rational method of disposing of the business in the interests of the country. There is a need for a more even ordering of business on an annual basis to ensure that if possible discussions take place for a given number of hours in so far as every Department is concerned. Progress can be made there. Progress can be made too with a more rational system in so far as speakers on Estimates, Bills and motions are concerned. Perhaps a few days prior to a debate Deputies with a specific interest in the subject could be given an opportunity of putting their names on a roll. If we approached the disposing of business in a more businesslike way by this type of tailoring and if our Whips could get together along these lines, it is an avenue in which there is tremendous scope for exploration to serve the people better. The Parliamentary Secretary has made a proposition which is eminently sensible. It is entirely experimental and if there are flaws in it, it can be changed within a few short weeks. This proposition has my full support.

Mr. Brennan: I only sat in on this debate because as a former Whip I [438] was interested and amazed at the procedure which has been attempted to change the hours of sitting. It looks a simple matter at the first glance but if one studies it more carefully one will realise that it is basic and fundamental and interferes with the very relevance of this House. In the present climate we must demonstrate to the people that Government is important, that this House is the place where Government is conducted and not at official functions and social events where Ministers make speeches and policy statements.

At this time the country is experiencing a serious economic crisis. When we meet people in the streets or in the markets they ask us when are we getting the Government out of office and what are we doing to put them out? Are we now to go back and say that we have agreed to new hours of sitting which will make it more comfortable for everybody in this House to enjoy their membership of this “club”?

The Parliamentary Secretary must have second thoughts about this. He should ask the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to settle this matter. In my time as Chief Whip, Standing Orders and procedures were changed. It is natural that certain procedures should be reviewed and the place to do that is the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. The Government cannot bulldoze and amendment like this through the House. As I learned when I was Chief Whip, the Opposition are as relevant to the arrangements of the business of the House as the Government. As the late Deputy Sweetman pointed out to me frequently, the Opposition can frustrate any effort the Government make, and they can ensure that the time required for the completion of any matter is three times that originally estimated by the Government.

Mr. Kelly: That is happening anyway.

Mr. Brennan: Therefore, agreement is essential, and nobody knows that better than I. As I found out when I tried to get a programme through in a limited time, the Opposition, as was [439] their right, were the people who determined when the programme was put through. The Government may think they can compel the Opposition to make arrangements to suit them, but that does not happen.

I congratulate the Parliamentary Secretary on being frank and honest. He said:

...the proposal will have the specific benefit for members of the Government and in some measure also members of the Opposition, that attendance at the nationally or politically important evening functions which is so often expected of them will be possible...

Specifically, it is intended to release Ministers to attend functions and make ponderous speeches of policy where there is nobody to debate them, contradict them or say anything about them.

This is the place for Government and it was never more necessary than it is today when the country is in such a serious state. As I said, the Parliamentary Secretary should have second thoughts and refer this matter to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to reach a decision. He will find our representative on the committee forthcoming on any sane and sensible arrangement. We should not try to curtail hours of sitting or reduce the time in which divisions can be taken. I repeat this is the place where serious consideration and discussion must be given to the governing of this country. We should not be seen in any way to change the relevance of parliament and that is what we are doing here. We could arrange among ourselves to come here for two hours on Wednesday and not meet for the rest of the week.

I remember attending a conference abroad and one of the matters which was discussed for almost the entire week was the relevance of parliament and its power over government. I was amazed to find that there were parliaments that met for relatively short periods. A very serious view was taken of this by those who professed to be prepared to defend democracy throughout the world. Government [440] could function without parliament meeting at all. Parliament is an embarrassment to government, particularly when things are not going well but that is all the more reason why we should give all the hours necessary to run this parliament.

When the late Deputy Dunne brought in proposals for a change of the procedure in parliament, he got tremendous Press publicity for his great work. He was doubling the hours. He was leaving us virtually without holidays, sitting longer hours and extra days. He was taking a serious view of what parliament was supposed to do. At that time, we were looked on as the people opposed to this. It was never seriously discussed in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and discussion on this was deferred until a later date. In the meantime, an election intervened and it went by the board, like many other things.

Fianna Fáil are held responsible for anything that happens in this House which is not in accordance with the requirements of a strictly run parliament. We are portrayed in one daily newspaper today as being opposed to an increase in hours when, in fact, the opposite is the truth. For that reason alone we are entitled to defend our position here. The Committee on Procedure and Privileges is representative. The Government Chief Whip is a Member and is the convener of the meeting. Our Whip is also a Member. The Government parties have a majority. The committee can hammer out effective and suitable hours in accordance with any changes which modern requirements may demand. Again, I remind the Parliamentary Secretary that agreement by the Opposition is essential if he expects their co-operation when introducing new arrangements or making changes in procedures in this House. Even more than the Government side of the House, the Opposition determine the length of the debates, when they should end, and so on.

I learned painfully in my time that I had to find agreement on every occasion as near to the realities as possible. Dealing with a fair-minded Whip as I was—or a couple of Whips [441] —we always came to an agreement which was adhered to, in most cases, and faithfully carried out. I do not see why we have to depart from that method now. We made some remarkable changes in procedures and in Standing Orders generally. Deputy O'Malley, who was Chief Whip subsequent to my being Whip, had the same experience, which I am sure he will relate. The matter never had to be brought in here for debate or to be bulldozed through the House by the Government side. That is the wrong method, particularly when it is merely seeking to make it more comfortable for people to be members of this House.

The public are not satisfied with the behaviour of Parliament at present. They are not satisfied that we, as an Opposition, are doing enough. They do not buy the Official Report. They only read the papers. They have reason to think that Parliament may not be doing enough. What is being proposed here will not engender any greater confidence in Parliament, nor will it raise the prestige of this House one iota. It will have the opposite effect. This is a time when we must be seen to be teasing out everything which comes before the House. Extended time will be required if anything, not the curtailment of hours as proposed.

I propose to speak on this motion for a few minutes only. As I said at the start, we are not opposed to a rational review of the procedures of the House which would naturally be expected to take place from time to time. Some changes such as the suspension of the sitting for an hour at lunch time, or some other time, are understandable. A change should not be used to reduce the number of hours available for Parliament to go into the serious matters which have to be discussed. Never since this House first came into existence was there such a serious time for the country. Parliament should be sitting and trying to do something in a serious way to get out of the mess in which we find ourselves.

In the present political climate this is not the type of matter [442] Parliament should be discussing. We have the necessary agency through which to have it arranged, that is, the committee set up by this House and provided for in Standing Orders. The Parliamentary Secretary may have been pressed into this by somebody else. He made a frank admission in the statement he made and which he kindly circulated to all of us. He said those who can go home would have the pleasure of going home and others would be free to go to social functions. I do not think that will be an acceptable reason to the people in this rather serious time through which we are passing. My final appeal to him is to withdraw the Motion and ask the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to come to an arrangement with which we could all agree. I do not think we would be unreasonable.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I do not really see what all the great fuss is about from the Opposition side. This is not being bulldozed through. It came up on a number of occasions with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. There obviously was not going to be any great agreement there. If you talk about bulldozing, you can bulldoze it through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, or you can bulldoze it through this House, using their expression. It is not very relevant one way or another. The Government initiated this change of hours purely as an experiment. It is clearly laid down here that it is not intended to carry on with it if it is not a success. It will remain active only until Easter and then it will be reviewed. It behoves the House to look at all aspects of it, and, if changes are warranted, to look at them and put them into operation and, if they are not successful, let us go back and look at them again and revert to the old hours, or have some other changes.

It is far more beneficial for Members of this House to come in here in the morning than to sit until 10.30 or 11 p.m. at night. As Deputy Staunton said, these hours were decided on long ago to meet the needs of our legal luminaries [443] who were able to go to the law courts in the morning and come here after Question Time at 4 o'clock. We are all aware now that politics has become a full-time job. Most politicians, because of necessity, more or less have to give most of their time to the political situation. There is a complete change in attitudes. If there is a change in that type of attitude, it is time we looked at our hours.

Normal business life starts at around 9 o'clock in the morning and finishes at 5 or 6 o'clock in the evening. There is no reason why Parliament cannot operate in a normal situation. I do not believe these hours are being changed necessarily for the comfort of Deputies, but I do believe that the change would be good. The health of Members of this House has to be considered. Long hours certainly do not improve it, and the number of hours they spend in this House is only a small portion of the number of hours they participate in politics. Both sides will agree here.

A Deputy: Hear, hear.

Mr. F. O'Brien: It is important that we should regulate our hours so that we can pursue political activities. For people on the far side to say we are ignoring the realities of what is going on about us today is wrong. I certainly would have been in favour of the original proposal to start on Tuesdays and Wednesdays at 10.30 a.m. I see the problems from the point of view of rural Deputies. It is easy for me to agree with these hours, being a Dublin Deputy. It was a wise move to suggest starting at 2.30 p.m. These changes were proposed because these hours were discussed by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. In my view they were not bulldozed. Discussions went on but there did not appear to be general agreement on the lines the Government had in mind, so the Government decided to take the initiative and bring this motion before the House.

I am surprised at the attitude of the Opposition. I have spoken to many Opposition Deputies and their [444] general feeling is that these new hours will suit them. Admittedly they were Deputies from in and around Dublin. There is no doubt about that. The change will not impinge very much on rural Deputies because they will be here on Wednesday morning. They will be in town on Wednesday morning. They will now be off at 8.30 p.m. They are free if they want to pursue activities. As a Dublin Deputy I know that a number of political branches in my constituency would like Deputies to come to meetings but because they are tied to this House they cannot do so. This is a part of political activity. It does not all happen in this House. It gives the Dublin political scene an impetus from the rural scene and that may be helpful as well.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Will the Dublin Deputies come down to the country at weekends to return the compliment?

Mr. F. O'Brien: Deputies will be in town on Wednesday morning anyway, and they will be here instead of somewhere else in Dublin. Deputies do go to various parts of the country from time to time——

Mr. Molloy: You have some mementoes of that.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I have. I would appeal to the Opposition to be magnanimous and to consider this again. It is important that we try to bring these hours in by agreement. I think if a roll call was taken it would be found that there was general agreement among Deputies that these hours are satisfactory. The Opposition are opposing for the sake of opposition.

Mr. Molloy: Certainly not.

Mr. Calleary: If the Deputy keeps saying it we shall keep going.

Mr. F. O'Brien: The Opposition can keep going as much as they like.

Mr. Calleary: You would not think any good of us anyway.

Mr. F. O'Brien: I am not interested in thinking good or evil of the Opposition. We are here to perform a duty [445] and I am rather surprised at the negative attitude of the Opposition on this. It is not something that is being railroaded through. It has been requested as an experiment from now until Easter, a very short period.

I do not think this proposal casts any reflection on the Government side of the House in relation to the business which comes before us. Other changes could be gainfully made. Certain Bills have been considered by special committees. At the moment one such committee is dealing with the Misuse of Drugs Bill, and the Family Law Reform Bill went through such a committee. If other Bills were dealt with in this manner, the business would be streamlined and we could get through a greater amount of work. If those steps were taken the number of hours we propose would be adequate. Therefore, we should take a sensible look at the whole aspect of the working of this House. Again, I would request the Opposition to reconsider this proposal and give it their blessing for the couple of months for which the experiment is being made.

