Dáil Éireann - Volume 315 - 21 June, 1979

European Assembly (Irish Representatives) Bill, 1979: Second Stage.

Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service (Mr. MacSharry): I move: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

[774] The main purpose of the Bill is to provide the necessary legislative authority for the appropriate payments to Irish representatives elected to the European Assembly.

Section 2 provides that Irish representatives will receive, in respect of their duties in the Assembly, the equivalent of the allowance payable from time to time to a Dáil Deputy. This is in accordance with the decision of the European Council that Assembly representatives should be paid the same remuneration as the Members of the Parliament of the country they represent. The Council left it up to each member state to decide, in relation to Members holding a dual mandate in the National Parliament and the Assembly, whether they should retain both salaries. It has been decided that Irish representatives in the Assembly who are also members of the Oireachtas, will receive their appropriate Oireachtas allowance in addition to their Assembly allowance. It is not, however, necessary to provide specifically for this in the legislation. It is not the intention that should an office holder such as a Minister of State become an Assembly representative that he or she would continue to hold office. The question of payment of salary as an office holder in addition to allowances as Member of the Assembly and the Oireachtas will not therefore arise. Payment of the Assembly allowance will commence from the beginning of the term of office, that is, in the case of an elected representative, from the date on which the Assembly first meets after the election.

Members of the European Parliament have in the past received allowances in respect of travel, subsistence and secretarial expenses and it is understood that these payments will continue to be determined by the Assembly and met from the Assembly budget. It is not envisaged, accordingly, that any expenses would fall to be met from voted moneys. It is considered however to have a provision in the legislation enabling payment of expenses to be made from voted moneys if the necessity should arise in the future, for example, if these expenses should cease to be borne on Assembly funds. Section 3 enables this to be done by way of order.

[775] Section 4 of the Bill provides for the making of a contributory scheme for the grant of pensions to, or in respect of, the Irish representatives in the Assembly. The provisions will be set out in the scheme itself which will be generally on the lines of that already applicable to Members of the Oireachtas. Such a scheme will be laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas in accordance with Section 6 of the Bill.

The Bill also provides, at section 5, for the avoidance of conflict of interest arising through representatives of the European Assembly having direct involvement in the affairs of State-sponsored bodies. Already, the individual Acts governing most of these bodies contain provisions designed to ensure that a person shall not at the same time be a Member of the Oireachtas and a member of the board or staff of a State-sponsored body. The application of similar limitations to representatives in the European Assembly is appropriate and the present Bill affords a suitable opportunity to do so on a general basis. The Schedule to section 5 lists the bodies to which the limitations will apply and further bodies may be added as and when appropriate.

I commend the Bill to the House.

Mr. P. Barry: I cannot see why this Bill is before this House.

Mr. Quinn: Hear, hear.

Mr. P. Barry: It has nothing at all to do with us and it should not be any concern of the Irish taxpayer. It should not be part of their duty to pay Members of another Parliament, which is what the Government are asking us to do as a result of a foolish decision taken by the Heads of State at one of the Council meetings at the end of last year, forced on them for political reasons by the Head of one Government who has since left office. That is the position.

We are here today asked to debate what is called the European Assembly (Irish Representatives) Bill, 1979. In every one of the other eight countries of the Community they are doing exactly the same thing, wasting the time of [776] Parliament and their taxpayers' money. The history of this is that the then British Foreign Secretary, in an excess of virtue, about two years ago said that he would not agree that Members of the European Parliament be paid any more than the Members of the House of Commons. As sometimes happens, this became part of the policy of the Labour Government then in office in England with the result that a meeting of the Heads of State at Bremen, the British Prime Minister of the day, Mr. Callaghan, said he would not agree to any proposal under which the Members of the European Parliament would be paid more, or that the Members from England would be paid more than were MPs in the House of Commons. What was agreed at that meeting—I suppose, in an effort to keep Prime Minister Callaghan quiet, to help him get over what they saw at the time as electoral problems in the club atmosphere that operates at all of these meetings in which they like to continue dealing with the devil they know, and of course in the United Kingdom of six months ago they were dealing with the devil they knew and feared the “deviless”, if there is such a word, they did not know. It was agreed at that meeting that each parliament, or each government, would pay its own Members and the European Parliament would decide at what rate they would be paid.

