Seanad Éireann - Volume 84 - 26 May, 1976

Finance Bill, 1976 ( Certified Money Bill ): Allocation of Time.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I move:

That, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, the proceedings on the four stages of the Finance Bill, 1976, and on the motion of concurrence with the earlier signature of the Bill by the President, if not previously brought to a conclusion, shall be brought to a conclusion at 5 p.m. today by putting from the Chair forthwith and successively the Questions necessary to bring them to a conclusion: and that the Question to be put from the Chair to bring the proceedings on the Committee Stage, Report Stage and Fifth Stage to a conclusion shall be “That the Committee Stage and Report Stage are hereby completed and the Bill is hereby returned to Dáil Éireann”.

I should like to make it clear, notwithstanding the discussion we have had, that this motion is definitely not moved in any spirit of acrimony. The position is that in the absence of an agreed timetable for the conclusion of the discussion of the Finance Bill today, it is necessary to have this motion in order to ensure completion of discussion of the Bill today. As far as I am concerned acceptance of this motion will not necessarily rule out agreement on a timetable provided that timetable provides for finishing the discussion on the Finance Bill today. The motion is deliberately drafted in the manner in which it appears on the Order Paper in order to allow the Opposition the option of deciding whether they wish to continue the Second Reading discussion of the measure or to bring the Second Reading discussion to a conclusion and to devote most of the day to detailed Committee consideration of the Bill. The necessity for this motion arises by reason of the fact that under the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927, Financial Resolutions lapse unless they are approved by legislation within four months. I recognise that some people might see a desirable object in allowing them to lapse. Talking seriously from a financial point of view and from the point of view of the State, obviously that would be an insufferable position.

When the Bill has been passed, as will be known in particular to Senator Lenihan as an ex-Minister, it is necessary to have the Bill engrossed and to have it presented to the President for his signature. So far as the actual time is concerned, the budget resolutions were passed in the Dáil on 28th January. The absolute time limit for them becoming law under the provisions which exist at the moment would be Friday next.

Mr. Yeats: At 7 p.m.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: If the result of the debate in this House were to produce any recommendations it would be necessary for the Dáil to consider those recommendations and it would be quite impossible in those circumstances to have the Bill presented to the President for signature by Friday. Senator Yeats or any other Senator may scoff at that possibility. Possibly he is correct in his assessment that no recommendations would be passed——

Mr. Yeats: We told the Senator yesterday that we were not putting down recommendations.

Mr. Lenihan: We told him that yesterday to facilitate him.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I do not want to be drawn on that. So long as the legal possibility of recommendations being [235] made is open it would be necessary to bring the proceedings on this Bill to a conclusion.

Mr. Lenihan: What more can we do than be reasonable?

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Those recommendations would have to be considered by the Dáil and it would then become virtually impossible to have this Bill signed by the President on Friday. Quite apart from that, we were accused of contempt and arrogance this morning. We have to recognise that there is a third part of the Oireachtas in addition to the two Houses—the President. The President is entitled to a certain amount of courtesy and consideration from both Houses of the Oireachtas. It would show very little consideration or courtesy to the President if he were expected to receive this Bill and sign it blindfolded without getting any opportunity even of reading the Bill. That would be a demonstration of contempt for the office of the President that I have no intention of engaging in.

Mr. Lenihan: It is a Money Bill which he could not submit to the Supreme Court in the same way as an ordinary Bill.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I dislike this situation. The Minister for Finance dislikes it. It has percolated through to us that the Opposition dislike this situation. Yesterday Senator Yeats, in opening his contribution on the Second Stage of the Finance Bill, protested at the fact that the House was only receiving the Bill at this stage. May I say that, apart from the phrase he used about the Bill being flung at the House, I would accept the protest which Senator Yeats made yesterday as being a valid one and representing a reasonable view? It is a point of view that was expressed last year from this side of the House by my colleague, Senator Alexis FitzGerald. It has been expressed by Opposition speakers down through the years. I regard it as a valid protest representing a perfectly reasonable point of view.

We have got to remember that our quarrel is not with the Minister and the [236] Government. It is essentially a matter of regulating the position between the two Houses of the Oireachtas. I would not be allowed to indulge in any criticism of the procedures of the other House, but I am entitled to say that what is involved here is not something that is brought about by the Minister, not something brought about by the Government but something which has occurred by reason of the length of time which was required by the Dáil for consideration of the Finance Bill. I would personally welcome a united appeal from this House to the other House—I am sure this would have the endorsement of the Minister for Finance —to let us have the Finance Bill in time to enable the Seanad to give it some reasonable consideration.

I said earlier this morning, and I want to put this fact on record here, that for several years past the Seanad has had only two days discussion of the Finance Bill. In each of the last five years, with the exception of one, 1974, there have been only two days occupied by the Seanad in consideration of the Finance Bill. In 1971 when Fianna Fáil were in Government the Seanad had two days on the Finance Bill; in 1972 when Fianna Fáil were in Government the Seanad had two days on the Finance Bill; in 1973 the Seanad had two days on the Finance Bill; in 1974 the Seanad had four days on the Finance Bill; last year the Seanad had two days on the Finance Bill, and this year, if this motion is accepted, the Seanad will have two days on the Finance Bill.

