Seanad Éireann - Volume 128 - 13 March, 1991

Order of Business.

Mr. Fallon: It is proposed to take item No. 3 — Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendment) Bill, 1990 — all Stages, if at all possible, to 6 p.m. There will be a sos from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m. and we will resume discussion on the Independents' motion at 6.30 p.m. to 8 p.m. From 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. we will debate item No. 4. In that connection there will be 20 minutes per opening speaker and 15 minutes for every other Senator. That debate will conclude at 10 p.m.

Mr. Manning: I have no difficulty with the business as ordered for today — but I have two queries to make to the Leader of the House. I am very unhappy that it is proposed to take all Stages of the Sugar Bill on Friday, which was not agreed by the Whips at the end of last week. Rather than pre-empt the issue here, would the Leader of the House agree to call a meeting of the Whips after the Order of Business to see if we can sort this out? Also, will the Leader give some indication of what legislation he expects to take between now and the Easter recess?

Mr. O'Toole: I also want to raise the matter of the Friday sitting. I am not content to leave it to a meeting of the Whips. I think the House is entitled to an explanation. We refer often enough to the need for an effective Whips system but it just has not worked this week. There are often difficulties and people can live with that but the idea of at such short notice bringing in a major piece of legislation, trying to rush through all Stages, and also doing it without any [4] notice of a sitting day, is utterly unacceptable. It makes it impossible to plan a proper contribution to the business. It also makes it impossible to have a Whips system that is effective.

I recognise, a Chathaoirligh, that this is not on the Order of Business, but I think it is an issue which should be raised today in order to avoid difficulties on another day. I would certainly want in the House a full and complete explanation from the Leader as to why we find ourselves in this position. Why the undue haste? We could all be knocked down in the rush towards privatisation just because somebody in Government feels that is the thing to do at this point. In the light of that decision to rush business through this week, which always tends to happen towards the end of the term, I would like to get an assurance from the Leader of the House that we will not have a repeat of this over the next two weeks.

I would like to have a run down on the business that is available to us. It is our understanding on these benches that we will be dealing with the Environmental Protection Agency Bill at least one day next week, but I noticed that in another place the Minister for Labour was quoted as saying he intended pushing through the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Bill before Easter. If that happens to be the case, neither the Leader nor the Whip has given any indication to us that the Bill was going to be taken before Easter. If the Minister for Labour is saying it is going to be, then I think we are entitled to due notice to deal with it. It would not be acceptable to have that serious legislation on which people wish to make contributions rushed through in a day.

On the question of the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, I have asked the Leader over the past number of weeks to indicate to us how he expects that Bill to be taken; in other words, how much of it he expects to be taken at the first sitting. This is obviously important to people who want to make a contribution to it. They will need to know how much of the Bill they need to prepare, and people do not have that much time on hand.

[5] I would also ask you, a Chathaoirligh, to indicate to us, as has been asked from these benches last week on a number of occasions, when the Government amendments to this Bill are going to be available. I want to say now for the record that it is not acceptable for us to get the Government amendments to the Environmental Protection Agency Bill next Monday or Tuesday, when the Bill is to be taken the following day. It does not do justice to the Bill.

Dr. Upton: I, too, raise my concern and objections to the way in which this Sugar Bill appears to be ordered for Friday. I certainly would be very concerned at the idea that this Bill would be rammed through on that day. That is most unacceptable. May I ask the Leader if he can give us some indication of what he plans to have taken by way of legislation between now and the end of this term?

Mr. J. Ryan: I would also like to support the protest by the Members about the manner in which the Sugar Bill is being rushed through the House on Friday in view of the manner in which the workers were treated in the past at the other two plants. It is most important that all Members here be in a position to comment. I am asking the question through the Chair: why the hurry about passing all Stages of the Bill on Friday?

Mr. Norris: I would like to support what has been said about taking the Sugar Bill on Friday because, like a number of other people, I have agreed to take part in some other public functions on Friday and I will not be able to be here. I regret that.

Mrs. Honan: This is where you should be.

Mr. Norris: Wait until you see——

Mr. O'Toole: That is uncalled for. We have talked about planning, time and time again. We have often accepted your unavailability on Mondays.

[6] An Cathaoirleach: Senator O'Toole, you have spoken already. Senator Norris to continue.

Mr. Norris: I am all in favour of legislation, to work a week for the Seanad, and I have made this clear; but I think the extension of sittings at very short notice, when some of us had planned very serious matters for the day, is regrettable.

An Cathaoirleach: The House sits in accordance with the decision of the House and the House cannot take into account personal interests for individuals themselves. Your difficulty is not associated in any respect with the Order of Business. It is a matter for you entirely.