Now we are confronted with a situation in which there are 410 Members of the European Parliament being paid at nine different rates, all doing the same job. Surely this is the height of ridiculousness? As we frequently pay lip service to this matter, make many speeches about it, with pages and pages of newspaper absorbed by our lofty thoughts on the ideal of a united Europe, the movement towards the unity of the peoples of Europe, we now propose to have an Assembly of over 400 people in which there are nine different rates of pay for Members all doing the same job.

Mr. Quinn: It is a trade union's delight.

Mr. P. Barry: Exactly. Even on this island three of the Members will be paid [777] at one rate and 15 at another. In fact that is not even true because, when examined, it is worse than that. For example Mr. Maher and Mr. Flanagan both will have only their European salaries, whereas Members of this House, and there is one Senator——

Mr. Quinn: Senator McCartin.

Mr. P. Barry: Let us take the rates at the bottom of the scale: the lowest paid Members of the European Parliament for Ireland will be Mr. Maher and Mr. Flanagan, neither of whom is a Member of either House of the Oireachtas. Therefore, they will be paid the basic allowance set out in this Bill, which is, I think, £6,200. Senator McCartin will be paid another rate. The other 12 Members, being Members of the Dáil, will be paid a third rate. None of these will be the same as the rate paid to the three Members from the North of Ireland, one of whom is an MP in the House of Commons and presumably will be paid this allowance in addition to his MP's salary. The other two are not MPs and will receive only the European rate, which will be different from that paid to Members from the South of Ireland, all of which will be different from the rate paid to any one of the Members coming from each individual country to the European Parliament next month. The great possibility is that the whole thing is illegal and if challenged in the European Court, under the Treaty of Rome, must be thrown out as a bit of nonsense.

It is a waste of our time discussing it. It was a waste of time of the Heads of State putting this forward. I presume it came off the top of somebody's head after a very good dinner late one evening, as a way of putting the problem to one side so that they would not have to come to a decision about it. That is the only way in which I can think such a ridiculous suggestion could have been put forward and expect to be treated seriously by the nine Parliaments in Europe.

I would recommend to the Minister that he send a cable or telex now—if still operative—to the Taoiseach in [778] Strasbourg at the present Council Meeting in order that he be able to inform his fellow Heads of State this evening: “Yes, legislation was introduced in the Irish Parliament this morning; we are going ahead with that proposition,” and then forget the whole thing. It is obvious to me that by the end of this year the European Parliament will have made their own decision about how their Members should be paid and will tell the Council of Ministers and Heads of State that they have no function at all in the matter and no right to interfere in the level of pay being given to European parliamentarians.

While on that subject I would say to the European parliamentarians—and this is only fair—they should not pay themselves. I believe that within 12 months they will be paying themselves and that this Bill will be seen for what it is, a bit of worthless window-dressing. The European parliamentarians should not create further jealousies amongst, not merely themselves but the ordinary people of Europe by paying themselves excessive salaries. But I think they should be paid more than we are paid in this House. It is only fair to say that the strain involved, the very unsocial type of job it will be, the long time that will have to be spent away from home, the difficulties of keeping a second home going in some of the most expensive places in Europe along with maintaining one's home base, means that these people should be adequately compensated. In that way I feel they should be paid more than we are paid here. I would hesitate to put a figure on it but I would think something in the region of £15,000 a year would be a more suitable salary. There is no denying the strain involved, the potential damage to family life, the very unsocial hours that must be worked and spent travelling in being a Member of the European Parliament, meeting in three different locations, and its Members need to be adequately compensated. Indeed they could never be adequately compensated in monetary terms but some effort must be made to assist Members to bring their families out to Europe with them, thereby, in some way, keeping the strands of family life together.

[779] During the last six months I think a lot of people thought that to be elected to the European Parliament, to be a Member representing Ireland there, would mean the beginning of a glamorous life style. I am afraid that the reality may prove to be different. It will involve hard work and a lot of travel in the height of the winter, many times in the early hours of the morning. There is no doubt that the European Parliament will put huge strains on the social and family lives as well as the health of the Deputies involved. I would advise Deputy O'Connell, who has just come in, to refuse to have any part in getting this legislation through the House. When the European parliamentarians come to settle their salaries they should be on the generous side having regard to all the factors. This European Parliament was elected and will do more serious work than the two Parliaments which preceded it, which was comprised of Members who were nominated but not elected. The new Members can speak with greater confidence and take a more positive view of the affairs of Europe. When deciding on their salaries I hope they will behave in a responsible fashion, recognising that at least one Member of the Dáil at home will not criticise them if they are paid more than we are getting.

