Seanad Éireann - Volume 123 - 06 December, 1989

Order of Business.

Mr. Lanigan: It is intended that we take items No. 1, Nos. 2 to 7, and No. 11 until 4.30 p.m. and that we take item No. 8 to be completed today. Item No. 8 is a Certified Money Bill which has to be passed within 21 days of its coming from the Dáil and this is the last occasion in which we will have an opportunity to get that Bill through.

In connection with item No. 1, it is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that we will take this Bill tomorrow. It is proposed that the motions appointing committees, items Nos. 2 to 7, be taken without debate. Members will recall that the setting up of these committees was debated fully last week on the expediency motions for these committees, with the exception of item No. 7 which is a technical committee dealing with private legislation.

It is intended to take the motion on Ethiopia and overseas aid tomorrow from 10.30 a.m. to 12.30 p.m. or 1 p.m. if it is felt we need to go to 1 p.m. In anticipation of a number of speakers wishing to speak in that debate, I suggest that there be a time limit set so that as many speakers as possible can get in. If the Whips meet later on, we could agree on a time limit to enable as many people as possible to get in on that debate in the morning. In the afternoon we will take the Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation Bill. We will commence [963] Second Stage of the Derelict Sites Bill tomorrow afternoon.

For technical reasons it was not possible to take the Private Members' motion today. This was to be the motion in Private Members' time from 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. It has been agreed that we will take the full three hours of Private Members' time on Wednesday of next week. The agreement of the Whips will be reached tomorrow morning on the wording of that motion, or if the motion is to be changed. It is intended that any motion, whether it be from the Government side or not, will be given to the Whips of all parties at the Whips meeting on the week before any motion is introduced. This will give the House an opportunity to prepare for whatever motion is introduced rather than, as has happened in the past, where motions were sprung on the Opposition or the Government side the day before or on the morning of a debate. In the interests of the better running of the House the Private Members' motion for the following week should be agreed on the Thursday morning. That would give both the Government side and the Opposition a chance to have a look at the matters in hand.

Mr. Manning: I am not sure the Independents will accept that slight reproach from the Leader of the House on the late arrival of the motion.

In regard to Item No. 8, the Údarás na Gaeltachta (Amendment) Bill, we will be putting down an amendment and I would like an assurance that there will be no guillotine on that Bill. We have no objection to having it concluded today but we would like to ensure that sufficient time will be given to it.

With regard to having no debate on the setting up of the committees, I concur with that because we had a debate last week and there is an item on the Order Paper concerning reform of the committee system in the House. I would like further information from the Leader of the House as to whether the Government intend, or perhaps as Senator Ryan correctly said last week, whether the Houses [964] of the Oireachtas intend to set up further committees. As you are aware, last week there was strong agreement all round that there was a need for a foreign affairs committee, for a committee on crime and other committees. Perhaps we could have some details on that.

Professor Murphy: Some of us are intrigued by the description of private business to Item No. 1. I would like some clarification as to what this means. We would be grateful if the Leader of the House would indicate at this stage the probable nature of business in the period up to the Christmas recess.

Mr. O'Toole: First, with regard to the gentle reproach from the Leader of the House about the short notice given by Independent Members I am glad that matter was raised. We would ask the House to accept that in regard to Private Members' time if the Members decide to put forward a Bill in that time they should be facilitated in doing so. The reason for the delay this week — and I ask the Leader of the House to confirm this— was because the Government side refused to accept the Private Members' motion that was put forward, namely, the Bill. I ask the House to consider, and perhaps the Leader of the House would respond to this matter, that Private Members' time should be the business of the group who are putting it forward and that should they choose to put forward a Bill at that time they should be facilitated in doing so. If it is inconvenient for the Government it is their business to vote against it, and that may well be the case, but it is not acceptable, and was never envisaged in the spirit or the wording of the Standing Orders, that the Government would intervene in deciding how Private Members' time should be used.

In relation to the other point raised by the Leader of the House, namely, his proposal that Items Nos. 2 to 7 be taken without debate, we have always had great difficulty with any proposal which would mean no debate. That is a matter for the Members of the House to decide. I want to make it quite clear that it is something [965] that as a rule we would be slow to agree to at any time. It is inappropriate that it should come as a proposal despite the fact that it may well have been the custom or practice before now.

