Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2009: Committee Stage (Resumed) and Remaining Stages.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 675 No. 5

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An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Amendments Nos. 20, 21 and 23 are being discussed together and the Minister was in possession.

Minister for Finance (Deputy Brian Lenihan): Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  As stated earlier, amendment No. 20 provides a revised definition of “public servant” to include a board member or Secretary General.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 21:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 5, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 22:

The purpose of this amendment is to exclude persons described at section 2(1)(b)(iii), namely, those who receive a payment in lieu of membership of a public service pension scheme, from the provisions of the Bill. This category of people will not have a superannuation benefit on leaving and if not excluded could seek a refund.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 6, as amended, agreed to.

[508]

Question proposed: “That section 7 stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Section 7(1) states, “Nothing in this Act is to be read as conferring any additional benefit payable, or that may become payable, under a public service pension scheme.” Perhaps the Minister might be in a position to clarify a matter that has been brought to my attention. I am aware of a person who earns €36,000, who is the family’s sole earner and who has three children. As a result of the imposition of the pension levy and following the payment of family income supplement, there will be a net gain to the Exchequer of €25.38 per week, or €1,319.76 per annum. The difficulty is that this individual is not entitled to a medical card at present but will be so entitled after the enactment of this legislation. Deputy Reilly has informed me that the average cost to the Exchequer of each medical card issued is €1,700. The Exchequer will, therefore, incur a net loss of approximately €400 as a result of the imposition of the levy on the individual to whom I refer. If 5% of those in the public service fall into the same category as this person, there will be a significant loss to the Exchequer.

Has an evaluation been carried out with regard to the implications of imposing the levy on those whose incomes are just above the thresholds that apply in respect of medical cards and certain social welfare entitlements? These people’s incomes will now come in below those thresholds and, as a result, they will be able to apply for medical cards and the other entitlements to which I refer. This will have a negative impact on Exchequer returns and runs contrary to the objective of the proposed levy.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  We anticipate some additional payment through the family income supplement. I will obtain the information sought by the Deputy and write to him about it.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  The Minister understands the point I am making on medical cards and so forth.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Yes.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Given that significant costs could arise for the Exchequer, would it not make more sense to exclude from the levy the individuals to whom I refer? Surely this issue should have been evaluated before now.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  While I appreciate the point raised by the Deputy, I am advised that the impact will be marginal.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Will the Minister revert to me on the issue?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Yes.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  On section 7, the Minister has indicated that gross receipts from the levy will be €1.4 billion. We have not yet been provided with a statement on the impact the collection of these moneys will have on tax buoyancy. The usual format is to provide a table setting out the gross receipts and the impact of a measure on taxation. We are informed that the Department of Finance anticipated exactly what the Minister had in mind and built it into prior tax forecasts but we have not yet seen the detail of this. Is the House not entitled to a statement analysing the impact of the measure on tax buoyancy in a manner which would allow Members to understand how it was calculated? The original intention was to reduce borrowing by €2 billion, whereas we now know the figure has been partially offset by tax calculations.

[509]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I remind Deputies that section 7 provides that no additional benefit can arise from the Bill. For this reason, the valuable contributions Deputies have made are of doubtful relevance.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  With all due respect, an additional benefit will arise under the Bill. The case I made was that someone would be financially better off as a result of the enactment of the legislation because he or she will receive a medical card. According to my figures, the Exchequer stands to lose out by about €6.6 million.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am aware of that. The provision that no additional benefit may arise from the Bill casts doubt on the relevances of Deputies’ questions. I did not say their contributions were not valuable but that there is a large doubt about their relevance. I do not know if the Minister can add anything to that.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I can try to assist the Deputies opposite. This matter was factored into the general tax prediction for the year as for some time it had been clearly settled policy to seek a substantial reduction in payroll costs through the relevant negotiations. With regard to the precise month by month analysis, my Department is finalising the detailed tax projections for the year and these will take account of the matters outlined by Deputy Bruton.

Question put and agreed to.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 23:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 24:

This is a drafting amendment to tidy up the text and does not introduce any significant change to the Bill.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 8, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Section 8 is an unusual provision in that it gives the Minister powers to modify the obligation under section 2 in any manner he sees fit. It is an arbitrary power and we have not yet seen how the Minister may intend to use it. According to the section, a group may be exempted from deductions or deductions may be modified in the event that, in the Minister’s opinion, some particular aspect or condition of the group’s employment materially distinguishes it from other classes or groups. The House is entitled to some indication as to how this power will be exercised. Is its purpose to deal with the group of firemen referred to by Deputy Jim O’Keeffe or other categories of employees who may be inadvertently caught up in the levy as a result of lax drafting? What is the precise nature of this provision? Can the Minister use this power without reverting to the House if he believes a group has been inadver[510]tently included in the provisions and should be exempted from the levy? We often hear about the frailties of secondary legislation? Can the Minister act in this way with confidence?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  On the same point, I presume section 8 was not inserted without the authors having something in mind. When I first read the section I concluded the Minister must have in mind providing an exemption for Deputies as a category.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Deputies will have no such luck.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  I then decided I had better warn him that if he were to exercise this power, he could well guarantee that the citadel will be stormed. Whatever chance we have of keeping our heads above water, the Minister needs to be careful what category he chooses to exempt.

What does the term “materially distinguished” mean in these circumstances? Those who authored this provision must have in mind some category where the Minister believes his writ will not run. This provision will need to be exercised with great caution because there is enough public resentment without some seemingly well remunerated group managing to get under the wire by resort to this provision.

  9 o’clock

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  This section was inserted on the advice of the Attorney General because the legislation deals with approximately 330,000 employees in many different settings in terms of contractual arrangements, collective bargaining and custom and practice. The advice was that we should, as a matter of caution, ensure that such a section should be included in the legislation to deal with exceptional circumstances, that is, some particular aspect or condition of an employment which materially distinguishes a particular class or group from other classes or groups to which the section applies. In such circumstances, the Minister is given a discretion, if it is considered just and equitable to do so, to exempt this class from deductions or modify the deductions having regard to the nature and degree of the financial burden that would otherwise be borne by the group in question. Deputies will note from the reference to “financial burden” that it is clearly not with the intendment of the section to exempt persons who have substantial pensions within the public service from the operation of the Act. In fact, Members of the Oireachtas are expressly dealt with in the definition section as a group which falls within the intendment of the legislation. While I do not anticipate a need to use this authority, it is wiser to make such provision when legislating for such a wide and diverse group.

Deputy Jim O’Keeffe raised the issue of firemen who work part-time for rural local authorities and do not have a pension but who may fall within the definition of public servant. While I did not undertake to exempt this group under this section, I undertook to examine the issue. I will examine issues that are raised after the commencement of the legislation and review them after a period. The section gives me power to remedy any exceptional circumstances which materially distinguish a particular group where it is just and equitable so to do.

Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Amendments Nos. 25 and 33 are cognate and will be discussed together.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 25:

[511]

This is a technical amendment to ensure the expression “or other document” refers only to an instrument and not to an enactment, contract, arrangement, understanding or expectation.