Mr. J. O'Leary: I am amazed at some of the statements made by the Parliamentary Secretary in his opening speech. He stated that the present sitting hours on Tuesdays and Wednesdays remain essentially unchanged since 1936. While the pressures on individual Members of the Dáil and on Deputies who are members of the Government have grown inordinately in that period, I believe the present hours have stood the test of time. I suggest that one of the reasons why the Government want to change the existing hours is so that Ministers can spend more time away from the House, from the scene of action here, and attend functions up and down the country instead of doing the job they were appointed to do, that is, to look after the affairs of this country.

The Parliamentary Secretary mentioned the advantage to be gained in relation to Press coverage if the hours proposed were accepted. It has always been my experience that if a Minister or Deputy makes a good point in the course of a debate it is covered in the newspapers the following morning. [446] On numerous occasions adjournment debates from 10.30 p.m. to 11.00 p.m. have got excellent coverage in the newspapers the following morning. Therefore, the Parliamentary Secretary's point is not a valid one.

The Parliamentary Secretary also makes the point that with the curtailment of Dáil business at 8.30 p.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, Deputies can spend the evening as they wish. The vast majority of Deputies want to work for the people who elected them and want to make the maximum use of the time available to them in the interests of the country. If these proposals were accepted we could see the time coming when this House would close at 9.30 p.m. notwithstanding the fact that many Deputies work here until 11.00 p.m. or 11.30 p.m. outside the Dáil Chamber.

The primary reason for this change is to enable members of the Government to make sweeping statements at various functions up and down the country where there is nobody to stand up and contradict them, statements which they will not make in this House during the course of a debate. I believe members of the Government should be in this House for longer hours answering all the questions put to them by Deputies. I was very concerned during the past session, prior to Christmas, when we rarely had the whole of a Thursday afternoon devoted to Question Time as was the procedure during previous sessions not alone during the period of office of this Government but of previous Governments, which enabled questions on the Order Paper to be cleared completely. This happened at least once every two weeks and should the present hours be introduced, we should be confined to just one hour per day for questions. Apart from Question Time and Private Members' business, Opposition Deputies have very little scope for raising matters not alone of local or county importance but of national importance and matters affecting the welfare of large sections of the community.

This is the beginning of the end as far as democracy in this House is concerned. Some members of the Coalition feel that this House should sit Monday to Friday from 9.30 a.m. [447] to 5 p.m. but this would mean that Deputies would have little chance of meeting their constituents and getting their views on various topics. In that event the majority of Deputies would have to travel to Dublin on a Sunday evening or early Monday morning and could not return to their constituency until Saturday. Such a change would make a joke of parliamentary democracy.

In my view this proposal to change the hours is a start towards what I mentioned. The Government should reconsider the matter. I accept that the people feel the Dáil should sit for longer hours; they feel that instead of the hours being restricted more time should be given for debates in this House. If the Government decide that the House will sit for four or five days of each week we will be heading for trouble. There are valid reasons for extending the hours of sitting rather than restricting them.

Mr. Haughey: This debate should not be taking place at all. It is less than adult for us to have to debate a matter of this sort in this way in the House. The Standing Orders of this House make clear and definite provision for dealing with a proposal of this sort. The well-established method of deciding on the manner in which we should conduct our business is that it should be dealt with by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It is absolutely clear from the wording of the Standing Order dealing with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges that it is intended that all matters of this sort be dealt with and settled there. We do ourselves less than justice as a deliberative assembly that we could not refer this matter to that committee and have it dealt with and agreed there. It is less than adult that the Government should put down a motion on a matter of this sort and force it to be debated in this way.

Deputy Lalor gave a clear outline of the way in which this matter evolved and it is clear from his outline that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges is still seized of this [448] matter. It is dictatorial of the Government, in those circumstances, to table a motion and, I suspect, force it through by virtue of their parliamentary majority. An institution of this sort has many characteristics and one of the most important things that a parliamentary legislative deliberative assembly can have is traditions. The traditions of this House are being flouted in this regard. This House is in existence for more than 50 years and during that time has built up its own philosophies, outlooks, traditions and approaches. These are valuable things.

Very often in difficult times when institutions come up against apparently insoluble problems their traditions carry them through. Whether we approve of many of the policies of the British Government from time to time we must all admit that they have succeeded in their Houses of Parliament in creating a valuable and important institution. One of the valuable things about the British House of Commons is its traditions and the way those traditions are adhered to and maintained in spite of the greatest difficulties. Those traditions serve them in good stead and often carry them through difficult times and circumstances when an institution like parliament had nothing else to fall back on except its traditions. I deeply resent this Government, most of whom are much less a time in this House than I, endeavouring in this cavalier fashion to push through this proposal and to break with a tradition which clearly says that anything of this sort should be dealt with and settled by agreement in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

It is an outrageous proposal and I would be, perhaps, a little more tolerant of it as a proposal if somebody could demonstrate to me that there was some national emergency which dictated that we should do this, some set of circumstances which made it absolutely obligatory on us to break with our traditions and our well-established procedures and make this change. However, there is not. The speech by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach was probably the most trivial piece of nonsense put [449] before the House on a serious matter. The first ground which he gives, that this will obviate the necessity of Deputies talking out the evening in the hope of getting publicity the following morning, is frivolous. If there are Deputies who do that sort of thing no action should be taken on the basis of their conduct. It is possible that there are one or two Deputies who resort to those tactics but by and large the ordinary Deputy when he gets up in this House sincerely expresses his beliefs and invariably he addresses the Minister in an attempt to persuade him to his point of view. Of course, all politicians like to have their views reported in the public Press and it is important for a Deputy to have his views and statements recorded by the media.

The overwhelming majority of speeches in this House are directed to the particular business before the House and are made in an attempt to procure some change or to promote some improvement or to persuade a Minister or the Government to a particular point of view, and it is absurd for the Parliamentary Secretary to purport that he is introducing this change for that frivolous, trivial reason. It is quite clear, reading this document and from its whole nature and content that this proposal has been put before us for the simple purpose of facilitating Ministers. That is the only reason one can extract from the verbiage the Parliamentary Secretary has read out to us. The whole business of this House is to be so ordered, our hours of work are to be changed, in order that Ministers may find it easier to attend functions on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

I could not possibly accept that as a reason for making this change, even if it were valid, which it is not. In my time I held three fairly demanding and exacting ministers and I do not think I was ever unduly inconvenienced or that my capacity to carry out my obligations was ever unduly interfered with by the existing hours of sittings. I do not think it is legitimate to suggest that Ministers are in any way inconvenienced or incapacitated by the existing hours of sitting, [450] but even if they were, the processes of this Legislature are far more important than the mere convenience of Ministers.

What we should be concerned with is the dignity, the status and the effectiveness of this House, the quality of debates in this House, and certainly more important than the convenience of Ministers are the convenience and the facilities of backbenchers who have nothing but their own resources to help them to do their job. Ministers have a whole paraphernalia of support, of facilities, the whole resources of their Departments are at their disposal to help them to do their jobs. If there are any concessions to be made here to anybody's convenience it should be to the convenience of backbenchers on both sides.

I do not know if reference has been made to this aspect of it: it is vitally important that we involve as many members of the general public in our proceedings here as we possibly can, that we try to have those public galleries filled as often as we can, that concerned citizens, students of politics and anybody else interested should be facilitated to sit here and listen to our proceedings as frequently as they can. From that point of view alone it is important that we have our evening sittings until 10.30 p.m. By the time the ordinary working man gets home in the evening and tidies himself up, he cannot come in here before 7 p.m. or 8 p.m. I know a number of people who like to come in here and sit in those galleries, particularly if there is something on in which they are interested, and sit there from 8 o'clock until 10.30 p.m. Why should that be dispensed with? Surely it is a retrograde step to eliminate that for the simple convenience of Ministers, to discommode the general public in this way.

I do not think the proposal has any merit whatsoever. The Parliamentary Secretary is a reasonable debater, a competent debater, but even he cannot make a case for this proposal. Apart from the merits of it, apart from considering the proposal on its merits, it is a bad business for the Government to come in here to try [451] to effect this change in this way, to try to by-pass the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, to try to flaunt traditions which are well-established in this House, which have stood us in good stead and will almost certainly do so again on many an occasion. I suggest that even at this late stage the Government withdraw this motion and go back to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and get something worked out there to which everybody agrees. That is the democratic fair way to do things and that is the way we should deal with a matter that is so fundamental to the conduct of our affairs here.

It would be a bad, deplorable day for Dáil Éireann if the Government used their parliamentary majority to force this thing through against the wishes of the Opposition. It will be counter-productive because we can ensure well within the rules of order that if they force this thing through that they will regret doing so by our conduct of debates and discussions here in the future.

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Dr. FitzGerald): If people were present here who did not know what it was we were discussing, they could have been somewhat misled by the vehemence and tone and content of the speech we have just heard. One would think the liberties of the House were being filched in an extraordinary way, that fundamental proposals were being introduced to make life more difficult for the Opposition, that the Government were plotting in some way to strangle Parliament. Words have been used such as the dignity and status of the House, by-passing the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, flaunting traditions. Anybody listening to the debate would have been misled as to what the proposal is.

The proposal is an eminently sane and sensible one and what puzzles me is why the House has not long ago moved by general consent to something along these lines, and argued about the details. There is nothing rational about a system under which people are expected to debate sensibly [452] until 10.30 p.m. at night, long beyond ordinary working hours, when it is possible to find the time, without significantly modifying the working pattern of life of rural Deputies, along the proposals now before us.

The Parliamentary Secretary has pointed out that in respect of more than half the Deputies the distance they live from Dublin is such that this arrangement will make it possible for them to get home on evenings, which hitherto they had not been able to do. This is of some importance to people. The strains of politics are very great but are not at all appreciated or understood by most people who are not directly involved. This is just as true, indeed more true, of backbenchers as of Ministers. Most of the strain of ministerial office, pressure of work which has increased greatly in recent years, is, as Deputy Haughey suggested, mitigated by the fact that a Minister has assistance to do this work of a kind and calibre which the backbencher has not. We are trying to improve the facilities of backbenchers very considerably but nothing we could ever do in a small country like this would ever make the life of backbenchers other than extremely onerous. This is true of all of them but particularly of those who have the burden of representing rural constituencies of wide extent.

Anything that can be done to make the working life of a working politician easier must be to the good. A system which makes it necessary for people several nights a week to remain until 10.30 p.m. in the precincts of the House, long beyond the ordinary working day, given they have other commitments of a political character to carry out, is not a good system. One could argue it is forced on us by the exigencies and there is no working pattern for politicians that can be other than onerous, especially for backbenchers, but I think it has been worthwhile to look at this sensibly and try to find some improvement in the arrangements.

While the original proposal was one to which I could understand objection being made by rural Deputies the present proposal seems to me to give [453] people the best of all possible worlds. It does not eat into the amount of time rural Deputies can spend in their constituencies where they have a very heavy burden of work to carry out on behalf of their constituents in maintaining contact with them and it does mean that they are not constrained to remain in the House the whole evening. It is possible for the majority who live within an hour-and-a-half of Dublin to get home to their families or do useful political work. I suspect most of us will tend to devote a little of the free time to both. The present proposal makes that possible while at the same time not interfering with that part of the working week which rural Deputies use to keep in touch with their constituents. It is important they should be left time to do this. I know from rural Deputies to whom I have spoken about this how much their weekends are eaten into by constituents coming to visit them with various problems. It is important that there should be time left to them outside the weekend to maintain this contact. In that way they will have some free time so that they can go off somewhere on Sunday afternoon.

