Dáil Éireann - Volume 405 - 20 February, 1991

Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take Nos. 16 and 17. It is also proposed, subject to the agreement of the House, that business shall be interrupted at 10.30 p.m. and Private Members' Business which shall be No. 27 shall be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m.

An Ceann Comhairle: Is that joint proposal that business be interrupted at 10.30 a.m. and that Private Members' Business be brought to a conclusion at 8.30 p.m. agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Bruton: In respect of promised legislation, may I ask the Taoiseach to personally intervene to sort out the delays and disagreements between his Attorney General and his Minister for Industry and Commerce in regard to the competition legislation which is so manifestly urgent when we see a statutory monopoly in the form of the ESB increasing prices when the Taoiseach gave an assurance here in this House that there would be no increases in ESB prices at the time the value added tax was imposed on electricity?

An Ceann Comhairle: Was this legislation promised?

[842] Mr. J. Bruton: It is necessary that legislation to introduce competition into this public utility be introduced before Easter.

The Taoiseach: It is promised legislation and I dealt with it yesterday. I would like to——

Mr. J. Bruton: It has not been produced.

An Ceann Comhairle: We cannot rehash yesterday's business.

The Taoiseach: I want to totally reject any suggestion of disagreement of the type referred to by Deputy Bruton. There is no disagreement. It is a complex piece of legislation with European ramifications and with constitutional implications. It is a Bill that requires very careful, detailed drafting and consultation between a lot of Departments but particularly between the Department of Industry and Commerce and the Attorney General. It is proceeding as rapidly as possible because the Government, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce in particular, are anxious to get it into this House as quickly as possible.

Mr. J. Bruton: May I ask the Taoiseach if he will agree to ask the Electricity Supply Board to postpone the increase in electricity prices——

An Ceann Comhairle: That aspect of the matter does not arise now.

Mr. J. Bruton: ——until this complex legislation is in place?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy must raise that matter at another time.

Mr. J. Bruton: This legislation has been promised for the past three years in the case of Deputy O'Malley and for the past year and a half by Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats.

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy [843] Bruton, we may not debate the matter now.

Mr. J. Bruton: It is not acceptable that electricity consumers should be faced with an increase of this kind. The absence of promised legislation——

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton will have to find another time to raise this matter.

Mr. J. Bruton: This is a matter we will raise in every way possible.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton will now please resume his seat.

Mr. J. Bruton: The delay in this legislation is an indication of inefficiency and disagreement within this Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, this is not good enough.

Mr. J. O'Keeffe: It is a total disregard for the poor of this country.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Government are not doing their job.

Mr. Spring: I would like some clarification from the Taoiseach or the Government because statements have been made in this House and publicly by the ESB that there would not be any price increase. In view of the statement made yesterday by the ESB, will the Taoiseach inform us if the Minister for Energy or the Minister for Industry and Commerce will be coming to this House to make a statement in relation to the proposed increase?

An Ceann Comhairle: The matter appertaining to the legislation proposed is in order but matters appertaining to the ESB increase in prices are not in order now.

Mr. Spring: Surely, a Cheann Comhairle——

[844] An Ceann Comhairle: Sorry, Deputy Spring, I will not be argued with.

Mr. Spring: Where statements have been made in the House in relation to certain matters which have now been contradicted by the semi-State body concerned, surely the Taoiseach or the Minister for Finance should come back to this House and clarify——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will obviously find another way of raising that issue. There are many avenues open to Deputies to raise such things.

Mr. Spring: That is what I intend to do.

Mr. Quinn: This is the most effective one.

Mr. Spring: I shall take your advice, a Cheann Comhairle, but I should say that three very important things have happened in the past week, none of which happened in this House, regarding An Post, social housing and other matters. This House is being ignored.

Mr. Howlin: Hear, hear.

Mr. Spring: We must find some way of bringing these matters before this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: There are many ways and means open to Deputies. Deputy Mac Giolla has been offering for some time but I will call his leader, Deputy Proinsias De Rossa.

Proinsias De Rossa: The matter which I wish to raise concerns the decision of this House on 19 January with regard to the war in the Middle East. May I ask the Taoiseach if, in view of recent developments, he intends to make a statement to the House or to enable the House to debate the issue again in the light of recent decisions and if he would indicate his view on whether it is a matter for the United Nations to accept or reject the initiative and not for the United States or the United Kingdom——

[845] An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy De Rossa knows full well that the matter to which he has referred is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Proinsias De Rossa: I accept your ruling, a Cheann Comhairle, but I would expect that the Taoiseach may wish to take an opportunity to address the matter in the House.

Tomás Mac Giolla: May I suggest to the Taoiseach that he ask his Minister for Energy and the Minister for Finance to get together with the ESB to see if this increase can be avoided?

An Ceann Comhairle: I have already ruled on that matter.

Mr. Currie: In view of the statement made by the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications in this House on 7 February that there was need for urgent action and that the financial crisis in An Post could not be allowed to continue, when does he intend to announce to this House what urgent action he intends to take to ensure that 1,500 jobs will not be lost——

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Currie, please desist.

Mr. Currie: ——that post offices will not be closed and that these letter boxes will not be erected?

An Ceann Comhairle: This is not a matter for the Order of Business, and the Deputy knows that full well.

Mr. Currie: It is an urgent matter.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Pat McCartan is offering.

Mr. McCartan: In respect of promised legislation, there are two questions I should like to ask the Taoiseach. Can he give us some indication as to when we are likely to see the Solicitors Bill which, I understand, was promised before the Competiton Bill?