Mr. Yeats: Two half days.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: In contrast with that, the Dáil consideration given to the Finance Bill in those years was in 1971, 11 weeks; in 1972, 12 weeks; in 1973, ten weeks, in 1974, 16 weeks; in 1975, 16 weeks; and in 1976, 16 weeks. The Minister when he was in office for a comparatively short period of time took a step in order to try to relieve the situation which was developing. In 1974, in section 85 of the Finance Bill of that year, he amended the provisions of the 1927 Act so as to allow an additional month. Up to that the period of time between the proposal of the budget resolutions in the Dáil and the time [237] when they had to become law was only three months.

The hope was expressed that the Seanad would benefit from the additional month, that we would be able to give genuine, serious and proper consideration to the Finance Bill. But what has happened? When he was speaking on this matter last year, Senator Yeats made a forecast which, I am afraid, has proved to be correct. When the Senator was speaking on the Finance Bill on 8th May last year he had some disagreement with Senator Lenihan and I quote from column 1291 of the Official Report of 8th May, 1975:

I hesitate to make any contradictory remarks at this stage when both the Leader of the House and the Leader of the Opposition appear to be in agreement on something, but I am very doubtful whether adding a couple of more months to the time would make any difference. I do not believe for a moment—and I do not wish to criticise the other House— that this Bill would have reached us today if it were not for the fact that the deadline was against us. If you add two months, it merely means we will get the Bill two months later. That is my personal view, based on some experience as to what happens to this Bill when it reaches this House.

The Senator concluded, referring to the fact that the Bill was being discussed while the Dáil was still sitting:

There is that advantage but I doubt if playing around with dates would make any practical difference. I am afraid we are always likely to get this type of Bill at the last minute.

Senator Yeats' view has proved to be quite justified. From the figures I have given it is quite clear that when the Minister for Finance went to the trouble of allowing an additional four weeks for discussion the entire length of time allowed has been taken up by the Dáil.

Mr. Lenihan: Is it correct that the Dáil had 16 weeks out of this year?

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Yes, I will analyse the figures. In 1974, when the change first came about, the additional four weeks were granted. The Dáil took [238] 16 weeks that year instead of ten, as in 1973; 12 in 1972; and 11 in 1971. In other words, the entire additional four weeks in 1974 were taken up by the Dáil. In 1975 the entire additional four weeks were taken up by the Dáil, and this year the entire additional time has been taken up by the Dáil because a period of 16 weeks, once allowance is made for the Easter recess——

Mr. Lenihan: The Bill did not appear until a very late stage.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: It is not a question of the Bill. The four months run from the budget resolutions.

Mr. Lenihan: The delay was not caused by the Dáil; it was caused by the Government in not introducing the Bill.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: It was circulated with figures. While I am on this— and I say this not as a criticism because I regard it as quite valid and quite natural—I understand that in the Dáil discussion something like 95 per cent of the time was occupied by Opposition speakers. The budget was introduced on 28th January this year and the budget debate concluded six weeks later on the 10th March. That was six weeks. The Finance Bill was circulated on 31st March.

Mr. Lenihan: The Finance Bill only emerged on 31st March.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: It was circulated on 31st March three weeks after the end of the budget debates. There was no great delay there. The Second Reading commenced in the Dáil on 7th April and it concluded on 28th April.

Mr. Lenihan: That is not three weeks on the Finance Bill. We are not talking about the budget; we are talking about the Finance Bill.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I am talking about the period allowed from the time of the proposal of the financial resolutions. I have tried to make that clear. The Committee Stage of the Finance Bill commenced in the Dáil on the 11th of this month and did not conclude until the 20th. It was passed by the Dáil on that day. The point I am making is that the additional four weeks which the present Minister allowed have in [239] fact and in practice been absorbed completely by Dáil consideration of financial proposals and we have not received the benefit of it here. The Minister for Finance would welcome and fully endorse any arrangement which could be made between this House and the Dáil which would enable us to get the Finance Bill a fortnight or so earlier than we are getting it now so that proper consideration could be given to the discussions here. That is the position in relation to this motion. From one point of view, if there were recommendations from this House it would be impossible to have the legislation completed within the time limit. Apart from that, it would be a grave discourtesy to the President if we were to present a Bill of this nature to him for signature without reading on Friday next.

This motion is drafted in such a way that it is entirely open to the Opposition to decide how they want to divide up the time, whether they want to carry on the Second Stage or whether they want to get into a Committee discussion.

Mr. Yeats: Of course, not both.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: That is entirely a matter for themselves. I think it is regrettable that so much time has been taken out of the limited time available for consideration of the Finance Bill, but I am not the political adviser of the Fianna Fáil Party. In an atmosphere of two by-elections I suppose they will advise themselves as they think best.

