Social Welfare and Pensions Bill 2011: Committee Stage (Resumed)

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 735 No. 3

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Debate resumed on amendment No. 11:

[605]Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  This amendment deals with the changes to the various bodies and groups authorised to use a personal public service, PPS, number for the purposes of carrying out transactions with members of the public and for sharing personal data and information among themselves. I propose the provision be extended to local authority franchise officers to ensure everyone’s PPS number rather than address is used for determining the electoral register. It would also mean the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government would have to introduce legislation to this effect.

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I am sympathetic to this amendment which makes a great deal of sense. This proposal has been suggested and debated at various committees before. Social welfare legislation is not as such the place to introduce such legislative measures as it is primarily a matter for the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

There is the wider issue of examining outcomes from social welfare policies and programmes. We need to put in place a strong evaluation system of such programmes that reports on a timely basis as to how different social welfare changes impact on people. Such a system would also assist in preparing advice and guidance for people on how to get back into the labour market and access employment and training.

One difficulty in this regard is the restrictive approach to using personal data in a scientific and academic context while maintaining confidentiality at all stages. The Deputy referred to the use of PPS numbers as a verification mechanism in respect of elections.

There are similar difficulties with regard to using data relating to individuals and their PPS numbers in the context of evaluating such data.

This is a matter which is worthy of examination. We are trying to give opportunities, advice and information to people on social welfare in order that they might become active and try to return to the labour force. Our best-known State agency for dealing with such matters is FÁS, which provides job training. It is most important that we evaluate the latter relative to the experience of people who come off jobseeker’s benefit or allowance or some other social welfare payment in order to take up training so that we might discover how these individuals fare subsequently.

The current process of evaluation, whether it is carried out by academics or the ESRI, is extremely slow. The system in this country is much slower than those which obtain in other European countries. A balance must be struck in the context of using the data that is available for public purposes or for the type of evaluation purposes to which I just referred. High standards are required on the part of officials in Departments who have access to such data. Officials must not use their position in order to access this type of data for purposes other than those relating to their work. Where such data has been accessed for almost personal purposes in the past, the management within the Civil Service has taken the matter very seriously. That was the correct response.

This is a topic to which we might return at a later date. I do not propose to accept the amendment because I do not believe it is suitable in the context of the legislation. However, there is much merit in the suggestion put forward by the Deputy.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 20 agreed to

[606]Sections 21 and 22 agreed to.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I move amendment No. 12:

Amendment agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 23, as amended, stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  This section is tied to the reduction in employers’ PRSI. What is proposed is very strange, particularly in view of the fact that activation measures such as education and training are required and in light of the constraints on the public purse. It is bizarre that we are reducing the national training fund levy. The amount involved — a reduction from 0.7% to 0.35% — is minuscule in some ways. However, the money being lost to the Exchequer could easily have been spent on enhancing some of the projects to which we referred previously, namely, the Tús programme, the internship programme, the extension or expansion of the community employment programme or a programme to allow apprentices complete their courses. In the context of the latter programme, hundreds if not thousands of apprentices have been adversely affected as a result of the collapse of the construction industry and now find themselves half or three quarters of the way through their courses. The levy to which I refer was used in the past to fund specific programmes run by FÁS, IDA Ireland, Shannon Development and Enterprise Ireland and this could have been done again.

I am not fully aware of how the national training fund levy was divided or whether the money involved was ring-fenced. If it was not ring-fenced, the very least we should do is ensure that even the reduced amount for which provision is being made in the Bill will be protected. The levy should be ring-fenced and should be used to create additional training places and opportunities in order that people might upskill.

Those are my concerns. I am not going to press the matter to a vote but I ask that the Minister — in light of the small nature of the reduction — explain the logic behind this section in comparison to that which applies in respect of the reduction in employers’ PRSI.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Section 23 must be read in conjunction with section 22, which involves the restoration of the national minimum wage to its previous level. The reinstatement of the national minimum wage will be very important for low-paid employees who work a 40-hour week because they will benefit by €40 per week. The latter is a significant sum. The counterpart measure to this reinstatement is to offer a halving of employers’ PRSI for the period up to the end of 2013. As the Deputy pointed out previously, there is a significant cost involved in this regard. The national training fund levy is, therefore, being used to facilitate what we are trying to achieve. A commencement date of 2 July in respect of the halving of the lower rate of the employers’ PRSI contribution has been chosen to align it with the start of the tax week.

The purpose of section 23 is to provide for the contribution to the national training fund to be reduced by 50%. The fund has been substantially in surplus in recent years. I am advised that it was in surplus by €104 million at the end of 2010. It is estimated that the halving of the national training levy will cost €7 million this year and €13 million in a full year. Even with the reduction, it is estimated that the fund will still be in surplus by approximately €61 million at the end of 2011. It will remain in surplus in 2012.

