Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Bill 2011: Committee and Remaining Stages

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 736 No. 3

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Minister without Portfolio (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 1:

This is a technical amendment that inserts a reference to the appointed day on which particular sections and Parts of the Bill shall come into operation. Other sections will come into operation immediately on enactment. In essence, while I do not want to presume its acceptance in the other House and the President’s consent, it is expected all sections and parts of the Bill will come into operation on 5 July when the commencement order is signed by the Taoiseach.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I am not happy with the way the Bill is being handled.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  We have had that debate.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I oppose further debate on it. Consequently, I am opposing the amendment.

Amendment put.

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

Information on James Bannon  Zoom on James Bannon  Bannon, James. 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 Richard Bruton  Zoom on Richard Bruton  Bruton, Richard. 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 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 Michael Conaghan  Zoom on Michael Conaghan  Conaghan, Michael.
Information on Paul Connaughton  Zoom on Paul Connaughton  Connaughton, Paul J. Information on Ciara Conway  Zoom on Ciara Conway  Conway, Ciara.
Information on Noel Coonan  Zoom on Noel Coonan  Coonan, Noel. 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 Jim Daly  Zoom on Jim Daly  Daly, Jim. 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 Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Robert Dowds  Zoom on Robert Dowds  Dowds, Robert.
Information on Andrew Doyle  Zoom on Andrew Doyle  Doyle, Andrew. 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 Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances.
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 Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  Hayes, Brian.
Information on Tom Hayes  Zoom on Tom Hayes  Hayes, Tom. Information on Philip Hogan  Zoom on Philip Hogan  Hogan, Phil.
Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Howlin, Brendan. Information on Kevin Humphreys  Zoom on Kevin Humphreys  Humphreys, Kevin.
Information on Derek Keating  Zoom on Derek Keating  Keating, Derek. Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  Keaveney, Colm.
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 Kathleen Lynch  Zoom on Kathleen Lynch  Lynch, Kathleen. 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 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 Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Mitchell, Olivia.
Information on Michelle Mulherin  Zoom on Michelle Mulherin  Mulherin, Michelle. 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 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 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 Ann Phelan  Zoom on Ann Phelan  Phelan, Ann.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Pat Rabbitte  Zoom on Pat Rabbitte  Rabbitte, Pat.
Information on Michael Ring  Zoom on Michael Ring  Ring, Michael. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Shatter, Alan. 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 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 Leo Varadkar  Zoom on Leo Varadkar  Varadkar, Leo.
Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Wall, Jack. Information on Brian Walsh  Zoom on Brian Walsh  Walsh, Brian.
Information on Alex White  Zoom on Alex White  White, Alex.  


Níl
Information on Gerry Adams  Zoom on Gerry Adams  Adams, Gerry. Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Browne, John.
Information on Dara Calleary  Zoom on Dara Calleary  Calleary, Dara. Information on Joan Collins  Zoom on Joan Collins  Collins, Joan.
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 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 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 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 John McGuinness  Zoom on John McGuinness  McGuinness, John.
Information on Sandra McLellan  Zoom on Sandra McLellan  McLellan, Sandra. Information on Micheál Martin  Zoom on Micheál Martin  Martin, Micheál.
Information on Michael Moynihan  Zoom on Michael Moynihan  Moynihan, Michael. 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 Éamon Ó Cuív  Zoom on Éamon Ó Cuív  Ó Cuív, Éamon.
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 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 Joe Carey; Níl, Deputies Aengus Ó Snodaigh and Seán Ó Fearghaíl.

Amendment declared carried.

Section 1 deleted.

[483]

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  For the information of Deputies, amendment No. 2 is on the substitute list of amendments which was circulated on 22 June. Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 4, 5 and 7 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 2:

These are technical amendments to the definition in section 2 and include the definition of the Act referred to in the Bill and list the Acts which are cross-referenced. The term “appointed day” is in amendment No. 5, and the term “statutory instrument” is in amendment No. 7.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 3:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 4:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 5:

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Olivia Mitchell): Information on Olivia Mitchell  Zoom on Olivia Mitchell  Amendments Nos. 6, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17, 19 and 20 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 6:

Amendments Nos. 6, 7, 9, 10, 14, 15, 17 and 19 are being considered together, with amendment No. 20 in the name of Deputy Fleming. These amendments relate in the main to the definition [484]in the Bill of “public service body”. As the Minister for Finance is transferring to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform a number of functions relating to remuneration, superannuation, and so on, in commercial semi-State bodies, the definition of public service body in section 7 which transfers these public service type functions will now include commercial State bodies.