On the other issue on which I asked guidance from the Cathaoirleach last week, and I ask guidance again this week, this group here of six people and five more in the other House, are not being represented on the parliamentary tier of the Anglo Irish Agreement. I ask guidance from yourself or the Leader of the House as to where that matter might be pursued. It is totally inappropriate, representing as we do both sides of the Border, that people of all shades and opinions have no representation whatsoever on the parliamentary tier.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator O'Toole, the matter you are addressing is not before the House.

Mr. Ross: I would like to endorse what Senator O'Toole has said. I would also like to thank Senator Manning very much for his mild admonishment, which is in great contrast to his rather immoderate language in admonishing the Independents last week, and I would like to suggest to him that his temperament this week is far more suitable to his station in this House.

Having said that, I should like to ask the Leader of the House about whether legislation is going to be accepted from the Independents at all, because it was our intention to put down the Bill on Capital Punishment and there are plenty of precedents for Private Members' time and the Independent Groups' time being taken for legislation. If we are not going to be allowed to take in our time what we want to take, it is a new departure for this House. It certainly needs clarification and it is a move which I greatly regret.

Mr. Costello: I would like to concur with Senator Manning in asking the Leader of the House whether it is intended to establish the foreign affairs [966] committee which was mooted by all parties. Secondly, the Labour Party also proposed last week that a further committee, namely, a committee on poverty, unemployment and emigration, be considered for establishment as well because of the relevance of the issue.

Further, I would like to ask the Leader of the House what he intends for the rest of the session, particularly in relation to the Estimates which presumably have to be dealt with prior to Christmas, and also in relation to the debate on Northern Ireland that was mooted earlier. Finally, could the Leader of the House indicate to us what is happening in relation to the Conventions in the context of the Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act, and whether the Government intend to sign the Conventions on Human Rights Day, 10 December?

Pól Ó Foighil: Ba mhaith liom a iarraidh ar an Cheannaire cén dul chun cinn atá déanta aige faoi chóras aistriúcháin a chur sa Teach. D'ardaigh mé an cheist an chéad lá a bhí mé anseo. Níl fúm í a ligint i léig nó bheith i mo chodladh. Caithfidh mise seasamh don Ghaeltacht agus tá mé ag iarraidh ar an gCeannaire a insint dom anois cén dul chun cinn atá déanta faoi chóras aistriúcháin a chur sa Teach.

Mr. B. Ryan: I would like to repeat the question that has been raised by Senator Manning, Senator O'Toole and Senator Ross. It has been a tradition of this House going back, to my recollection, for 20 years for Independent Members to introduce legislation as Private Members' legislation. It is a part of the normal function of any Parliament, particularly a Parliament in a democracy. We are liable to end up with a more rigidly controlled Parliament in this country than will exist in most of Eastern Europe inside of another 12 months if there is a refusal to allow us to introduce items of legislation as we wish under the Standing Orders of this House within the time that is available to us. It would be entirely inappropriate and would be reminiscent of Stormont at its worst if a majority in a House were to use——

[967] An Cathaoirleach: I have to remind you that you are making a speech and I am not going to allow that.

Mr. B. Ryan: I have made my point, but I would like the Leader of the House to be specific and clear about this. Let me remind him that business in this House operates on the basis of mutual goodwill. The loss of that goodwill from any significant group can make the business of this House extremely difficult, extremely cumbersome, extremely slow for everybody and extremely unpleasant. We do not want to end up with the loss of the goodwill of any significant group.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, I am reminding you for the last time that you are making a speech to the House.

Mr. B. Ryan: I was asking a question on the business of this House and I would like a reply from the Leader of the House.

Mrs. Doyle: I also feel very strongly, as does the entire Fine Gael group, about the point Senator Ryan and indeed other Senators have just made here this afternoon. I would like assurances from the Leader of the House that the long-established practice, and indeed principle, of members of the Opposition pursuing issues through Bills is not being eroded in any way by the Fianna Fáil Government group in this House. Even if the matters brought forward by way of Bills from the Opposition are uncomfortable for the Government to deal with for whatever reason, even if it is just because they intend to bring forward Bills at some future point on the same matter, I would like the assurance that they will not be thwarted in any way and that they will be allowed be proceeded with as offered by members of the Opposition here.

