Tuesday, 12 November 2002
Dáil Eireann Debate
93. Mr. F. McGrath asked the Minister for Finance the rationale underpinning a 14.5% pay increase for TDs and Ministers from the Buckley Report and 13.8% from the benchmarking body, while low-paid workers receive no increase and 8% of children live in poverty. [15488/02]
Minister for Finance (Mr. McCreevy): Over the past 30 years the pay of TDs has been examined by the review body on higher remuneration in the public sector. The review body, which was established in 1969, is an independent standing body whose primary function is to advise the Government on the general levels of remuneration appropriate to higher public servants, members of the Judiciary, Members of the Oireachtas and other political office holders.
The review body carries out general reviews of higher remuneration in the public sector every four years. Its most recent general review was carried out in the course of 2000, and its report was published by the Government in January 2001. In line with the established policy of accepting the recommendations of this independent body, the Government decided to accept and implement the recommendations in its report. The recommendations were implemented in four phases between 25 September 2000 and 1 April 2002.
The report of the review body recommended that the salary of a TD should be set at the ordinary maximum of the grade of principal, standard, in the Civil Service. It went on to state that, as its recommendation provided a basis for the future automatic review of the remuneration of TDs, their remuneration should no longer form part of the remit for general reviews. Accordingly, TDs will in future receive the same pay increases as principals in the Civil Service, including increases arising from the benchmarking process.
The Public Service Benchmarking Body was established as an independent body in July 2000 under the terms of the PPF to examine public service pay and jobs by comparison with the private sector. The body reported in July 2002 and recommended varying level of pay increases for the grades examined. It recommended that the principal grade should receive an increase of 11.7%.
While Deputies will receive an increase this time from benchmarking on top of the review body, this arises because of the shift to the new system as recommended by the review body. In future only increases in the Civil Service comparator will apply.
As the Deputy may be aware, this Government committed itself in an Agreed Programme for Government to the creation of a society where everybody has the opportunity and the incentive to participate fully in the social and economic life of the country. This is supported by the Programme for Prosperity and Fairness and the ongoing implementation of the National Anti-Poverty Strategy.
The review of the national anti-poverty strategy, published earlier this year, recognises that poverty is complex and multi-faceted and requires a co-ordinated response. Accordingly, the strategy is based on the principle of cross-departmental action and contains explicit targets for the reduction of poverty, including that of reducing the number of children who are consistently poor below 2% and, if possible, eliminating consistent poverty under the current definition of consistent poverty used by ESRI.
A number of measures in this area have already had significant positive effects on the income levels of families with children. One of the major elements of support for child and family life is provided through child benefit, which is a universal payment payable in respect of all children up to the age of 16 years and continues to be paid in respect of children up to the age of 19 who are in full-time education, or who have a physical or mental disability. The current rates of child benefit, as of April this year, are €117.60 for each of the first two children and €147.30 for third and subsequent children. This is an increase of more than 200% over the rates payable in 1997 when this Government first came into office and represents a valuable financial support to all parents. It should also be noted that where a claimant is in receipt of a long-term social welfare payment, child dependant Increases are payable where children are in full-time education up to the age of 22 years, or up to the end of the academic year after the 22nd birthday.
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