The proposal here seems to be a sensible one and to the clear benefit of everyone. For most it will mean the possibility of seeing their families a little more frequently and, perhaps, doing a little more constituency work, attending meetings to which they could not otherwise get. For those for whom this will not be possible there will be the possibility of their getting out of the constraining atmosphere of this House and having time to relax. There will be the possibility of sampling the cultural amenities of the city of which so many Deputies never get the chance to take advantage in any shape or form. Whenever they are here they are tied down in the House. That must be advantageous too. People who work a slightly more normal day may be slightly more affected in carrying out their work, constrained as they are at present to remain on here until 10.30 p.m. We know that many of the debates are of their nature so technical that they require the actual participation of relatively few Members. For the remainder there is not the possibility [454] during the late evening hours of their having any contact with Government Departments. All too often Committee Stages of Bills, which could be better dealt with by special committees, are so specialised that for the majority there is no practical possibility of their contributing. Yet they are constrained to remain within the precincts where the facilities by any standards are grossly inadequate for those who have to spend so much of their time here. I do not mean the Members of the Government. We at least have rooms. Though small, they are reasonably comfortable and well furnished. But for most Members this is not a place in which to relax. I have never found it possible either to relax or do what I regard as serious work. I have never found it possible to concentrate my attention on work for any period of time. The whole atmosphere and type of activity are not conducive to that and anything which relieves people from the need to spend the whole of two days a week in these conditions is a good thing.

I do not understand the nature of the Opposition's objections. I see nothing dignified in being kept here from 8.30 p.m. until 10.30 p.m. Indeed, that sometimes leads to a lack of dignity and decorum. As a result of being left at a loose end, some people resort to the bar. I do not see how the dignity of the House can be diminished by terminating proceedings at a reasonable hour.

Mr. Haughey: That was not my point. It was the Government's forcing this through that takes from the dignity of the House.

Dr. FitzGerald: The proposition is a reasonable one. We have gone through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and all the channels relating to it——

Mr. O'Malley: The Government were rejected by them. The Government did not go through it. They come in here and try to steamroll this through.

Dr. FitzGerald: The proposal that the Government are not entitled to put a proposition to the House about the better organisation of [455] business is one I could not accept. As far as effectiveness is concerned, it is clear the House will work more normal and reasonable hours. The status of the House cannot, in my view, be enhanced by sitting late into the night. The point has been made about the difficulty of reporting speeches at the latter end of the day. We are all aware of this. It is physically impossible for the newspapers to report fully what happens at late hours. We all know that weighs on the minds of many Deputies. Indeed, it weighs on the minds of all Deputies to the extent inevitably of their jockeying for position, who is going to go in when with a fair chance of being reported, and it sometimes leads Deputies to meander from 9.30 p.m. to 10.30 p.m. so that they can carry on the next morning and, therefore, have a chance of being reported. That is neither sensible nor dignified. It is not effective and the proposal made here is one which meets the position in a rational and sensible way. It is a compromise——

Mr. Haughey: Between whom?

Dr. FitzGerald: Between the original proposal made and the existing system. It is one which takes into account the reasonable objections made and it is one I have no hesitation commending to the House. Only a very real perversity in the Opposition could lead to such a prolonged debate and to such strong language being used about a proposition so inherently reasonable.

Mr. Haughey: Do the Government intend to force it through?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy O'Malley.

Mr. Haughey: Will the Minister answer a straight question?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Deputy O'Malley.

Mr. Haughey: No answer.

Mr. O'Malley: I am glad the Minister for Foreign Affairs intervened because [456] what interested me most were the things he did not talk about. He very conveniently omitted to make any reference to what was a burning topic with the Labour Party and, to a lesser extent, with certain sections of the Fine Gael Party for many years, namely, the inadequate number of hours the House sits. If the hours were inadequate over five years ago, then they are infinitely more inadequate today. We have the excuse frequently trotted out by the Taoiseach that there is a huge backlog of legislation because the hours of sitting are not long enough, and so on and so on. Urgently needed Bills, like the Juries Bill, are not dealt with. I cannot envisage anything more urgently needed than the Juries Bill but that cannot be introduced because there is no time for it. It is a Bill that hopefully, if it is not complicated, will be passed within a day but that Bill cannot be accommodated because the business cannot be got through. The result is that dozens of citizens are denied their constitutional right of being tried speedily by 12 of their fellow citizens. It is funny the way the really important things can be kept out by virtue of this excuse so frequently made by the Taoiseach and his Parliamentary Secretary. The position of Fianna Fáil was made clear in the correspondence between Deputy Lalor and the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach in November, 1975. On that occasion we offered to sit for four hours longer every week. That was rejected by the Government and it is particularly galling therefore to see a report in The Cork Examiner of today's date with the headline: “Longer hours for T.D.s rejected.” It goes on to seek to give the impression that Fianna Fáil were the cause, that the Government had various proposals but that Fianna Fáil were against them. The opposite of what is reported as alleged fact in The Cork Examiner is the truth and I hope that tomorrow The Cork Examiner will give the same prominence to the truth as they gave to the concoction of the truth that they printed as a news item today.

This should be a lesson to newspapers. The sooner they stop buying [457] the inspired leaks of these Government spokesmen, these purveyors of rumours and unattributable stories from Government Buildings, the better it will be.

Mr. Kelly: There were no such leaks from my office——

Mr. O'Malley: If they sought the facts rather than these stories that are given out in a somewhat surreptitious fashion they might not make the same kind of mistake that The Cork Examiner made today and which I trust it will rectify tomorrow. It is possible it will not do so but we can only hope that it will.

The position is that we made certain proposals at that time that would have the effect of lengthening the present hours this House sits, namely, 21½ hours by 4½ hours, or if a break of one hour at lunch time on Wednesday is included, it would lengthen the present hours by 3½ hours per week. The proposal of the Government is not to lengthen the sittings, not even by as much as 15 minutes, in spite of the fact that they are constantly complaining they have not enough time and cannot get their legislation through. They use this as an excuse for all kinds of failures on their part. They have the opportunity now. If we are going to make changes, let us make the changes that they are saying are necessary in order to get their legislation through this House. When they were in Opposition they said this repeatedly.

This matter was considered by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on two occasions, as was mentioned by the Parliamentary Secretary. He did not attend on the second occasion and consideration of the matter then was limited and short. However, on the first occasion there was a full debate in which I and nearly every other member of the committee took part. There was overwhelming rejection of the Government proposals.

It was impossible to have any proper consideration of the Government's proposals on the second occasion because the Parliamentary Secretary did not turn up and, in so far as the committee were at all aware of the proposals [458] it was simply through Deputy Lalor who had had correspondence with the Parliamentary Secretary before the second meeting. There was no full consideration because, at the suggestion of the Ceann Comhairle, the matter was deferred until the next meeting. This was quite correct in the circumstances. Therefore, the second set of proposals from the Government were never properly considered or decided on by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and it was quite untrue for the Minister for Foreign Affairs to come here and say quite bluntly that it went through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges when it did not. The first proposal was fully discussed and was rejected——

Dr. FitzGerald: I said “went to”.

Mr. O'Malley: Anything could go to the committee—what counts is what gets through. The matter is still with the committee; I have the minutes before me and it is quite clear that is the case.

Mr. Haughey: The Minister conveyed the impression that the matter had been dealt with by the committee. He may not have meant that but that was the impression created.

Mr. O'Malley: When the first set of proposals was put to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on 29th October, 1975, it was very informative. Nearly every member spoke, and apart from the Parliamentary Secretary and two others, nobody else was in support of the proposals. A number of members of the Parliamentary Secretary's party spoke against them, and very properly so. The matter was not put to a formal vote in the committee because clearly it was not necessary as the overwhelming view was totally against the proposals. Notwithstanding that, the Government have come to this House, seeking to shove the proposals down the throats of Deputies even though their own committee that was established for the purpose of considering privately matters of this kind——

Mr. Kelly: The Deputy should quote the order to which he is referring.

[459] Mr. O'Malley: Which order?

Mr. Kelly: Deputy Lalor referred earlier to the Standing Order that refers to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. It is Order No. 73.

Mr. O'Malley: I am not talking about the order. I am talking about the committee.

Mr. Kelly: It is the only relevant order. Otherwise the Deputy is completely out of order.

Mr. O'Malley: I think I will be guided by the Chair in that matter. If the Parliamentary Secretary has said whatever he wants to say I will resume my speech. The purpose of that interruption is beyond me. At the meeting of the committee on 29th October there was overwhelming rejection of the proposals but notwithstanding that the same proposals have come before us now with a number of items left out. If we are to have a proper understanding of the purpose of the proposals before the House, they should be read in the context of the proposals of 29th October because some things are now left out that were in the proposals of 29th October and they are indicative of the thinking behind the whole operation and procedure at that time.

A large part of the motion proposed on 29th October dealt with the postponement of divisions. If it had been accepted it would be almost impossible to have a division except on a limited number of topics here, except at a stated time and with the consent of the Government. The point has been made by several speakers that the purpose of this operation is to assist the Government and make life easier for them. There is no doubt about that. Anyone who reads the proposals of the Parliamentary Secretary, as presented to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges on 29th October, 1975, will be in no doubt that the object of the exercise is to make life easier for members of the Government and for the Parliamentary Secretary so that he can stop worrying at 8.30 p.m. instead of worrying until 10.30 p.m.

[460] The Parliamentary Secretary in his speech today gave four reasons for the change, which were described by Deputy Haughey as trivial. To say they were trivial might almost be an overstatement because they were the silliest four reasons for suggesting a major change in this House. The Parliamentary Secretary said that, first, Deputies will have better Press coverage. He may worry about Press coverage— obviously he does—but there are many Deputies who are more interested in getting their work done than in the extent of Press coverage they will get. Secondly, he says that it would be better for the 55 per cent he rather arbitrarily decides can go home at night, to spend their evenings or part of them at home or in the vicinity of their homes.

Mr. Haughey: In the back garden.

Mr. O'Malley: Maybe in the back garden, the local or some place known to the Parliamentary Secretary which is covered by the phrase “in the vicinity of their homes”. This 55 per cent of Deputies the Parliamentary Secretary decides are within about one-and-a-half hours drive of Dublin, which I presume is about 80 or 90 miles, are expected to drive home every night and drive back in the morning, spend three hours of each day on the road in conditions of what nowadays are, unfortunately, conditions of great danger.

Mr. Kelly: Some of them do that now but they do not start until 10.30 p.m.

Mr. O'Malley: The Parliamentary Secretary stated that 55 per cent of Deputies live within 90 miles of Dublin and must all want to get home every night and spend their evenings at home or in the vicinity of their homes. The third reason is the one which is the nub of the matter. The Parliamentary Secretary stated that the proposal will have specific benefit for members of the Government. This is the only reason that this motion is being put forward. It will enable members of the Government to attend functions of all kinds not alone in Dublin but throughout the country on [461] seven nights a week instead of five. If one looks at this motion, one finds that members of the Government and Deputies who support them are free to leave the House at 7 p.m. because it is proposed that business shall be interrupted for Private Members' Business between 7 and 8.30 p.m.

Mr. Kelly: On the contrary, it rests with the Government to provide a quorum.

Mr. Lalor: It is already on the record that the Government do not recognise that they have to keep a quorum.

Mr. O'Malley: It shows the difficulties one encounters in dealing with a very inexperienced Parliamentary Secretary who did not serve one day in the House before he became Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach. For his information, the Government do not have to provide a quorum for Private Members' business and never had to. All members on the Government side and that includes the Government themselves, if necessary, can go home at 7 o'clock on Tuesday.