[846] Mr. J. Bruton: Some time in the next century.

Mr. McCartan: How imminent is the publication of that Bill? My second question relates to the report of the Law Reform Commission on child sexual abuse. We were told during the last session that the Minister would be drafting legislation and may I inquire if the drafting has begun and whether we are likely to see the Bill during this session?

The Taoiseach: Both those pieces of legislation are proceeding as rapidly as possible.

Mr. J. Bruton: When will they be introduced?

The Taoiseach: In due course.

Mr. J. Bruton: When is that?

Mr. Howlin: May I ask the Taoiseach if the Minister for the Environment has finalised his proposals in relation to local government reform, how many Bills will be put before the House and the time-scale of the enactment of those Bills as envisaged by the Government?

The Taoiseach: It is envisaged that there will be one valuable and important piece of reforming legislation and it is the intention to enact it before the summer recess.

Mr. Sherlock: In view of the lack of control over the sale and purchase of land at present, may I ask the Taoiseach when it is intended to bring the Irish Land Commission (Dissolution) Bill, 1989, before the Dáil?

An Ceann Comhairle: Was this promised?

The Taoiseach: It will be introduced as soon as possible. It is bound up with other pieces of legislation and it is hoped to bring the two of them forward as soon as possible.

[847] Mr. Moynihan: I should like to ask the Taoiseach, and the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications if they have considered the implications of the statement issued by the EC's Economic and Social Consultative Assembly last night in Brussels that Irish tourism is being seriously damaged by high prices and low standards——

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy will have to pursue that matter in another way.

Mr. Moynihan: It is an issue of vital national importance.

Mr. Gilmore: Arising from the Taoiseach's reply to Deputy Howlin's question, may I ask him if it is intended to postpone the local elections from June and if a motion to that effect will be brought before the House?

An Ceann Comhairle: We have had that question on a number of occasions recently.

Mr. Gilmore: Is it intended to hold the local elections during a different month? The earlier questions related to the year of the elections but it would appear from the Taoiseach's reply that the local elections may not be held during the month of June and I should like some clarification on this.

An Ceann Comhairle: We have had this before. Questions should be tabled in respect of such matters.

A Deputy: Why does the Taoiseach not give a reply?

Mr. J. Bruton: When is it proposed to take item No. 13?

The Taoiseach: That is a matter for the Whips.

Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach not responsible for the ordering of business in this House on behalf of the Government? May I ask him why he is not able to [848] answer a question about the timing of a motion which a member of his Government has put before the House.

The Taoiseach: What an extraordinary interjection. The business of this House is normally decided in a civilised manner between the Whips as to when any legislation or motion is to be taken. These are the normal channels through which the business of this House is transacted.

Mr. McCartan: Oh, that that were so.

The Taoiseach: The question as to when a particular motion will be taken is normally processed through that channel.

Mr. J. Bruton: As the Taoiseach may know, the Whips can only act in the matter of ordering legislation which is Government legislation on the proposal of the Government. I am asking the Taoiseach as head of the Government when he proposes to put to the Whips that this legislation be discussed. Is the Taoiseach unable to answer the question?

An Ceann Comhairle: This matter cannot be debated now.

The Taoiseach: If the Deputy would conform to normal procedures he would ask his Whip to raise this matter with the Chief Whip.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. J. Bruton: On a point of order, my question is entirely in order, it is as envisaged in the Orders of the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Deputy Bruton, this question has been posed by you on a number of occasions——

A Deputy: But it has not been answered.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach clearly does not know the business of his Government.

An Ceann Comhairle: That is not the [849] concern of the Chair. I am proceeding to normal business.

The Taoiseach: It is a new tactic of the Fine Gael Party, led by Deputy Bruton, to be as ignorant and objectionable as possible.

(Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: As someone who is totally committed to Dáil reform I suggest to Deputy Bruton that the first piece of Dáil reform is to have orderly behaviour in this House, to obey the Chair and, in particular, to permit me or any member of the Front Bench who is endeavouring to be helpful to the House to reply.

Mr. Farrelly: The Taoiseach is someone to be giving a lecture.

Mr. Carey: That is total arrogance.

(Interruptions.)

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputies.

Mr. J. Bruton: The best piece of Dáil reform would be to place a Taoiseach in office who answers reasonable questions about the business for which his Government are responsible.

An Ceann Comhairle: Please, Deputy Bruton.

Mr. J. Bruton: This would give the Taoiseach an opportunity to view this House from a different angle.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Order of Business should not give rise to unseemly disorder of this kind.

Mr. J. Bruton: If members of the Government cannot answer legitimate questions on the Order of Business about when business is to be ordered there is going to be disorder.

An Ceann Comhairle: Will the Deputy please cool it.

[850] (Interruptions.)

The Taoiseach: What I was endeavouring to say was that in regard to any item on the Order Paper about which Deputy Bruton or any other party leader is concerned the normal procedure is to ask the party Whip to raise the matter with the Chief Whip.

Mr. J. Bruton: It is not the normal procedure. It is the purpose of the Order of Business to inquire——

An Ceann Comhairle: Order, please. I am proceeding to the Order of Business proper.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach does not want to be asked any questions.

The Taoiseach: May I also suggest that Deputy Bruton would be doing a service to this House if he would cease trying to treat it like a cattle ring.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Farrelly: Bully boy tactics.

Mr. J. Bruton: There is no need to make personal references about the Taoiseach; his failings are obvious.