Mr. Lenihan: I would like to get this whole matter into perspective. First of all, the delay is not caused by the Dáil. The delay is caused by the ineptitude of the Government in producing the Finance Bill at a late stage. The Finance Bill that we have here now was only circulated at the start of April. Taking two weeks out of that, Easter week and Holy week, that means that there have been five weeks' parliamentary time for consideration of the Finance Bill between the Dáil and Seanad. In my view it is outrageous that, when the budget is introduced in January after careful preparation of the various measures announced in the budget and [240] incorporated in the Finance Bill, the Houses of the Oireachtas, both Deputies and Senators, have to wait until early April for the actual production of the Bill. This curtails parliamentary consideration of it to five weeks. This point has already been made in the Dáil. I want to make it quite clear that that is the reason for the truncated debate. The Government's incompetence in producing the measure and circulating it at a very late stage curtailed the debate in both Houses.

An important point to remember is that the four-months' period written into the statue does not expire until 7 p.m. on Friday. There is no point in bringing the President into this discussion. This is a Money Bill and the President has no function with regard to referring it to the Supreme Court. He has functions in regard to other legislation. He has a constitutional obligation to consider them. If he doubts the constitutionality of any Bill he has the right to refer it to the Supreme Court. But that does not obtain in regard to a Money Bill. The President has no function in regard to the Finance Bill except to sign it. That is the constitutional reality. So we can get that one out of the way. That means then that we could have had an orderly and constructive debate on this matter continuing through today and into tomorrow.

The Leader of the House is well aware that he would not have found me at all wanting in accommodating him in arranging time between the Second Stage, Committee Stage and Report Stage. Indeed, I am constantly getting into trouble with my colleagues here for being too accommodating to the Leader of the House. There is no reason in the wide earthly world why we could not have reached an accommodation at some stage during today instead of bringing in this clumsy, crude guillotine motion after a half day's discussion of the Second Stage, which is all we had yesterday. It was quite evident that a number of my colleagues were rising to speak last night. They would have made their contributions during the morning, we would have progressed to Committee Stage some time this afternoon or this evening, would have [241] discussed Report Stage tomorrow and would probably have completed the Bill some time tomorrow afternoon. That was the pace of the debate last night.

I am long enough in both Houses to realise that this was not a contentious debate in the sense of any irresponsible or negative approach being adopted. There was controversy. We were being rightly critical. The debate was proceeding at a normal parliamentary pace when we adjourned last night at half past eight as Senator Kit Ahern was making her contribution. We had several other contributors on this side of the House. The debate would have proceeded accordingly this morning and this afternoon and we would have reached a conclusion either later this evening or some time early tomorrow, giving well over 24 hours for consideration of the Bill by the President.

That is the sequence of events for the record. That is exactly as it appeared last night to me. I did not come back to Senator O'Higgins last night. I intended to speak to him this morning about how we would divide the day. Then we are presented with this motion which effectively curtails debate on the Finance Bill and tells us that we cannot, in effect, organise for ourselves a constructive and responsible debate in this House. In doing that Senator O'Higgins, as Leader of the House, does a grave disservice to the House as a whole and insults the democratic process, the Constitution and the Senators who voted for this motion on the Order of Business some minutes ago.

I want to emphasise one other point. This is a very important Finance Bill debate. We are now at a crisis situation in regard to the management of our economy. Everybody recognises that. I thought Senator FitzGerald and I made reasonably constructive contributions yesterday as to how the Government might stimulate the economy by way of tax incentives at worker, management and investment level, by way of low interest loans and credit for the private building sector and greater finance for public authorities to build the infrastructure which is so badly needed such as roads, houses, water and sewerage and to get the construction industry going.

[242] That is the type of debate we had yesterday, a debate directly related to the serious state of our economy. We also had constructive contributions from Senator Yeats and Senator Russell. Other Senators from the Labour side spoke. The debate was proceeding at an even level. I want to emphasise that. I am not easily appalled. I am long enough around this place not to be. But I am genuinely and sincerely appalled by the approach adopted in this matter, that when a serious debate was taking place it could be truncated in this ruthless and brutal form. I appreciate the need in parliamentary procedure for such a closure motion. It has never been adopted by the Government with a majority in either House except after a protracted debate, a filibuster type debate, or an irresponsible debate pushed to an extreme level by an Opposition. It is only in that situation that I have ever seen any Government take a closure motion into either House and move it so as to curtail debate.

I should like to hear other views on that. I have been in such debates over very contentious issues where the need for this arose. I do not have to refer to these debates because they are on the record in each House of the Oireachtas. Whether the motion was brought in rightly or wrongly, it has always been brought in in a highly contentious debate which went on for a long period of time, where a particular measure was being pursued so hard by the Opposition that they were obviously talking the debate out, obviously prolonging the debate where it was necessary to get legislation through. It has been traditional—and rightly so, because the Government should not lightly decide on a closure motion—that such a motion was only introduced by the Government after what they regarded as a lengthy or contentious debate and where the Government wanted to get legislation through and had taken the view that every aspect of the matter had been fully aired and the debate was taking a repetitious turn. In debates such as that it was necessary, in the view of the Government, rightly or wrongly, to bring in such a closure motion.

