Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 17 November 2020

Select Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach

Business of Select Committee

Photo of John McGuinnessJohn McGuinness (Carlow-Kilkenny, Fianna Fail)
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I ask members to turn off their mobile phones. I welcome the members present and the Minister and his officials.

Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him or her identifiable.

Parliamentary privilege is considered to apply to the utterances of members participating online in a committee meeting when their participation is from within the parliamentary precincts. For this purpose the parliamentary precincts are considered to be the accommodation assigned to Members in Leinster House, any other location in Leinster House, Leinster House 2000 or the Convention Centre, Dublin on days on which the relevant House sits there. I ask members to note that they may participate remotely in proceedings held in public only from the locations listed above as privilege for their utterances only applies when participating from these locations.

It is also important to note that in order to participate in a division, the committee member must be physically present in the room.

Members are reminded that due to Covid-19 restrictions, each session must conclude within two hours.

We are discussing the Finance Bill. Members received a proposed timetable for the consideration of provisions today. I draw members' attention to the proposal regarding section 54 and later sections. It will be necessary to make an Order later today in this regard. Members are asked to review that and contact the clerk with any proposals and issues they might have.

Any member acting in substitution for another member of the committee should formally notify the clerk. Divisions will be taken as they arise. Members attending this meeting should be aware that, pursuant to Standing Order 106(3), they may move their amendments but cannot participate in voting on those amendments.

I would also like to thank the clerks, all of the staff, the Minister and his officials for their work yesterday, because it was an exceptional challenge. The members co-operated fully and we got through quite a lot, but we are due to finish tomorrow evening at 7 p.m, so I ask that we stick to that.

Members are tied up in these sessions for long periods of time and are often not in a position to participate in Dáil debates. Therefore I am using my position as Chair to express my thanks to one side of the Cabinet for reaching the decision not to go ahead and prosecute people, as was being proposed in a memo sent by the Minister for Health. I am not asking members to comment on it, but I hope that common sense prevails in respect of many other issues relative to lockdown. The issue relates to the Finance Bill, because it is one that is affecting our economy, and if we do not open in a way that is constructive and that brings all stakeholders on board to co-operate in terms of the law, then we will end up in serious difficulty for the future. As we discuss matters pertaining to the Finance Bill, I have discussed with another Minister the issue of Cork Institute of Technology and the need to deal with outstanding matters there in terms of the waste of taxpayers' money. I intend to raise it this week in the Dáil to make it public, because it is not being dealt with, and I feel that if the matter were to be approached in a constructive manner, we would have no difficulty. There is always the option to appoint an investigator to address that particular situation, or a visitor, as they say. I will return to that issue in due course.