[607]As discussed previously, the reduction in employers’ PRSI is a significant incentive in the context of employers being in a position to reduce the cost of labour. When taken in conjunction with the reduction in the lower rate of VAT, particularly as applied to industries such as tourism, it is clear that the purpose of what the Government is doing is to produce a stimulus in respect of employment retention and creation in key sectors of the economy.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  I thank the Minister for her reply. However, what she said has made me even more dubious about this section. The fact that there is a surplus in a training fund when almost 500,000 people are unemployed is not acceptable. We are three years into a recession and there should not be a surplus at this stage. The funding in question should have immediately been pumped into retraining and educational opportunities to ensure that the lowest paid and those who are on social welfare could have upskilled in order to avail of any existing job opportunities. I presume the Minister is responsible for the training fund and I urge her to ensure that the money it contains will be spent as a matter of urgency.

There is no point in leaving €100 million sitting in an account while we await some future economic upturn. There are thousands of apprentices who should be given the opportunity to complete their training. In addition, there are hundreds of thousands of unemployed people who do not have the skills required to allow them to avail of certain job opportunities. The people at which section 23 is supposedly aimed, namely, those who are in low-paid jobs and who depend on the minimum wage, would love the opportunity to upskill to a major degree.

I presume that is what the training levy was set up for in the first instance. It will now lose €7 million because of this change. That is not a big sum in the grand scheme of things but the €7 million could have ensured a greater enhancement of jobseeker’s allowance than the €20 that Tús applicants will get or the €50 for participants in the internship scheme. Other schemes have had their training budgets cut in the past. Funding for the community employment programme has been cut. There is a crying need to extend the CE programme. Here is a fund sitting waiting to be called on but it is being reduced by €7 million this year. Given that only six months remain of this year, I presume it will be reduced by €14 million next year and subsequent years.

Training opportunities are being lost. I do not see the logic of this measure. I understand the logic of making a counter measure between the PRSI changes and the increase in the national minimum wage, although I do not agree with it. We have had that debate. Given the size of this, I do not understand why it has been included. As a rule I am opposed to levies. I believe we should do everything through taxation. However, as it exists we should use the money and not reduce it, given the scale of the current crisis.

Question put and declared carried.

Amendment No. 13 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 24 stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  I will come back to the substance of amendment No. 13 in the future when we debate a finance Bill. It deals with a peculiar circumstance that pertains to a number of people whose companies have failed because of the economic downturn and who have tax liabilities. They cannot access their social welfare entitlements because they cannot clear their tax liabilities even though they are willing to have a charge put against their social welfare entitlements.

[608]My opposition to section 24 is that a dangerous precedent is being set. An Act of the State is being set aside by this section. The section says that because of a deadline set by the IMF we will suspend our law. The legislation in this case is the Official Languages Act 2003. This sets a dangerous precedent and says much about how the Government views our sovereignty. I will deal with the whole aspect of the Irish language shortly. There are methods of overcoming a translation problem that exists.

We should be very careful not to suspend laws that have been enacted to facilitate a very tight timeframe set by the Minister because of a timeframe agreed with the IMF. This measure is seriously flawed. For the sake of two or three days or weeks, or even two or three months, we should not set aside major legislation that was debated at length in this House in 2003. It has major implications for the standing of the Irish language and the rights of Irish language speakers to access legislation.

The method used by this House of producing Irish language translations after the fact is one of the problems. I have argued continually that, as happens in other parliaments in bilingual states or nations, legislation should be published in both languages at the same time from the outset. I complained a number of years ago because legislation dealing with University College Galway, and specifically with the Irish language, was published in English. Even though I wanted to contribute to the debate totally in Irish I could not do so because amendments had to be submitted in English. I had submitted amendments in Irish but I was required to translate them to English and then speak on them as Gaeilge. It is bizarre that I, an Irish language speaker, am restricted in my ability to contribute totally in Irish in the House because legislation is not published bilingually.

If legislation was published bilingually in the first instance it would not take long to update it after its passage. This Bill will be translated after the fact, when it has been passed by the Seanad on 28 June. The Bill must be published by 1 July, leaving only three days to translate a complex Bill. If the Bill were published in both languages from the outset the complex detail would be in place and we would be able to debate it in Irish, in English or in both languages.

For the sake of the IMF, we are suspending our legislative provisions in this area. That is a retrograde step. It is a precedent. Given the tight timeframes in the passage of finance Bills and other emergency legislation this precedent will be availed of. We will return to the situation that existed heretofore when even Irish language Acts were not available in Irish and court cases were struck out because Irish language versions of legislation were not available.