Mr. Norris: I am sure you will agree that the Order of Business of this House should be ordered with a certain degree of courtesy and that includes informing people with some degree of——

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Norris, you have gone off the deep end altogether.

Mr. Norris: I am not going to bandy clichés, a Chathaoirligh. I would like to mention two further matters, if I may, and not in any carping sense. It is something that is often brought up on the Order of Business, namely, the question of the reporting of the business of the House. I listened on several weekends to RTE's Oireachtas report, which dealt exclusively with the Dáil. This is in line with certain regrettable elements, because at the time of the last election there was a book published which was a report on the election and it completely excluded the Seanad. I think that is a pity.

With regard to item No. 3 — Destructive Insects and Pests (Amendment) Bill, 1990 — in the light of the warm reception given to certain remarks of the former Tánaiste at the Ard Fheis this weekend, is it the Government's intention that this should cover their relations with the Progressive Democrats?

An Cathaoirleach: That has nothing to [7] do with the Order of Business and it is not a great attempt at a joke either.

Mr. Mooney: Senator Norris is always a hard act to follow. I would like to ask the Leader of the House if, under the recently accepted rules extending access of this House to distinguished visitors and in anticipation of the release of the Birmingham Six the next meeting of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges might give consideration to extending an invitation to them?

An Cathaoirleach: I cannot allow that question.

Mr. Mooney: I am asking only that the Committee on Procedure and Privileges——

An Cathaoirleach: That application can be made——

Mr. Mooney: ——might give consideration, in anticipation of the release, to extending an invitation to visit this House?

An Cathaoirleach: It is the Committee on Procedure and Privileges you should address. I wish to point out to you that the manner in which you have raised this matter is not the appropriate way to do justice to the case you are making. It is made usually in a particular form to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges and after that the House may take a decision, with the Committee on Procedure and Privileges making certain recommendations.

Mr. Mooney: Of course, I bow to your ruling. My reason for raising it in this fashion is because of the public nature of the case and also because it might afford an opportunity to Members on all sides of the House perhaps to be associated with it.

[8] An Cathaoirleach: I just had to point out the procedure to you.

Mr. Mooney: I appreciate that.

Mrs. Doyle: I would like to ask the Leader of the House if we can expect legislation dealing with local government reform that will be relevant to the portion of the local elections on 27 June which we have been told we can expect at this stage. In view of the importance of local government reform, particularly to this House where five of the six panels are elected through the local government system, will the Leader assure the House there will be no rushing through of any legislation? We might even request that it be initiated in the Seanad and thence go to the Dáil.

Mr. B. Ryan: I was late coming into the Chamber but I want to support my colleague, Senator O'Toole, in registering a strong protest with the Leader of the House about the decision to sit on Friday to discuss the Comhlucht Siúicre Éireann Bill. This is an issue on which I would have liked to say a considerable amount. I can find it possible to be here on any occasion, given reasonable notice. I actually assumed it had been agreed and we would be presented with something like this in the way it was done. I want to say I am disappointed the general willingness to run this House by agreement seems to have been put aside.

An Cathaoirleach: Senator, if you have a question, please put it.

Mr. B. Ryan: The question is: why?

Mr. Fallon: Senator Manning queried the calling of Whips to discuss aspects of the debate on the Sugar Bill and certainly that can be done; there is no question about that. He also asked what other matters will have to be taken before Easter. I can say, on the information given to me, that the Sugar Bill is one such measure, as is the Social Welfare Bill and the Worker Protection (Regular Part-Time Employees) Bill is another.

[9] However, I think the wise thing, as Senator Manning said, is that the Whips would have a meeting this evening to discuss proposals for the business this week and perhaps for next week also.

Senator O'Toole asked about the Sugar Bill and the Environmental Protection Agency Bill. I understood that amendments are still coming in at present, so I am not aware now of how it will be dealt with, in what stages it will be taken, how it will be controlled and so on. I will make inquiries and inform the Senator.

Senator Upton asked about the Sugar Bill and he made a protest. Senator Ryan indicated the haste with which it is being taken, as did Senator Norris. Certainly, some Independents were aware that it was proposed to take it this week.

Mr. O'Toole: On Friday evening. This was not raised at the Whips meeting.

Mr. Fallon: I accept the point that it was not common knowledge, but certainly it was available to the Whips as it was given out by our Whips on Friday afternoon to all the other Whips.

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: I must ask Senator O'Toole to allow Senator Fallon to proceed without interruption.

