Coalition to 'guillotine' debate on Bills

 

THE GOVERNMENT will “guillotine” debate on at least 17 Bills in the last three weeks of the Dáil before the summer recess, Opposition parties have claimed.

According to the whips for Fine Gael and Labour, the Government is rushing an unprecedented number of Bills through the Dáil between now and July 10th and forcing votes without allowing proper debate.

According to Fine Gael whip Paul Kehoe and his Labour counterpart Emmet Stagg, six Bills have been guillotined this week, seven Bills will be subject to the same treatment next week, with a further four Bills being “rushed” through in the final week.

The allocation of time for debate led to acrimonious scenes in the Dáil yesterday, which led to Ceann Comhairle John O’Donoghue suspending the House for 10 minutes.

However, Government chief whip Pat Carey yesterday challenged the claim, saying that many of the debates had concluded without a vote being forced or without a guillotine being imposed.

“The guillotine is not there though it could have been used if necessary,” said Mr Carey. “It was not necessary to close down any debate this week,” he said.

However, Mr Stagg said the Dáil had a constitutional requirement to debate legislation which was not happening at present.

“The Government is the executive and is not the legislative body,” he said.

“But legislation is being passed as presented by the executive. Every morning they set aside the standing orders of the House to let that happen. Then they simply push the Bills through,” he said.

He said the Housing Bill had a total of 170 amendments and the time allotted allowed for one minute and 20 seconds for debate on each one. “It’s very undemocratic. Not even backbenchers from the Government parties can have a say. Its a dictatorship when law is made by executive without reference to the Dáil,” he said.

His view won support from Mr Kehoe, who said that it was wrong for the Government to introduce a new Bill and for all stages of the legislation to be dealt with in the one day.

“If you look back earlier in this Dáil term we were discussing statements every day for almost two weeks because there was no legislation available for debate.

“Usually, there are a lot of Bills in the run-up to the holiday period. This year has been the highest since I became whip ,” he said.

Mr Carey accepted that the next two weeks would be very busy, but insisted: “It’s entirely possible that we will be required to bring debates to an early conclusion in only a small number of cases.”

The schedule of legislation includes two separate Criminal Justice Bills, legislation for the €200 second home tax, an Aviation Bill, the Health Insurance Bill, the Bill for the second Lisbon referendum, the Bill ending pensions paid to serving Ministers, as well as the concluding stages of the Defamation Bill.