Everybody here would agree that that is the purpose of a closure motion. [243] It is also essential, because of the very nature of a closure motion, that it should only be used sparingly by the Government and in circumstances such as I have mentioned. I know of no instance where a closure motion has been introduced by the Government after only a half day's debate in either House on an important matter such as the Finance Bill, a debate which was proceeding without heat, with plenty of constructive criticism and objective comment. It was quite open during today to so ordain our business that we would facilitate the President in signing this Bill at 7 o'clock on Friday evening.

I should like to hear an answer to the argument I have just put forward. The Leader of the House has not given an explanation for this motion. First of all, it is quite evident that the Bill could have been presented to the President on time. Secondly, there is no argument that the debate was developing in a repetitive, contentious or irresponsible manner. Anybody who was present here yesterday would testify that the debate was proceeding in a highly responsible, constructively critical and objective manner. Therefore the only possible explanation is that the Government at this stage are resenting any criticism from any forum about their economic performance and their handling of the general economic situation. Surely this is one of the democratic forums and is the place for comment on the major matter on everybody's mind at the moment—the state of the economy and the disastrous course on which we are being set by the mismanagement of our finances and the economy over the past three years.

The unemployment rate was between 115,000 to 120,000 during the past few months. There is lack of opportunity for school-leavers. Over 20,000 jobs have been lost over the past two years. During the previous six years of prudent management 20,000 jobs were created and these have been lost between 1974 and 1976.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: This is a wonderful performance.

Mr. Lenihan: All our economic forecasters say—the Chairman of the [244] Industrial Development Authority among them—that each year until 1986 the Government will have to provide 20,000 new jobs to cater for the growth in population. Is it to curtail the debate on these vital issues that the closure motion has been introduced? Is it to curtail democratic expression? If so, it can be expressed elsewhere.

This is the appropriate forum for the expression of constructive and responsible views in regard to the management of the economy. Apparently the Government resent any such criticism, although offered in a constructive manner. I would defy anyone to say that yesterday's Seanad debate was anything but a constructive one. The economy is suffering from a malaise which is rendering social progress impossible. My contribution yesterday offered constructive suggestions to cure the malaise. If we did this, more wealth could be created, which in turn would provide for the social developments we all desire. The Government representative should be listening to this debate, a debate which is being denied to one of the Houses of the Oireachtas.

The Seanad is being denied this right by a closure motion which will ensure that by 5 o'clock discussion on the matter will be finished despite the fact that we have until tomorrow night to discuss it. The President will have all day on Friday to peruse it. The President does not have any function in regard to the Bill because it is a Money Bill. Under the Constitution he must sign it; he is under no obligation to send it to the Supreme Court, as he is in the case of ordinary legislation. It defies comprehension why the Government should insult not only the democratic process but themselves and the people who have elected this Parliament. Obviously they have reached a high degree of sensitivity to any form of constructive criticism from either House of the Oireachtas.

I wish to move the following amendment to the motion: On line 7 to delete “today” and insert “tomorrow”.

The effect of that amendment would be to try to meet in a responsible manner the point of view expressed regarding the exigencies of the time limit. We would agree to this closure motion if it is expressed as being [245] 5 o'clock tomorrow evening. The President then has 26 hours, from 5 p.m. tomorrow evening until 7 p.m. on Friday 28th, to examine the Bill and append his signature. This is a reasonable modus vivendi coming from an Opposition. I should like to hear the Leader of the House's views on what might be termed an olive branch in order to stop this contentious debate, proceed with the constructive consideration of the Finance Bill, and by agreement, finish at 5 p.m. tomorrow afternoon.

Mr. Yeats: Firstly, I wish to deal with some of Senator O'Higgins's remarks in this respect. He suggested that he had made it clear that there would be a motion of this kind put down. I want to make it absolutely clear that that is simply not so. At one stage yesterday, Senator Sanfey spoke to Senator Lenihan and myself and asked if we could agree to finishing by 5 p.m. tomorrow. We told him we could not possibly agree to that as we did not know how the debate would go; that we had no intention of holding it up, but we would see how the debate would proceed. As far as I am concerned, that is the last anyone said about this matter. I heard rumours yesterday that the Government would bring in a guillotine motion but I said that it was nonsense as there was no reason for it. Then last night at 8.30 p.m., just before the House adjourned, Senator O'Higgins, the Leader of the House, came over to find out how many Senators wished to speak. Three Senators wished to speak so he said that we would adjourn until today. He did not propose sitting late last night. There was no mention of the impending guillotine motion, although I understand he had spent several hours arranging for its drafting at that stage. However he did not condescend to mention it to us when we were discussing the future conduct of the Bill. It is a mystery why the Leader of the House has brought in this motion.

We have now put down an amendment that the motion should be changed to read “5 p.m. tomorrow”. On that basis, although it is quite unprecedented to have such a motion on a Finance Bill, we are willing to agree to the [246] motion going through. The Leader of the House has accepted that it is constitutionally and legally practicable to debate this matter all day today and all day tomorrow up to 5 p.m. We could debate it even later, but we are willing to compromise in this matter and to finish by 5 p.m. tomorrow. The Leader of the House has conceded that this is possible. As Senator Lenihan has pointed out, since the President has no power in this matter to refer the Finance Bill to the Supreme Court, he is not entitled under the Constitution to do anything but sign the Bill. While, as a matter of courtesy, one would wish him to have adequate time to read the Bill before signing it—everyone likes to know what they are signing before they do so—7 p.m. on Friday would appear to be adequate in view of the fact that its constitutionality does not arise.

