Dáil Éireann - Volume 512 - 07 December, 1999

Ceisteanna – Questions. - Understandings with Deputies.

4. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the nature of the understanding between the Government and Deputy Gildea; the written agreement, if any, which exists between the two parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25076/99]

5. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the nature of the understanding between the Government and Deputy Blaney; the written agreement, if any, which exists between the two parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25077/99]

6. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the nature of the understanding between the Government and Deputy Fox; the written agreement, if any, which exists between the two parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25078/99]

[553] 7. Mr. J. Bruton asked the Taoiseach the nature of the understanding between the Government and Deputy Healy-Rae; the written agreement, if any, which exists between the two parties; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [25079/99]

The Taoiseach: I propose to take Questions Nos. 4 to 7, inclusive, together.

I have explained on a number of occasions that I have had discussions with the Independent Deputies who support the Government. In these meetings the Deputies have indicated their priorities. In some instances the Deputies have indicated some of these priorities to the House and in other instances they have found other ways of publicising the priorities.

All Members of the House are aware that we have increased expenditure on a range of Government programmes and, in particular, our capital programmes. As already announced in the national development plan, further increases are planned in the programmes and this will allow the Government to further accelerate and bring forward proposals for completion earlier than planned. It is my intention over the life of the Government to deal, as expeditiously as possible, with as many of the issues brought to my attention by these Deputies as possible.

The House is aware of the priority the Government has given to county roads, water and sewerage treatment, education, tourism and rural development and the additional resources we have provided for them. Many of the priorities indicated by the Deputies are priorities for their respective local authorities and some are included in the review of the programme for Government and the national development plan.

Mr. J. Bruton: Is the Taoiseach aware that one or two of these Deputies have already indicated publicly in the past 24 hours that they no longer support the Government in so far as its budgetary policy is concerned?

The Taoiseach: I am aware of what the Deputies have said outside the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Taoiseach intend to reconsider aspects of the Government's budgetary policy in view of the opinions expressed by these Deputies?

The Taoiseach: I am not sure if that has anything to do with these questions, but I will speak on the budget later.

Mr. Yates: It has everything to do with these questions.

Mr. J. Bruton: Given that these questions are about Independent Deputies who support the Government, does the Taoiseach agree that the reply would be altered if the Deputies in question no longer support the Government? Does he intend to take any steps to alter the provisions of [554] the budget to enable the Deputies in question to support it on the basis that they believe it to be fair rather than unfair, as is currently the case?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair would like to point out that the budget is for debate this afternoon and the Taoiseach will address the House.

Mr. J. Bruton: All my questions arise from the questions tabled to the Taoiseach.

Mr. Yates: The Taoiseach is hiding.

Mr. Quinn: In light of the agreements the Government has with these Independent Deputies and their commitments, which have been put on public record, will the Taoiseach say whether the four Deputies in question were consulted by the Government Chief Whip immediately after the budget debate about the contents of the budget and whether there is a plan for the Government Chief Whip to further meet these independent Deputies in accordance with the agreements to which the questions refer?

The Taoiseach: The answer to both questions is yes.

Mr. Yates: Turn off the life support machine.

Mr. J. Bruton: Does the Taoiseach agree that he has made a complete mess of the budget?

An Ceann Comhairle: As the Chair has pointed out, general questions on the budget should be left for the debate.

Mr. Boylan: The answer to the question is yes.

Mr. Quinn: On a point of order, the issue of the budget will not be a matter for debate, it will be a matter for a series of statements.

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

Mr. Quinn: It will not be a subject of debate.

An Ceann Comhairle: The Chair is pointing out that we cannot have a general debate on the budget at Question Time. The Deputy will be accorded every opportunity to ask supplementary questions.

Mr. Yates: He needs the votes.

Mr. J. Bruton: The Taoiseach has not been doing much canvassing. He is out of touch.

The Taoiseach: That is unlikely.

Mr. Shatter: In relation to each of these questions, the nature of the understanding between the Government and individual Deputies is raised. Was it understood by those Deputies that they were to support a Government which had as [555] a policy the ending of social partnership and the penalising of wives who work in the home?

Mr. Dempsey: They are only late converts to social partnership themselves.

Mr. Yates: We negotiated Partnership 2000.

The Taoiseach: The budget has been passed by the House and I hope it will also pass the Finance Bill.

Mr. J. Bruton: Will the Taoiseach reflect on the fact that the budget has not been passed in the House? A resolution to increase the price of cigarettes by 50p was passed in the House, that is all. The budget has not been approved by the House, it has not been put to the House. I hope the Government will have the courage to put the budget to the House so Deputies can vote for or against it rather than just talking about it.

Mr. Yates: Put it to the people.

The Taoiseach: On budget night, Deputy John Bruton, in one of his more eloquent speeches, called on the House to have a vote on the entire budget based on the abolition of the foreign travel tax. Unfortunately for him he lost that vote.

Mr. J. Bruton: I called for it and unfortunately lost, but I will win the next time. On this budget I certainly want a vote in the House.

Mr. Yates: The Government backbenchers are running for cover.

Mr. Dempsey: Deputy Bruton could not win a vote on his own budget.

Mr. Yates: The Minister of State, Deputy Ó Cuív, is playing along the line.

Mr. Deasy: On Question No. 4, did the Taoiseach give any undertaking to Deputy Gildea that the television deflector system would be put back on air under licence before Christmas?

The Taoiseach: That is a separate matter for the Minister for Public Enterprise. Deputy Gildea has had many discussions with the Government about the deflector system. We have made more progress in that area than anyone ever has.

Mr. Shatter: Did the Taoiseach give an undertaking to Deputy Fox or Deputy Blaney concerning the holding of further referenda?

The Taoiseach: No, but I explained the Government's position to the Independent Members. I presume the Deputy is talking about an abortion referendum. They are well aware of the Government's position.

[556] Mr. Quinn: The Cabinet is not aware of the position.

Mr. Shatter: Are both Deputies Blaney and Fox aware that there are no proposals to hold a referendum?

The Taoiseach: They are both aware of the Government's position.

Mr. J. Bruton: Were the Independent Deputies consulted in any way prior to the budget about their wishes for what might be included in it?

The Taoiseach: No, the Minister for Finance did not have discussions with any Deputies about what would be included in the budget.

Mr. Yates: He did not even talk to the Cabinet.

Mr. J. Bruton: Most of the Cabinet did not know what would be in it.

Mr. Yates: The Taoiseach should watch his back.

The Taoiseach: I should have a word with Deputy Bruton. He brought two budgets to the floor of the House and flopped in both of them.

Mr. J. Bruton: I was prepared to go before the people with my budget. When will the Taoiseach do the same?

The Taoiseach: In June 2002.

Mr. J. Bruton: I got the highest vote in my political career and secured the highest vote for Fine Gael. The Taoiseach must go to the people with this budget.

The Taoiseach: I must correct Deputy Bruton. He did not go to the people – he was forced to go.

Mr. J. Bruton: When will the Taoiseach have the courage to put this budget to the people?

An Ceann Comhairle: The Deputy is being disorderly. He should resume his seat.

Mr. Yates: The Taoiseach may become a stay-at-home spouse.

Mr. Boylan: The Taoiseach will not consign this budget to history. The housewives of the country will not let him forget it.

The Taoiseach: How many farmers' wives will be affected?

Mr. Boylan: There will be fewer farmers in the country. Deputy Yates was a great Minister for Agriculture.

An Ceann Comhairle: I must remind Deputies that the time allocated to questions is running [557] out. Deputy Boylan is out of order. The House is wasting valuable time on Question Time.