A change is needed but this measure is not necessary. I am informed that the translators in the Houses are confident that they will have this Bill translated in the required time in any event. That is how good they are. They sometimes work under huge pressure. I do not tell them in advance whether I will speak as Gaeilge nó as Béarla and that can be a difficulty. The same is true for everyone else in the Chamber. In the European Parliament a multitude of languages are accommodated. It is costly and may be a little bureaucratic but it is one of the rights we have, as Irish speakers in this country.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Aontaím leis an méid atá ráite. Is é a deir alt 7 de Acht na dTeangacha Oifigiúla 2003:

An deabhadh atá orm ná go bhfuil an EU agus an IMF ag rá go gcaithfear an rud seo a bhualadh tríd an Dáil gan díospóireacht chuí. Ar a laghad, ba cheart go mbeadh meabhrán mínitheach againn maidir leis an Acht.

[609]We should at least have the explanatory memorandum already translated at this stage. I gave an interview on Raidió na Gaeltachta on the very important issue of the increase in pension age, speaking to muintir na Gaeltachta and Gaelgóirí throughout the country through the Irish language media. To help us with regard to the provisions and new departures in the Bill, at least we should have had the explanatory memorandum to assist the Teachtaí Dála who do interviews through the Irish language medium.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Ba mhaith liomsa go mbeadh an meabhrán mínitheach le fáil i nGaeilge ag an am gcéanna agus an leagan Béarla, ach ní dhéantar sin anois. Deputy Ó Snodaigh has mentioned how good and hard-working the people doing the translation are. They have undertaken to have it available as soon as possible. However, I understand it has been the custom to complete the translation once the Bill has been passed, particularly in the case of technical Bills in case there are substantial technical amendments. The point Deputy Higgins made about the translation of the explanatory memorandum being available at the same time as an leagan Béarla is a perfectly valid comment. That may be an issue the Whips could pursue with the Houses of the Oireachtas translation staff. If it were possible it would be helpful to everybody. I understand the staff will be working flat-out to complete the leagan Gaeilge as quickly as possible after the passage of the Bill. We are anxious to proceed on 1 July because the Bill provides for the reinstatement of the previous minimum wage. There would be difficulties with the reinstatement of the minimum wage and its enforcement if the leagan Gaeilge had to be available on exactly the same date. There is an absolutely pressing reason in this case. Deputies on all sides have said they favour the reinstatement of the minimum wage. This is a technical difficulty and we should explore whether at least the explanatory memoranda can be available in the Irish and English versions on the date they are published.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Bheadh séáisiúil dá mbeadh an dá leagan den mheabhrán mínitheach ar fáil ag an am gcéanna.

Ach ní dhéanann sin deighleáil leis an phríomh cheist, gur chóir go mbeadh na Billí ar fáil ag an am gcéanna. Chomh maith leis sin, faoin Aire atá sé féachaint chuige go bhfuil go leor ama idir rith an Bhille agus foilsiú an aistriúcháin. Níl aon duine chun cur i gcoinne an pá meánach a ardú. Táimid ar fad i bhfábhar sin. Ach ní sin amháin a bheadh ag teacht i réim ar an 2 Iúil. Bheadh an t-athrú i leith PRSI na bhfostathóirí agus an levy traenála ag teacht i bhfeidhm ar an lá sin chomh maith.

Tá seo ar fad ceangailte le cinneadh a rinne an Rialtas leis an IMF go mbeadh an t-athrú seo i bhfeidhm laistigh den chéad leath den bhliain. Sin an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an dáta sin, 2 Iúil. D’fhéadfaí dáta eile a phiocadh dá mba ghá, ach amháin go bhfuilimid ar fad ag iarraidh go dtiocfadh an leasú sin maidir leis an phá meánach isteach chomh tapaidh agus is féidir. D’fhéadfaí sin a thabhairt i réim an tseachtain seo caite nuair a mhol an Teachta Pearse Doherty leasú ar an mBille Airgeadais. Níor glacadh leis an rún.

Tá a fhios againn nach nglacfaidh an t-Aire ach leis na leasaithe a mhol sí féin, is é sin go n-athrófaí an dáta ó 1 Iúil go 2 Iúil. Seachas sin, ní thiocfaidh aon athrú ar an alt seo ach amháin má ghlacann an t-Aire leis. D’fhéadfadh sí a rá leis na haistritheoirí an Bille a aistriú ag an stad seo ar aon chaoi. Tá a fhios againn nach bhfuil aon mhór athrú chun teacht ar an mBille muna bhfuil an t-Aire sásta leis. Níor tharla sin go dtí seo agus ní fheicim go dtarlódh sé sa tSeanad ach oiread.