Amendments Nos. 6, 9 and 15 amend the definition of public service body in this way. Amendments No. 8, 10 and 14 are technical amendments.

Amendment No. 17 provides that functions of the Minister for Finance relating to the superannuation, remuneration, and so on of the Judiciary, Members of the Oireachtas, members of local authorities, Ministers and Ministers of State and the President transfer from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform as these would not be included in the existing section 7(1)(a)(i), which refers only to staff of public bodies.

Amendment No. 19 tidies up the wording of section 8(f) in the published Bill and seeks to set out more clearly the Minister’s function in procurement policies and procedural frameworks. This amendment also clarifies that commercial semi-State bodies are not included in the definition of public service body for the purposes of section 8, namely, the reform remit of the new Department and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deputy Fleming’s amendment No. 20, which is taken with this grouping, is in two parts. The first, subsection (g), relates to combating high levels of salary in the public service. The Deputy already referred to the announcement I made yesterday on foot of a Government decision of earlier this week on the introduction of pay ceilings for the highest paid persons across the public service, and for chief executive officers in commercial State companies.

This Government supports a strong policy on pay restraint within the public service, as we determined on the day of our election when we reduced our own pay rates and fixed the highest pay rate for any public servant at that stage to be €200,000. We have worked since then on establishing that figure as a pay ceiling for all public servants, which will be in line with the recommendation published yesterday. The ceiling norm for all new incumbent positions will cascade down through the public service in relative fashion. A higher remuneration of €250,000 is the ceiling in respect of chief executive officers of commercial semi-State bodies. We did much thinking in this regard because there are many in the semi-State sector earning higher than the €250,000 threshold that we determined.

Deputies asked why we did not do this, legislatively, for everybody, including incumbents. I explored that and certainly would not have been averse to it but was informed that a financial emergency measures in the public interest, or FEMPI, process focus on such a narrow group of people for such a small take of money would not be robust and would be subject to constitutional overturn. Obviously, I was anxious that this would not happen. However, I believe we will get voluntary reduction. I do not have the pay scales in front of me but it transpires there will be only one chief executive officer earning above the €250,000 threshold, namely, the CEO of the ESB, with the rest earning less than that. A total of only five will earn above the general norm of €200,000 which applies to the rest of the public service.

It is a fair measure. I wished to keep the relativities as well and that is why we used the Hay report, which set out the relative differences, and simply reduced everybody’s salary in proportionate terms. It was raised with me that because we used the Hay recommendations we may have gone too far in respect of the lowest-earning chief executive officers, which positions relate, in the main, to port companies. I am willing to look again at the lowest rates but that is a matter for debate when such positions come up to be filled.

[485]In the interim I have asked for voluntary reductions for incumbents who are above the threshold of €250,000, to bring them down by 15%, or, at least, to the €250,000 level. Some indicated they have already taken a pay cut. I am very heartened, and wish to put it on public record, that I got an immediate response from the heads of public Departments, namely, the secretaries general, who, before the end of business yesterday, all offered to accept the voluntary new ceiling of €200,000 and relinquish their former rate. That is an act of public service because they have already been subject to a number of pay cuts.

For all those reasons, therefore, I do not believe it is necessary to consider the first part of Deputy Fleming’s amendment. The second part proposes the retaining of a published record of all purchase orders in respect of the procurement of goods and services by, and on behalf of, Departments and other public service bodies. As far as the new Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is concerned, all information on public expenditure belongs to and should be available to the public. Our aim is to put Ireland at the leading edge of what is available in terms of openness, transparency and public details.

I do not know whether the Deputies opposite have had the opportunity to notice but on Tuesday this week I launched two units within my departmental website. One invites the public to participate in making suggestions for reform so that we can do things better and more efficiently and I am absolutely overwhelmed by the phenomenal response. Not all the ideas are great, obviously, but some are and I have guaranteed to publish the best of them on the website and, much more important, to implement them. In addition, we are providing a useful new data source for Deputies, the general public, writers, and so on. The data bank available on the Department’s website, www.per.gov.ie, provides comprehensive information on every aspect of Government expenditure, currently and going back to 1994. The provision of such information is the beginning, rather than the end, of the process of opening the State’s data. The Department plans to make further information available in the near future. Information on every subhead of expenditure will be publicly available in the data bank within weeks of being agreed. I am not a great techie, but this system has been demonstrated to me in some detail. It allows comparison of expenditure under any subhead one likes. One can assess growth or diminution in public sector numbers, for example, over the past ten years and thereby make real-time comparisons.