Amendment agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Amendments Nos. 26, 35 and 43 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I move amendment No. 26:

These are unusual provisions. As I understand it, what the Minister is proposing under section 9 is to give the Minister for Health and Children the power to implement a reduction in fees where contractual relationships are already established. The issue of whether these provisions are open to legal challenge will undoubtedly come up for consideration. One of the possible sources of challenge would be whether we are effectively delegating powers of the Oireachtas to Ministers to implement taxes, levies or whatever the Minister is calling them——

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Deductions.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I am sorry, deductions. If we are breaking new legal ground, it is important that such measures be approved by both Houses of the Oireachtas before they are adopted. It seems to me, although I am not a lawyer, that it would give them more legal authority. I am sure the Minister will respond to this. It would seem advisable that the Oireachtas sees what is being proposed and vote for it positively. The intention, as the section is currently worded, is that such a proposal would be laid before the House and unless someone happens to table a Private Members’ motion to annul it, it will remain intact. We should protect against any legal frailties which have been suggested to be present by having this sort of provision. It is also important that the House oversees the use of this power. That is a sensible thing to do.

When we spoke about these sections earlier, the Minister said they were qualified by section 2, inferring that only fees or services that gave rise to a pensionable payment could be treated in this way. I am not sure a reading of sections 9 and 10 makes that altogether clear. This has an important bearing on the Bill because when we discussed this earlier, the Minister gave me an assurance that people working as home helps would not be subjected to the levy because they do not have pensionable employment. However, they are in a contractual relationship with the HSE and they are delivering services. It would seem on a layman’s reading of these sections that such people could be subjected to the levy in the same way as others. I hear beautiful, calming music — we should have that here all the time.

[512]The other element of this amendment is that if we are amending contracts relating to fees — the Minister says we are doing this in the public interest, with all the citations he quoted at the beginning of the discussion — we must also give reasonable opportunity for people to put their side of the argument and have that assessed. I wonder whether the Minister should go further in providing a period of notice for consultation, as I have set out here, so that the provisions are seen to be robust. I did not follow the legal case, but was it not the case that last year a similar move by the HSE to put restrictions on the fees of chemists was found to be frail, and it was required to back off on that move?

I ask the Minister whether he would consider making this proposal more robust by implementing the sort of changes I have suggested. It also would be more practical and fair to people who need to plan their businesses, as it would enable them to have reasonable notice of what is coming down the track.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Section 9 does not relate to the pension contribution. It is a separate matter. The purpose of this section is to allow the Minister for Health and Children to reduce the fees payable to service providers under the GMS, notwithstanding their existing contracts. This is, as I outlined, an emergency measure in the public interest, and therefore the State is taking to itself the power to abrogate contracts to ensure that——

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Sections 9 and 10 are relevant as we are discussing two amendments together. There are wider provisions in section 10 applying to any service rendered.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I did not know we were talking about section 10 as well.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The amendments are grouped.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  They are grouped. I will deal with section 10 in a moment but first I will explain section 9. The fees and contracts for each of the service providers traditionally have been negotiated between their representative bodies and the Minister for Health and Children. It is now accepted that the Competition Act 2002 precludes representative bodies and the Minister from entering direct negotiations on payment and contract matters. The purpose of section 10 is to enable Ministers with responsibility for other sectors to apply, with appropriate modification, the provisions that the Minister for Health and Children may apply under section 9 in order to reduce payments for professional health services in their areas. It is envisaged that this section would apply primarily to professional services rendered to the Department of Social and Family Affairs under the optical, dental and audiologist benefit schemes, medical services in the prison service, and veterinary officers providing services to the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.

The Government has made clear in making these savings that there will be real reductions in the levels of professional fees. We believed it was not in any way equitable, in allocating the burden of the adjustment of current day-to-day expenditure, to single out those public servants who have a pension. It is also important to address professional fees, and the Minister is given ample powers to deal with this under these provisions of the legislation. I have provided in section 9(16) that any regulations made under the section will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas, and either House will have an opportunity to pass a resolution annulling the regulations within 21 days, if it so desires. That gives the Houses ample opportunity to consider the implications of any regulations made under the section.

[513]Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The way I read this section, I do not see any definition that confines the services concerned to professional services of the nature described by the Minister. The Minister said earlier in the debate that home help services provided by people under contract to the HSE could not be touched by this. My reading of section 10 is that these provisions could apply to a person providing a home help service. The term “professional service” is not even mentioned in the section, but only the word “service”, which is not defined to confine it in the way the Minister said he intends. It seems he is taking on a general power to impose this reduction on anyone providing services, which I presume could include a person renting a property to the Department or providing home help — in fact, any person or class of persons in respect of any service they render. I do not see that the Minister has circumscribed it in the way he assured the House. He definitely gave the impression earlier that home help service providers could not be touched because they do not have pensions. The Minister needs to clarify this.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I will clarify it for the Deputy. Section 9, as the side note points out, relates to reductions in payments to health professionals. It is clear from the first subsection that the powers of the Minister for Health and Children are with regard to rates of pay for health professionals or classes of health professionals. Section 10 is broader but does not apply to the Minister for Health and Children. I gave a practical illustration of what was envisaged under section 10. This section does not apply to the Minister for Health and Children but to any other Minister. That is clear from the terms of the section. If we consider section 10(4), for example, we will see that “a Minister of the Government making regulations under subsection (1) shall have all the powers enjoyed by the Minister for Health and Children under section 9 and shall likewise be subject to all the obligations imposed on the Minister for Health and Children under that section.” It is clear that section 10 is supplementary to section 9 and gives analogous powers to Ministers generally, which are circumscribed in section 9. In other words, home helps are not within the intendment of section 9.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  We are discussing two sections together because we are grouping these amendments. I want to be clear on the Minister’s understanding of the delivery of a service. He stated that the Minister for Health and Children cannot be included under section 10 but presumably a number of people who provide analogous services to home help services in other Departments could come within the ambit of this section. Is definition not required of the categories on whom a tax is being imposed? The Minister for Finance stated earlier that he stands by Adam Smith’s canons of taxation, which emphasise certainty. There can be no certainty without knowledge of the intended subject of a tax.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Here we are, back to tax again. The pension contribution or deduction is not a tax and what is envisaged in sections 9 and 10 is certainly not a tax but a real reduction in public expenditure and the agreed contract prices over which the State is taking powers to vary under these sections. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the imposition of taxation. It relates to contractual arrangements entered into by the State and which the State now wishes to vary by way of reduction. This is an essential power for the State if it is to be able to address this economic emergency.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I am asking you to explain. Do not stand up in righteous indignation. You are not explaining the matter properly.

[514]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Deputy Bruton should allow the Minister to finish before he makes his contribution.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The righteous indignation is because you characterised this as a tax. It is not a tax.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  It sounds like righteous indignation.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  It is a reduction in a contractually agreed payment. That is expressly envisaged in sections 9 and 10 of this legislation. The recitals to the legislation set out the justifications for why the State finds it necessary to vary contracts and expectations in this manner.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I am not disputing that at all.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Will the Minister give us an example? Is he referring to the general medical scheme or pharmacists and other people with whom the Minister for Health and Children has contracted to pay a certain amount? Is he saying that he will have powers under this section to cause a reduction in the services to these categories of professional?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The reduction is not in the services but in the amounts of payment they receive. That is exactly what is envisaged in this section. I set out examples from the health services and supplemented them with several examples of the kinds of professional engagement comprehended by section 10, such as veterinary officers in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food or medical assessment officers in the Department of Social and Family Affairs, which would be in an analogous position to those which section 9 was designed to address.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I do not want to delay our discussion but I would have thought that if the Minister is taking onto himself a power to reduce by fiat the income of certain categories, he needs clear authority in regard to the categories to which he will apply that power. His is a broad definition which has not offered certainty as to which categories would be subject to the power. Does he not need, in order to ensure that the legislation is robust and immune from challenge in the courts, to inform the Oireachtas of his precise intentions so that the authority which he derives from this House is fully explained to us when we grant it to him? Perhaps I am being obtuse but he has not explained to my satisfaction which categories of charges, fees and services can be subjected to this reduction by fiat. My interpretation of what the Minister has said is that even the group to which I adverted, home help services, could be embraced by section 10 because he has not stated that the section excludes the Minister for Health and Children.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  It does exclude the Minister for Health and Children.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Perhaps I am wrong. I am not a lawyer and do not pretend to be one but I would have thought the Oireachtas needs to be clear not only in respect of whom we are giving this power to, but also against whom the power can be exercised. I do not think we have that clarity. This provision appears rather poorly defined, although I am not opposing it. I just think that in order to make it robust we need more detail regarding the categories to whom it applies. That is all I seek.