Mr. Kelly: The House will fold up if they are not here.

Mr. O'Malley: The House cannot fold up. The Parliamentary Secretary should read Standing Orders. It cannot fold up if there is nobody on the Government side as long as one person on this side is speaking. If the Parliamentary Secretary's assistant would give him the appropriate Standing Order it would save me being interrupted further on this particular point. It is no guarantee that I will not be interrupted, equally stupidly, on another point. The effect of this is to allow members of the Government to leave the House at 7 p.m. on Tuesday evenings and possibly on many Wednesday evenings also. The amount of time that will be devoted on Tuesday to substantive public business will be three-and-a-half hours between 3.30 p.m., the finish of Question Time, and 7 p.m., the beginning of Private Members' time. It is a farce that Deputies are expected to come here for three-and-a-half hours of substantive public business.

[462] Mr. Kelly: They were doing that for many years under the Fianna Fáil regime.

Mr. Lalor: The country was not in chaos at that time. It was progressing very satisfactorily.

Mr. Kelly: There was very serious chaos.

An Ceann Comhairle: Order. Deputy O'Malley without interruption.

Mr. O'Malley: The third reason is benefit for members of the Government. I have no quarrel with that because it is the truth. The fourth reason is that it is proposed to have a sos from 1.30 p.m. to 2.30 p.m. on Wednesday so that Deputies may despatch some business in Dublin outside Leinster House. That is part of the Dublin city mentality which so pervades the Government and so pervaded the speech of the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Foreign Affairs who came in here with a kind of soft sell speech, that all this opposition by Fianna Fáil and by many of their own backbenchers to these proposals was just a lot of nonsense and that the whole thing was very reasonable. He went on to say that country Deputies have their difficulties, that they have to look after their constituencies but was it not a wonderful thing that after 8.30 p.m. under the Government's proposals rural Deputies can, according to the Minister for Foreign Affairs, “sample the cultural amenities of this city”?

Mr. Kelly: It is just like Fianna Fáil to sneer at such things.

Mr. O'Malley: The Minister was saying that whatever is useful or worth while in Ireland is in Dublin and rural Deputies can spend their nights from 8.30 onwards going around visiting art galleries, if they can find any open, or theatres, if they can find any where the shows have not begun at 8 o'clock, which is the normal starting time for cultural activities of this kind.

We have five reasons given for this proposal. Three of them are rubbish and one is the truth, that [463] it would suit the Government. We are also told that it will benefit the rural Deputies, the one-and-a-half hour type, and the rest should be glad that they can go off at 8.30 to sample the cultural amenities of this city. Those are the five reasons given that we should agree to this. People like the Parliamentary Secretary and the Minister for Foreign Affairs have not the remotest idea what it is like to represent a rural constituency. They have not the remotest idea what the difficulties are and they never will. They could not care less. When I think of the difficulties that are involved and I hear the patronising speeches from somebody like the Minister for Foreign Affairs, who lives one-and-a half miles away and I listen to a Deputy like Deputy John O'Leary from South Kerry explaining what the position is it is ridiculous that we are supposed to tell somebody like him that he should go away at 8.30 and sample the cultural activities of this city instead of doing his work.

Mr. Kelly: Deputy O'Leary said he wanted the Dáil to keep sitting so that he could do his work upstairs.

Mr. O'Malley: That is what Deputy O'Leary said and that is what I am saying. I have always done the great bulk of my work between 7.30 and 10.30 p.m.

Mr. Kelly: The Deputy does not have to stop now.


Mr. Kelly: The most ridiculous thing I have ever heard is that the House should pretend to carry on business to provide an atmosphere for Deputy O'Leary four storeys up.

Mr. O'Malley: The contributions from this side of the House have not been wasted because they are beginning to hurt. We are getting the usual sort of reaction from this very touchy Parliamentary Secretary when he is hit with a few barbs of [464] the truth. It sometimes gets through to him that there is sometimes some truth in some of the things he does not think of and that he has not quite got a total monopoly on it yet.

Because of the increasing complexity of modern life, and because in particular of the increasing economic mess in which this country found itself over the last 12 months or so—a mess which is steadily getting worse—the calls on the time of this House for the processing of necessary legislation are getting greater and greater. There is a backlog of legislation and some of it is desperately urgent. I have instanced just one case of the most extreme urgency on which no Bill has been brought forward other than one that was introduced months ago in the Seanad, before the question of the juries being declared invalid ever arose. Still all our courts, so far as jury trials are concerned, are closed down— totally closed in regard to criminal juries, which are the important ones, and partially so in relation to civil juries—and they are unable to do their work. Dozens, if not hundreds of our citizens, are deprived of a most basic right which is guaranteed specifically to them in our Constitution. Still, the Parliamentary Secretary and the Government do not see fit to increase the sitting hours of this House, even though there was a specific proposal to that effect in November last by the Whip of this party.

I recall, when the informal committee on reform of Dáil procedures sat in 1971 and 1972, of which I was chairman, one of the factors which we considered at that time was a Labour Party policy document, presented by Deputies Michael O'Leary and David Thornley, in which they said that far longer sitting times were necessary and the Dáil should sit from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., five days a week. That proposal was considered by the committee. Apart from the members of the Labour Party my recollection is that every other member of the committee was opposed to it. We were not opposed to longer hours, but we were certainly opposed to longer hours in that form. The case was made by several Fine Gael members of that [465] committee that the longer hours could take the form of the existing hours, plus Wednesday morning. That was considered the easiest and most convenient extension of time from everyone's point of view.

Where are the Labour Party now? I do not think we have heard from one of them tonight. This was a topic on which they were very local. The late Deputy Seán Dunne spoke several times about it and got great support from Deputy M. O'Leary now Minister for Labour and Deputy Thornley. Where are they now? Not one of them has even sat in this House since this debate began, let alone take part in it.

Mr. Haughey: Deputy B. Desmond is giving a Press conference about it somewhere.

Mr. O'Malley: Perhaps they have reneged on their obligations in this respect as they reneged on them in other respects as we heard in the last few days, and they are not too anxious to face the public.

I want to make it very clear that if there was ever a need in the history of this House for longer hours, it is now. There is an opportunity now to lengthen the hours. That opportunity was proposed by Fianna Fáil last November. It would cause the minimum of inconvenience to everyone concerned and give us three-and-a-half or four-and-a-half extra hours, depending on whether we wanted an hour's break. That is not being availed of by the Government. What they are doing is retaining the same number of hours but moving them forward in the day, to enable members of the Government to attend public, political and other functions every night of the week instead of only five nights as at present.

We have heard a great deal from the Parliamentary Secretary about the difficulties of what he describes as “office holders”. I, in common with Deputy Haughey, Deputy Lalor and others on this side, were office holders, some of us for much longer than anyone on that side of the House. We are well aware of the difficulties but had to put up with them. We did not seek to change the [466] fundamental rules of this Parliament in order to make life easier for ourselves. The whole approach of this Government towards this House is simply to regard Dáil Éireann as a relatively minor irritant, a place where they must show up on two or three days a week and the less time they have to spend there the better. The whole purpose of the attitude and the proposals of which this is a classic and characteristic type is simply to downgrade this House and the significance of parliament. The more you can push it into the background, the better it will suit this Government. It is an irritant they would prefer not to have to put up with. The more successfully they can bypass it or avoid it the better so far as they are concerned. That is a wrong approach. It is not just wrong from the point of view of Members of this House, but it is wrong from the overall democratic standpoint. These consistent efforts by the Government to seek to downgrade this House cannot do this country and its institutions any good in the long run.

I have the gravest doubts whether this Government wish to do this country and its institutions any good in the light of their activities in regard to economic policy and other matters over the past couple of years. If a free vote was allowed on this— of course, there is not, because the Government are jackbooting it through by use of their Whip—this Government proposal would be overwhelmingly defeated. I do not want to embarrass anybody by mentioning their names, but I would ask, rhetorically, the question: what about those members of the Government parties who were so vehemently opposed at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to this and analogous proposals? Those unfortunate people have to swallow their pride, their honour and walk through the lobby in order to force this proposal through which they do not like, to which they are opposed and which they know is wrong and does not suit the majority of Deputies.

Deputy Haughey is more than justified in what he said about the radical [467] departure from precedent and from the traditions of this House in the putting of this motion by the Government before the House today without the agreement of the Opposition. I do not know when it was done before. There may have been small cases where procedural motions were moved, as in a guillotine, but this is something which is omnibus, covers the entire procedure of the House, goes right to the root of the House's whole being and is being pushed through against the will of the Opposition, and, for what it is worth, against the will of many Government backbenchers too.

Deputy Brennan mentioned that when he was Government Chief Whip for several years, no Government Whip in his sane senses would seek to push through a major measure like this in the House against the wishes of the Opposition because he knew it was a short-sighted policy. The Parliamentary Secretary may have his victory tonight, but it will be a dearly purchased victory, I would suggest, because a more mature Government Chief Whip than the present one would realise that his paltry little victory tonight may well turn out to be hollow and to be a Pyrrhic victory the winning of which he could very deeply regret in time to come.

Mr. Kelly: Is that a threat?

Mr. O'Malley: Before he commits himself any further, I would ask the Parliamentary Secretary, who has this habit of flying off the handle and saying things without thinking about them and regretting afterwards what he said, or what he did, to consider deeply and, perhaps, overnight, whether he is wise to go ahead and seek to win his Pyrrhic victory tonight, or whether it would be better to continue the tradition of this House, which always has been that procedural matters of importance are agreed with the Opposition, and that the Opposition are facilitated to that extent at least, and that you do not, as a matter of prudence and self-preservation, walk on the Opposition simply because you have two or three or four, or whatever it is, more Deputies behind you [468] than they have. That is my final word to the Parliamentary Secretary on it.

Perhaps in many ways, Deputy Haughey and I might have been better not to have mentioned that aspect of it at all, and let the Parliamentary Secretary walk into it, because walking into it, I am afraid, is what he is doing. Nonetheless, because we are concerned about the traditions of this kind that have existed in this House, and because relationships between opposing Whips and opposing parties were good in these matters, we are concerned to see, for the first time ever, in a matter of major significance, that it is being proposed by the Government tonight to break them.

Mr. Enright: I regard the changes in the sitting hours as very fair and reasonable. I say this as a rural Deputy who comes from the Midlands and represents a widespread rural constituency.

Mr. Haughey: How many miles?

Mr. Enright: Deputy Haughey was in our area recently. I see he is coming down again in the near future. The speedometer in his car will show him the mileage when he gets there.

Mr. Andrews: The Parliamentary Secretary is discriminating against 45 per cent. It is disgraceful.

An Ceann Comhairle: Order.

Mr. Enright: I represent two very large countries. With these changes I believe I will be able to provide a better service for the people I represent. I will have a better opportunity to attend to constituents, to visit people in their homes or in various centres, to attend party meetings or gatherings, or to attend at meetings of different associations or groups. On many occasions I will be able to leave here at 7 o'clock on Tuesday evening and I will be able to attend these functions when I get home. A similar situation will arise on Wednesdays. I will be finished in this House at about 8.30 p.m. Up to now Deputies have been able to attend meetings on Thursday evenings.