Mr. Norris: I would like to concur with what a number of previous Senators said about concern with regard to the proposals of legislation from this side of the House. The Leader of the House last week gave an indication that the Interpretation Bill would be facilitated and I [968] presume it will be possible to look on that as a test case of goodwill in this matter.

I also concur very strongly with what a number of Senators, particularly Senator O'Toole and Senator Ross, said about the parliamentary tier of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. It is a matter of concern to us as a Parliament that we should know the mechanisms by which these persons are appointed. In particular, Senator Ross and myself are perhaps the most Anglo-Irish element in the Upper House and we ought to be considered.

I would like, finally, to move an amendment to the Order of Business that Item No. 29 should be taken. I recognise this is in the name of the Labour Party but it is virtually indistinguishable from the motions I had debated in the last session. It is very important, since it appears that the debate will be guillotined on the Messages from the Dáil, that we be allowed the opportunity to discuss this glaring omission from the important list of committees that are proposed.

I move: “That Item No. 29 be taken after Item No. 8.”

Mr. Lanigan: A number of questions have been asked and a number of comments have been made. It is not intended that we take Item No. 29 today.

On Senator Norris's point about the parliamentary tier, it is not the business of the Leader of the House to dictate what happens on that.

On Privates Members' motions it is the Government's job to legislate and I suggest that each motion that comes before the House will be taken on its merits. If you put a Bill before the House, this side of the House will deal with it as this side of the House deals with these matters.

Mrs. Doyle: Could you define “deals with”?

Mr. Lanigan: We either take it or we do not take it. That is how we deal with it.

Mrs. Doyle: Depending on how [969] comfortable or otherwise you feel with it.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, I am asking you to refrain just for one moment. I want to ensure that order is established when the Leader of the House is replying. I am asking Senators to contribute to that order now.

Mr. Lanigan: In relation to the foreign affairs committee and the employment and emigration committees which various Members have asked to be set up, I will again bring those requests to the Government. They are matters that can be again addressed at the Committee on Procedure and Priviliges.

Bhí ceist faoin chóras aistriúcháin ag an Seanadóir Ó Foighil. Bhí mé ag caint le daoine in a thaobh sin ach níl aon fhreagra agam go fóill. Ní fheadar an bhfuil aon fhreagra ag an gCathaoirleach ach ceistneoidh mé an tAire i dtaobh an chórais sin arís inniu.

Mar gheall ar an mBille um Údarás na Gaeltachta. I am not going to cut down on the length of time. There will be an opportunity to put in an amendment to that Bill. It is intended that we give the Bill as much time as is necessary to complete it today. I feel we can accommodate the House on that.

Senator Murphy asked about Item No. 1. It is a Private Bill. Under Standing Order 1 of Private Business a Private Bill is defined as follows:

Every Bill promoted for the particular interest or benefit of any person or locality as distinguished from a measure of public policy shall be treated as a Private Bill.

It is a way of dealing with matters which are not related to the Business of the House. This is a motion that was passed by Clonmel Corporation but it has to go through both Houses of the Oireachtas so that the extensions can take place.

The Whips will be meeting tomorrow morning and they will have a good indication as to what business will be taken before Christmas. I am not sure when the Seanad will adjourn before Christmas. [970] The Dáil will finish on 14 or 15 December. If the Dáil finishes on 14 December, we will sit on 15 December; if the Dáil finishes on 15 December, we will sit the following week. The Whips will have a good indication tomorrow morning about the business between now and Christmas.

Senator Costello asked about the Convention on Human Rights. The reason we put through that Bill was that the Government would sign the Convention on 10 December. The Committee of Selection is meeting at 4 o'clock and their report will be before the House at 6.30 p.m.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Norris has moved the following amendment to the Order of Business:

That Item No. 29 be taken after Item No. 8.

Is the amendment seconded?

Mr. Ross: I second the amendment.

An Cathaoirleach: Is the amendment being pressed?

Mr. Norris: In light of the fact that we do not want to be tedious and that the Leader of the House has given an indication he will bring the matter back to Government, we will withdraw the amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order of Business agreed to.