[515]Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Section 9(1) states, “the Minister for Health and Children may, with the consent of the Minister for Finance, by regulation, reduce, whether by formula or otherwise, the amount or the rate of payment to be made to health professionals, or classes of health professionals, in respect of any services that they render to or on behalf of a health body from the date of the regulation.” That allows for the regulation of health professionals. Section 10 extends a like power to other Ministers in respect of persons or classes of persons, which is a wider definition, and any service rendered to or on behalf of that Minister or under the aegis of the Minister. This includes any Minister other than the Minister for Health and Children because subsection (4) makes it clear that a Minister making regulations shall have all the powers enjoyed by the Minister for Health and Children under section 9. It would not be safe for the Minister for Health and Children to operate under section 10 and he or she must operate under the conditions and terms of section 9.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Does this provision apply to non-medical consultants of the kind that has proliferated across the Civil Service in recent times?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  It could.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  If the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources has hired a consultancy firm to advise him on energy policy, I doubt that a reduction on the contract price can be enforced through application of this measure.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Assuming that a consultant renders a professional consultancy arrangement of a long-term and onerous character, it would be open to the Minister to deal with the arrangement.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Would the Minister consider public relations consultancies as professional services?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Let us explore these questions as we proceed through this emergency.

Amendment put and declared lost.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  Amendments Nos. 27 to 31, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I move amendment No. 27:

Some of this ground has been covered in our earlier discussions. At present it costs between €50 and €60 to visit a GP privately. The preamble to the Bill states that professional medical and legal fees will decrease by 8%. In an economy which is experiencing deflation, professional fees are relatively high, particularly for ordinary people. The majority of public servants who will pay this levy do not qualify for medical cards. The Government’s proposal to reduce professional fees is a quid pro quo but I am not convinced about how or when this will happen. If a person visits a solicitor next week to draw up a will, can he or she ask that the fee be [516]reduced by 8%? That is what this means to the person in the street. This provision does not seek to provide for that.

A complication arises in section 9 in regard to professional bodies. The various associations of professionals, particularly in the health services, have a long-standing demand to be recognised for the purpose of negotiating collectively on behalf of their members. The approach of the Minister for Health and Children and the HSE has consistently been to deny outright or to limit that negotiating right in a parallel trade union situation. The advice from the Competition Authority has been that as these professionals are in business in their own right, negotiating therefore constitutes a type of collaboration which amounts in effect to a cartel to fix prices. The Competition Authority objects to professional bodies having negotiating rights in respect of general issues affecting their members.

Each time the Health Service Executive or other body is required to engage in negotiations, they reach for lawyers and the Competition Authority who tell them they cannot hold discussions as they would be engaging in cartel practises. The biggest cartel and oligarchs in this country are the banks who have made billions. It is pity we do not know where most of this money is or if it is gone down the drain, the hole we are now trying to plug. The Competition Authority never had a go at any of them. In fact, one gets the impression that people such as the Minister for Health and Children were more often wined and dined by people from the banks.

I recall asking the Regulator, in regard to various shareholdings on contracts for difference in respect of Anglo Irish Bank in which he was not able to take an interest, if he would be interested in such matters as a Russian oligarch sailing up the Liffey and announcing his intention to take over the Irish banks. He looked across the table at me but did not respond. We are in difficult territory. I am sure the Minister will be delighted to hear that people are utterly confused.

The Minister is suggesting there will be a reduction in professional fees and has cited in particular medical and legal fees, namely, doctors, dentists, pharmacists, physiotherapists and, on the legal side, presumably, solicitors and barristers but he has not told us how this will be done. In addition, people in these professions are represented by long-standing professional bodies who negotiate on a quasi trade union basis to set fees and conditions. Also, there are in all of these professions weaker and younger members who do not have the know-how or strength of the more experienced providers at the top who can and do charge high fees.

We are being left to the mercy of the Minister for Health and Children who is being given sweeping powers under sections 9 and 10, which I presume is the Minister’s intention. However, a question arises in regard to whether they will simply facilitate a greater bureaucratic whip hand for the Department of Health and Children and the Health Service Executive and, similarly, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform which, I presume, deals with fees for lawyers and barristers?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  The Attorney General.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  They are not listed in the Bill.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Is the Attorney General or Director of Public Prosecutions a Minister for the purposes of this provision?

[517]We are asked to believe that next week, following the passage of this Bill, the lawyers employed by the DPP in respect of prosecutions and the lawyers in the Attorney General’s Office who brief counsel, will be subject to an 8% reduction in fees. This matter needs to be clarified by Deputy Lenihan who is, after all, the Minister for Finance. The Minister for Health and Children and the Attorney General attend Cabinet. Has the Minister spoken to them and told them the slogan is “minus 8%?”. This provision will result in a lot more regulation and an enormous amount of additional power for various bodies. However, this power will not necessarily manifest itself in lower fees and costs for the public or firms and businesses using these professional services.

The irony is that this Government and the Minister for Health and Children have been driving the situation whereby hospital consultants and private hospitals are charging astronomical fees for most procedures carried out in the new private hospitals. However, this is not necessarily a problem as the National Treatment Purchase Fund is obliged to spend 90% of our scarce money commissioning procedures in private hospitals.

The poor old taxpayer is on a hiding to nothing as regards the Minister for Health and Children. Connolly Hospital, which is located in the constituency the Minister and I represent, does not have a strong tradition in respect of private medicine, as is the case in respect of most rural hospitals. For example, a person who is unable to have a procedure carried out by a consultant, can, under the National Treatment Purchase Fund, have that procedure carried out at another location and the NTPF will pay for it. This is part of a circle of crazy logic.

The object of the amendments put forward by the Labour Party is to provide for negotiating rights by the various professionals on behalf of their trade union members, to require the Minister to make available the statutory instruments in this regard and to require an extension of the consultation period beyond the 30 days provided. These are eminently reasonable amendments which seek to provide for a more negotiated position in respect of the extraordinary powers conferred on the Minister in sections 9 and 10.

I do not know exactly when PricewaterhouseCoopers was commissioned by the Minister to work on matters relating to Anglo Irish Bank. We were told in various discussions that seven or eight drafts of the report had been compiled. It would appear PricewaterhouseCoopers was commissioned during the summer or in September. Does the Minister have an estimate of costs in respect of the seven reports drafted by PricewaterhouseCoopers? It is a firm with which I am familiar having worked and undertaken my accountancy training there. I am interested to know if the Minister has a ballpark figure in respect of the cost of the drafting of these reports. Also, as and from tomorrow, will all of those people, who may still be working on reports for the Minister’s Department, receive a note stating their fees will be subject to a reduction of 8%? This is the net point.