However, for whatever reason, and I cannot conceive what this reason is, the Leader of the House and indeed Senators on that side of the House have decided to do this. I notice for example, Senator Alexis FitzGerald sitting there festooned, as is his wont, with learned volumes of all kinds, ready no doubt to indulge in intelligent and, as always, articulate and extremely useful discussion on the Committee Stage of this Finance Bill. By the action of his own leader and by the action of his own feet, in voting as he voted he is making sure that this cannot happen in any kind of adequate way.

I would put it to Senator FitzGerald that there is no reason in the wide world why the Leader of the House could not accept our amendment to defer the end of this debate until 5 p.m. tomorrow. There is absolutely no legal reason, no constitutional reason, no problem of any kind. I put it to Senator FitzGerald that he could make his usual valuable use of his expertise and the volumes of various kinds that he has surrounding him if he would persuade his leader to accept this amendment.

As I already mentioned, this is the first time in 54 years of financial legislation in this country that a motion of this kind has been brought in. For 54 years the Dáil and Seanad had been debating [247] the annual Finance Bill, the most important single piece of legislation that comes before either house in the course of the year. On no single occasion in these 54 years was a guillotine motion of this kind moved in either House. This is a precedent, is unique, and is moved, so far as one can see, without any adequate reason at all. Without any reason it has not been explained. The Leader of the House has not denied that in effect it is not necessary, to the extent that certainly 5 p.m. tomorrow rather than 5 p.m. today would be entirely adequate from the point of view of getting the Bill to the President, with all due regard both to courtesy and to the legalities and the provisions of the Constitution. It could be done; it should be done.

There is no conceivable possibility of recommendations being passed in this House. The Leader of the House knows perfectly well he has enough votes to prevent any such thing. I said yesterday in the course of this debate that we did not propose on this side of the House to put down any recommendations. We can give him an assurance again that we do not propose to put down any recommendation, and even if we put down 100 recommendations the Leader of the House knows perfectly well that he has enough votes to prevent them being accepted.

Indeed we do not have the Minister for Finance in this House which, of course is a habit from the last budget which came before us last summer. For the so-called mini budget, the Finance (No. 2) Bill, the Minister for Finance again was absent for a greater part of the debate. We appreciate that the Minister has many claims on his time but I should have thought that the claims of the Parliament of this country were perhaps paramount. While much as we are happy to see the Minister for the Gaeltacht in the House, I do not think that even he would suggest he would be in a position to accept recommendations on behalf of his Minister for Finance were they put down.

We are debating the Bill without the remotest conceivable possibility of it emerging from this House other than [248] in the form in which it now is. Therefore this so-called excuse of preparing vellum copies and so on and so forth for the President to sign simply will not wash. Indeed, in my own memory and in the memory of the Leader of the House we have had really urgent Bills going through this House, when the House was called together by telegram and so on, where the Bill had been signed by the President within minutes of its leaving this House. The Bill had been given to him through a member of the motor-cycle corps who had instantly brought it up to Aras an Uachtaráin to be signed on the spot. Therefore it is perfectly possible to do these things. In any event the suggestion we have made of continuing this debate until 5 p.m. does not require any of those heroic steps. The whole process could be gone through with all due courtesy and deliberation. Now, the result of this display of what could be described as arrogance on the part of the Leader of the House and the Government and Senators opposite is that it is not possible to debate in any adequate way this most important legislation.

Out of the kindness of his beneficient heart the Leader of the House says, “Well, after all I gave every opportunity to the Opposition. They could either have a Second Stage debate or they could have a Committee Stage debate. It is up to them to decide, and what could be fairer?” Could there ever have been a more outrageous pronouncement from the Leader of this or any other House? He would put it up to the Opposition. We could either debate the Second Stage or we could debate the Committee Stage. It is up to us. It is not up to us. We are entitled —not merely we, but Senator FitzGerald and every Senator in this House is entitled to debate this financial legislation in one of the Houses of the Oireachtas. It is not for any Leader of the House to stand up here in his arrogance and say to the Opposition: “You decide whether you will debate one Stage or another.” We are entitled to debate every Stage of this Bill in a way in which every single Finance Bill before either House of the Oireachtas has been debated in each of the last 54 years. We are entitled to do that, [249] not because of whatever dignity we as Senators may possess, but because of the people of this country who are entitled to have this vital legislation debated by their representatives in Parliament in the best possible way.

