Dáil debates

Tuesday, 18 May 2004

Ceisteanna — Questions.

Committee on Social Inclusion.

2:30 pm

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Question 1: To ask the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on social inclusion last met. [10499/04]

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Question 2: To ask the Taoiseach when the Cabinet committee on social inclusion last met. [13453/04]

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

The Cabinet committee on social inclusion last met on 25 February 2004. This was the tenth meeting of the committee in the past 12 months. The next meeting of the committee is scheduled for 26 May.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I am surprised by the Taoiseach's very short response on such an important issue.

Photo of Enda KennyEnda Kenny (Leader of the Opposition; Opposition Spokesperson on Northern Ireland; Mayo, Fine Gael)
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That is because he is much more decisive now.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I thank Deputy Kenny for that observation.

Michael Smith (Minister, Department of Defence; Tipperary North, Fianna Fail)
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If the answer is short, there is something wrong; if it is long, there is something wrong.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Is it not time the work of the Cabinet committee on social inclusion and drugs was stepped up? Is the Taoiseach aware that there is growing alarm among people in the community sector and those working with drug addicts that we are facing a disastrous increase in the use of cocaine?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I point out to the Deputy that his question simply asked when the Cabinet committee on social inclusion last met. As the Deputy knows, we cannot have a debate on what might be discussed at the Cabinet meeting. That is bound by Cabinet confidentiality.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I am aware of that. I asked the Taoiseach that question and now I am demonstrating why there is a need for the committee to step up its work rate and be more proactive. Will the Taoiseach confirm that he is aware that there is growing concern among people——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise from this question. I suggest the Deputy submit a question on the matter to the appropriate Minister.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It does arise.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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Not out of this question. The question was specific and clear.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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These are the reasons this committee needs to meet on a more frequent and regular basis and become more proactive.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy has made his point.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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We are facing a serious problem. I hope the Taoiseach will acknowledge——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is out of order.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I do not intend to be out of order.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy knows he is out of order. This question has arisen a number of times over the years. Anything that might be discussed at a Cabinet sub-committee is ruled out of order. A question should be submitted to the Minister responsible.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Within the Ceann Comhairle's strict interpretation of what may be asked, what business did the Cabinet committee on social inclusion discuss when it last met?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That does not arise.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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Does it have a commitment to meet again? When will it do so? Will it consider the rise in the use of cocaine? Will it take on board the fact that the Eastern Regional Health——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Deputy to desist from going into detail. The Chair has already ruled on the matter.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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With respect to you, a Cheann Comhairle, I know you would be as enthusiastic in pulling up the first question here if it were any other Member of the House. I have no doubt you will apply——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have consistently ruled on these questions. It is a long-standing rule in the House——

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It is my last attempt to make some breakthrough in regard to the barriers I must contend with. In a previous reply to this question — I presume that is within the ambit of what is allowed — the Taoiseach told me there is an interdepartmental group on drugs to co-ordinate the implementation of the National Drugs Strategy through partnership with Departments, State agencies and the community and voluntary sector to bring to the attention of the Cabinet committee on social inclusion——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is out of order. He knows the question he submitted. I call Deputy Sargent.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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I want confirmation from the Taoiseach — who responded previously to a similar question — as to whether he undertook to bring to the Cabinet committee the information before the interdepartmental group. Will he at least advise us if that has been done since we last addressed the issue on this floor?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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As there has been a ruling on these questions for several years, I cannot go into details. I am just following the practice. It was ruled that the questions are internal to Government. If the Deputy puts down a question to the relevant Minister on the issues he wishes to raise, he will get a full answer.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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I am not sure if this is a statistical or diary question. The Taoiseach might include it in his diary for the next meeting and might remind us about the format and when the decision was taken to have the next meeting. Will it be taken into account that the next meeting will be brought forward to a date which will mean the extra €350 million in tax announced by the Department of Finance will be taken into account?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That issue does not arise out of this question.

Photo of Trevor SargentTrevor Sargent (Dublin North, Green Party)
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Given that the meeting will take place, on what date will it take place and will the matter be taken into account in formulating that date?

Photo of Bertie AhernBertie Ahern (Taoiseach; Dublin Central, Fianna Fail)
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The next meeting will be 26 May.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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Will the Taoiseach explain to the House how it is that official policy in the Chamber is that there is no shortage of money to underpin social inclusive measures, specifically the drugs programmes?

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That issue does not arise out of the question. I have already ruled Deputy Ó Caoláin out of order. The question submitted by both Deputies Ó Caoláin and Sargent is to ask the Taoiseach when the Cabinet sub-committee on social inclusion last met. It is a statistical question which demands a statistical answer. There is a long-standing rule that the work of a Cabinet sub-committee is not discussed on the floor of the House arising out of these questions. That has always been the position. I have ruled on it in regard to Deputies Ó Caoláin and Sargent.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It has always been my understanding that a question is framed like this to permit supplementary questions on the substantive issue.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, that is a misunderstanding.

Photo of Caoimhghín Ó CaoláinCaoimhghín Ó Caoláin (Cavan-Monaghan, Sinn Fein)
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It is practice.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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It is not a question to the CSO about the number of cars imported last year or the number of non-national births in the country. It is a question on which, in previous practice, we would have been permitted to ask a supplementary on the substantive issue.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, Deputy. There are two issues here. The first is the question of Cabinet confidentiality. The second issue is that questions appropriate to line Ministers should go to the Minister responsible, not to the Taoiseach.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I want to be clear in terms of future practice. I suggest with great respect to Deputy Ó Caoláin and Deputy Sargent — and it is none of my business — that they should desist from putting down questions like this in future if the Chair's ruling——

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is a matter entirely for themselves as long as they are within the Standing Order.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I am aware of that, and I was not asking for your opinion, I was offering my own. Are you telling me that the first two questions can only get an answer such as "three", "six", "five", "ten", "one" or "zero"? If that is the case, what is the point in putting down questions? I am sure if I had the time — I do not — there would be no difficulty in finding precedents whereby one could ask a supplementary question on the substantive issue that is addressed by the Cabinet sub-committee, not what happened at the Cabinet sub-committee or what the Taoiseach said to the Minister, Deputy Dempsey, but the substantive issue. With the greatest of respect, I am sure that is true.

Photo of Rory O'HanlonRory O'Hanlon (Cavan-Monaghan, Ceann Comhairle)
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There is a long-standing rule and we debated this regularly in the House over the years. Cabinet confidentiality which arises out of the Cabinet sub-committee prohibits discussion of the issues. Questions that are more appropriate to a line Minister should go to that Minister.

Photo of Pat RabbittePat Rabbitte (Dublin South West, Labour)
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I do not want to hold up the House, but it is a nonsense.