The Minister confidently stated earlier that computer systems in the various public bodies were ready to go in respect of the deduction of pension levies for public sector workers. Is there in the Department of Finance a programme which will subject staff from PricewaterhouseCoopers and Merrill Lynch, another consultancy group employed by the Minister, to an 8% reduction in fees following enactment of this Bill? That is what this is about.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Deputy Burton is correct that this is about providing clarity. Taxpayers would welcome this measure if they believed it could be enforced and if the Minister could provide us with some examples in this regard. The Attorney General’s office has reasonably frequent resort to senior counsel advice from the Law Library. I am presuming, Minister, that this provision is contemporaneous with the application of the levy. If from 1 March the [518]Attorney General’s office is to have resort to professional advice from the Law Library, will the envisaged reduction apply?

Does the reduction envisaged occur in that case? If the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government receives a request from Dublin Castle in respect of the tribunals still extant, will this reduction be enforced in respect of professional fees at Dublin Castle? We need some of these examples, because there has been excessive profit taking in this economy in recent years and professional fees have borne no relationship to developments otherwise in the economy in the past ten or 15 years. In that sense this may not be insignificant.

Deputy Burton pointed fairly to the record of the Competition Authority as distinct from its rhetoric. Let us imagine that the banking situation was staring one in the face since the establishment of the Competition Authority, yet the case it decided to take to court was that of the Irish League of Credit Unions. The authority produced the fantastic conclusion that we require two such leagues. It is like saying we ought to have two football associations or FAIs. The other notorious case taken by the authority relates to pet food for Chihuahuas. It did not take on concrete blocks, soft drinks or anything else.

If this is to be simultaneously applied and enforced for all forms of professional fees, I welcome it. Section 9 relates to the Minister for Health and Children and section 10 relates to other State services. However, we deserve answers to the questions raised about process and clarity in terms of its application. I welcome it if it makes one small step in addressing the sheltered private sector.

Up to now, the debate about competitiveness has been about the public service versus the private sector. Depending on one’s view of the world one exaggerates one or the other. However, there is a sheltered private sector and if we do not address it we will not seriously address the competitiveness issue in the economy. Will the Minister indicate if this small measure helps us towards that end?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  It helps us towards that end in terms of services rendered for the taxpayer. Sections 9 and 10 relate to professional services rendered for the State, not professional services rendered for private parties. In the context of professional services rendered for the State, these sections empower the Minister to take the actions envisaged which will result in ensuring a contribution or a reduction of professional fees by 8% as part of the measures to achieve the annualised €2 billion target.

Deputy Burton raised a question in respect of consultation involving a large group of professionals. The relevant sections, namely, sections 9 to 11, inclusive, provide that notwithstanding competition law and other constraints, there would be a process of consultation of 30 days duration which would allow the relevant Minister to determine payments for services with due regard on the one hand to the views of the professionals involved, their contracts, expenses and obligations, and on the other hand, the ability of the State to continue to provide existing health services or other services without a reduction of payments to the professionals concerned. These emergency provisions are independent of any separate decision which the Government may choose to make on the issue of a substantive amendment to the Competition Act.

I refer to various circumstances postulated by Deputies about where this section might apply. The Attorney General and the Director of Public Prosecutions are covered by the legislation and it is possible for them to invoke these powers. The Attorney General will exercise these [519]powers. The general provision would also apply in the context of tribunals to the relevant Minister responsible for the tribunal in question.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I asked the Minister for a figure and if he were to provide it off the top of his head, that would be fine. I asked what PricewaterhouseCoopers and Merrill Lynch were earning for the services they have provided. Is the Minister proposing to reduce the price for those services by 8% as of next week?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Neither of those bodies work for me. PricewaterhouseCoopers has carried out an assessment of the exposures in the banking sector and is working for the Financial Regulator and is, therefore, remunerated by it. As the Deputy is aware, the regulator is funded through bank levies. Merrill Lynch is retained by the National Treasury Management Agency and it advises that agency. I will establish the position in respect of professional fees, but I do not have the information to hand. I am aware they are substantial.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister is the boss of the Financial Regulator and the National Treasury Management Agency. I realise it is indecorous in professional operations to discuss money, but were the cost of these various services ever discussed over cups of tea?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  As the Deputy is well aware, I am not the boss of the regulator.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The Minister for Finance is the relevant Minister. The National Treasury Management Agency does have a direct reporting relationship to me, but the regulator does not. The matter of PricewaterhouseCoopers is a matter for the regulator. I will check with my Department and the NTMA regarding the position of Merrill Lynch.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Will the Minister indicate what issues a Minister or Attorney General might consider in making his or her determination? I note that according to sections 9(5)(d) and 9(5)(e) the Minister must examine the expenses and commitments of the people providing services and the impact on the State’s ability to continue to provide whatever services the Department is providing. It would seem, therefore, there could be different rates of reduction of fees applied, depending on what the Minister finds when the criteria are reviewed. Is that what is envisaged?

I refer to Deputy Rabbitte’s point. Should we not then include some reasonable value in terms of comparable services in other countries? It would seem that the legal fees paid to some barristers are dramatically out of line with anything credible or reasonable. If we were to consider cuts in the level of fees, by applying various criteria of this nature one could produce the idea that some would be reduced by a good deal more than others. I would be very supportive of this measure if we could get away with it and if we could apply rules based on it. For example, would the expenses and commitments of professionals referred to in the legislation require an examination of the expenses of a barrister? Would the Minister consider the general expenses of a barrister in providing a service and then take that into account in deciding the per diem or the retainer fee? It would be very interesting territory if a Minister could do so. Will we see some categories taking a larger hit because, under these criteria, they have a broader back?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  That inevitably will be the case. We have set ourselves the target of 8% and we will pursue that through the relevant professional bodies. However, we have the reserve power in the legislation to deal with matters in the absence of agreement.

[520]Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Should the Minister not have some test of reasonable value?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The more tests included in such legislation the more one exposes oneself to judicial review. The Minister has been given a very clear power to strike a balance between the rights and obligations of professional service providers and the purposes of the Act to provide a basis for taking emergency measures to tackle the exceptional problems of the public finances. Under that broad rubric the Minister could take into account factors such as those Deputy Bruton has outlined.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  What figure are the Minister’s advisers factoring in for sections 9 and 10? What contribution is that making to the national effort?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  We believe the figure is €80 million on a full year basis but if we can secure more than that, well and good.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Did the Minister say €80 million for both?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Yes, €80 million on a full year basis for both.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I am intrigued by the medical list on page 12, subsection (f). What sort of person is that?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Which person does the Deputy mean? I am on page 12.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The kind of person from whom one would stay away.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  It is at the top of page 12.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  A registered pharmacist?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  No I think I understand that. It is in subsection (f).

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  A podiatrist.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  What is that?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Someone who deals with feet.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I thought that but what is a chiropodist?

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  A chiropodist looks after toes.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Ingrown toenails.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  One deals with the whole of the foot and the other is just——

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Yes the podiatrist deals with the shape of one’s foot and ensures that is correct. Many people have flat feet in our population and in the House.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Where is Deputy Gogarty now that we need him?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Charlie O’Connor): Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  I am bound to ask whether the Chair should leave. Is Deputy Burton pressing the amendment?

[521]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Yes.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 28 to 32, inclusive, not moved.