Tá buairt orm mar gheall ar an alt seo. Tá sé ag cur Acht de chuid on Oireachtais ar leataobh. Droch chéim chun tosaigh é seo. Má tharlaíonn sé seo i gcás an Achta seo is cinnte go dtarlóidh sé i gcás Achtanna eile amach anseo. Sin a tharlóidh gan an tathrú atá luaite agam, is é[610]sin go mbeadh an Bille ar fáil i nGaeilge, ní mar áis domsa amháin ach mar áis don phobal ar fad.

Bheadh sé i bhfad níos fearr dá mbeadh meabhrán mínitheach againn. Cosúil leis an Teachta Ó hUiginn, is minic a bhíonn ormsa labhairt ar Raidió na Gaeltachta. Caithim cúpla nóiméad ag treabhadh tríd na foclóirí ag triall ar an fhocal ceart agus is minic nach mbíonn sé le fáil. Bheadh sé i bhfad níos éasca domsa dá mbeadh meabhrán mínitheach againn. Bheadh sé i bhfad níos éasca do gach Teachta, go háirithe dóibh siúd atá ar bheagán Gaeilge. B’fhéidir go mbeadh níos mó Gaeilge á labhairt sa Teach dá mbeadh sé ar fáil.

Tá mé ag cur i gcoinne an ailt seo den Bhille. Iarraim ar an Aire tarraingt siar ón chéim seo ag an stad seo, más féidir in aon chor.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Aontaím leis an Teachta gur áis don phobal ar fad aistriúchán a bheith a fáil nuair atá an díospóireacht ar siúl.

I wish to make two points about the debate on the date of implementation of the measures. The Government decided to introduce the €1 an hour increase in the minimum wage on 1 July, the same date as the changes in employers’ PRSI, the lowering of the VAT rate and the application of the pension levy. It was a decision of Government to have these done simultaneously in the context of the jobs initiative and also to launch the national internship scheme on the same date.

It is a political reality, for which many of us do not particularly care, that the former Government entered into an agreement with the IMF part of which is to subject the oversight of Irish financial reports and returns on a weekly, monthly and quarterly basis. The Deputy is correct in saying the end of June marks the end of another quarter for IMF reporting; that is a fact of life. The objective of the Government is to remove us from that situation by returning the country to prosperity and employment. The measures that come into effect on 1 July will give 5,000 people an opportunity to take up a quality internship. On that day we will raise the minimum wage by €1 an hour. This is an important point for workers on the minimum wage and one on which the IMF did not agree with the previous Government. The current Government is responsible for the change. The first of July is important for the political reasons I have outlined.

I would prefer if the Irish translation were available. I note Deputy Higgins’s suggestion on the explanatory memorandum. This matter could, perhaps, be taken up by the Whips in the House or a committee of Deputies with a particular interest in the language to determine whether arrangements can be made to facilitate Irish speakers in the manner suggested by Deputy Ó Snodaigh. The important point is that citizens who do their business through Irish should be facilitated with translations, as Deputy Ó Snodaigh has said. Translations, however, are very expensive, as the Deputy knows, and they are enormously costly to the State.

  12 o’clock

This section is to convenience the vast majority of citizens in terms of moving the country forward economically from the mess it is in, and ultimately getting the IMF off our backs and the troika to go home. When this occurs, we can then consign this particularly painful episode to the history books, as we would all like. If the Deputy is suggesting that we hold up the measures in order to provide for an Irish translation thereof, I suggest to him that many Irish speakers actually appreciate the urgency of the measures to restore the economic fortunes of this country and give people who are currently dependent on social welfare an opportunity to return to work, education, training or internships, or avail of a variety of opportunities that the Government has set out as part of its programme.

[611]Perhaps the arrangements for Irish translations should be reviewed. There may be a more cost-effective way of proceeding, perhaps by investing in new technology. This is one of the options that might be considered that would be helpful in producing online Irish translations pretty much coterminously with versions in English. It is important that we proceed from 1 July with a range of policies and initiatives that the Government has put forward through the jobs initiative. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said we could wait for a week, three weeks or a couple of months. We should not lose a couple of months——

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews  Zoom on Peter Mathews  Hear, hear.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  ——simply awaiting the Irish language translation. We should address the issue of Irish language translation and improve services for citizens who wish to use Irish. I will undertake to talk to my colleagues in Government to determine what can be done but I suggest we need to move forward on 1 July with the reinstatement of the minimum wage and the other measures provided for in this Bill and the jobs initiative.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews  Zoom on Peter Mathews  Hear, hear.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 83; Níl, 40.