After all, we are discussing this Bill in the context of a very grave national crisis. It is not just an ordinary Finance Bill, if any Finance Bill can be described as ordinary. It is not just a routine Finance Bill that comes in in normal times and perhaps puts a penny on one thing and takes a penny off another, brings in a few proposals for tax, dealing with tax evasion and so on. This is not that kind of situation. We are debating this Bill in a period of grave national crisis, a period when what Senator FitzGerald yesterday described as “a psychology of defeat” is gaining more and more ground, when people are really despairing of seeing any improvement in conditions; a period when we have well over 100,000 unemployed with no real prospect in the next 12 or 18 months of any reduction to even below 100,000 in that number; a period when we have, perhaps today, a complete breakdown in the entire wage negotiations position with the appalling prospect that that suggests, a breakdown brought about apparently in the last two days by the deliberate action of the Government; in the longer run a breakdown brought about by the deliberate action of the Government in the type of budget that they have put before us and which is before us today in the Finance Bill.

We have the situation where our national transport concern has made it clear they may simply have to cease operations in the autumn, simply because they are running out of money. Owing to the inflationary situation, the general economic depression that exists, the psychology of defeat that exists, to quote Senator FitzGerald—because of this situation our national transport concern is likely to break down.

This is the kind of context in which this Finance Bill in this year of 1976 is being discussed. It is in this context that the Government, the Leader of the House and Senators opposite have decided that there is to be no discussion in this House. We have had one halfday's [250] discussion. Part of the Second Reading took place. We still have to finish the Second Reading. We have to go through the numerous sections of this Bill. There are 83 sections in this Bill. There are many matters of great importance in this Bill. There are the kind of detailed technical matters that one had hoped to hear Senator FitzGerald dealing with. I always listen to him with pleasure and enlightenment. Apart from these there are a wide variety of matters which affect many people in this country. We have the vast range of taxes that have been imposed in this Bill, the huge increases in the rate of VAT, the 13p on petrol, huge increases in car tax and on drink and tobacco, the consequent increases in CIE fares, increases in ESB rates. All these are governed by the budget. There is the imposition of some £15 million on industry in the Finance Bill through social welfare contributions.

I had hoped that Senator FitzGerald would rise. I would be fascinated to hear Senator FitzGerald defending this outrageously arrogant proposition. I would be delighted, in view of his long and honourable career as a financial expert in this House, as a defender of the rights of this House to consider legislation adequately, particularly financial legislation; in view of that long and honourable record, I would be interested to hear him defending this motion.

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: It is already on the record.

Mr. Yeats: All these things are in the Finance Bill and ought to be discussed. The people expect these to be discussed. The votes of Senators opposite and the action of the Leader of the House, presumably instigated by the Government, and the Minister, who is not here, are preventing these things being discussed. What are we to say of the position of 100,000 self-employed in this country?

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Senator Yeats may have overlooked the fact that the next item is the Finance Bill and if this discussion concludes we will be dealing with it.

Mr. Yeats: What are we to say of the 100,000 self-employed who under this Finance Bill that we are prevented [251] from discussing adequately are being forced to pay three years' taxation on two years' income; who are being forced to pay what amounts to 115 per cent of their income in taxation?

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: Words.

Mr. Yeats: All these things are in this Bill. That one section, on the Schedule D people, the 100,000 people——

Mr. Alexis FitzGerald: We are nearly two hours——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: There have been interruptions from both sides. Senator Yeats must make his contribution on the amendment to the motion that is before us. I take the Senator's point that in making his case he must refer to the Finance Bill, but we cannot have detailed discussion at this stage on a section of the Finance Bill.

Mr. Yeats: The problem is that under this section I have referred to 100,000 people who will have to pay three years' tax on two years' income. That one section would justify it being discussed between now and 5 p.m. without referring to any other section of the Bill. There are many sections of great importance in the Bill. There is the question of personal reliefs. One would be entitled to point out that the personal reliefs given in the budget are in no way adequate to deal with the increasing cost of living and the fall in the value of money. Hundreds of thousands of income tax payers will have to pay more tax this year because of the constant fall in the value of money. There is the question of tax on co-operative societies. How are they to be debated?

There are a variety of questions later on in the Bill dealing with the licensing of motor vehicles, revolutionary and in many ways exceedingly undesirable provisions—that even not using a car one must pay tax. Even if we had started at 10.30 this morning without any discussion on this motion and had finished the Second Reading and gone on to Committee Stage we would not have got to section 60. I can assure Senator FitzGerald that if the sections [252] in which he is interested come to about 20, on the motion before the House there would be no remote chance of getting that far a Bill of this nature. All these matters towards the end of the Bill will go without discussion. They will be shot through by this motion.

I earlier put it to the Leader of the House that this whole matter could be settled in 30 seconds if he would agree to saying 5 p.m. tomorrow instead of 5 p.m. today. There is no legal problem, no constitutional problem, even no problem of courtesy to the President, no mythical problem of preparing vellum copies and so on. All this could all be solved and the House could discuss this Bill. I do not know what the reason is, but the Leader of the House will not agree to this. That is the problem that we all face. There are a vast number of matters dealt with in this Bill of the greatest importance which ought to be discussed and which, even had we started at 10.30 this morning, could not possibly have been discussed in the time available.