If the Government were serious about this Bill the proper thing to do would have been to include provisions in relation to the level of expenses. I noticed from the Minister's speech that the Government are carefully sidestepping this. The general public's view of the politician will not be enhanced by a Bill which brings about situations in which the only way possible for a European Deputy to maintain his two houses and maintain his family in a style they are accustomed to is to claim expenses at an exaggerated level from the European Parliament. If the Government wish to dictate the salary level, they should also dictate the expenses level.

They should do the correct thing and keep out of it altogether and accept this for what it was—a bit of window dressing for the sake of a British electorate, proposed by a British Prime Minister who is now out of office. It should be [780] forgotten. In Britain the Bill was merely circulated and in Italy, the Netherlands and Luxembourg no legislation has been introduced. At this stage, I feel we will hear no more about it from these countries. They paid their lip service to the Council of the Heads of States at Bremen by agreeing at that stage, and nothing has been done about it since. In France the Bill was adopted by the Assembly and is going to the Senate. Denmark and Germany are the only two countries who have completed the legislative proposals. I recommend that the House allow the Second Stage to go through and then forget the whole thing, because it is a silly worthless bit of interfering in a matter that is not our business. It is ridiculous that the taxpayer should have to pay the salaries of 15 men whose salaries should be paid by a Parliament to which they were elected.

Mr. Quinn: I am sorry to have to give out to a Minister of State who is trying to do his job well. However, as Deputy Barry said, this is a bit of nonsense. The Government had the opportunity to define within the context of this Bill the role of a Member of the European Parliament in relation to these two Houses. The first anomaly arises in the first page of the Minister's speech where no mention is made of the fact that two Members were elected to the Parliament who are not Members of this House. No provision was made in this legislation to give them rights of access to this House or, more importantly, to give them rights of access to the Joint Committee on EC Legislation. In the next four or five years we will be in a situation where a person who headed the poll in the largest constituency does not have rights of access to the Joint-Committee on Secondary Legislation of the European Communities. If the Government and the Department of the Public Service were doing their job these aspects of the role of European parliamentarians would have been recognised before they rushed in to discuss the rates of pay. The Government are determining the rates of pay without attempting to look at what the job specification means in practice.

We are engaged here in a bit of political window dressing which is a [781] sequel to the charade that was played out in the Bremen Summit, when the British Prime Minister along with others was faced with the embarrassing prospect that the people might not come out and vote in the percentage numbers hoped for because of the stories about the salaries. We must get quite clear this business about salaries and resources to do a job. There is no way that Deputy MacSharry would sit in this House and take a salary tied to the standard of income in Sligo town, which would be lower than the standard of income in Dublin South-East. No Deputy would accept that criteria and that is what we are proposing in this Bill.

A political deal worked out at a Summit between nine Heads of State because they could not come up with a political formula that would work on some basis of equity is essentially their problem. We in this House should not formally give consent to the principle of different rates of pay for the same job. Will 100 years in the Labour movement and of the Labour struggle be turned upside down by this nonsense? The Government were represented last Friday evening in O'Connell Street by the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Labour at the unveiling of a monument by the President to James Larkin, the great Labour leader. What would be his comment on a different rate of pay for dockers in Dublin, Sligo, Bremen and so on? This is nonsense from the Government and I am sad for the Minister of State that he must sit here and listen to justified criticism.

The reality is that if we pass this legislation we will be creating a precedent for the Department of the Public Service and for future Ministers for Finance in the matter of differential rates of pay for the same job. That is unacceptable, and we are asking the Minister to let this legislation wither away until it can be dealt with properly by people who are competent to do so.

The nonsense did not start or stop at Bremen. It extends into the Department of the Public Service. Section 4 deals with a pension scheme, and so casual has been the drafting that an Irish MEP, to benefit from a pension scheme paid [782] for by the people of Ireland, would have to serve 20 years before being entitled to a 50 per cent pension. He would have to serve eight years before qualifying for a minimum pension. An Irish MEP will not be given an opportunity to buy some years of service. In other words, if an Irish MEP wanted to serve only five years but was anxious to provide for some kind of pension, he is not being given an opportunity in the Bill to buy the extra three years to give him some kind of pension. Why were these things not looked at more carefully? If we have a Committee Stage these points will have to be looked at more carefully then.