Information on Tom Barry  Zoom on Tom Barry  Barry, Tom. 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 Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan.
Information on Ray Butler  Zoom on Ray Butler  Butler, Ray. Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry.
Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine. Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  Byrne, Eric.
Information on Ciaran Cannon  Zoom on Ciaran Cannon  Cannon, Ciarán. Information on Joe Carey  Zoom on Joe Carey  Carey, Joe.
Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie. Information on Sean Conlan  Zoom on Sean Conlan  Conlan, Seán.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul J. Information on Ciara Conway  Zoom on Ciara Conway  Conway, Ciara.
Information on Marcella MarcellaCorcoran Kennedy  Zoom on Marcella MarcellaCorcoran Kennedy  Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella. Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe.
Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon. Information on Lucinda Creighton  Zoom on Lucinda Creighton  Creighton, Lucinda.
Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John. Information on Patrick Deering  Zoom on Patrick Deering  Deering, Pat.
Information on Regina Doherty  Zoom on Regina Doherty  Doherty, Regina. Information on Stephen Donnelly  Zoom on Stephen Donnelly  Donnelly, Stephen.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Robert Dowds  Zoom on Robert Dowds  Dowds, Robert.
Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J. Information on Alan Farrell  Zoom on Alan Farrell  Farrell, Alan.
Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank. Information on Anne Ferris  Zoom on Anne Ferris  Ferris, Anne.
Information on Peter Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Peter. Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence.
Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon. Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  Griffin, Brendan.
Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic. Information on Noel Harrington  Zoom on Noel Harrington  Harrington, Noel.
Information on Simon Harris  Zoom on Simon Harris  Harris, Simon. Information on Martin Heydon  Zoom on Martin Heydon  Heydon, Martin.
Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil. Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan.
Information on Heather Humphreys  Zoom on Heather Humphreys  Humphreys, Heather. Information on Kevin Humphreys  Zoom on Kevin Humphreys  Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Keaveney, Colm. Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul.
Information on Seán Kenny  Zoom on Seán Kenny  Kenny, Seán. Information on Seán Kyne  Zoom on Seán Kyne  Kyne, Seán.
Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on John Lyons  Zoom on John Lyons  Lyons, John. Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  McCarthy, Michael.
Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky. Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny.
Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe. Information on Tony McLoughlin  Zoom on Tony McLoughlin  McLoughlin, Tony.
Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  McNamara, Michael. Information on Eamonn Maloney  Zoom on Eamonn Maloney  Maloney, Eamonn.
Information on Peter Mathews  Zoom on Peter Mathews  Mathews, Peter. Information on Michelle Mulherin  Zoom on Michelle Mulherin  Mulherin, Michelle.
Information on Dara Murphy  Zoom on Dara Murphy  Murphy, Dara. Information on Eoghan Murphy  Zoom on Eoghan Murphy  Murphy, Eoghan.
Information on Gerald Nash  Zoom on Gerald Nash  Nash, Gerald. Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis.
Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan. Information on Derek Nolan  Zoom on Derek Nolan  Nolan, Derek.
Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán. Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran.
Information on Patrick O'Donovan  Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Patrick. Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus.
Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John. Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe.
Information on Ann Phelan  Zoom on Ann Phelan  Phelan, Ann. 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 Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan. Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Sean.
Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín. Information on Arthur Spring  Zoom on Arthur Spring  Spring, Arthur.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy. Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam. Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack.
Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.  


Níl
Information on Gerry Adams  Zoom on Gerry Adams  Adams, Gerry. Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara.
Information on Joan Collins  Zoom on Joan Collins  Collins, Joan. Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall.
Information on Michael Colreavy  Zoom on Michael Colreavy  Colreavy, Michael. Information on Barry Cowen  Zoom on Barry Cowen  Cowen, Barry.
Information on Clare Daly  Zoom on Clare Daly  Daly, Clare. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Tim Dooley  Zoom on Tim Dooley  Dooley, Timmy. Information on Dessie Ellis  Zoom on Dessie Ellis  Ellis, Dessie.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan  Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan  Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Sean. Information on Tom Fleming  Zoom on Tom Fleming  Fleming, Tom.
Information on John Halligan  Zoom on John Halligan  Halligan, John. Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus.
Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus. Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P.
Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on Charlie McConalogue  Zoom on Charlie McConalogue  McConalogue, Charlie. Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  McDonald, Mary Lou.
Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian. Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie.
Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael. Information on Sandra McLellan  Zoom on Sandra McLellan  McLellan, Sandra.
Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  Murphy, Catherine. Information on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Zoom on Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin  Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl  Ó Fearghaíl, Seán. Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
Information on Jonathan O'Brien  Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien  O’Brien, Jonathan. Information on Thomas Pringle  Zoom on Thomas Pringle  Pringle, Thomas.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan.
Information on Brian Stanley  Zoom on Brian Stanley  Stanley, Brian. Information on Peadar Tóibín  Zoom on Peadar Tóibín  Tóibín, Peadar.
Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  Troy, Robert. Information on Mick Wallace  Zoom on Mick Wallace  Wallace, Mick.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

Question declared carried.

Section 25 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 26 stand part of the Bill.”

