Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan has accused the Opposition of risking confidence in the economy by political pointscoring.

His comments came tonight in a Fine Gael private members debate on the economy.

Earlier the new Dáil term had been marked by a row over pairing arrangements for ministers and exchanges over the government's management of the economic downturn.

Fine Gael leader Enda Kenny claimed the Government failed to take note of warning signs of an economic downturn.

At Leaders' Questions this morning, Mr Kenny accused the Government of gross political cowardice for not holding an emergency debate on the economy.

He also criticised the Government for wastage of tax-payers' money outlined in the Comptroller and Auditor General's report.

The Taoiseach said successive governments must learn lessons from reports issued by the C&AG.

Brian Cowen also defended the Government's record on the economy.

He said it was taking action in bringing forward the Budget date. A balanced and coherent plan would be presented on that day, he added.

Fine Gael made its protest over the lack of an emergency debate known, by breaking off from a routine voting arrangement with the Government.

Mr Cowen was not present during the debate this evening as he was on his way to New York for the UN General Assembly.