[469] I do not wish to be selfish and look at this from my personal viewpoint only. It must be looked at from the national viewpoint also. The Parliamentary Secretary set out the position in some detail. It has been made adequately clear to everybody that these changes are experimental. The Parliamentary Secretary and the Government are reasonable and, if it is found that these hours do not work out satisfactorily, a change will be made. I believe they will be satisfactory.

At present the House meets on Tuesday from 3 o'clock until 10.30 p.m. We may have to deal with the Committee Stage of complex legislation. It may be necessary for the Minister to have discussions with his senior civil servants on points raised by the Opposition. If the Minister finishes here at 10.30 p.m. he has until the following morning to have those discussions. He is back in the House the following morning at 10.30 a.m. This means that the Minister has not an adequate opportunity to discuss complex amendments or points put forward by the Opposition with his civil servants. The changes in the sitting hours will allow him to have those discussions and they are worthy of the utmost consideration by the Opposition. Reasonable people in the Opposition will see merit in this proposal.

Senior civil servants come into the House and offer their advice to the House through the Minister. We hear talk about a shorter working week. Civil Servants should have regular hours like other people in different jobs. I want to go on record as saying that the staff of this House have often served trojan hours, unbelievably long hours. They are here in the morning before 10.30 a.m., possibly at 9.30 a.m. and, if matters drag on, they are often here until a very late hour. They are back in again the following morning. Working such long hours under such pressure does not lead to efficiency. It does not lead to the care and attention which are so necessary when we are dealing with legislation which affects the daily life of everyone.

It may be said that there is not a lot of truth in what I am saying but I believe there is. We need adequate [470] time to give thought and consideration to all the legislation which comes before the House. If we believe in what we are saying, if we are to have the exchange of thought and ideas which is so important in a democracy, if we believe in the significance and importance of this House we, the Government, our Ministers, our civil servants, and everybody involved in this process, should have adequate time for consideration and discussion.

This House should be giving a lead to the rest of the country and show that we are transacting our business in a workmanlike fashion. The present hours are not normal business hours, and if the proposed hours are accepted this House will be more in line with the day to day life of the community. As a result, the hours during which Deputies work will be more normal and regular and there will be a similar situation in regard to our civil servants, the staff in this House and also the Press Gallery staff. I believe the people will be pleased to see this House modernising itself.

Deputy Haughey has mentioned tradition. I am as keen on tradition as anybody else here. However, tradition is one thing; keeping in touch with changes in living is another thing. By changing our hours of work we shall be coming more in touch with the day to day life of the people. I am surprised the Opposition are not in full agreement with this proposal. While I appreciate it is the job of the Opposition to oppose, I would have thought they would have regarded this proposal as an improvement.

Mr. Haughey: Why did the Government not get our agreement to it?

Mr. Allen: On a point of order, Deputy Enright has been talking about a much more normal situation in regard to the proposed hours——

An Ceann Comhairle: A point of order, Deputy.

Mr. Allen: Would he like to refer to the heating going off at 4 o'clock in the day? Is that the proposed hours the Deputy has in mind?

[471] An Ceann Comhairle: That is not a point of order.

Mr. Enright: That does not come within my responsibility.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair regrets very much the lack of heat in the Chamber and in the House generally. I understand it is due to an industrial dispute. The staff involved are under the control of the Office of Public Works. While I am not conversant with all the details, I understand the staff in question are restricting their work. The Whips of the parties have been advised of this matter. I am sorry for the inconvenience it is causing to Members and staff.

Mr. Haughey: Would you consider getting the Minister for Labour back from whatever social function he is attending to settle this dispute?

An Ceann Comhairle: Out of courtesy I gave this information to the Members, but the matter may not be discussed now. It is essentially a matter for the Office of Public Works.

Mr. Haughey: We will soldier on.

Mr. Andrews: We will generate our own heat.

Mr. Enright: Is Deputy Allen satisfied?

Mr. Allen: No, I am not. The Deputy has not enlightened me on that situation. I thought the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach might enlighten us on the situation.

Mr. Enright: I have expressed my views on this proposal which I believe is a good one leading to efficiency and to business being transacted in a more businesslike way. If a Minister has to be in this House at 10.30 in the morning having been in the House until 10.30 p.m. the previous night, he cannot give of his best involved in long tedious discussions. I believe the hours proposed are reasonable and I am in wholehearted agreement with this proposal.

Mr. Lalor: Is that what is wrong with the Government? They are working too long hours.

[472] Mr. Callanan: The only reason I speak in this debate is that I happen to be a long-distance Deputy. This proposal is arranged to suit Dublin and Leinster. If I could go home at night, I would be in agreement with these hours because we could do a lot at home. Anybody living over 100 miles from Dublin could not go home at night and be here the next morning. It might be said: “It is impertinent of you having been here only two years to express views on this matter. You might not be here at all after the rearrangement of the constituencies.” However, if we are here for only a week, we are entitled to make our views known.

A Deputy might have to call on a Department, and the normal hours of sitting enabled him to do that on Wednesday morning. Under the new arrangement, if he is off at half-past eight he can go to no Department at that time. There are times when you cannot do your business by telephone, and Wednesday morning is very important to a rural Deputy if he has to call to the Land Registry or some other Department. When the Dáil is sitting it is a Deputy's duty to be here to listen to what is going on. Deputy O'Malley suggested that we could acquaint ourselves with the culture of Dublin. I often came to Dublin when I was younger and when I was anxious to see the city. After 8 o'clock there are not many places you can get into. If a rural Deputy wants to go to a show he cannot go at that time of night. If you are here until half past eight, it is just as well to stay until half past ten.

Mr. Haughey: Absolute common sense.

Mr. Callanan: It would be better if it could be 6 o'clock in the evening but I do not believe that is on because no rural Deputy would agree to sitting on Friday or Monday. It should be remembered that rural Deputies must meet their constituents and if they do not have Monday and Friday for this they will have to spend Sunday meeting them. This change is all right for the Dublin Deputies and the Ministers. If the Dáil met in Galway, I would like to be finishing at 7 o'clock [473] in the evening and to be home within an hour because I could go to a show or enjoy myself at something else. The change in the hours is detrimental to the Deputy who lives a long distance from Dublin because when the House adjourns at 8.30 p.m. he has nowhere to go except to his hotel. He cannot go to a show or get a chance to see Dublin life.

Mr. Haughey: He could go to Harold's Cross to the dogs.

Mr. Lalor: Dr. FitzGerald's cultural Dublin.

Mr. Callanan: Did the Government consider the Deputies from Cork, Kerry, Mayo or Donegal? Is the change being made to suit the Ministers and the province of Leinster? Rural Deputies in the winter months could not go home when the House rises at 8.30 p.m. because they would have to contend with adverse weather conditions early the following morning in order to be in Dublin for a 10.30 a.m. start. If Deputies from rural areas decide to go home when the House rises at 8.30 p.m. in the winter months, I can see a lot of accidents occurring as they try to make it to Dublin by 10.30 a.m. the following morning.

I do not agree with the change proposed and I was disappointed that the time of the House was taken up on a matter which should be considered by the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. We should be considering legislation rather than discussing a motion of this type. I was sorry that more Mayo Deputies did not speak because they will be affected most by this change. I am not opposing this simply for the sake of opposition but because I believe it is unfair on the rural Deputies. It is convenient for those who live in and convenient to Dublin because they can go home at night.

Mr. Andrews: The Parliamentary Secretary's speech strikes me as a patronising piece of parliamentary poppycock.

Mr. Kelly: A super piece of alliteration.

[474] Mr. Andrews: There is no doubt that this script was not written by a civil servant; it has certainly the hallmark of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach and that is clearly indicated by this patronising remark:

The Government makes no complaint about the conduct of the Opposition in this regard,

How dare the Government?

Mr. Kelly: The Deputy sounds like an old nanny.

Mr. Andrews: That is exactly what I am trying to deal with here.

Mr. Kelly: Nothing makes you happy.

Mr. Andrews: We are really dealing with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. I am sure the Parliamentary Secretary is aware that 90 per cent of his Deputies tried to forestall him in bringing this piece of nonsense into the House.

Mr. Allen: And he forced them into the House to talk on the motion.

Mr. Enright: I imagine the Deputy would like the new hours.

Mr. Andrews: The Parliamentary Secretary also stated:

The proposal will have the specific benefit for members of the Government...

Is that another good reason why the Parliamentary Secretary is introducing this change?

Mr. Kelly: It certainly is.

Mr. Andrews: Is the simple truth of the matter not that the Parliamentary Secretary is introducing these hours to suit the members of the Government and nobody else and the convenience of the other Deputies, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil or Labour, does not matter? You also make the remark that 55 per cent of all Deputies reside——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should address his remarks through the Chair rather than direct to the Parliamentary Secretary or anybody else.

[475] Mr. Andrews: The Chair can take it that if I am looking at the Parliamentary Secretary I am directing my remarks to the Chair, if that is any consolation.

The Parliamentary Secretary said that a check of the Dáil roll would show that a clear majority, about 55 per cent of all Deputies, reside within about one-a-and-half hours drive of Leinster House. This is a clear piece of discrimination against the other 45 per cent of the Deputies. Have they no rights? Are they not to be considered? Did the Parliamentary Secretary include in this figure members of his own party? Does he not feel that he is discriminating against them?

The Parliamentary Secretary is a member of a Dublin orientated Government and this piece of Dáil timing is for the benefit of those living within the Dublin region. There can be no question about that.

Mr. Allen: Another Jimmy Tully.

Mr. Andrews: The Parliamentary Secretary told us that the Government feels such a change would lead to a more business-like Dáil. Does that mean business-like hours or does it mean business-like methods for dealing with legislation? We all know that the record of the Government, and the Parliamentary Secretary, in respect of reforming legislation is deplorable. Will the changes mean that the House will have a better legislative record in the context of reforming legislation?

Mr. Kelly: I will make the Deputy a present of this: changing the hours alone will not do it but it is a step towards it.

Mr. Lalor: I thought there was a prospect that this was what the Parliamentary Secretary was really after.

Mr. Andrews: The hours are more or less the same as before.

Mr. Kelly: Exactly the same.

Mr. Andrews: Is it not just another trick-o-the-loop job by the Parliamentary [476] Secretary to pretend that the Government are a reforming government? It is another gimmick.

Mr. Kelly: It is not.

Mr. Andrews: Is the Parliamentary Secretary serious when he says that this in some way will introduce a more business-like method into the lives of Deputies? Which Deputy has the hours of a businessman? Is it the intention to introduce business hours so that Deputies will be more businesslike?

Mr. Kelly: What is wrong with business men?

Mr. Andrews: There is nothing wrong with them, but Deputies lead a far different life and their hours are far longer. If business men worked as many hours as Deputies, the country might not be in the economic mess it is—compliments of the Coalition Government. A Deputy's day begins at 8.30 a.m. when the telephone starts to ring, on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday——

Mr. Allen: And Sunday.

Mr. Andrews: He may have constituents calling to him on a Sunday, and welcome. We have our clinics on Saturdays and sometimes on Friday nights and sometimes on Sundays.

Mr. Enright: They now have two extra nights.

Mr. Andrews: The Parliamentary Secretary said that is not the reason for the change in the hours—it is to allow Deputies to get back to their families or to attend functions. Where?

Mr. Allen: Would Deputy Enright enlighten us how many hours of driving he has to do from Dublin?

Mr. Enright: Two hours.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Andrews must be allowed continue without interruption.