Acting Chairman: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  Amendments Nos. 32a and 36 are related and will be discussed together by agreement.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 32a:

The purpose of this amendment is to make clear that the payment to a health professional for services rendered may include an element in respect of goods provided and not just a fee for the time and expertise of the professional concerned. Fees to health professionals can include a variety of elements, capitation fees, fee for item dispensed, fee for repairs to appliances and so forth. The subsection puts that issue beyond any doubt.

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 9, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  What is the nature of the review? Will it encompass some sort of evaluation against criteria or will we simply hear what happened as a financial report?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  It will cover the whole Bill.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  I mean subsection (13).

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Subsection (13) is similar to the provision on the pension contribution. It will be of a similarly comprehensive character.

Question put and agreed to.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 33:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 34:

[522]The purpose of this amendment is to clarify that the reference to “that Minister” does not refer to the Minister for Finance but to the Minister of the Government referred to earlier in the subsection. It is a technical amendment.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Not being the Minister for Health and Children.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Not being the Minister for Health and Children. We are not going to amend that now. It is all right.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 35 not moved.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 36:

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 10, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Has the Attorney General been asked to comment on the robustness of these sections? Can the Minister assure us that they are robust?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Yes, the Attorney General took considerable pains in the drafting of this legislation and was especially anxious to ensure the robustness of these two sections.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Does their robustness depend on the sort of citations at the beginning to establish public interest?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  One of the reasons for inserting the recitals after the Long Title was to confirm the importance and gravity of the position that justified the Government’s taking the step of dispensing with legal rights. If the Deputy reads the Long Title he will see that the pension levy is not as directly related to the emergency as the other powers.

Question put and agreed to.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 37:

The purpose of this amendment is to ensure that a person is not subject to a deduction under section 2 and under section 9 or 10 in respect of the same payment.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  What type of person does the Minister have in mind? Is it a consultant doctor on a salary?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  An example would be a coroner who is also a general practitioner.

[523]Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  What does that mean?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  A person who pays the pension deduction but might also be captured as a fee for professional services.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 11, as amended, agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 have been ruled out of order.

Amendments Nos. 38 and 39 not moved.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I move amendment No. 40:

The purpose of this amendment is to clarify that the reference is to the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and not the Minister for Finance.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  Amendment No. 42 is a technical alternative to amendment No. 41.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  I move amendment No. 41:

I am not sure whether many farmers in the Minister’s constituency are victims of the Government’s decision to unilaterally tear up the contract it had made with farmers under the farm waste management scheme. I can advise the Minister that many farmers are angry. I do not propose to give him chapter and verse of the debacle of the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’s handling of the farm waste management scheme.

We propose the amendment in light of the provision in the Bill to defer payment of moneys legally due under a contract to farmers who had undertaken work under the farm waste management scheme enabling them to comply with the nitrates directive. The proposal is to defer those payments but no cognisance is taken of the accumulated interest payments that farmers must meet while the payment is deferred.

The simple purpose of this amendment is to enable individual farmers to claim a tax credit to the value of the interest they will pay on the loans they have secured with their banks. Through no fault of their own, they are no longer in a position to repay those loans as promptly as they would have if the Government grant had been paid in full. Obviously, that provision would only assist farmers who have a taxable income. It would be preferable if we were not in this situation at all — if the Government was paying the moneys up front. I appreciate that we are facing a difficult financial situation. I accept the principle that if one makes one’s tax returns late, one is penalised by the State. In such circumstances, one has to pay penalties and interest. [524] If the State is proposing to defer payment, it is fair that the same principle should apply. The State should meet the cost of the interest farmers have to pay in the interim. That would be the preferred remedy, obviously. The Ministers for Finance and Agriculture, Fisheries and Food should agree to solve the problem in this manner. In the absence of such an agreement, a minimum arrangement is needed.

I welcome the fact that the Minister, Deputy Smith, is now present to deal with this issue. Perhaps he can update us on his negotiations on this issue with the farming organisations. I understand that discussions on interest rate provision in respect of these loans have continued until the last few minutes. I exhort him to do the honourable thing by accepting this amendment, thereby meeting the fair and reasonable requests of the farming community. The 17,400 farmers affected by this measure undertook works in good faith to enable them to continue farming. The works in question were concluded in difficult circumstances in advance of the mandatory conclusion date, which was 31 December last. The rug has been pulled from under the farmers. I implore the Minister to take action. It would be preferable if the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food could tell us that he has successfully concluded his negotiations with the farming organisations and now plans to meet the cost of the interest payments. In the absence of such an agreement, the interest element of farmers’ loans needs to be covered, at a minimum.

Deputy Tom Sheahan: Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  I concur with what Deputy Creed has said. I have been contacted by many farmers who are suffering as a result of this decision. The Minister is in breach of contract, in effect. On 27 June 2007, the farmers of this country signed a contract to carry out works on behalf of the Government. However, the Government is not fulfilling its part of that deal. I wish the farming bodies would take a High Court case. By the time it comes to court, I suppose the farmers will be broke anyway. The Minister’s approach has enjoyed some success on several fronts. He has pitted workers against each other. He has pitted the public sector against the private sector. He has pitted family members from both sectors against each other. He has even pitted father against son. A Member of this House will vote with the Minister tonight, even though the Deputy in question’s son, as the deputy general secretary of the Garda Representative Association, was protesting outside Leinster House earlier today. If the Minister thinks this is a success, I wish him the best with it.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  The Minister is trying to burst up the family.

Deputy Seymour Crawford: Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  I support the efforts of my colleagues to try to get justice for farmers who are affected by this totally unfair and unjust system. I refer to farmers who conducted certain works before 31 December last, in line with a Government commitment and under an agreed contract. They now find that the payments they are owed will be delayed. I do not think any sector of the public agrees with this proposal. I do not think the Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, would like to have to wait two years for his salary to be adjusted on an annualised basis. The Minister, Deputy Smith, is well aware that approximately 2,000 farmers in our shared constituency of Cavan-Monaghan are affected by this extremely serious situation. I fully appreciate that it is difficult to raise the finance that is needed, but it is hard to explain to farmers that €7 billion could be found to recapitalise the banks but €300 million cannot be found for them. While 40% has already been paid, the remaining 60% — over €300 million — is not being provided. People are being asked to do without it. If the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has not reached agreement with the farmers tonight, I urge him to accept the amendment before the House and thereby meet the cost of interest payments, at a mini[525]mum. It is certainly not a full solution, but it is a genuine attempt to alleviate the plight of farmers who are in an extraordinarily difficult situation.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I would like the Minister for Finance to outline the economic rationale or strategy that underpins this proposal. The chief executive of Allied Irish Banks has emphasised in the bank’s various public advertisements that it is important to enable cash and credit to flow through the economy. He has appealed to people and organisations, including Government Departments, to try to pay their bills on time. He has suggested that payment periods could be reduced to ten or 20 days. He has said that people could bring forward payments on account. If we could get more money circulating in the economy, we could improve confidence and develop a sense that business is resuming.

I find the Minister’s proposal difficult to understand. Payments like this tend to circulate in a rural economy, thereby improving the circulation of money, unless people use them to go on foreign holidays, which I do not think the farmers in this instance will do. I do not understand why this payment was singled out in the totality of things. If the Minister for Finance decided that payments to consultants who provide services to Government Departments were to be put on the long finger for two or three years, he might get quite a sympathetic hearing in this Chamber. I refer, for example, to the officials who were involved in projects like the electronic voting machines and the PPARS system. I wonder why payments to farmers were singled out as being worthy of delay. The Minister is aware that during the boom years, many farmers, and their children who stood to inherit their farms, took up off-farm employment in the construction industry. That source of primary or secondary income for many farmers and farm families has dried up. I am sure the Minister understands that the supply of one-off housing projects in certain countries is drying up. It seems strange, from an economic strategy perspective, that the Minister introduced restrictions on the scheme prior to last year’s budget and, more recently, introduced restrictions on payments under the scheme. The impact of those restrictions on the flow of credit is exactly what we do not want at this time. Can the Minister explain the economic rationale for this measure? I certainly do not understand it.

