The government chief whip has defended plans to change Dáil speaking arrangements on the basis that it restores the position of organised political parties speaking with one voice as against a technical group that of its nature could not do so.

The revised scheme, which will be the subject of a brief debate in the Dáil tomorrow, would restore Labour's role as the second opposition group.

Since the independents, Sinn Féin and the Greens forged an agreement two weeks ago their so-called technical group has spoken after Fine Gael in the Dáil.

Chief whip Mary Hanafin said the initiative for the move came from the Labour Party.

As part of the deal the Taoiseach will no longer be obliged to answer questions in the Dáil each Thursday.

Ms Hanafin said that notwithstanding this change, Mr Ahern would still appear before parliament for a longer period than any other European leader.