Wednesday, 23 November 2011
Order of Business
It is proposed to take No. a9, Road Transport Bill 2011 - Financial Resolution; No. 9, motion re membership of committee; No. 13, statements on sustainability in the sea fisheries sector; and No. 3, Road Transport Bill 2011 - Order for Second Stage and Second and Subsequent Stages.
It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that (1) Nos. a9 and 9 shall be decided without debate; (2) the proceedings on No. 13 shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after 80 minutes and the following arrangements shall apply: (i) the statements shall be made by a Minister or Minister of State and by the main spokespersons for Fianna Fáil, Sinn Féin and the Technical Group, who shall be called upon in that order and who may share their time, and shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case; and (ii) a Minister or Minister of State shall take questions for a period not exceeding 20 minutes; and (3) No. 3 shall be taken today and the following arrangements shall apply in regard to Second and Subsequent Stages: (i) the proceedings on Second Stage shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 12.30 p.m. tomorrow; and (ii) the proceedings on Committee and Remaining Stages shall commence immediately upon the conclusion of Second Stage and, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion at 1.30 p.m. tomorrow by one question which shall be put from the Chair and which shall, in regard to amendments, include only those set down or accepted by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport. Private Members' business shall be No. 36, motion re local authority rates (resumed), to conclude at 9 p.m., if not previously concluded.
It is not agreed. The 19th document laid before the Dáil, as referred to in the Order Paper, is entitled "EU/IMF Programme of Financial Support for Ireland - Draft Programme Documents, November 2011". Apparently it has been lodged in the Oireachtas Library. It relates to the draft programme that was circulated to German parliamentarians. I have asked for time to be provided to the House-----
Therefore, if the Deputy wishes to have Standing Orders amended, I suggest that he get his Whip to bring his proposals to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges to have them debated and brought to the House, at which point we can consider whether they should be changed. In the meantime, I will apply the rules as they are. What the Deputy is attempting to do now is totally out of order.
I oppose the order the Ceann Comhairle is putting to me. My understanding, based on precedent, is that I am entitled to comment on why I oppose the order. As the leader of an Opposition party, I must state-----
I asked for section 12 consideration regarding this issue yesterday. It is unprecedented that documentation would go to German parliamentarians before Irish ones. I do not have any problem with the concept once we get the documentation first. I find it extraordinary that we do not even get an opportunity to ask questions about it.
-----on the grounds that I would prefer to have time for a session of questions and answers, with either the Minister for Finance or the Taoiseach, on the process that led to the documentation going to the German Parliament before it came to the Dáil.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 92 (Tom Barry, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Catherine Byrne, Eric Byrne, Ciarán Cannon, Joe Carey, Paudie Coffey, Áine Collins, Paul Connaughton, Ciara Conway, Noel Coonan, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Joe Costello, Simon Coveney, Michael Creed, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Deering, Paschal Donohoe, Robert Dowds, Andrew Doyle, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Anne Ferris, Peter Fitzpatrick, Charles Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brendan Griffin, Dominic Hannigan, Noel Harrington, Simon Harris, Tom Hayes, Martin Heydon, Phil Hogan, Heather Humphreys, Kevin Humphreys, Derek Keating, Colm Keaveney, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Seán Kenny, Seán Kyne, Anthony Lawlor, Ciarán Lynch, Kathleen Lynch, John Lyons, Michael McCarthy, Shane McEntee, Nicky McFadden, Dinny McGinley, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Michael McNamara, Eamonn Maloney, Peter Mathews, Olivia Mitchell, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Michelle Mulherin, Dara Murphy, Eoghan Murphy, Gerald Nash, Dan Neville, Derek Nolan, Michael Noonan, Patrick Nulty, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Kieran O'Donnell, Patrick O'Donovan, John O'Mahony, Jan O'Sullivan, Maureen O'Sullivan, Willie Penrose, Ann Phelan, John Paul Phelan, Ruairi Quinn, James Reilly, Brendan Ryan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Joanna Tuffy, Liam Twomey, Jack Wall, Brian Walsh, Alex White)
Against the motion: 42 (Gerry Adams, Richard Boyd Barrett, John Browne, Dara Calleary, Joan Collins, Niall Collins, Michael Colreavy, Barry Cowen, Seán Crowe, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Luke Flanagan, Tom Fleming, Noel Grealish, John Halligan, Séamus Healy, Michael Healy-Rae, Joe Higgins, Billy Kelleher, Michael Kitt, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Charlie McConalogue, Mary Lou McDonald, Finian McGrath, John McGuinness, Sandra McLellan, Micheál Martin, Catherine Murphy, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Éamon Ó Cuív, Jonathan O'Brien, Willie O'Dea, Thomas Pringle, Shane Ross, Brendan Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Mick Wallace)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Lyons and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Dara Calleary and Michael Colreavy.