There is the problem one has to face with regard to the amount of taxation taken in, that public spending, which was 42 per cent in 1972 is now 58 per cent, 4 per cent up on GNP on last year. Despite all the imposts in this budget the position is worsening. We had the so-called temporary surcharge of 10 per cent in income tax which is again perpetuated in this budget. How long will it last? It is supposed to be temporary, but we know how temporary income tax was for the first six years or so of its life until Deputy Colley, in a fit of realism, made it permanent. But this temporary surcharge is re-incarnated in one of the earlier sections of this Bill. It is an intolerable position that a Bill of this importance, outstanding importance both for what it contains and surrounding circumstances, should be treated in this way.

When somebody mentioned to me yesterday a rumour about this I laughed at it. I said no Leader of the House could do such a thing. When I heard last night after the House had adjourned that this motion was coming through I still did not believe it. It was only this morning when I read the Order Paper that the full enormity of what was [253] happening dawned on me, that this motion was being brought in. It is inconceivable to me why the Leader of the House will not budget to the extent of fixing it at 5 p.m. tomorrow instead of today. It means that this Bill will not get any consideration in this House. That in itself is not so important, but it completely flies in the face of all that parliamentary democracy ought to mean. It is completely dictatorial. It shows a contempt for the entire parliamentary process, a contempt which the Government have shown before, because as I pointed out yesterday, I find the Earlier Signature Motion which appears on this Order Paper at No. 3 is the sixth since last December.

Increasingly, apparently, the Government are treating legislative process, at least as regards this House, with complete contempt. They are not even making any further effort to process legislation in any kind of orderly way.

When I spoke yesterday complaining about the way in which this Bill had come to us my complaint was based on the proposition, which I then believed, that we were going to have the greater part of this week and that we would have at least three days debate on this vital Bill. It never occurred to me at that time what was in the mind of the Leader of the House. I would even now suggest to him that he ought to accept our amendment, and perhaps Senator FitzGerald could persuade his leader, if I cannot, to show some sense of reason and to agree to make this 5 p.m. tomorrow rather than today. In spite of its unique reprehensible nature we would be willing to accept this guillotine motion on the basis that it is 5 p.m. tomorrow.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Could I say to Senator Yeats that there might be a certain amount of misunderstanding here? I did indicate when I was moving this motion that acceptance of the motion would not rule out the agreed timetable provided the timetable agreed meant that we finished today. In other words, if any proposition was made that we might possibly sit later I would certainly consider that and see if we could accept. I tried to give that signal to the Opposition when I was introducing [254] it but the question of going on until tomorrow would, I am afraid, be out.

Professor Quinlan: Following what the Leader of the House has said, I deplore the tendency over the last four or five years to present Bills to this Seanad without adequate time for discussion. Both Governments are responsible for this. The position of the discussion on both the Finance and Appropriation Bills has been totally unsatisfactory for the last six or seven years. Previous to that there was always a very worth-while discussion on both the Bills in June. The Finance Bill took up two to three days and the Appropriation Bill, which was really a discussion of the whole budget, followed in July. Six to seven years ago the then Government changed the procedure and we reached the Cinderella position where the budget was always discussed in Christmas week—it was already in being for almost nine months at that stage and there was little point in discussing it.

The position is totally unsatisfactory and it is time the Government faced up to either abolishing Seanad Éireann or reforming it and using it. But the present position is untenable and doing a disservice to democracy. Seanad Éireann is not being used, as it should be as an aid to rational policy discussion by means of Committees and others.

I suggest as an amendment to that proposed that we substitute 12 midnight tonight for the 5 p.m. as put. Perhaps we could get agreement on that, provided the Leader of the House would give an assurance that, before we adjourn, he would do everything possible to arrange a two-day adjournment debate which will enable us to have a constructive look at the problems which are facing us today, not merely the financial ones but the general problems. If we could get that assurance, the charade of an Appropriation debate in Christmas week could be abolished and we could agree to accept the Appropriation Bill as a formality without discussion in Christmas week and would be contributing to the formation of public opinion and Government policy when needed, and that is now. [255] Provided the Leader of the House would agree, which he seems to have indicated earlier on, to do his best to arrange for an adjournment debate before we adjourn for the summer recess, we would all agree to substitute 12 midnight tonight instead of 5 p.m. as listed. I know the constraints. The Leader has not been responsible for this—it is largely due to the other House and we suffer for it, but if we reached this compromise we could get on with the discussion of the Finance Bill and especially of the very important Committee points that are likely to arise on it.

Mr. Dolan: Ar an gcéad dul síos, ba mhaith liom a rá go bhfuilím go láidir agus go tréan i gcoinne an tairiscint seo. Measaim go bhfuil an dearcadh agus an smaoineamh taobh thiar de go drochbhéasach agus go mímacánta. Iarracht é seo ag an Rialtas dallamullóg a chur orainn agus cosc a chur ar na daoine ar an dtaobh seo den Teach a dtuairimí a nochtadh chomh fada agus a mbaineann siad leis an mBille Airgeadais seo. Tá siad ag déanamh dochar don daonlathas sa tír seo. Ní dóigh liom gur ceart é sin a dhéanamh sa Teach seo nó in aon Teach eile. Ba chóir go mbeadh seans ag gach Seanadóir, is cuma cén áit ina shuíonn sé, a thuairimí a nochtadh go réasúntach agus go láidir.

