Seanad Éireann - Volume 134 - 22 October, 1992

Order of Business.

Mr. Wright: Before I propose today's Order of Business may I mention two points in relation to yesterday's business? Obviously the House is concerned with the situation in Aer Lingus, and it is also my personal concern. I have been in touch with the Minister and, subject to the agreement of the House, she will come to the Seanad next week to give the up to date position following her meeting with the board today. I believe that is the proper approach. I have already heard one statement on the radio which suggested that it is an evolving situation. In this way we will have the most up to date information on it.

The House will sit on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of next week, the times to be agreed among the Whips, to deal with the referenda Bills.

It is proposed to take Item No. 1 on the Order paper today. The format agreed is that the Minister will start the debate and the spokesperson of each group will have 20 minutes, with 15 minutes for each speaker thereafter. The Minister will take a question and answer session not later than 4.30 p.m., depending on how the debate goes. If the House feels the Minister should come in earlier, we can do that. I welcome this innovation and thank the Minister and the Whips. If that [446] is agreed, that is how we will take this very important debate on education today.

An Cathaoirleach: How long is it envisaged the question will take?

Mr. Wright: We will conclude at 5 p.m.

Mr. Manning: In the general atmosphere of sweet reasonableness in the House this morning, may I compliment the Leader of the House on responding so quickly to the request for a major debate on Aer Lingus? Perhaps it is better that we are waiting until next week when more information will be available.

Professor Murphy: I too am happy that we are having a novel initiative later today and I hope it will be extended to other occasions. On the matter of the time limits, I have to accept what the Whips have agreed. At the same time, I must say that for those of us who looked forward for a long time to this major event in Irish educational policy, it is very disappointing that we should be so restricted for time. I had to express my regret in this matter.

In relation to next week's business, perhaps it is too early to indicate the precise timing of the different Stages, but could the Leader give us an idea whether there will be a time restriction on each speaker during the debate on the referenda Bill?

Dr. Upton: May I welcome the initiative taken by the Leader in organising this question and answer session this afternoon? I hope it goes well and he is to be complimented on it. I am also pleased that he proposes to make time available for a debate on Aer Lingus next week. That is very desirable. I was pleased to hear on the news as I came in this morning that there was no talk of job losses. Let us hope that position holds and that it can be confirmed here next week.

Would it be possible to have a debate on prices in the near future given that the Government seem unable to ensure that the savings which are being made from [447] sterling are passed on to consumers? All we are getting are empty threats and harmless exhortations, while people are fattening themselves and lining their pockets and consumers are being ripped off.

Professor Conroy: I join in welcoming what is a small but significant step forward in the role of the Seanad. I congratulate the Leader of the House and the Minister for agreeing to this question and answer session.

Mrs. Honan: I too would like to thank the Leader, Senator Wright, for this innovation which might be extended to other debates. A half hour for a question and answer session with a senior Cabinet Minister is short, but I still welcome it.

I also welcome the fact that the Minister, Deputy Geoghegan-Quinn is coming to the House next week to make a statement on Aer Lingus. It is important to remember that Aer Lingus is not an airline that belongs to one Dublin constituency, it is a national airline and we all have its interests at heart. I welcome the fact that the Minister will come to the House next week to speak to us.

Mr. Norris: I move: “That Item No. 16, motion 35 on the Order Paper be inserted before Item No. 1”.

Mr. Staunton: I want to raise with the Leader of the House an issue I have been raising for about two years, that is regional development and policy in relation to the west. I have pointed out to him that a series of hugely attended meetings have taken place in the past two years which were organised by the bishops in the west. The Leader of the House agreed on a number of occasions to arrange a debate on this issue in this House but it has not happened. At one stage he suggested it could be discussed in the context of national industrial policy but, to be frank, that would be completely unacceptable to me. I do not want to seem a crank here but if the debate I have been seeking for two years is not [448] granted I will have to continue making my request. I am asking the Leader of the House to get to grips with this issue. We have a few weeks between now and Christmas and I would appreciate it if he would address this issue, which in principle he agreed to do, and set a debate in motion during this session.

Mr. B. Ryan: I formally second Senator Norris's amendment to the Order of Business.

Mr. Wright: The Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan, should be thanked for the way in which we are running today's business. The procedure was extremely successful last week in the Dáil and I hope it will be successful here today.

There probably will be time limits next week, subject to agreement between the Whips and leaders. The time limit will be on contributions but there will be no time limit on the hours or the days on which we sit.

Senator Upton asked for a debate on price reductions due to the fall in sterling. In fairness to the Minister, Deputy O'Rourke, she has made the Government's position quite clear on that issue — that if she does not see action the Government will take measures. If we look at the daily papers at present, some of the major companies are advertising on the basis of 20 per cent reductions on various articles. Members can be assured that if it is the feeling that we should have a debate on that matter we will find time in a week or two to have that debate.

I believe a debate on the county enterprise boards would be an ideal opportunity for Senator Staunton to raise the matter he mentioned and I hope that in the not too distant future we will be debating the county enterprise partnership boards.

Mr. Staunton: I have sought a specific debate on a specific issue, not the county development boards.

An Cathaoirleach: The Leader has replied and I am not allowing further [449] debate. Senator Norris has moved an amendment to the Order of Business. He has moved: “That Item No. 16, motion 35, be inserted before Item No. 1”. Is this amendment being pressed?

Mr. Norris: In deference to the exigencies of the programme for today I will not press the amendment today but I cannot promise to be so tractable next week.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Order of Business agreed to.