Mr. Andrews: A Deputy's day does not necessarily begin and end in Dáil [477] Éireann. It can begin with meeting constituents; it can entail four or five meetings with departmental officials or local authority officials. If he is lucky enough to get his tea, it can involve two or three meetings—they may be organisation meetings, but they are meetings and part of his work. Now he is being asked to come along at 2.30 p.m. on Tuesday until 8.30 and at 10.30 a.m. on Wednesdays. What about the rural Deputies? Deputy Enright may travel home but what about the man living outside the arbitrary radius suggested by the Parliamentary Secretary, one-and-a-half hours? What about the Deputy who having gone home, the following morning finds himself up to his neck in snow? Will the Dáil then go into suspension? Is not that Deputy putting his life in danger? Have not those living outside the magic one-and-a-half hour radius set down by the Parliamentary Secretary to be considered? They are not being considered.

The Parliamentary Secretary knows that the law should be applied to all equally, but there is no equality here. It is all right to talk about businesslike hours if the Dáil were doing its business as the Parliamentary Secretary suggests. However, I think he will agree that the legislative record of this Government in the past three years has been abominable. Oh, we had the taxation package which has done as much good to the country as nothing —appalling pieces of legislation.

Mr. Kelly: Will the Deputy repeal them when he gets in?

Mr. Andrews: What I should like to see done is the fulfilling of the promises made by the Parliamentary Secretary when he came into Government, all of a sudden and much to his surprise, that he would introduce all sorts of reforming legislation. What reforming legislation has been introduced?

Mr. Kelly: We made it possible for Fianna Fáil barristers to get into the Law Library.

Mr. Andrews: This is a gimmick. What has that got to do with deprived children?

[478] An Ceann Comhairle: We must get back to the motion before the House.

Mr. Andrews: What has it got to do with family law reform?

Mr. Kelly: I have given the Deputy one example in regard to his own profession.

Mr. Andrews: What has it got to do with deprived children? They have not introduced one iota of reforming legislation.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy should relate more closely to the motion on sittings and business of the Dáil.

Mr. Andrews: If the proposed hours would do anything about the situation I have outlined we would find them acceptable, but this is another piece of soft shoe shuffling to fool the people outside that they are doing something. They are doing damn all. This type of time shifting is a fraud. I was Chief Whip of a Government for almost three years—Deputy O'Malley mentioned it and it was introduced by Deputy Lalor—and I know that to have the work of the House ordered in a businesslike way, to use the Fine Gael expression, it was necessary to have co-operation between the Whips. The Parliamentary Secretary brought along spurious proposals to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges which were opposed vehemently by us, supported with equal vehemence by members of his own party and the Labour Party who do not seem to be concerned with this. I do not wish to take advantage of their absence, but they have not got the guts to come in here and say publicly what they said behind closed doors. Then we are to get the what I may call Deputies' “holy hour”——

Mr. Kelly: We will scrap that if the Deputy likes but the people who will be suffering will be the official reporting staff.

Mr. Andrews: The Parliamentary Secretary would love to have that added hardship. This “holy hour” is to be introduced as a concession. I do not think any Deputy has objected to working 12 hours——

[479] Mr. Kelly: Very few Deputies, except Ministers, work here for 12 hours.

Mr. Andrews: I am talking about outside and inside.

Mr. Kelly: The Dáil does not have to be sitting.

Mr. Lalor: Deputy Callanan does.

Mr. Andrews: At the end of his statement the Parliamentary Secretary emphasised to the House “that the hours now proposed are experimental”. That is a laugh. The Parliamentary Secretary knows that when these hours become the order they will remain permanently. He continued:

If they are not found generally acceptable, they will not be made permanent,

I do not believe that and I do not believe the Parliamentary Secretary believes it either—widely acceptable to him, but not widely acceptable to members of the Opposition. Is it an umbrella acceptance by the whole House or is it a selective opening of the umbrella to cover the Government benches only? These hours will not be widely acceptable. They will become widely acceptable to the Members constituting the parties in Government because they will be told: “Gentlemen, it has now become widely acceptable to you, and that is it.” As far as this side of the House is concerned, we believe these hours will never become widely acceptable

It is, of course, important that account should be taken of the staff. They do an extremely difficult job extremely well and anything we can do to accommodate them should be done. But Members of this House and members of the staff come second to the institution of Dáil Éireann. Let the members of the staff not be fooled by the Parliamentary Secretary's concern for them. They will still have to work the same hours. This is just an exercise in juggling and no one should be taken in by it. Exactly the same number of hours will have to be worked. There will be no decrease in work. The Parliamentary Secretary knows the old adage that talk expands to fill the time available.

[480] Mr. Kelly: The Deputy is giving an illustration of that himself now.

Mr. Andrews: I am just as guilty as the Parliamentary Secretary. There is no question about that. If the Parliamentary Secretary had any real concern about hours he might have thought of bringing in some form of limitation on debate. That would be the proper approach. Let us not be fooled by the Parliamentary Secretary's attempt on behalf of the Government to con people into believing this will improve the business of the Dáil. It will do nothing of the kind.

Mr. Haughey: May I ask the Parliamentary Secretary a question with regard to the wording of the motion? The motion stipulates:

That notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders the following arrangements relating to business and sittings on Tuesdays and Wednesdays shall apply on and from Tuesday, 3rd February, 1976, until the adjournment for the Easter Recess.

Which Easter Recess?

Mr. Kelly: The Easter Recess of this year.

Mr. Haughey: Should that not be stated?

Mr. Kelly: I would think it is self-explanatory.

Mr. Haughey: Could I have an explanation? The motion simply refers to the Easter Recess.

Mr. Kelly: If I am to take that as a serious question, to put the Deputy's mind at ease I am giving him a positive assurance that the Government's intention in regard to the words mentioned mean the Easter Recess 1976 and he need not be a bit afraid that, when the time comes, the Government will say it is the Easter Recess next year or any subsequent year. It is the Easter Recess, 1976.

Mr. Haughey: In the interests of drafting should the motion not state which Easter Recess is referred to?

Mr. Kelly: No. That is absolutely unnecessary. The motion is quite [481] clear and only someone mulling over it would be thinking this up at this stage after six or seven Opposition Members have spoken on it.

Mr. Lalor: If there is a backlog we might have no Easter Recess until 1977.

Mr. Haughey: Is it not contrary to procedure to ask us to adopt a motion so vague and uncertain in its terms?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair assumes from the Parliamentary Secretary's reply to the Deputy's question that it is the Easter Recess, 1976.

Mr. Haughey: The Chair assumes?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Parliamentary Secretary said 1976.

Mr. Haughey: Are you asking us, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, to deal with a motion on the basis that the Chair assumes something?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy asked a question which was answered by the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Haughey: I submit it has not been answered by the Parliamentary Secretary. All I got from the Parliamentary Secretary was a gratuitous insult in reply to a perfectly straightforward, valid question by me.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Chair interprets it as being 1976.

Mr. S. Flanagan: That should surely be in the motion.

Mr. Haughey: I want to propose that the year 1976 be inserted after “Recess”.

Mr. Kelly: I am perfectly happy to agree to do that.

Motion, by leave, amended accordingly.

Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach (Mr. Kelly): I have made notes of a great number of points made by various speakers and I propose [482] now to deal with what seemed to me to be the most important points. Deputy Lalor opened for the Opposition and he said I deliberately left out of my opening statement—this was adverted to by subsequent speakers also—the fact that the Fianna Fáil proposal in the letter to me would have meant longer rather than shorter hours. There were several complaints from Opposition speakers about the headline in The Cork Examiner—I did not see that headline and I did not know about it until it was quoted here —the implication being that Fianna Fáil were responsible for opposing longer hours of sitting and that we were the people pushing for longer sittings. The last proposal made by the Fianna Fáil side did propose longer hours. I did not deliberately suppress that fact. I tried to keep my opening remarks short; they occupied six or eight minutes, unlike many of the subsequent speeches. I am perfectly willing to agree now that the latest Fianna Fáil proposal did involve a certain number of extra hours. We do not propose that now. The original proposal did propose it. I think there will be no need for it once we have this enormous volume of taxation legislation out of the way.

I should like now to recall to the House—this relates to something Deputy O'Malley said; whenever he gets the chance he refers to the informal committee which sat under his chairmanship—the fact that that committee proposed that more special committees should be used. I do not intend to tread on anyone's toes but to date we have got very little co-operation in this regard. Only three Bills have so far been referred to special committees. I may be wrong by a Bill or two, but I believe only three have been so far referred to a special committee. The taxation measures through which we slogged here last year cried out for special committees. They were kept here in the House with the political intention of breaking the Government's neck, and for no other reason, day after day and week after week by the ex-Minister for Finance and a couple of self-appointed Opposition spokesmen, holding the House in Committee day [483] in and day out and week in and week out, a performance that would not be tolerated in any Parliament in Europe. When the Government saw what was going on here last year—the Opposition did not, of course, succeed in breaking our necks—they decided to bring some sense into the Dáil and that is how this idea evolved. Last year for the first time in the history of the Dáil, it broke 1,000 sitting hours. We had something like 110 or 112 divisions last year——

Mr. Andrews: What did it achieve?

Mr. Kelly: These divisions were not asked for by the Government; they were enforced on us by the Opposition. The divisions were four times as many as they had been even in quite active years of the Dáil's existence. It was done for one purpose only, to try physically to wear us down so that we would trip over ourselves and be beaten. However, we disappointed that expectation and we will do so again.

I heard Deputy O'Malley talk about a Pyrrhic victory—it is over-generous of him and Deputy Haughey to warn me in this matter—and he said I would pay for it. That theme was repeated by three Deputies this evening. Am I and the Government to take it that we are being deliberately threatened with obstruction, not in the business of the Fianna Fáil Party but in the people's business? Are we being threatened with obstruction if the Government finally make up their minds what they will do with regard to work in this House? I hope that is not the intention, but certainly some of the expressions used this evening sounded like it. I accept, and I have said so repeatedly in this House, even to the point of being what Deputy Andrews probably calls patronising——

Mr. Andrews: The Parliamentary Secretary should not be nice to me.

Mr. Kelly: The truth is that business is done by a substantial measure of agreement and understanding between both sides at Whip level. I accept that and on umpteen occasions I have paid tribute to the fact that generally it [484] goes very well. I have tried to make it clear that I acknowledge the well-meaning minds which produce that effect in the Opposition. I am afraid to say any more about it in case I am accused of condescending to Deputy Lalor or Deputy Browne, whom I hope we will see soon in the House again. However, there are some matters on which the Government have had nothing but failure with regard to the business of this House, that is trying to secure from the Opposition some kind of reasonable deal in regard to the way business is done.

Deputy O'Malley referred to the proposed Committee on Dáil Procedure with great pride, but he did not say that the body of the recommendations makes it clear that what the committee meant was the very frequent use of Special Committees. Once the sides changed, and Fianna Fáil were on the opposite side, it did not suit them any longer to send Bills to special committees. They would prefer to be in here trying to break the Government's neck, up and down the steps, sitting here night after night with Committee Stage debates——


Mr. Kelly: Individual amendments were debated for up to two days and there were occasions when the Committee Stage speeches from the Opposition were essentially Second Stage speeches. We had a situation where individual Deputies were arrogating to themselves the position of spokesmen to which they were not appointed by their Leader. Last year one Deputy, single-handed, cost this House three weeks' time at the very least——

Mr. Lalor: Is the Parliamentary Secretary referring to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs?