Question declared carried.
Is the proposal for dealing with No. 13, statements on sustainability in the sea fisheries sector, agreed to? Agreed. Is the proposal for dealing with No. 3, Road Transport Bill 2011 - Order for Second Stage, Second and Subsequent Stages, agreed to? Agreed.
There is a real problem about the ordering of business here and I am looking for some advice. For example, the summit on 9 December will consider propositions from the European Commission. We should have a discussion before that meeting. I know I can be referred to the Whips and so forth, but I want some handle on this. There is a real issue with German parliamentarians being able to discuss this matter and we have not yet. We made a pre-budget submission that was almost fully costed - there were approximately three items for which the Department of Finance would not give us figures. We sent it to the Minister for Finance and to the Taoiseach. While we could debate this in Private Members' time, it would be far better if the Government allowed us and the other parties time to discuss these matters and we had a different approach to how a budget is put together. We should have prior discussions as opposed to discussions when it is a fait accompli. The Government has such a majority it can just tolerate and then go ahead with what it wants to do.
As I told the Taoiseach yesterday, the House should have an opportunity to discuss that draft programme of budget details that was sent to the German Parliament. We should have been allowed the opportunity to ask questions on how it got to the German parliamentarians before it was debated properly in this House. The Minister should have explained it to the House and taken questions on that specific item. That should have happened and the Taoiseach should have volunteered it. It has now taken five days to get the documentation placed in the Oireachtas Library. When I requested that yesterday, the Taoiseach said only that he would consider it and did not have the grace to say he would do that which seemed the obvious course of action. I am surprised we have not had the opportunity to have that discussion in the House.
I also ask that we be given an opportunity to debate the options and issues confronting the people before the budget. The Taoiseach has indicated that he will make a state of the nation address. Perhaps these two items could be put together and an address could be made about how the Taoiseach sees the issues facing the Government before the budget and the questions that will influence how the Government will approach the budget. Opposition parties should have the opportunity to outline their views about options and alternatives facing into the budget. Particularly given the number of kites being flown and the fear and anxiety being caused to ordinary people, it is only fair, reasonable and democratic to have a debate in the Dáil in which people can set out their perspectives on how we can deal with the economic crisis and the severe issues facing the country in advance of the final budget announcements.
As is now normal procedure, we like to have discussions or comments from the Members of the House before European Council meetings and after. That is a change that was introduced since the Government was formed. In this case the budget will be on 6 December and I need to attend an EPP meeting in Marseilles on 7 December before the meeting in Brussels. We will need to make arrangements for the forthcoming Council meeting to be held on 9 December sometime before that. I will see that happens in accordance with the established practice we have.
Deputy Martin asked how the material got to the German parliamentary committee. He will be aware that as part of the troika, the Commission has to get the documentation about the previous quarter in order that it can sign off on it and approve the further moneys for Ireland under the bailout programme. Because the budget is so close, it sought information about the intentions of the Minister for Finance in this regard and that was sent to the Commission in confidence. It has admitted it should not have sent that to the German Parliament's budget committee. That was sent in confidence given the proximity of the budget. It is duty bound to send the other material - the assessment for the preceding quarter - to the German parliamentary committee, because it is now inserted into the German constitution that it must be so informed. However, it was not bound to send the information about the general intentions of the Minister for Finance about our budget, which is our business here. It has admitted its fault in that. So it is not necessary to have an investigation to find out what happened. We now know what happened and the Commission clarified it was wrong. As I have said, the Minister for Finance has protested very strongly about a breach of confidentiality to Commissioner Rehn in that regard. The material was sent in confidence because of the proximity of the budget.
In regard to Deputy Boyd Barrett's comment, he will obviously have plenty of time during the budget discussions. I suggest that he work with his colleagues on the other side of the House. He can use Private Members' time and I will see what other opportunities might be found for having discussions about the general financial situation.
I would if the Ceann Comhairle let me. If it is true that Fr. Reynolds offered to undergo a paternity test before RTE aired the "Prime Time Investigates" programme and RTE ignored this and recklessly carried on to air the programme, thus exposing licence payers, does the Government propose to bring forward legislation to ensure this type of action will never happen again and licence payers will not be exposed to massive payouts? Have there been payouts such as this in the past? What were the costs involved?