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  This is Chapter 2 of Part 4 of the Bill which to my knowledge covers from section 26 to section 43 and is a detailed and complex section. From the briefing I got I do not believe I will oppose it. It provides for a transposition of EU directives or instructions regarding regulatory own funds making sure that pension funds have the required moneys to meet their liabilities and to increase the minimum standards for private pension funds. That is welcome because it will ensure that in future there will not be shortfalls or collapses as we have seen in other countries and which we might see in some cases here in the near future. I am supportive of the principle of the section but I ask the Minister to give us an explanation beyond that in the explanatory memorandum, which is quite technical. What will be the outcome? What will be the impact on the pensions industry here? Will it do what it says on the tin? Will it ensure that private pension funds will actually deliver for those who have taken out a scheme with them? Is there anything in it to address the huge costs involved in administering these funds?

People put money into private pension funds and they expect to get it out at the other end with interest. Then they find that many costs and charges have been imposed by the scheme organisers. It is an industry and they need to make some money but the information I have is [613]that the percentage take by the industry from pension funds in Ireland is much more than in other jurisdictions. Does this section address that issue?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  The changes to the Pensions Act mainly arise from the requirements to implement Article 17 of Directive 2003/41/EC on the activities and supervision of institutions for occupational retirement provision, or the IORPS directive. The Pensions Act is also amended to clarify the responsibility of the Pensions Board in respect of the certification of certain policies or contracts of assurance under Part IVA of the Act.

Article 17 of the IORPS directive is designed to ensure a level regulatory playing field between insurance companies and institutions for occupational retirement provision, that is, pension schemes, which offer similar pension products. Insurance companies that offer pension products which underwrite death or disability benefits or which provide guaranteed benefits are required under their regulatory framework to maintain additional solvency margins. Such additional solvency requirements do not currently apply to institutions for occupational retirement pension provision offering similar products.

The purpose of Article 17 the IORPS directive is to ensure that institutions for occupational retirement provision are required to meet the same additional solvency margins as insurance companies offering the same products. Article 17 of the IORPS directive provides that where a pension scheme or trust retirement annuity contract itself — not the sponsoring employer — underwrites death or disability benefits — known as biometric risks — or guarantees a given investment performance or a given level of benefits, that scheme or trust RAC must hold a buffer of additional assets over and above the scheme or trust RAC’s existing statutory funding obligations.

Schemes and trust RACs which underwrite biometric risks or provide guarantees as set out above are defined as “regulatory own funds schemes” and “regulatory own funds trust RACs” respectively. A regulatory own funds scheme is required to meet both its existing statutory funding obligation and additional solvency margin requirements.

Chapter 2 of Part 4 of the Bill makes the necessary amendments to the Pensions Act 1990 to implement Article 17 of the IORPS directive. However, it is expected that there will be few, if any, pension schemes in Ireland that function in the manner described in Article 17 of the directive. We are required by European law to commit the directive into Irish law, even if the indications are that there will be few, if any, such pension schemes in Ireland.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Could we have a translation into English of what the Minister justsaid?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  That was the leagan Béarla, a Theachta.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus O Snodaigh  Zoom on Aengus O Snodaigh  Does this change the impact on existing schemes? Do schemes already in place have to retrospectively increase their reserve, or is it just for future schemes? Even though the Minister said that it may only apply to very few pension products available in Ireland, have we any idea what kind of impact this will have? Will it impact negatively? It will impact positively in some ways because there is a greater reserve. Is there any danger that if this is to be imposed on existing schemes in Ireland, it will cause them financial problems?

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  My advice is that it will affect few, if any, pension schemes in Ireland that function in the manner described in Article 17 of the directive. It is a particular structure of pension scheme or trust retirement annuity contract and it has nothing to do with the sponsoring employer. It is where they underwrite death or disability benefits — known in the insurance industry as biometric risks — or guarantee a given investment performance or a given level of benefits. We do not have that type of structure in Ireland, so it is unlikely that it will have any effect on existing Irish schemes.

[614]Question put and agreed to.

Sections 27 to 43, inclusive, agreed to.

Question proposed: “That the Title be the Title to the Bill.”

Deputy Catherine Murphy: Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  I would like to make a point about the name of the Bill. FLAC drew attention to a significant section which has been omitted, namely, the section that deals with mortgage interest supplement and the changes that are urgently needed. For example, one party to a mortgage might encounter difficulties. Aspects of the programme for Government address this. An expert group has delivered recommendations on it. It is a major omission from the Bill, because the situation is urgent if we are to have some kind of management of personal and mortgage debt. Why was this not included in the Bill, given the urgency of the problem at this stage? FLAC provided a number of recommendations and I understand the Minister is familiar with them.

The expert group on mortgage arrears provided recommendations in its own report. It is a detailed report but it is specific on some of the recommendations. Perhaps the Minister can explain why it was not deemed to be urgent. It is urgent to comply with matters driven by the EU and the IMF but not to deal with matters of practical difficulty to people who are not even getting a night’s sleep because they are worried about whether they will have a roof over their heads.

Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  I have received the FLAC submission on the Bill, including its comment on mortgage interest supplement. The Department is looking to address the needs of mortgage holders, having regard to the various commitments in the programme for Government and the recommendations of the mortgage arrears and personal debt expert group.

Any changes to the mortgage interest supplement scheme must be considered in a budgetary context because a number of the changes put forward have significant implications and very detailed work is being done on the detail of the recommendations of the mortgage arrears and personal debt expert group.

I am working very closely with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government and the Minister of State with responsibility for housing and planning to see how best to address the various housing issues facing households, including the issue of mortgage interest supplement and the broader issue of rent supplement which I am extremely anxious to have transferred to the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Much work is under way in regard to all of these changes but the budgetary issues have not yet been fully identified and it would not be possible to bring forward legislation or changes until that has all been done.

Question put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 91; Níl, 30.

Information on Tom Barry  Zoom on Tom Barry  Barry, Tom. Information on Thomas P. Broughan  Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan  Broughan, Thomas P.
Information on Joan Burton  Zoom on Joan Burton  Burton, Joan. Information on Ray Butler  Zoom on Ray Butler  Butler, Ray.
Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Catherine Byrne  Zoom on Catherine Byrne  Byrne, Catherine.
Information on Eric J. Byrne  Zoom on Eric J. Byrne  Byrne, Eric. Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara.
Information on Ciaran Cannon  Zoom on Ciaran Cannon  Cannon, Ciarán. Information on Paudie Coffey  Zoom on Paudie Coffey  Coffey, Paudie.
Information on Niall Collins  Zoom on Niall Collins  Collins, Niall. Information on Michael Conaghan  Zoom on Michael Conaghan  Conaghan, Michael.
Information on Sean Conlan  Zoom on Sean Conlan  Conlan, Seán. Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul J.
Information on Ciara Conway  Zoom on Ciara Conway  Conway, Ciara. Information on Marcella MarcellaCorcoran Kennedy  Zoom on Marcella MarcellaCorcoran Kennedy  Corcoran Kennedy, Marcella.
Information on Joe Costello  Zoom on Joe Costello  Costello, Joe. Information on Simon Coveney  Zoom on Simon Coveney  Coveney, Simon.
Information on Barry Cowen  Zoom on Barry Cowen  Cowen, Barry. Information on John Deasy  Zoom on John Deasy  Deasy, John.
Information on Patrick Deering  Zoom on Patrick Deering  Deering, Pat. Information on Regina Doherty  Zoom on Regina Doherty  Doherty, Regina.
Information on Robert Dowds  Zoom on Robert Dowds  Dowds, Robert. Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Durkan, Bernard J.
Information on Alan Farrell  Zoom on Alan Farrell  Farrell, Alan. Information on Frank Feighan  Zoom on Frank Feighan  Feighan, Frank.
Information on Anne Ferris  Zoom on Anne Ferris  Ferris, Anne. Information on Peter Fitzpatrick  Zoom on Peter Fitzpatrick  Fitzpatrick, Peter.
Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Flanagan, Charles. Information on Terence Flanagan  Zoom on Terence Flanagan  Flanagan, Terence.
Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fleming, Sean. Information on Eamon Gilmore  Zoom on Eamon Gilmore  Gilmore, Eamon.
Information on Brendan Griffin  Zoom on Brendan Griffin  Griffin, Brendan. Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic.
Information on Noel Harrington  Zoom on Noel Harrington  Harrington, Noel. Information on Simon Harris  Zoom on Simon Harris  Harris, Simon.
Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian. Information on Martin Heydon  Zoom on Martin Heydon  Heydon, Martin.
Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil. Information on Heather Humphreys  Zoom on Heather Humphreys  Humphreys, Heather.
Information on Kevin Humphreys  Zoom on Kevin Humphreys  Humphreys, Kevin. Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Keaveney, Colm.
Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Kehoe, Paul. Information on Billy Kelleher  Zoom on Billy Kelleher  Kelleher, Billy.
Information on Seán Kenny  Zoom on Seán Kenny  Kenny, Seán. Information on Seamus Kirk  Zoom on Seamus Kirk  Kirk, Seamus.
Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Kitt, Michael P. Information on Seán Kyne  Zoom on Seán Kyne  Kyne, Seán.
Information on Anthony Lawlor  Zoom on Anthony Lawlor  Lawlor, Anthony. Information on Ciaran Lynch  Zoom on Ciaran Lynch  Lynch, Ciarán.
Information on John Lyons  Zoom on John Lyons  Lyons, John. Information on Michael McCarthy  Zoom on Michael McCarthy  McCarthy, Michael.
Information on Charlie McConalogue  Zoom on Charlie McConalogue  McConalogue, Charlie. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on Dinny McGinley  Zoom on Dinny McGinley  McGinley, Dinny. Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  McGrath, Michael.
Information on John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John. Information on Joe McHugh  Zoom on Joe McHugh  McHugh, Joe.
Information on Tony McLoughlin  Zoom on Tony McLoughlin  McLoughlin, Tony. Information on Michael McNamara  Zoom on Michael McNamara  McNamara, Michael.
Information on Eamonn Maloney  Zoom on Eamonn Maloney  Maloney, Eamonn. Information on Peter Mathews  Zoom on Peter Mathews  Mathews, Peter.
Information on Michelle Mulherin  Zoom on Michelle Mulherin  Mulherin, Michelle. Information on Dara Murphy  Zoom on Dara Murphy  Murphy, Dara.
Information on Eoghan Murphy  Zoom on Eoghan Murphy  Murphy, Eoghan. Information on Gerald Nash  Zoom on Gerald Nash  Nash, Gerald.
Information on Denis Naughten  Zoom on Denis Naughten  Naughten, Denis. Information on Dan Neville  Zoom on Dan Neville  Neville, Dan.
Information on Derek Nolan  Zoom on Derek Nolan  Nolan, Derek. 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 Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordán  Ó Ríordáin, Aodhán.
Information on Kieran O'Donnell  Zoom on Kieran O'Donnell  O’Donnell, Kieran. Information on Patrick O'Donovan  Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan  O’Donovan, Patrick.
Information on Fergus O'Dowd  Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd  O’Dowd, Fergus. Information on John O'Mahony  Zoom on John O'Mahony  O’Mahony, John.
Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe. Information on Ann Phelan  Zoom on Ann Phelan  Phelan, Ann.
Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Sean Sherlock  Zoom on Sean Sherlock  Sherlock, Sean. Information on Róisín Shortall  Zoom on Róisín Shortall  Shortall, Róisín.
Information on Brendan Smith  Zoom on Brendan Smith  Smith, Brendan. Information on Arthur Spring  Zoom on Arthur Spring  Spring, Arthur.
Information on Emmet Stagg  Zoom on Emmet Stagg  Stagg, Emmet. Information on David Stanton  Zoom on David Stanton  Stanton, David.
Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  Timmins, Billy. Information on Robert Troy  Zoom on Robert Troy  Troy, Robert.
Information on Joanna Tuffy  Zoom on Joanna Tuffy  Tuffy, Joanna. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.
Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.  