  10 o’clock

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Over recent days, I have met a number of groups of farmers throughout the country who are under severe pressure as a result of the decision we are trying to amend. They want 40% of the payment to be paid now or, at the very least, the interest to be covered. Their cash flow is drying up. They are worried about their credit rating. They are under ferocious pressure from banks to pay back the money. They borrowed in good faith, on the understanding that the grants would be made available in a timely manner, as it always was in the past. There was some talk about letters of comfort. Has the Minister asked the banks to ease off? Some farmers told me that they have taken out loans of €120,000, while some have bridging loans with high interest, and they are facing ruin. They are extremely worried.

Is this particular part of the Bill constitutional? Legislation in the past on nursing homes tried to change something retrospectively. The President referred it to the Supreme Court and it was found to be unconstitutional. The Government made a promise to citizens who entered into an agreement on good faith, yet the Minister has tried to make something legal that is obviously unjust and is causing great hardship. The idea should be scrapped and the grants should be paid in full straight away. Failing that, the 40% should be paid immediately.

There was also an issue with the computer system in the Department, and the whole thing was delayed due to the change in the payment method. This is extremely serious for many farming families around the country, and I implore the Government to look at this again.

[526]Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  I would like to speak on the amendment put forward by Deputy Bruton, even though Deputy Creed has already spoken on it. It is extremely interesting to read what has been written in this section. At the moment, the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food is legally liable to pay the moneys owed to the farmers. He signed a binding contract with them on the farm waste management grant. As he could not do the maths, we have now ended up with this situation.

In section 12, the Minister abdicates his responsibility to make any legally binding payment to farmers. It is dependent on the resources being available to the Minister from time to time to make payments under the scheme. While the Minister has stated that he will pay 40% this year, 40% next year and 20% the year after, there is absolutely nothing in this Bill to commit him to do that. Deputy Creed highlighted today that the €140 million required to make up the 40% this year is not available. No funding will be made available for it, and these resources must be obtained within the Department itself. The concern is that the headage will be cut in order to pay it, so we are robbing Peter to pay Paul.

The Government has now got a loan from Irish farmers of €500 million that is interest free for two and a half to three years, but it is not prepared to assist farmers, many of whom have desperate financial problems at this stage. Under subsection (3), the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food defers any liability, accrual or payment relating to the farm waste management grant. The Bill also states that there is no obligation to make any payment arising in respect of the amount deferred. The Minister for Finance is removing any obligation, legal or otherwise, to make a repayment to the farmers. He is stealing money directly from their pockets. The Minister should at least write into the Bill his commitment for 40%, 40% and 20% payments. He should also write into the Bill that the interest currently borne on the backs of small farmers would be carried by the Exchequer in light of the mess that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has made of this. Severe cases of financial hardship should be addressed immediately and should be paid in full.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  I understand that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has been in negotiation with farming organisations. I will give him my speaking time to give us an update on the situation. Is that possible? I would prefer this to the repetition of the situation by every speaker.

Acting Chairman: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  There are only two speakers left.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  I just want to allow him speak instead of me.

Acting Chairman: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  If other colleagues are happy with that, I will allow it.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Could somebody restrain the Minister?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I am in possession of the Bill.

Acting Chairman: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  The ball is in your court.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The Deputy wants the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food to speak.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  The Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food entered negotiations this evening with the farm organisations on this particular issue. It would be a courtesy to the House to give us an update on these negotiations.

[527]Acting Chairman: Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  I understand that I can allow that to happen, if the Minister so wishes.

Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Deputy Brendan Smith): Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  I had discussions with the farm organisations on a number of issues this evening, including payment under the farm waste management scheme. I explained to them that I hoped to conclude negotiations with the banks within the next few days on seeking to ease the difficulties that individual farmers are meeting.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  What does that mean?

Deputy Seán Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  On a point of order, what in the name of goodness does that mean? Are we given to believe that the Minister is negotiating with the banks for favourable terms for farmers who have undertaken to complete a scheme under obligation of EU legislation?

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  I was in the Minister’s constituency last night in Cootehill at a public meeting with a couple of hundred farmers. One farmer came up to me after the meeting with a letter from his bank manager. The letter stated that the bank manager wanted to see him as a matter of urgency, in light of the fact that he was no longer in a position to pay his farm waste management loan, and on that basis, the manager wanted to review his working capital provision for 2009. That letter is replicated the length and breadth of the country, from Cork to Cavan and from Wexford to Donegal.

The Minister has stated in the House that he is hoping to conclude a deal with the banks on this issue. The estimated cost to farmers is approximately €9 million over three years. If the State were to take on board that liability, it would possibly be on even more favourable terms. Farmers entered into a contractual agreement in good faith with the Minister and the Department, which he has now unilaterally torn up in their face and told them he will not pay them their money as expected, even though he enticed them to complete the works before 31 December. We discovered in hindsight that this was an artificial deadline imposed by the Minister in order to deliberately exclude farmers from the scheme.

Deputy Brendan Smith: Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  It was not an artificial deadline.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Farmers stepped up to the plate in their thousands; in fact, 17,400 of them did so. The Minister failed to provide adequate funding in the budget for that. A total of €125 million in 2009 leaves us short of €105 million to pay even the 40% to which the Minister refers.

We need clarity from this debate. We do not want a situation where farmers are being asked to live horse and get grass. They did that for the farm waste management scheme by completing their works before 31 December, yet the Minister has hung them out to dry. He failed them with farm waste management, he is failing them in REPS 4, he failed them with the suspension of the farm investment scheme before that, installation aid, the early retirement scheme and disadvantaged area payments.

Farmers deserve a fair break, and Deputy Burton raised an interesting issue here. Why is it that farmers have been singled for the deferral of liabilities? If colleagues of the Minister for Finance in Dublin Castle were asked to take a deferred payment on their legal fees for three years, we would be in here hot to trot and would have it resolved before the morning. These farmers have invested hundreds of millions of euro in their farms to enable them legally to continue in business. There is no additional income stream for farmers arising out of this commitment to investment. It only legally enables them to continue with their business. By [528]virtue of the Minister’s failure to provide adequate funding for this grant, he has reneged on his legal responsibility. The Minister is seeking, through this Bill, to weasel his way out of that legal commitment. He gives us meaningless words, saying he hopes to conclude a deal with the banks. This is the last chance saloon for a legal resolution of this issue and I ask the Minister to improve on his last offer.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  When I gave the Minister a chance, I expected him to have something positive to say about this because this is a matter of trust, and trust is very important in the times in which we are living. These people entered into agreements with their banks and I cannot understand how we miscalculated this, but we did. People are not getting back the money to pay their banks. They cannot get stocking loans, buy fertiliser or take on people they may want to employ. They are short of credit simply because of the Government’s actions. It is very unfair. We sit here at this hour of the night trying to work something out and bring this nation forward. To do this to a section of the community is deplorable and we should be made answer for it. I hope we will go through the lobbies and that Deputies who represent rural constituencies will think twice before they give a slap in the face to the many people in our constituencies.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  There is not a single Fianna Fáil backbencher in the House to debate this matter. It is deplorable.