Totally absent from the Bill and scandalously absent from the Minister's statement is any concept of the role of an MEP in relation to his Irish constituency. We are talking about the House voting taxpayers' money to MEP's so that they can become effective Members. They are being equated with Deputies and Senators, but there is not a Deputy who has a constituency the size of Munster or Connacht/Ulster. The kind of allowance being provided for here will not in any way pay our MEP's for the sheer physical job of looking after such constituencies.

There is no provision in the Bill for additional resources for MEP's with which to service their Irish constituencies. If the Government are serious about European legislation and about enabling 15 Members for the Twenty-six Counties to do their job in Europe, why has not this legislation incorporated some framework whereby Irish MEP's would have some scheme of resources to enable them effectively to represent their huge Irish constituencies?

I do not know why we are discussing this legislation. We are doing so in a vacuum. If we pass this Bill before the European Parliament has decided on the levels of remuneration, expenses and so on, we will run the risk of creating a gap between the kind of resources—I stress “resources” rather than salary and I will elaborate what I mean by it—available to Irish MEPs in relation to the difficulty of doing the work. Subsequently we will have to come back to waste valuable parliamentary [783] time to amend this legislation when the picture has clarified itself.

It would have helped us if the Minister had given some explanation as to why he wants this legislation so soon, why he wants it passed before 17 July. I suspect he had hoped to get the Committee Stage today—the brevity of his introductory statement would give that impression. He has not told us why he wants the legislation before the levels of salaries and expenses have been established by the European Parliament. Of course it is only a physical expression of the fear by the Heads of State of the nine EEC countries that a level of salary and expenses on the scale of those on the Continent would create a scandal in Britain and Ireland because Dáil salaries and allowances are so low relative to the other member states, possibly with the exception of Luxembourg, which is in another category. The motivation behind the Bremen compromise was to ensure a good turn-out of electors on 7 June. By general consensus among politicians, we have had that turn-out and we should now look afresh at the whole business.

MEPs will be doing the same job in Europe whether they come from Donegal, the south of France or northern Denmark. If the principle of differential pay for Deputies coming from Donegal, Kerry or Dublin is unacceptable to the House, then surely the same principle should apply in regard to MEPs. If it does not, if the Government persist in this kind of nonsense, we can only assume that all the high-flying talk of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in relation to the European idea is not being lived up to.

The question of resources for Members of Parliament, whether in this House or in Europe, is a major one. All too frequently we confuse the minds of the public on this matter. Effectively there is an absence of resources to do our job. The public want a political service from politicians of all political persuasions and in the view of many members of my party, the greatest impediment to us in providing such a service is not the level of our remuneration but the absence of adequate resources to do the job, the lack of permanent offices [784] in our constituencies, of assistants to take messages and to do some work in the constituencies, of persons to advice us in relation to legislation—general resources in personnel and facilities.

The submission made by the Select Committee on the Devlin Report points out how inadequate these resources are. Why, then, should the Government now be incorporating the same low level of resources for our MEPs? There is not a mention in the Bill of resources, other than salaries. Again it brings us to the situation where we are caught in a vacuum. We are discussing one part of a person's remuneration without knowing what the other part is going to be. We are trying to decide in advance on decisions which will be taken by the European Parliament as to what part of moneys should be made available to a European Member. In advance of that decision we could be 100 per cent right or 100 per cent wrong.

I do not realise why the Minister feels that he has to bring in the legislation. When the order for Second Stage of this legislation was first moved about three weeks ago Deputy Barry at that time sought clarification as to why it was introduced. Since that is on the record of the House I would expect that the Minister, his officials or somebody over there would have noted that question and would at least have seen fit to write in a paragraph stating why this legislation should be taken now. There is no justification for taking it at this time. If we take it we are going to run the risk of incorporating in law a precedent which I oppose, that is a differential rate for the same job. If you were to say to anybody employed in this House—for example, the ushers, the reporters or the journalists up in the benches—that they would get a different rate for the same job, can you imagine the reaction that you would get? Yet the Minister is asking us to accept it. We are told in a euphemistic phrase that the allowances for the European Parliament will somehow balance the scales and it will be all right on the day. That is not acceptable, and it confirms people's attitudes to politicians, that we do not have a capacity to be open, honest and direct in these matters.