Níl
Information on Gerry Adams  Zoom on Gerry Adams  Adams, Gerry. Information on Richard Boyd Barrett  Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett  Boyd Barrett, Richard.
Information on Joan Collins  Zoom on Joan Collins  Collins, Joan. Information on Michael Colreavy  Zoom on Michael Colreavy  Colreavy, Michael.
Information on Clare Daly  Zoom on Clare Daly  Daly, Clare. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on Stephen Donnelly  Zoom on Stephen Donnelly  Donnelly, Stephen. Information on Dessie Ellis  Zoom on Dessie Ellis  Ellis, Dessie.
Information on Martin Ferris  Zoom on Martin Ferris  Ferris, Martin. Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan  Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan  Flanagan, Luke ‘Ming’.
Information on Tom Fleming  Zoom on Tom Fleming  Fleming, Tom. Information on John Halligan  Zoom on John Halligan  Halligan, John.
Information on Seamus Healy  Zoom on Seamus Healy  Healy, Seamus. Information on Michael Healy-Rae  Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae  Healy-Rae, Michael.
Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  Higgins, Joe. Information on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Zoom on Pádraig MacLochlainn  Mac Lochlainn, Pádraig.
Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  McDonald, Mary Lou. Information on Finian McGrath  Zoom on Finian McGrath  McGrath, Finian.
Information on Mattie McGrath  Zoom on Mattie McGrath  McGrath, Mattie. Information on Sandra McLellan  Zoom on Sandra McLellan  McLellan, Sandra.
Information on Catherine Murphy  Zoom on Catherine Murphy  Murphy, Catherine. 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 Jonathan O'Brien  Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien  O’Brien, Jonathan.
Information on Maureen O'Sullivan  Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan  O’Sullivan, Maureen. Information on Thomas Pringle  Zoom on Thomas Pringle  Pringle, Thomas.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brian Stanley  Zoom on Brian Stanley  Stanley, Brian.
Information on Peadar Tóibín  Zoom on Peadar Tóibín  Tóibín, Peadar. Information on Mick Wallace  Zoom on Mick Wallace  Wallace, Mick.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Paul Kehoe; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Catherine Murphy.

Question declared carried.

Bill reported with amendments.

[616]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe  Zoom on Paul Kehoe  Now.


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