A Deputy:  Or any Green Party Deputy.

Deputy Kieran O’Donnell: Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  It shows their priorities.

Deputy Andrew Doyle: Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  The vast majority of the finance secured for the works that took place is from institutions that are guaranteed or recapitalised by the Government. Given that the total amount due is approximately €500 million or a little more and accounts for only a maximum of 60% of the total investment, it gives us an idea of the level of borrowing that has taken place. What the Minister has put into this Bill makes those loans not nearly as secure or as sound as they were on foot of a guaranteed contract between the Government and the individuals. The Government’s actions have added to the level of less safe debt the banks have. The banks’ loan books have been compromised by their actions. These are the very banks and institutions that seek guarantees, recapitalisations and foreign investment and promote confidence in our financial institutions, yet by their actions they are compromising that effort.

It does not matter which sector of society or business the Government did this to; it has undermined the entire system. Deputy Burton talked about trying to restimulate the economy. Last week, AIB put an advertisement in every newspaper saying that it will pay on account. I went into my bank manager to ask what is going on and was told the banks are receiving directions to issue these letters. They are asking all farmers to come in and discuss how they will rearrange their repayment schedules. We have not received a letter of comfort and the Minister says he hopes to have a conclusion with the banks by the end of the week. That is not good enough. First, he will have to tell the banks to tell the people with outstanding loans they will have to wait for their money because their actions have caused the loans to be jeopardised.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  The Government’s credibility is in tatters and Deputy Brian Lenihan’s personal credibility as Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform will be in tatters if this is not lived up to.

[529]Deputy Arthur Morgan: Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  The Minister for Finance.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  He is the Minister for injustice.

Deputy Martin Ferris: Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Farmers all over the country borrowed an awful lot of money to try to upgrade their farms when they were encouraged to do so by the Government. They were even told to have it done by 31 December. In the meetings other Deputies and I had with the Minister in the past we went around and encouraged farmers to finish their building programmes so they would qualify for the grant. Many of those farmers have already paid back €5,000, €6,000 or €7,000 in interest. These are farmers who are struggling as it is. It is necessary that a letter of security be forthcoming from the Minister and the Department through the banks to alleviate the continuing growth of interest on them. We also need a clear and unequivocal statement by the Government that this money will be paid, all three instalments, as well as the interest they are incurring. We cannot allow another penalty to be imposed on the farming community and the thousands of farmers who await their money. I urge the Minister to give that security to people who are in a desperate situation.

Deputy James Bannon: Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Up and down the country farmers young and old have been plunged into a cashflow crisis. Last week I had three young farmers in my clinic looking for references to take with them out of the country to Canada to try to earn money to pay for their slatted shed because of the Minister’s behaviour. Farmers took a disproportionate hit in last year’s budget when the Minister abolished the installation aid for young farmers and abandoned the farm retirement scheme. Shame on the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food. His position is untenable and he should consider this tonight because the farmers of the country are fed up with his behaviour.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  The Minister has heard the declarations from our colleagues. He has five people from the Department of Finance or Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food with him tonight. He is in contact with the banks on a daily basis. The Minister should give a commitment to farmers that they will have some sort of leverage regarding the interest. That is what they seek today and the Minister should give that commitment. It was not given today because people were in the banks today and they know nothing about it. The Minister should use his leverage and influence on the banks because we have a role to play in easing off on the farmers.

Deputy Seán Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  I want from the Minister a full and final confirmation on whether he will give a guarantee to the House tonight before we vote on this legislation that those affected by this can wake up tomorrow morning and know there will be some stay of execution and those loans will not be called in.

Deputy Tom Sheahan: Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Section 12 states: “the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food may, by order, defer to a specified date.” I want a specified date because no reference is given here to a specified date for the 40% payment or anything about the 40:40:20. That has all been stated outside here and not as part of this. Will the Minister specify a date for the first payment of 40%, the second payment of 40% and the 20% final payment?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  The debates are in the public domain. The word “specified” is used in the legislation because the dates are not set out in the legislation but it is intended that 40% will be paid on the enactment of this legislation, 40% in January 2010 and 20% in January 2011. Since 40% will be paid on the enactment of this legislation that might give Members [530]opposite, who have turned up in such large numbers showing the Fine Gael interest in this subject, an incentive to support this Bill later and expedite the passage of this legislation.

Regarding the earlier question, it is important that the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food’s discussions with the banks are concluded as rapidly as possible in the interests of the farming community. The Minister has put a great effort into these negotiations and they are very close to finalisation. I have been giving him all support on this and will continue to do so to ensure this difficult issue is resolved in the interests of Irish agriculture.

The amendment is not accepted because, clearly, writing off interest payments on borrowings against profits is already something farmers, like any other business, can do.

Clearly, the righting off of interest payments on borrowings against profits is already something which farmers, like any other business, can do and allowing for a tax credit for such payments, even if the credit was confined to accrued interest payments in respect of borrowing for projects qualifying for farm waste management grants, would be an effective duplication of relief already allowed. As I stated, the Minister, Deputy Smith, has had discussions again this evening with the farm organisations and has been working extensively with the banks to ensure the position of farmers faced with these financial pressures are addressed.

Deputy Michael Creed: Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Will the Minister give an assurance to the House that in the event of the Government failing to conclude an agreement with the banks, the State will meet the interest liability?

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  I am not giving any such assurance this evening because the Minister is engaged in negotiations. I would not dream of giving such an assurance in the House on a sensitive matter like this, but I am sure the Minister will progress matters to the best of his abilities. We must progress these matters.

Deputy Bruton speaks regularly about the need for proper control of public expenditure. The reality is that the farm waste management scheme was a demand led scheme, the eventual cost of which bore no relation to the original envisaged cost.

Deputy Seán Sherlock: Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  It was a legislative obligation.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Because of the criteria the Department had in place with which to record a market incentive.

Deputy Brian Lenihan: Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  One of the decisions the Government has taken on expenditure control is the cash limiting of demand-led schemes. There are many businesses which face legislative obligations which must discharge the expenditure to perform their legislative obligations out of their own resources. The State rightly, but generously, provided for a contribution towards this and the reality is the sums expended have been way out of proportion to the originally envisaged sum.

Question put: “That the words proposed to be deleted stand.”

[531]The Committee divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 71.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby. Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall.
Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  Brady, Áine. Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian.
Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny. Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John.
Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas. Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara.
Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat. Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall.
Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Conlon, Margaret. Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán.
Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary. Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John.
Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán. Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin.
Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John. Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel.
Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy. Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy.
Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley. Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul. Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie. Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire.
Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy. Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter.
Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan. Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P.
Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom. Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian.
Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor. Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Lowry, Michael.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie.
Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael. Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John.
Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M.J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward.
Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary. Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.  


Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James.
Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe. Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard.
Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe.
Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien.
Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda.
Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán. Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen.
Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic. Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe. Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz.
Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia. Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran. Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus.
Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim. Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John.
Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian. Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan.
Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie. Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John.
Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James. Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom.
Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P.J. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet.
Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David. Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna.
Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary. Information on Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo.
Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.  

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.

Amendment declared lost.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on John O'Donoghue  Zoom on John O'Donoghue  I am now required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: “That the amendments set down by the Minister for Finance for Committee Stage and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, that the section or, as appropriate, the section as amended is hereby agreed to in Committee, the Schedule, the Preamble and the Title are hereby agreed to in Committee, the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House, that Report Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed.”

Question put.

The Dáil divided: Tá, 81; Níl, 72.