Mr. Kelly: That is the way we were met with regard to special committees. We were given various excuses. One of the main excuses was that these measures were too controversial to be sent out of the body of the House to what was supposed to be the obscurity behind closed doors of a special committee. I agree the first two taxation [485] Bills were controversial but the last of the Bills was not even voted on at the end of the Second Stage. The Opposition did not even challenge a vote on the Capital Acquisitions Tax Bill but that did not stop them maintaining that in some way they were prevented from permitting it going to a special committee. Many days were taken up in this House dealing with that Bill.

I understand that there are arguments about the “importance” of a Bill. That kind of sanctimonious talk can be made about any Bill or motion, no matter how trivial. I appreciate that argument exists in the case of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Bill. The truth is that most Deputies did not take part in that debate; they could not have done so because they did not know enough about taxation matters to contribute and I concede that number includes myself. I am not trying to pretend that it is only the others who are not able to take part in a fiscal debate. That was a debate that should have taken place in a Special Committee while the body of the Dáil got on with other work.

That was the situation that existed last year. We fought our way through and we are almost out of the far side of the capital taxation package. In addition, we have digested large measures in the last three years that were extremely contentious; I am referring to the Committee Stage of the Planning Bill and the legislation dealing with constituency revision. It may be that we are coming into a period when Bills will not necessarily take up quite that length of time on Committee Stage. I express the hope once again, in spite of many disappointments, that the Opposition will agree to send something like a continuous stream of Bills to special committees. If that were done there would not be any need for sitting the gruelling, inhuman hours we sat last summer and for several weeks before Christmas.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Will the Parliamentary Secretary indicate if backbenchers on his side of the House intend to take part in debate in this House? There was no one when we were debating the Capital Acquisitions [486] Tax Bill and only the Minister has spoken so far on the Criminal Law (Jurisdiction) Bill.

Mr. Kelly: Where a debate is going to continue for weeks or for months it is important to try not to hold up one's own side unduly. I never asked any other Fine Gael Deputy to contribute on Committee Stage on the capital taxation Bills and I would not do so now. To use a word used this evening, I do not see why just for the optics of it I should push into the benches here, if I were able to do so, some Deputy——

Mr. O'Kennedy: It is an indication of a lack of interest in these matters.


An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Parliamentary Secretary should be be allowed to make his speech.

Mr. Kelly: One of our Deputies was so interested in it that he would not vote for it. He understood it so well—although he formed a different view of it from that of the Government —that he did not even vote for it. He contributed a few times, not very much, but that does not say he was not interested.

The Opposition's attitude to Dáil reform forms part of the background against which this measure is being proposed. I have already recited their unwillingness, except in a few cases, to agree to special committees and their absolute unwillingness that the special committees should be used to the extent that the Opposition, when in Government, intended that they should. They were very willing to take the benefit of the Private Members' time, which was given them in heaping measure, compared with anything they gave to the Opposition. They were so willing they made us vote in order to disallow it in budget week. They expected the Minister for Finance to come to the House on budget day and on the day before in order to discuss something that could just as easily be discussed next week —in any case it can be discussed on Thursday morning when the budget debate opens. They will take all but what will they give?

Another sphere in which I have not [487] been able to get agreement, except on rare occasions, is on a timetable. On umpteen occasions I have gone to Deputy Lalor and to the spokesmen on whose behalf he has to act in regard to these matters and I said: “Look, have as much time as you like with this Bill or the other Bill. Write your own timetable, but let us know what it is, so that we will be able to plan something here, so that we will know not just when we are going on our holidays but so that we will be able to draw up a schedule of Dáil business which we can rely on for a period ahead.” While I know that Deputy Lalor is sympathetic to that, he has to do the job his party instruct him to do. I was never able to get, except on very rare occasions and in very limited measure, agreement out of him for something which in other Parliaments is taken for granted.

We are at sea here. We are drowning in words, with time being recklessly squandered, and no Government could possibly get through its business; particularly with the difficulties which the Opposition are so fond of adverting to, without occasionally—I use this expression advisedly—taking the Dáil and the Opposition by the scruff of the neck and forcing something to be done within a certain amount of time or according to a certain measure of reason. No Government could do it and if Fianna Fáil were in and did not do it they would be highly culpable.

I have heard them point to their own generosity on one occasion in allowing Deputy Cruise-O'Brien to speak for six hours on the definition of one word. They were at fault in allowing him to speak for that length of time. They should have put a closure on him five hours earlier. They come along now and throw in our teeth their ignorance of where their duty lay when they were in Government and ruled the country and the Dáil simultaneously, and represent as tolerance, what is simply recklessness and witlessness. Deputy Cruise-O'Brien went to town on it, and by doing so he showed up the Government that were at that time sitting here.

[488] Mr. O'Kennedy: Was he right or wrong?

Mr. Lalor: He is now a Minister.

Mr. Kelly: The Opposition asked how we could deal with arrears. I hope they will not build up to the frightening extent they were building up to last summer and in the time before Christmas and once these taxation matters are out of the way, these block-busters, we will be in a period when we have plenty of business but it will be less lengthy in terms of time taken up in Committee. I will also freely admit that in 1974, for reasons which may have had something to do with a change around in Government and policies —I hope this will be taken in the spirit in which it is said—and the fact that Ministers had not got used to making their Departments keep to a timetable there were periods when we were almost free-wheeling when Estimate debates went on from day to day for weeks on end and were interrupted only to make room for further Estimate debates. We were then accused of free-wheeling. Now, there is scarcely time for an Estimate debate because the legislation is so voluminous. We are asked why we are not giving time to discuss the immense sums of money being paid out. Naturally an Opposition cannot easily be made happy and they would not be a good Opposition if they were made happy.

During parts of 1973 and early 1974 we were free-wheeling in the Dáil. That all ceased about the beginning of last year and we have seen what an inhuman schedule has been worked since then. I hope, as I said, that we will come into a period when that will not be quite so necessary. If extra hours are needed they cannot any longer come out of Wednesday morning but without inflicting on Deputies any inconvenience—not on those who spoke against it because they seem to like these hours—they can be extended by stretching business up to the old hour of 10.30 on Tuesday and Wednesday. That alone would give us four extra hours in the week. I hope that will not be necessary but [489] it can be done without any severe inconvenience and certainly without an inconvenience which anybody is not accustomed to.

Deputy Brennan, in a way, made the most straightforward point from the other side when he said that he did not see why he should be asked to make things easy for the Government. It is quite true that a substantial part of the motives, and for me even a decisive element in the motives, behind this motion would be to make life easy for the Ministers who bear a burden which four or five Deputies on the far side this evening must remember very well. I do not apologise for seeking to make life easier for them—I naturally understand that Deputy Brennan does not see why he should be asked to contribute to this effort—I do not apologise for trying to do this. We should not forget—the people on the far side will remember this from their own experience—that when 7 o'clock in the evening comes, which is the hour we proposed in the original proposal which got such opposition in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, the average Minister has a ten-hour day already behind him. He is not any longer a very young man. He is not even necessarily a man in the best of health and he is asked, just because he may be required to pass through the Division Lobby, to sit around here for a further three-and-a-half hours. He cannot work because although his room is comfortable it does not provide the facilities of an office. He cannot fit in all the officials he may wish to see. He cannot keep his entire Department hanging around here in the anterooms. He cannot relax and he cannot see his family or sample the cultural activities of the city. He cannot do anything except sit around here. I make no apology for saying that that is a grinding and indefensible waste of the time of a man who, even though you may dislike his party or him, deserves because of his office some consideration. If this Government consisted of people who were lazy I would be ashamed to make that argument. I am glad to say that no Opposition Deputy thought of making [490] that argument. Not one of them had the gall to allege that under the expression “making life easier for Ministers” what was really meant was “accommodating lazy men”. They are not lazy and everyone in the House and outside it knows that. It may be that many of them spend a lot of their time as has been alleged——

Mr. O'Kennedy: Parliamentary Secretary Flanagan would be able to sample the cultural activities of this city.

Mr. Kelly: ——in political, as distinct from official, work. That is something the former Government did as well and the one before that. That is an unavoidable part of politics. It is even a part which I guess many office holders do not even like and never liked, but it is unavoidable. It is there for better or worse. It is part of the democratic process about which there were so many sanctimonious tears shed. Any man who becomes a Minister in this or any country has fought his way to the top through a gruelling political process and a gruelling personal process. It has made horrible demands on his health, on his happiness very often and on his relations with his family and friends. When he gets to the top, whatever one may think of him, his party or his policies, he is somebody who demands and deserves consideration. I make no apology for saying that men who have reached that situation and who carry that terrible responsibility ought not to be treated in the way I have to treat Ministers night after night who come into my office grey with exhaustion, some of them almost dropping with exhaustion, and asking if in God's name they can be let go home and I have to say to them: “I am very sorry, you cannot because we could have a vote at 10.25. Please do not go until the screen goes blank”. That is the truth of the matter about Ministers and I make no apology for expressing it vehemently. I most certainly will not pretend that in my book at least it is not a major part of the motives behind this motion.

That is not to say that the other [491] arguments which I mentioned this evening are only shadow arguments or were not seriously intended. I intend them absolutely seriously. It is hypocrisy for a Deputy to pretend that he is not interested in press coverage. I am sure that every Whip who was ever in my job has had the experience of finding a Deputy very anxious to speak at four o'clock or five o'clock, even perhaps still anxious at six o'clock, but no longer still anxious once seven o'clock comes and still less anxious once eight o'clock comes and absolutely unwilling, although he may be a man whom you want to get to speak, once nine o'clock arrives. Why? Not necessarily because he is tired, but because he will not reach the people he wants to reach. There is no use talking sanctimoniously and ponderously about “this House”. Who is “the House” at that stage? “The House” is a bored Minister and a bored Opposition spokesman. That is the reality of the matter. Not Deputy O'Leary writing his letters four storeys up or Deputy Callanan, and not the Press gallery, because even if they are there, there is a limit to what they can do for this Deputy, no matter what he has to say, at that time of the night. I have seen Deputies from both sides of the House with very fine and important speeches to make being blotted out the following morning, not through any ill-will on the part of the Press, but because the material cannot be written, edited and printed at that time of the night.

Mr. O'Kennedy: The Parliamentary Secretary will be well published tomorrow morning.


Mr. Kelly: I believe I enjoy the support of the Press on this motion if on nothing else. It is dishonest to pretend that coverage in the Press does not weigh with Deputies. It weighs with every Deputy who ever came into this House. To pretend that the Press does not exist is a polite fiction, which we have taken over from the English, like so many other things, and is also [492] dishonest. Daniel O'Connell, one of the greatest Irish parliamentarians ever bred, said that the Press gallery had become the Fourth Estate of the realm. He did not put a tooth in it.

Mr. Haughey: The Parliamentary Secretary is denigrating James Dillon.

Mr. Kelly: He knew their importance. It is childish to pretend that importance is not there, and it is childish to represent an argument based on the exigencies of printing the daily Press as being of no importance or as something I should have been ashamed to introduce here.

Mr. Haughey: The Parliamentary Secretary does not understand this House.

Mr. Kelly: I hope I will get through it with fewer scars than the Deputy has collected.

Mr. Haughey: I will survive my scars and if it is left to the democratic process I will be here longer than the Parliamentary Secretary.

Mr. Kelly: Deputy Brennan said he was not opposed to the rational review of procedures in this House. I am delighted to hear that, but what procedures in this House would he like to change, in what direction, and how far would he go to meet anything the Government want to do? That is what I would like to hear. If he has anything in his mind about that, perhaps he might pass it on to Deputy Lalor and we can talk about it the next time we meet.

