Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 18 February, 1997

Order of Business.

The Taoiseach: It is proposed to take the report of the Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs on the Dublin Docklands Development Authority Bill, 1996; No. 17, the Decommissioning Bill, 1996 — Order for Report and Report and Final Stages; No. 18, the Children Bill, 1996 — Second Stage (Resumed); No. 3, the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill, 1996 — Order for Second Stage and Second Stage; and No. 4, the Merchant Shipping (Commissioners of Irish Lights) Bill, 1997 — Order for Second Stage and Second and Remaining Stages, if not reached [36] earlier, shall be taken at 8.30 p.m. and the Order shall not resume thereafter.

It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) the Dáil shall sit later than 8.30 p.m. and business shall be interrupted not later than 10.30 p.m.; and (2) the Second and Remaining Stages of No. 4 shall be taken today and the proceedings thereon, if not previously concluded, shall be brought to a conclusion at 10.30 p.m. by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in relation to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for the Marine. Private Members' Business shall be No. 33, the Prisons Bill, 1997 — Second Stage (Resumed).

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is the provision for the late sitting agreed? Agreed. Are the proposals for dealing with No. 4 agreed?

Mr. B. Ahern: The Merchant Shipping (Commissioners of Irish Lights) Bill, 1997 was circulated 12 or 13 days ago. In normal circumstances it takes a few weeks for Second and Committee Stages of a Bill to pass through the House. Our spokesperson on the Marine agreed to take the Bill this week and, while we are happy to do that, we are not prepared to take all Stages in two hours tonight. Will the Taoiseach agree to take only Second Stage between 8.30 p.m. and 10.30 p.m. tonight? When our spokesperson returns from the conference he is attending, he can agree a time for Committee and remaining Stages. We will not agree to take all Stages of a Bill circulated 12 or 13 days ago in two hours tonight.

The Taoiseach: I understand it was agreed to take all Stages today, not this week.

Mr. B. Ahern: I understand differently.

The Taoiseach: I understand that Deputies Michael Smith and Molloy, who represent the two Opposition parties on this matter, agreed to take all Stages together today.

Mr. Cowen: The Taoiseach is wrong.

Mr. B. Ahern: I must go by what our spokesperson told me. He said he agreed to take all Stages this week. Therefore, the Taoiseach is incorrect. A two hour Second Stage debate can take place tonight, following which the Minister and our spokesperson can discuss when to take remaining Stages.

The Taoiseach: An agreement, once made, should be adhered to. It is my understanding that it was agreed to take all Stages today. I have no problem with a discussion taking place between the Whips but, as was explained to the Opposition during the consultations which resulted in the agreement to take all Stages today, this is an urgent matter. It is not a case of simply wanting to pass legislation quickly. There is a legal urgency about the matter and hence the need to [37] comply with the agreement reached with the Opposition to take all Stages today.

Mr. B. Ahern: It is bad practice to take all Stages of a Bill together. As the Bill was circulated only 12 or 13 days ago Second Stage should be taken tonight and amendments tabled later in the week. We normally do not sit later than 8.30 p.m. We recently sat late to rush through a Bill relating to the marine and this week we are doing likewise. I am not proposing that the debate on the Bill should carry over to next week, but if it deals with an urgent matter why was it circulated only in recent days? Will the Taoiseach agree to take Second Stage tonight, following which the Minister and our spokesperson can agree a time to take the remaining Stages?

The Taoiseach: The reason for the urgency in this matter is that safety at sea depends on the legality of the navigational arrangements being made by the Commissioners of Irish Lights. As a result of a Supreme Court decision there is a question mark over the legal liability of the commissioners in this regard. That is why the legislation must be passed urgently. It should be recognised that navigational aids at sea provide for the protection of people at sea in life and death circumstances. Hence the reason for the agreement to take all Stages of the Bill tonight and that agreement should be honoured by Members opposite.

Mr. Sargent: I expressed interest in this matter on a previous Order of Business. Apart from indirect representations from the French Navy — which I am sure we are not here to serve — I am not aware of representations from maritime interests indicating that the Bill should be rushed through the House tonight. Will the Taoiseach agree to a full Committee Stage debate during which Members can tease out matters properly? It would not be in the interests of navigation to rush through this Bill.

Mr. B. Ahern: The Taoiseach persists in stating that an agreement was reached in this regard. It was agreed to take the legislation this week and we are honouring that. I am well aware of the navigational interests in this matter. I am probably more familiar with Loran C, which will be included in the legislation, than many other Members of the House. The argument is about a 735 foot pylon erected in the Irish Sea some time ago and I accept that science has moved matters forward since then. I am not disagreeing with the arguments in that regard, we can do that during the Second Stage debate. I am requesting adequate time for Members who have a genuine interest in this matter to discuss it. We agreed the legislation should be passed by 5 p.m. on Thursday and we will honour that agreement. I hope nobody on the board of the Commissioners of Irish Lights, of which I was a member when Lord Mayor of Dublin, will be jailed by an order [38] of the Supreme Court before then. I am suspicious about why the Government wants to rush this matter through in a few hours.

Miss de Valera: Like other Members on this side of the House, I wonder why the Taoiseach wants to rush through the Bill. There is grave concern in my constituency about this matter. Surely the legislation should be dealt with in the normal way and not guillotined or agreed by stealth. I hope even at this late stage the Taoiseach will agree not to rush through all Stages.

Mr. Killeen: I also want the Taoiseach to allow adequate time to debate this matter. As some of the issues involved could not be properly examined tonight, Committee Stage should be taken separately.

The Taoiseach: I would be happy to agree to a discussion before Second Stage between the Government and Opposition Whips. If agreement is reached on the matter an amendment to the Order can be made, but as of now I am proceeding with the Order based on the agreement reached between the Minister and the spokespersons of both parties opposite.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Is the matter being left in abeyance?