Information on Dermot Ahern  Zoom on Dermot Ahern  Ahern, Dermot. Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Ahern, Michael.
Information on Noel Ahern  Zoom on Noel Ahern  Ahern, Noel. Information on Barry Andrews  Zoom on Barry Andrews  Andrews, Barry.
Information on Chris Andrews  Zoom on Chris Andrews  Andrews, Chris. Information on Seán Ardagh  Zoom on Seán Ardagh  Ardagh, Seán.
Information on Bobby Aylward  Zoom on Bobby Aylward  Aylward, Bobby. Information on Niall Blaney  Zoom on Niall Blaney  Blaney, Niall.
Information on Aine Brady  Zoom on Aine Brady  Brady, Áine. Information on Cyprian Brady  Zoom on Cyprian Brady  Brady, Cyprian.
Information on Johnny Brady  Zoom on Johnny Brady  Brady, Johnny. Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John.
Information on Thomas Byrne  Zoom on Thomas Byrne  Byrne, Thomas. Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara.
Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Carey, Pat. Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall.
Information on Margaret Conlon  Zoom on Margaret Conlon  Conlon, Margaret. Information on Sean Connick  Zoom on Sean Connick  Connick, Seán.
Information on Mary Coughlan  Zoom on Mary Coughlan  Coughlan, Mary. Information on John Cregan  Zoom on John Cregan  Cregan, John.
Information on Ciaran Cuffe  Zoom on Ciaran Cuffe  Cuffe, Ciarán. Information on Martin Cullen  Zoom on Martin Cullen  Cullen, Martin.
Information on John Curran  Zoom on John Curran  Curran, John. Information on Noel Dempsey  Zoom on Noel Dempsey  Dempsey, Noel.
Information on Jimmy Devins  Zoom on Jimmy Devins  Devins, Jimmy. Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy.
Information on Frank Fahey  Zoom on Frank Fahey  Fahey, Frank. Information on Michael Finneran  Zoom on Michael Finneran  Finneran, Michael.
Information on Michael Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Michael Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Michael. Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Seán.
Information on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Zoom on Beverley Cooper-Flynn  Flynn, Beverley. Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher  Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
Information on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Zoom on Paul Nicholas Gogarty  Gogarty, Paul. Information on John Gormley  Zoom on John Gormley  Gormley, John.
Information on Noel Grealish  Zoom on Noel Grealish  Grealish, Noel. Information on Mary Hanafin  Zoom on Mary Hanafin  Hanafin, Mary.
Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  Harney, Mary. Information on Seán Haughey  Zoom on Seán Haughey  Haughey, Seán.
Information on Jackie Healy-Rae  Zoom on Jackie Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Jackie. Information on Máire Hoctor  Zoom on Máire Hoctor  Hoctor, Máire.
Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy. Information on Peter Kelly  Zoom on Peter Kelly  Kelly, Peter.
Information on Brendan Kenneally  Zoom on Brendan Kenneally  Kenneally, Brendan. Information on Michael Kennedy  Zoom on Michael Kennedy  Kennedy, Michael.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P.
Information on Tom Kitt  Zoom on Tom Kitt  Kitt, Tom. Information on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Zoom on Brian Joseph Lenihan  Lenihan, Brian.
Information on Conor Lenihan  Zoom on Conor Lenihan  Lenihan, Conor. Information on Michael Lowry  Zoom on Michael Lowry  Lowry, Michael.
Information on Tom McEllistrim  Zoom on Tom McEllistrim  McEllistrim, Thomas. Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie.
Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael. Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John.
Information on Dr Martin Mansergh  Zoom on Dr Martin Mansergh  Mansergh, Martin. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on John Moloney  Zoom on John Moloney  Moloney, John. Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael.
Information on Michael Mulcahy  Zoom on Michael Mulcahy  Mulcahy, Michael. Information on M. J. Nolan  Zoom on M. J. Nolan  Nolan, M.J.
Information on Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon. Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
Information on Darragh O'Brien  Zoom on Darragh O'Brien  O’Brien, Darragh. Information on Charlie O'Connor  Zoom on Charlie O'Connor  O’Connor, Charlie.
Information on Noel O'Flynn  Zoom on Noel O'Flynn  O’Flynn, Noel. Information on Rory O'Hanlon  Zoom on Rory O'Hanlon  O’Hanlon, Rory.
Information on Batt O'Keeffe  Zoom on Batt O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Batt. Information on Ned O'Keeffe  Zoom on Ned O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Edward.
Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  O’Rourke, Mary. Information on Christy O'Sullivan  Zoom on Christy O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Christy.
Information on Peter Power  Zoom on Peter Power  Power, Peter. Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  Power, Seán.
Information on Dick Roche  Zoom on Dick Roche  Roche, Dick. Information on Eamon Ryan  Zoom on Eamon Ryan  Ryan, Eamon.
Information on Trevor Sargent  Zoom on Trevor Sargent  Sargent, Trevor. Information on Eamon Scanlon  Zoom on Eamon Scanlon  Scanlon, Eamon.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Noel Treacy  Zoom on Noel Treacy  Treacy, Noel.
Information on Mary Wallace  Zoom on Mary Wallace  Wallace, Mary. Information on Mary Alexandra White  Zoom on Mary Alexandra White  White, Mary Alexandra.
Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  Woods, Michael.  


Níl
Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Allen, Bernard. Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James.
Information on Joe Behan  Zoom on Joe Behan  Behan, Joe. Information on Pat Breen  Zoom on Pat Breen  Breen, Pat.
Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P. Information on Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard.
Information on Ulick Burke  Zoom on Ulick Burke  Burke, Ulick. Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe.
Information on Deirdre Clune  Zoom on Deirdre Clune  Clune, Deirdre. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel J. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon. Information on Seymour Crawford  Zoom on Seymour Crawford  Crawford, Seymour.
Information on Michael Creed  Zoom on Michael Creed  Creed, Michael. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Jimmy Deenihan  Zoom on Jimmy Deenihan  Deenihan, Jimmy. Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Damien English  Zoom on Damien English  English, Damien.
Information on Olwyn Enright  Zoom on Olwyn Enright  Enright, Olwyn. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles.
Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian. Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom.
Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Higgins, Michael D. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Enda Kenny  Zoom on Enda Kenny  Kenny, Enda. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. Information on Pádraic McCormack  Zoom on Pádraic McCormack  McCormack, Pádraic.
Information on Shane McEntee  Zoom on Shane McEntee  McEntee, Shane. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Liz McManus  Zoom on Liz McManus  McManus, Liz. Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Arthur Morgan  Zoom on Arthur Morgan  Morgan, Arthur. Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus. Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on Jim O'Keeffe  Zoom on Jim O'Keeffe  O’Keeffe, Jim.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Brian O'Shea  Zoom on Brian O'Shea  O’Shea, Brian.
Information on Jan O'Sullivan  Zoom on Jan O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Jan. Information on Willie Penrose  Zoom on Willie Penrose  Penrose, Willie.
Information on John Perry  Zoom on John Perry  Perry, John. Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Quinn, Ruairí.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Dr James Reilly  Zoom on Dr James Reilly  Reilly, James.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan.
Information on Tom Sheahan  Zoom on Tom Sheahan  Sheahan, Tom. Information on P. J. Sheehan  Zoom on P. J. Sheehan  Sheehan, P.J..
Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Seán. Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Mary Upton  Zoom on Mary Upton  Upton, Mary.
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Tellers: Tá, Deputies Pat Carey and John Cregan; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.

Question declared carried.


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