Mr. Fallon: In regard to the Sugar Bill taken on Friday, the Government are most anxious that the Stock Exchange flotation of Greencore Holdings, the proposed holding company of Siúicre Éireann, should take place in the next few weeks. It has been pointed out to me that if the flotation does not proceed by early April, it will be delayed for several months because of the need to comply with the Stock Exchange rule which necessitates the preparation of audited accounts to the end of March this year. A delay would, therefore, be undesirable as it would mean that the flotation would prejudice the decision already taken to float Irish Life later this year. There are serious doubts whether the Irish market [10] has the capacity to take on board two major issues such as a short period. As things stand, Siúicre Éireann flotations has been signalled for some time and it is expected by the investing institutions in the next few weeks. Any delay in proceeding would undermine the perception of potential investors as to the commitment of the Government on this issue.

With regard to the need to deal with the Bill this week, the position is that much of the substantial legal work pertaining to the flotation cannot proceed until the Bill is enacted. In particular, the necessary legal power to acquire and dispose of shares in the holding company is urgently required. Also, the Stock Exchange is unable to clear much of the documentation in relation to the listing in the absence of the necessary legislation. If the Bill is not enacted this week the timetable for flotation in the next weeks cannot be met. While it is understood that Senators will naturally wish to have a full——

(Interruptions.)

An Cathaoirleach: Senator Fallon, without interruption.

Mr. B. Ryan: We are entitled to a proper explanation.

An Cathaoirleach: You are not entitled at this stage to interrupt Senator Fallon The Leader of the House is entitled to reply in whatever form he wishes, and he is doing so. If it does not satisfy the Senator, I can do nothing about it.

Mr. Fallon: I am trying to explain to the House the Government thinking behind this. While it is understood that Senators will naturally wish to have a full debate on this important Bill, the position is that most of the matters that gave rise to the long and detailed debate in the Dáil have been settled and are no longer an issue. The main concerns——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Fallon: ——in the Dáil related to [11] the rights of employees. As a result of a ministerial amendment and certain assurances from the company, the matters giving rise to concern have been resolved. Indeed, the company and unions signed an agreement which has been lodged with the Labour Relations Commission. Effectively, the matters which gave rise to concern in the Dáil are no longer contentious and thus are unlikely to give rise to a detailed debate. That is by way of explanation for the Senators. They may not be happy with it but that is the position as I understand it.

Senator Norris also referred to the Sugar Bill. He also referred to some aspect of broadcasting, which is a matter for the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. On item 3, not for the first time he is being mischievous.

Senator Mooney raised a matter which was a Committee on Procedure and Privileges matter. Senator Doyle raised the question of local government reform and asked when the Bill might be available. It certainly will be available in the next session and it might possibly be available at the end of April or in May.

Mrs. Doyle: I worked that out myself.

Mr. Fallon: I will try to work it out with you, Senator. Senator Ryan asked about notice in regard to dealing with the Sugar Bill. Senators on this side of the [12] House, I have to say, got the same notice as everybody else, because it was given out by the Whip, and that is the situation.

An Cathaoirleach: Before we agree on the Order of Business, I would like to clarify the position regarding the mover of item 4. Is it 20 minutes for the mover and——

Mr. Fallon: Twenty minutes for the mover of the motion and for the leader of each group, if they want that, and 15 minutes thereafter.

An Cathaoirleach: Twenty minutes for the mover and the leader of each grouping in the House and 15 minutes for other speakers after that. Is the Order of Business agreed?

Senators: No.

An Cathaoirleach: The question is: “That the Order of Business be items 3, 4 and 14, Motion 69, with business to be interrupted from 6 p.m. to 6.30 p.m., debate on motion 69 to commence at 6.30 p.m. and item 4 to commence thereafter, with the contribution of the first speaker from each party on item 4 not to exceed 20 minutes and of every other speaker not to exceed 15 minutes.”

Mr. B. Ryan: Vótáil.

Question put.

The Seanad divided: Tá, 30; Níl, 9.

Bennett, Olga.

Byrne, Hugh.

Byrne, Seán.

Cassidy, Donie.

Conroy, Richard.

Cullen, Martin.

Dardis, John.

Fallon, Seán.

Farrell, Willie.

Finneran, Michael.

Fitzgerald, Tom.

Foley, Denis.

Hanafin, Des.

Haughey, Seán F.

Honan, Tras.

Hussey, Thomas.

Kiely, Dan.

Kiely, Rory.

Lanigan, Michael.

Lydon, Don.

McCarthy, Seán.

McGowan, Paddy.

McKenna, Tony.

Mooney, Paschal.

O'Brien, Francis.

Ó Cuív, Éamon.

O'Donovan, Denis A.

O'Keeffe, Batt.

Ryan, Eoin David.

Wright, G.V.

Níl

[13]Harte, John.

Hederman, Carmencita.

Murphy, John A.

Norris, David.

[14]O'Toole, Joe.

Ross, Shane P.N.

Ryan, Brendan.

Ryan, John.

Upton, Pat.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Wright and Fitzgerald; Níl, Senators O'Toole and B. Ryan.

Question declared carried.

Order of Business agreed to.