[785] I will quote Mr. “Tip” O'Neill, Speaker of the House of Representatives in the US Congress, who spoke at a recent discussion with congressmen who were debating their level of pay and increase in remuneration. For the record, on a recent visit to the US I took the opportunity to visit a congressman's office. The constituency of a congressman is similar in size to that of a Member of the European Parliament now. Their roles are different but their level of representation is the same. The resources that the congressman has, as distinct from salary, amount to a maximum staff of 18 people and a maximum amount of money of $.25 million to enable that person to act as a public representative on behalf of the people who have elected him. He has a suite of offices in one of the buildings adjoining the Congress and he has resources in his own constituency to enable a permanent representation.

Contrast that with the level of the responsibility of a Member like Mr. T.J. Maher, who is the best example to take because he is exclusively a Member of the European Parliament and nothing else, and consider the massive mandate that he received from the electorate and the critical importance of the agricultural sector to the province of Munster. What kind of resources are we giving to him and what kind of resources do the Government propose to give? Again, there is no reference to any of those matters in the Minister's speech or in the legislation other than the factual mechanical moving of the legislation in order to give effect to a political compromise worked out somewhere in the small hours in Bremen to accommodate a political sector point that has now passed.

I was about to quote Speaker O'Neill in relation to congressmen's pay. They are in receipt of an increase on the resources they already have which I have described. He was quoted as saying that if congressmen did not have the guts to pay them the rate for the job they should not be in Congress in the first place. It is time for people in this House and in the other House to say openly and honestly to the public that unless we get adequate resources—by that I mean sufficient staff, facilities and [786] premises—to do the kind of job that is demanded of us, unless we get a reasonable rate for the job also, we are not going to be able to make democracy work. We spend vast sums each year on the Army and on the Garda who are, above everything else, protectors and guardians of the democratic system which we operate, yet we invest virtually nothing in that democratic system itself. That is the kind of nonsense we have inherited from the Westminster Parliament where the House of Commons was a plaything for wealthy gentlemen who had private resources and who could indulge their pursuit of power with their private means. That is not the case in this republican assembly, and it is to the shame of successive Governments that over many years we have been hidebound by that aristocratic model of a parliament instead of being inspired by what would have properly been a republican assembly which would enable any person who obtained a mandate to do the job that he or she is properly elected to do.

I will finish by saying that I am sorry to have to be so harsh in this matter and by asking the Minister of State——

Mr. MacSharry: The Deputy is welcome.

Mr. Quinn: There is nothing personal in this, but the Bill is nonsense. I ask him in his reply to explain (a) why we are discussing this and (b) what is going to happen when new levels are set in the European Parliament. Out of a sense of decency to all of us, in the quietness of his chamber I hope he will take Second Stage and go away and not come back to us until he has some real light to throw on this matter.

Minister of State at the Department of the Public Service (Mr. MacSharry): I cannot understand the attitude of Deputy Barry and Deputy Quinn. We have no alternative but to accept the position as we find it. After the Brussels Summit meeting when this matter was referred to and agreed to by the Heads of State, the Taoiseach spoke in this House on 7 December and I quote from [787] the Official Report, column 978, Volume 310:

We also considered the remuneration of Members of the directly elected European Parliament and concluded that Members elected next June should be paid the same salaries as those of members of the Parliament of the country they represent; that their salaries should be subject to national taxation in their own country; and that they should receive satisfactory allowances for such expenses as travelling, subsistence and support staff. It will be for each member state, in relation to members holding the dual mandate, to decide whether they may retain both salaries.

In his reply to the Taoiseach the Leader of the Opposition and of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy FitzGerald said, as reported at column 987 of the same volume:

I have always thought that there would be disadvantages if the salaries paid in Ireland were to be at the level necessary to attract a German member of Parliament to join the European Parliament. Such salaries which would have been of the order of £25,000 per year would have been so disproportionate to salaries here in the public sector, and indeed even in most parts of the private sector, that they might have given a wrong impression and might have had an adverse effect on the degree of participation in the elections and in the confidence of people in the value and the seriousness of the elections.

He went on to say:

I would have hoped—and this had been suggested in the papers—that an intermediate figure of a kind more appropriate to this country would have emerged,

These are the words of Deputy Barry's leader——

a figure which would have been close to if not at the level of the salary of a Minister here.