Mr. B. Ahern: No.

The Taoiseach: Consultation can take place between the Whips before the Bill is taken tonight.

Mr. B. Ahern: What is the difference?

The Taoiseach: If the Opposition makes an agreement with the Government on a matter of business, it should adhere to it.

Mr. B. Ahern: I remind the Taoiseach that the agreement I reached with him is that a Bill will be published, two weeks later Second Stage will be taken, two weeks later Committee Stage will be taken and a week later Report Stage will be taken. Surely the agreement between the Taoiseach and myself overrides the agreement between spokespersons, which is to take the Bill this week. I propose the following amendment to the Order of Business, to delete item No. 2 and substitute “Second Stage of No. 4 shall be taken tonight”. The other matters may then be negotiated between the Whips. Otherwise I oppose the Order of Business.

Mr. D. Ahern: We propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that Second Stage only be taken tonight. At the Whips meeting last week it was put to me that there was agreement between the spokespersons and the Minister. When I subsequently checked with our spokesperson he indicated that he agreed the Bill would be taken this [39] week but not that it would be restricted to two hours on one night.

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Barrett): I spoke to the Opposition spokesperson and explained to him the urgency of this legislation. This matter was not decided by us, it was decided by the Supreme Court. I explained to the spokesperson that it is important that all Stages of the Bill be passed and suggested that it be taken on Tuesday evening after Private Members' time. If Deputies wish to continue the debate until 11.30 p.m. or 12.30 a.m., I would be prepared to do so. This matter has turned into a Loran C issue.

Miss de Valera: That is what it is.

Mr. Barrett: It is not. It is a matter decided by the Supreme Court.

Miss de Valera: A Supreme Court case is pending.

[40] Mr. Barrett: I will announce tonight how we will deal with the Loran C issue, separately from this legislation. I have no desire whatsoever to use this legislation in a sinister fashion to undermine the constitutional rights of individuals or groups.

Ms O'Donnell: From my discussion with our spokesperson, Deputy Molloy, the understanding is that he agreed to take the legislation tonight, but not all Stages.

Mr. Howlin: He is not here.

Mr. Barrett: I do not dream up these things.

Ms O'Donnell: The Minister said that he will make an announcement tonight on a particular matter. Surely it is reasonable for the House to hear what the Minister has to say tonight and then have an opportunity to table amendments on the basis of his statement.

Question put, “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”

The Dáil divided: Tá, 69; Níl, 52.

Ahearn, Theresa.

Barrett, Seán.

Barry, Peter.

Bell, Michael.

Bhamjee, Moosajee.

Boylan, Andrew.

Bradford, Paul.

Bree, Declan.

Broughan, Thomas.

Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).

Bruton, John.

Bruton, Richard.

Burke, Liam.

Burton, Joan.

Byrne, Eric.

Carey, Donal.

Costello, Joe.

Crawford, Seymour.

Creed, Michael.

Crowley, Frank.

Currie, Austin.

De Rossa, Proinsias.

Deasy, Austin.

Deenihan, Jimmy.

Doyle, Avril.

Dukes, Alan.

Durkan, Bernard.

Ferris, Michael.

Finucane, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Brian.

Fitzgerald, Eithne.

Flaherty, Mary.

Gallagher, Pat (Laoighis-Offaly).

Gilmore, Eamon.

Higgins, Jim.

Higgins, Michael.

Howlin, Brendan.

Kavanagh, Liam.

Kemmy, Jim.

Kenny, Seán.

Lowry, Michael.

McCormack, Pádraic.

McDowell, Derek.

McGahon, Brendan.

McGinley, Dinny.

McGrath, Paul.

McManus, Liz.

Mitchell, Gay.

Mitchell, Jim.

Mulvihill, John.

Nealon, Ted.

Noonan, Michael (Limerick East).

O'Keeffe, Jim.

O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Toddy.

Owen, Nora.

Penrose, William.

Quinn, Ruairí.

Rabbitte, Pat.

Ring, Michael.

Ryan, John.

Ryan, Seán.

Shatter, Alan.

Sheehan, P.J.

Shortall, Róisín.

Stagg, Emmet.

Taylor, Mervyn.

Timmins, Godfrey.

Upton, Pat.

Níl

Ahern, Bertie.

Ahern, Dermot.

Ahern, Noel.

Andrews, David.

Brennan, Séamus.

Briscoe, Ben.

[41]Cowen, Brian.

de Valera, Síle.

Dempsey, Noel.

Fitzgerald, Liam.

Flood, Chris.

Foxe, Tom.

Harney, Mary.

Haughey, Seán.

Hilliard, Colm.

Hughes, Séamus.

Jacob, Joe.

Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kenneally, Brendan.

Keogh, Helen.

Killeen, Tony.

Kirk, Séamus.

Kitt, Michael.

Kitt, Tom.

Lenihan, Brian.

Martin, Micheál.

Browne, John (Wexford).

Burke, Raphael.

Byrne, Hugh.

Callely, Ivor.

Connolly, Ger.

Coughlan, Mary.

[42]McCreevy, Charlie.

McDaid, James.

Moffatt, Tom.

Molloy, Robert.

Morley, P.J.

Moynihan, Donal.

Nolan, M.J.

Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Dea, Willie.

O'Donnell, Liz.

O'Donoghue, John.

O'Hanlon, Rory.

O'Malley, Desmond.

O'Rourke, Mary.

Quill, Máirín.

Ryan, Eoin.

Sargent, Trevor.

Smith, Brendan.

Wallace, Mary.

Walsh, Joe.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies J. Higgins and B. Fitzgerald; Níl, Deputies D. Ahern and Callely.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.