Seanad Éireann - Volume 103 - 14 March, 1984

Order of Business.

Professor Dooge: It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 6. In regard to Nos. 1 and 2, these are orders for the Second Stages of Bills which are being introduced first in Seanad Éireann. By agreement it is proposed that No. 1 be taken today. Item No. 2 will be ordered today but not actually debated on Second Stage. I would like to inform the House that the Social Welfare Bill, which was circulated a few days ago and is being debated on Second Stage at the moment in another place, must be law by the end of March. Accordingly, it will be necessary for the Seanad to take that Bill on short notice from the Dáil. It may well be that we will only receive it on 27 March which means that, having received it on that date, we will have to deal with all Stages before the end of March.

Mr. Lanigan: On No. 1, I presume that we are not taking all Stages today — that we will take only the Second Stage. I would like to ask the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to get together so that this House will not be used in the manner in which it has been used. We had a period in this House when on the Order of Business the press took note of what was being said by the person arguing [404] on the Order of Business and at the end of the day, the press had notes of what was said and what was meant by the person but this House did not get an opportunity to reply. A certain Senator was asked to leave the House today. I agree with it, because I feel that the Order of Business is not the proper occasion on which to raise matters which cannot by the rules of the House be raised here.

Mr. W. Ryan: The Leader of the House said it may be 27 March before we get the Social Welfare Bill, and indeed it might even be later. The Dáil may not have passed the Bill before the Wednesday or Thursday of that week. It is rather unfair that this is to happen. It is not the first time for the Social Welfare Bill to be delayed. It is happening every year. It happened also while Fianna Fáil were in power. I cannot understand why we had to rush this very important Bill through in a day. I see no reason why the Dáil could not have their business well prepared in advance and have the Bill passed next week so that we could have it then. I would like to register a protest as far as that Bill is concerned.

Mr. Ferris: I echo the sentiments of Senator W. Ryan. I know that it is not the fault of the Leader of the House that it is happening in this way. Although it may not be appropriate to do so, we should register our dissatisfaction with the other House. I should like to register my dissatisfaction with the manner in which they expect us to deal with legislation in the limited time available.

An Cathaoirleach: It is not in order.

Mr. Ferris: How do I express views in support of my colleague from the Opposition in trying to have as much time available to this House and not to be constrained by a period of a matter of days before a Bill becomes law? Is it assumed that we will pass all Stages of the Bill?

An Cathaoirleach: The Bill will come before the House before 27 March. The [405] Senator will be in a position to say whatever he wants to say about it at that stage.

Mr. Killilea: I want to raise another matter concerning the situation we find ourselves in regarding the Chair's ruling on the expulsion of a Member from the House. I have been a Member of this House for some time and have seen people perform in a similar manner — Senator Mary Robinson was a dab hand at it in times past——

An Cathaoirleach: It is not in order.

Mr. Killilea: She would make her point, get extricated, go away and grab the headlines in the next day's newspapers as if she were the only Senator in the House doing——

An Cathaoirleach: It does not arise. I do not disagree with what you are saying, but it is not in order.

Mr. Killilea: In order to protect the individuals of this House and the elected Members of this House I suggest that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges might have a look at this situation so that the glamour attached to such an escapade may not attract the attention which it does, and instead that the reality of the workings of this House could be recognised. Many of us spend a long time in the House. I want to bring it to the Chair's attention so that the matter——

An Cathaoirleach: That is all very well, but it is disorderly.

Mr. Killilea: Furthermore, those who remain here to do the solid work of Seanad Éireann might receive compliments for the diligence of their work rather than the non-diligence of those who come in, hit the headlines and get put out.

An Cathaoirleach: You are completely out of order.

Mr. Killilea: I do not wish to be extricated in that manner.

[406] Mrs. McGuinness: At the risk of joining my colleague, Senator Ryan, outside, might I add to the sentiments expressed by Senator Willie Ryan and Senator Ferris about the Bill coming before the House at such short notice? Without trying to get out of order I would point out that it is almost always to important Bills that this happens. There are Bills on which we would not have much to say and we have plenty of time to discuss them. I would like to see this House having time to deal properly with important Bills. It is not impossible that we might actually amend them and improve them if we were given time to do so.

Professor Dooge: Two points have been raised which it is proper for me to answer. The first is in regard to the extent of the progress which is hoped for in regard to the Dentists Bill. My proposition to the House would be that we should debate that Bill from now until 4 p.m. At 4 p.m. we should take up item No. 3, that is, the EEC motion, until 5.30 p.m., break from 5.30 p.m. until 6.30 p.m., and that would enable us to devote one hour and a half to the Private Members' Motion put forward by the Fianna Fáil group, from 6.30 p.m. until 8 p.m. I would ask the House to agree that as part of the Order of Business we should adopt those timings.

Regarding the Social Welfare Bill, the position is that the Bill was introduced only a few days ago. I understand that the new family assistance scheme gave rise to some difficulties in drafting the Bill. This is possibly a partial explanation for the delay. But I join with Senators in deploring the fact that the late introduction of the Bill year after year has meant that the Seanad felt it had not adequate time to discuss the Bill. I would suggest that the representatives of every group in this House should talk to their counterparts in Dáil Éireann asking them to ensure that the Bill will reach us earlier. There is nothing I or the Cathaoirleach can do. It rests in the hands of the Whips in another place as to when the Bill will reach us. I understand that one of their difficulties — they have taken Second Stage at very short notice — is that they have a short sitting week next week [407] because of the public holiday on Monday. This is creating difficulties for them, but if the Whips in the Seanad would approach the Whips in the Dáil and convey the feelings of the Seanad to them, it would be helpful.

Mr. Lanigan: I want to query the time for the Fianna Fáil motion. It was said it will be taken from 6.30 p.m. onwards this evening. I presume that we will have further time at a future date to discuss it.

Professor Dooge: Next week.

Mr. Lanigan: The fact that the Social Welfare Bill has to be put through by 30 March inhibits proper discussion on it. If it were to come here with flaws there is no way that we should allow it to be sent to the President if we see the flaws, irrespective of whether the Government want or need to do that. The only reason I can see for the Bill being law by 30 March is that the following week is the start of a new tax year. If there were flaws in that Bill I do not see why we should be constrained in our discussion of it by having a guillotine placed on it. From this House we should say to the Government — I do not think we should go through our Whips — “We do not accept the 30 March if we see flaws in that Bill”.

Mr. Killilea: I want to ask a question. We go on until 4 o'clock. Does that mean that item No. 1 will be finished at 4 o'clock?

Professor Dooge: No.

Mr. Killilea: I suggest these matters be put down for discussion at the next meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and a report sent back to the Seanad on them.

Order of Business agreed to.