Mr. Lalor: At the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Kelly: Deputy O'Brien followed him and supported me. As time is getting on, I will not deal with what he said. Deputy Haughey made the point that the Committee on Procedures and Privileges was the body to deal with matters of this kind. I agree that that committee conventionally have the job of dealing with matters of this kind, but I do not agree that the Government are doing anything against the letter or the spirit of Standing Orders or the conventions [493] of this House in making up their own minds, after lengthy discussions and negotiations and even lengthy and bitter debates in the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, in coming directly before the House with this motion.

The Standing Order which Deputies quoted from earlier refers to the rule of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and says, among other things, that it is the committee's job to recommend amendments and additions to Standing Orders. We had a quibble here a half an hour ago about why 1976 was not filled in in the motion. I will give a quibble that will to that. This is not an addition or an amendment to Standing Orders, it is a temporary arrangement which will override Standing Orders. I completely agree that if it were intended as an addition in Standing Orders which would be printed in the book, then what is proposed this evening could not, under any conditions, achieve that status. If it were that, it would be the business of the committee to make a recommendation on it before this House acted, although even then I would maintain the right of the Government to bring forward a motion without a recommendation. I agree that were a formal permanent amendment or addition being proposed it would, under Standing Orders, be the job of the committee to make a recommendation, even though I do not agree that the Government could not act in the absence of such a recommendation.

Mr. Lalor: Why did the Parliamentatry Secretary not go back to the committee.

Mr. Kelly: I could deal with that but I have not very much time and I want to get this finished if possible.

I have already dealt with some of Deputy O'Malley's points. In referring to the Press he gave a severe spanking to The Cork Examiner for what they said about his party. Although, as he kept telling us, he is in politics much longer than any of us on this side, he seems to have a much thinner skin than those of us who are junior to him have developed. He then went on to [494] talk about Press commentators in general.

I will tell him something about Press commentators which is highly relevant to this motion and the amount of understanding which is brought to bear on the business of this House. Some time last autumn I read a commentator who was lecturing me along the following lines: it was my job to twist the arm of the Opposition into accepting a special committee for the Committee Stages of these taxation Bills. I said to myself, there is a man who has been sitting in the Press gallery and has been around this House for some time and I would like him to tell me, or any Government Whip, how one goes about twisting Deputy Lalor's arm when it is being held rigid by Deputies O'Malley, Haughey, Gibbons and every other Fianna Fáil man who sees in a proposal about Dáil procedure from this side only a means to obstruct and annoy people they are hoping to put out politically. I have never succeeded in being able to twist that arm and I do not believe that any other Whip in my situation would have any greater success. That is what the Press think I should be doing, persuading, cajoling or even bullying the Opposition into agreeing to a special committee on taxation Bills, even though they may not wish to agree to do so. That degree of understanding of a Whip's job does not augur very well for the degree of understanding which may be brought to bear on Dáil procedure as a whole. I can only hope and pray that the arguments advanced here on both sides this evening have made sense to that commentator.

Deputy Enright mentioned an argument which I had forgotten. It is perfectly true that a Minister stuck in this House on successive days, Tuesday and Wednesday, with a long Bill on Committee Stage or Report Stage will want to consult his officials at the end of one day and before the next day begins. Of course, that is true and Deputy Enright was right to make that point. The Minister will now have an extra two hours—and a more civilised two hours—than was previously the case to do this.

[495] Deputy Callanan said he could not get home at night. I was glad of his intervention because he was man enough to admit the point I was trying to make at another stage in my opening speech. He said—and I wrote down what he said—“you can do a lot if you can go home at night”. This is an advantage which Deputy Enright admitted and will be shared by Deputy Lalor. Deputy Enright lives two hours from Dublin but to suggest that it will not be an advantage to an enormous number of Deputies who live that same distance, is to neglect the realities of geography and politics.


Mr. Kelly: Deputy Andrews thought it was very wrong to talk about business-like hours. He seemed to have high scorn for businessmen and the way they operate. I cannot see anything wrong with taking a leaf out of the businessmen's book. They work when it is light and relax when it is dark.

Mr. Lalor: The Government have proved that they are not businessmen.

Mr. Kelly: To imitate the businessman, whom Deputy Andrews seemed to think was below imitation, would be no bad course for this House to take. Because Deputies have more irregular hours and more calls on their time than businessmen, I do not see why that should be an argument for imposing extra burdens on Deputies, for wasting time around this House when they could be doing something more useful elsewhere. I do not see why that is something that should be maintained.

Mr. O'Kennedy: We have been very gainfully employed for the past hour or so.

Mr. Kelly: The last thing Deputy Andrews said was that he did not believe these hours would become widely acceptable. He seemed to be pressing me for a more exact statement of what I meant by “widely acceptable”, or what the Government meant by it. I want to make it clear that I am not giving any kind of undertaking that [496] the perpetuation of these hours, if they are perpetuated, will depend on unanimity. I am absolutely not giving that undertaking.

I will give the following undertaking. If the Government, on what I hope will be a fair understanding of “generally acceptable”, come to the conclusion that these hours have worked well, and look like working even better coming into the long evenings of the summer, and do not receive sensible representations to the contrary, the Government will probably want to build them into the Standing Orders. If they wish to do that, naturally I will bring the matter back to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. Lest it be cast in our teeth later on, I want to remove any suggestion that I am making any kind of promise that unanimity will be necessary in this regard. It will not be necessary. Governments do not operate by unanimity with the Opposition in matters of Dáil procedure or anything else. I have never experienced that happy state and I do not suppose it is reasonable to expect it. I do not want to be taken as giving any guarantee of that kind.

This has been a reasonably peaceful debate; I have enjoyed it in spots. I hope Deputies on all sides will receive some benefit from these hours and that they will try to see the good side of them. If there are serious arguments for improving them or for adapting them in directions we did not think of, any more than the Opposition did, I hope the Opposition will be open-minded and constructive enough to bring them forward according as they occur to them, so that we will get the Dáil into a more rational way of doing its business and one which at least does not only have the argument in favour of it that it has been done in the same way for the past 40 years. I commend the motion to the House.

Mr. Lalor: May I put a question to the Parliamentary Secretary? I put it to him already and asked him to refer to it in his reply. The motion states:

...under Standing Order 123 shall have concluded and the Dáil shall [497] adjourn not later than half an hour after the interruption of business.

I asked the Parliamentary Secretary if it was clear that would not interfere with votes which could take place after 8.30 p.m.

Mr. Kelly: I understand that to refer to Standing Order 123 (3) which reads:

If at the time appointed for the interruption of business proceedings under this Order are in progress...

that is, divisions and estimates——

...the Ceann Comhairle shall not effect such interruption under the proceedings in connection with all divisions and questions outstanding shall have been completed.

Mr. Lalor: The point I made was that the words “the Dáil shall adjourn not later than half an hour after the interruption of business” cuts across Standing Order 123 (3) which the Parliamentary Secretary quoted to show that it oversides everything else. My reading of this motion is that it would override Standing Order 123 (3).

Mr. Kelly: As I understand it the reason for paragraph (1) of the motion being drafted in that way is [498] that the last two lines and a bit are adapted from the intention of the Standing Orders in regard to adjournment debates.

Mr. Lalor: Standing Order 123 (3) provides that if at the time appointed for the interruption of business proceedings a vote is going on it has to be allowed to be completed. The motion refers to half an hour after the interruption of business. If two votes were postponed from the previous Thursday and are being taken at 8.30 p.m. on Tuesday night, business could continue for more than half an hour. As I see it, the motion cuts across and negatives Standing Order 123 (3) to an extent.

Mr. Kelly: Any outstanding votes will be taken in succession and thereafter there will be half an hour for an adjournment debate if it has been conceded.

Mr. Lalor: If I were on the Government side I would not like to try to sell that. However, if the Parliamentary Secretary is happy about it that is all right with me.

Motion, as amended, put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 65; Níl, 62.

Barry, Richard.

Begley, Michael.

Belton, Luke.

Belton, Paddy.

Bermingham, Joseph.

Bruton, John.

Burke, Dick.

Burke, Joan T.

Burke, Liam.

Byrne, Hugh.

Clinton, Mark A.

Cluskey, Frank.

Conlan, John F.

Coogan, Fintan.

Cooney, Patrick M.

Corish, Brendan.

Cosgrave, Liam.

Costello, Declan.

Creed, Donal.

Crotty, Kieran.

Cruise-O'Brien, Conor.

Desmond, Eileen.

Dockrell, Maurice.

Donegan, Patrick S.

Donnellan, John.

Enright, Thomas.

Esmonde, John G.

[499]O'Sullivan, John L.

Pattison, Seamus.

Ryan, John J.

Ryan, Richie.

Spring, Dan.

Staunton, Myles.

Finn, Martin.

FitzGerald, Garret.

Fitzpatrick, Tom (Cavan).

Flanagan, Oliver J.

Gilhawley, Eugene.

Governey, Desmond.

Griffin, Brendan.

Harte, Patrick D.

Hegarty, Patrick.

Hogan O'Higgins, Brigid.

Jones, Denis F.

Kavanagh, Liam.

Keating, Justin.

Kelly, John.

Kenny, Enda.

Kyne, Thomas A.

L'Estrange, Gerald.

Lynch, Gerard.

McDonald, Charles B.

McLaughlin, Joseph.

McMohan, Larry.

Malone, Patrick.

Murphy, Michael P.

O'Brien, Fergus.

O'Connell, John.

O'Donnell, Tom.

O'Leary, Michael.

[500]Taylor, Frank.

Timmins, Godfrey.

Toal, Brendan.

Tully, James.

White, James.


Allen, Lorcan.

Andrews, David.

Barrett, Sylvester.

Blaney, Neil T.

Brady, Philip A.

Brennan, Joseph.

Breslin, Cormac.

Briscoe, Ben.

Brosnan, Seán.

Brugha, Ruairí.

Burke, Raphael P.

Callanan, John.

Calleary, Seán.

Carter, Frank.

Colley, George.

Collins, Gerard.

Connolly, Gerard.

Crinion, Brendan.

Cronin, Jerry.

Cunningham, Liam.

Daly, Brendan.

Davern, Noel.

de Valera, Vivion.

Dowling, Joe.

Fahey, Jackie.

Farrell, Joseph.

Fitzgerald, Gene.

Fitzpatrick, Tom (Dublin Central).

Flanagan, Seán.

French, Seán.

Gallagher, Denis.

Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.

Gibbons, James.

Gogan, Richard P.

Haughey, Charles.

Healy, Augustine A.

Herbert, Michael.

Hussey, Thomas.

Kenneally, William.

Kitt, Michael P.

Lalor, Patrick J.

Lemass, Noel T.

Leonard, James.

Lynch, Celia.

Lynch, Jack.

McEllistrim, Thomas.

MacSharry, Ray.

Molloy, Robert.

Moore, Seán.

Murphy, Ciarán.

Nolan, Thomas.

Noonan, Michael.

O'Connor, Timothy.

O'Kennedy, Michael.

O'Leary, John.

O'Malley, Desmond.

Smith, Patrick.

Timmons, Eugene.

Tunney, Jim.

Walsh, Seán.

Wilson, John P.

Wyse, Pearse.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kelly and Kavanagh; Níl, Deputies Lalor and Andrews.

Question declared carried.

The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 28th January, 1976.