Taking the situation as presented in this [788] legislation with the dual mandate and dual salary allowed, a Member of the European Parliament who is a Member of this House or even of the Seanad has as much as if not more than I have as Minister of State.

Mr. P. Barry: I listened to Deputy FitzGerald on the occasion referred to by the Minister of State and it is quite clear that what he meant was that the salaries paid by the European Parliament would be equal to a salary paid to a Minister here even outside the Dáil allowance. How does Mr. T. J. Maher stand?

Mr. MacSharry: I will give the answer in a simpler way. For six years we have had ten Members of the European Parliament without any salary, remuneration or allowance whatsoever.

Mr. Kelly: Poor darlings. I do not think they starved.

Mr. MacSharry: It might be more relevant to discuss the concern of Deputies for their own facilities rather than their concern for the elected Members of the European Parliament. It is ridiculous to adopt this attitude, bearing in mind what has already been said about the salaries and allowances of Members of the European Parliament from other countries and the ways in which the Governments of those countries will decide whether or not there will be a double salary. We have only one job to do because of our participation in Europe. We find it necessary to introduce this legislation because otherwise no allowance whatsoever will be paid to Members of the European Parliament. If the legislation is not passed before the summer recess the Members will be without remuneration until October or November. I had hoped that Deputies would be more considerate and would agree to taking all Stages today.

The various points made were tied up in the argument about people from different countries doing the same work and receiving different salaries. The argument is justified and I will not attempt to put forward a counter argument. A decision has been made by the [789] European Heads of State and they are putting forward legislation in their own countries of the type now before this House allowing payments to be made to Members of the European Parliament. I have been criticised for making such a short speech on Second Stage and not going into detail on the role of the Members of the European Parliament. That is not our business. The purpose of this legislation is to make provision for payment of an allowance to Members of the European Parliament. I explained that in detail during my speech. It is not the duty of this House in any way to outline what the role of Members might be. Neither is it our business to become involved in the provision of resources or facilities or secretarial allowances for Members of the European Parliament; it is a matter for the European Assembly. The ten people who were Members of the Parliament during the past six years did not receive a salary but the allowances from the European Assembly were quite generous and I am sure that they will not only be maintained but drastically improved.

Deputy Quinn raised the matter of pension schemes. The legislation enables us to set up a pension scheme and the points made will obviously be taken into account. It will be broadly on the same lines as the Oireachtas pension scheme.

If this Bill is not passed before the Dáil rises next week for the summer recess the elected Members of the European Parliament will have no allowance whatsoever.

Mr. P. Barry: Just as the ten former Members during the past six years.

Mr. MacSharry: That is right. Would the Deputy prefer that?

Mr. P. Barry: Yes, I would.

Mr. MacSharry: I do not think that is fair, bearing in mind what the Deputy said at the outset of this debate. I thank Deputies for their contribution to the debate and appeal to them to allow the Bill to proceed through the House.

[790] Mr. P. Barry: Is it not true that the budget of the European Parliament, out of which the salaries will be paid, can be decided upon only by the Council of Ministers and the Parliament combined? Have the Parliament agreed that this is how the salaries should be paid?

Mr. MacSharry: That matter was not dealt with in the 1979 budget because there was not then a directly-elected assembly.

Mr. P. Barry: Under the Treaty of Rome the Parliament and the Council of Ministers must agree together.

Mr. MacSharry: Yes, they are the budgetary authority.

Mr. P. Barry: The Parliament have not agreed to this measure and the Council of Ministers could not make a decision.

Mr. MacSharry: Of course they could. They have made it.

Mr. P. Barry: Even the Heads of State cannot make decisions contrary to the Treaty of Rome.

Mr. MacSharry: They have made this decision.

Mr. P. Barry: It is self-evident that they cannot make a decision contrary to the Treaty of Rome, just as this Parliament cannot make a decision contrary to our Constitution.

Mr. MacSharry: Maybe the elections to the European Assembly are wrong. I am sure the Council were well advised in the decision they made.

Mr. P. Barry: I doubt it very much. We are prepared to agree to the question now before the House but we do not agree to take any further Stages today. I do not see why this House should be asked to rubber stamp a foolish decision by the Heads of State which may be illegal.

Question put and agreed to.

Committee Stage ordered for Tuesday, 26 June 1979.