Like the other two Senators, I want to protest strongly at the introduction of this motion by the Leader of the House. It is completely wrong. On this side of the House our numbers are small, and an effort is now being made to prevent us from expressing our views on so important a matter as the Finance Bill. This is the Bill that provides the necessary finances to keep services going and one that should reflect the policy of the Government. Yesterday four or five of us on this side of the House spoke on it and, on the other side on one occasion, there was only one person present. Many of them did not like the contributions that were being made. I would say they were not very palatable to them because they were stating bald facts. We had three or four speakers lined up and in the [256] ordinary course of events it would not have taken too long——

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Lined up?

Mr. Dolan: They were there. That is the Cavan way of saying it perhaps. The Leader of the House may not have known because he was not here. He was outside the House behind backs conniving in his own way to ensure——

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Senator Dolan, we should avoid personal remarks.

Mr. Dolan: I try to be constructive in my approach. I do not want to be personal. When Senator FitzGerald interrupted me, I handled him in a very cool manner. I just expressed the opinion that I was surprised that a man of his culture was unable to listen to the salient and important facts I was stating. I am not in any way trying to indulge in personal remarks about the Leader of the House. I was merely adverting to the fact that he was not in the House when this happened. In my opinion, he was outside arranging to have this motion put down on the Order Paper while, at the same time, he had been speaking to some of our members and he never mentioned it. That is the type of deal, I respectfully suggest, which was going on at that time.

The essence of this motion is to try to ensure that Senators on this side of the House will be gagged on the Finance Bill and to try to prevent them from making their comments which would affect themselves and their respective areas. I was surprised yesterday during the debate to note the absence of Senator Butler who has now arrived. I am interested in the new measures in the Finance Bill to tax co-ops which we are now being prevented from discussing.

I come from a co-operative area and I feel the co-ops are giving a tremendous service. I was not at all impressed by Senator Ferris who came into the House with a printed prepared document and read it out in schoolboy fashion. It was great laudable stuff—and will appear probably in a local paper—trying to [257] defend the taxing of co-ops. Perhaps Senator Butler, as their nominee, might make his contribution and try to justify this penal tax which we are being prevented from discussing and which will affect everyone engaged in agriculture and thousands of people engaged in ancillary industries, and industries springing from agriculture—milk powder, chocolate crumb and various other things.

We are being prevented from discussing this co-operative tax. The Opposition are committed to its complete removal to allow farmers to expand and reap the full benefits they should enjoy since we are a member of the EEC. It is very wrong that we are being prevented from discussing such important legislation—something that affects each and everyone of us in our own lives and our own areas.

The real reason for this is that naturally the Government know things are in a very bad way. Not alone have we told this to them for the past two or three years at every opportunity we got, but we have put forward constructive criticism which they should have heeded. They laughed and scoffed and pretended everything in the garden was rosy. The salient facts are that these great men of all the talents who, as individuals, may be very nice people but as a Government are a complete fiasco, have been in office for three years. They are now ashamed and afraid to hear spelled out here part of their dismal record. The first one that strikes them straight in the face is the 120,000 people unemployed. Then we have the school leavers who have no hope whatever under this Coalition Government of getting a job. We are not delighted about that on this side of the House. We are very sad.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: I do not want to interrupt the Senator. If we were to break for about ten minutes and discuss Senator Quinlan's suggestion we might find a solution. The time involved in the two suggestions is roughtly equal, that is, sitting on this evening as against Senator Yeats' suggestion. If we put our heads together for ten minutes possibly we could come to an amicable [258] solution which would enable discussion of the Finance Bill to continue.

Business suspended at 12.35 p.m. and resumed at 12.45 p.m.

An Cathaoirleach: The sitting was suspended to allow discussions to take place. I understand the Leader of the House wishes to make a proposition.

Mr. M.J. O'Higgins: Senator Quinlan's suggestion has produced valuable results. We have had a discussion as a result of which there is agreement that the proceedings on the Finance Bill and the Earlier Signature Motion should be concluded not later than 12 midnight. As there is agreement on that, I am prepared to withdraw the motion as it stands, on the understanding that we agree now, and that the Chair has the necessary authority, that if the Finance Bill and the Earlier Signature Motion are not concluded earlier, the Chair should put all necessary questions to bring both the Finance Bill and the Earlier Signature Motion to a conclusion not later than 12 midnight.

Mr. Lenihan: That is agreed. It seems to me to be a sensible approach to the matter. I regret the fact that there was any necessity for the motion in the first instance. In my view we can settle matters in this way at all times if we operate accordingly.

Motion, by leave, withdrawn.

An Cathaoirleach: In regard to the question of the handling of the business it is necessary to be clear. I take it that what has been agreed upon now by the House is that, if the business is not completed by 12 midnight, I will proceed to put the questions in the same form as they are in Motion No. 1. In other words, that composite questions will be used to dispose of Committee Stage if not disposed of as in the motion and that the early signature motion will be put.