This extremely important tool will give the public an unprecedented volume of current and historical data about how public money is spent, and in what area. It will reveal the public expenditure trends. It is my intention that over time, the Department will put all appropriate information into the hands of the public through the data bank. In addition to historical and annual information, it is intended that monthly Exchequer data will be made available for public scrutiny. I refer to the stuff that comes to the Government on a monthly basis, the general Government expenditure data and the purchase orders made by every Department and State agency. It is hoped that the public will be able to get information on what has been bought and how much it has cost within a month of that data becoming available. This aspect of the system will be up and running when the technical work has been completed.

I believe this is the approach Deputy Fleming intended that the Department would take. I assure the Deputy that I want to ensure the new Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is open and transparent. A public understanding of what we spend money on is necessary if expenditure is to be properly scrutinised. My experience is that the clearer and more open the spotlight on public expenditure is, the more prudent the expenditure decisions tend to be.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I thank the Minister for tabling the amendments under discussion and responding to amendment No. 30 in my name. The salaries and pensions of senior employees [486]in the public service and excluded bodies is a topical issue at present. The first line of the statement I issued yesterday welcomed the Minister’s announcement. I am pleased that action is being taken. This matter was referred to when the late Mr. Brian Lenihan introduced last December’s budget. I am pleased that the proposals made at that time are now being implemented. We are going much further down the road at this stage. As the amendments before the House relate strictly to high pay levels, the Minister has an opportunity to clarify the decision he has made with regard to the ESB.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Sure.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  When my wife asked me why the chief executive of the ESB should get paid more than his counterpart in An Post, I said it is more complicated to generate electricity than to deliver envelopes. She was very angry with my explanation of the Minister’s approach. Perhaps the Minister can provide a better justification for it. My wife, as a member of the public, did not buy it. She argued that the chief executive of the ESB sits at a big desk in an office with staff all around him. She asked what the difference is between what he does and what others do. She said he does not personally put oil or gas into the burners at power stations. Perhaps the Minister can explain his approach.

I also want to raise a couple of other specific cases. I do not accept for a minute that the chief executive of AIB, which is a nationalised bank, should be exempt from the income limit. Can the Minister explain why he is exempt? I assume he will refer to the existence of an independent board of directors. Deputy McDonald discussed the case of the NTMA at length when we debated the earlier motion. I am keen to tease out the approach being taken with regard to hospital consultants. I understand that the contracts of many consultants were negotiated at the height of the Celtic tiger. As a member of the Committee of Public Accounts at the time, I said we would regret the deal that was struck. Even though I was a back bench Deputy in the Government that agreed the deal, I said it was a bad day’s work. It was negotiated at the height of the Celtic tiger. The then Minister thought it was a great achievement to give lucrative contracts to consultants. She may have secured some improvements in the contracts, but the cost will not stand up to long-term scrutiny.

My instinct is that the basic salary of consultants who have opted for public-only contracts — others have private work as well and there are extra posts — is approximately €200,000. Will those who have extra posts be brought back under the €200,000 limit? They will not be covered by the commercial semi-State limit. I believe there are many of them. I accept that yesterday’s announcement was geared towards new people who will come into the job in the future. It will not apply to anyone who is there already. I do not know for how long the contracts of these consultants extends. Some consultants have contracts for life. I do not think there is a closing date on them. Perhaps they extend to the date of retirement. It could be decades before some of them are replaced. Why should we pay so much to consultants? The Minister’s Cabinet colleague, the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, was vociferous in his defence of hospital consultants on “The Frontline” the other night. He spoke about the use of public hospital beds relative to the ratio that is allowed under these contracts. Is the Government’s relationship with consultants and the medical profession too cosy? Perhaps the Minister can put my mind at ease in that regard.

I am worried about salary scales. I do not want to be negative. If somebody does a great job, that is the most important thing. If one is given a senior job and told the Government’s salary cap of €250,000 applies to it, human nature means the first thing one will do — or someone acting on one’s behalf will do — is examine how one’s remuneration package can be improved. One might request a top-of-the-range company car that is changed every two years. One might [487]ask about the expense, entertainment and travel allowances to which one is entitled. One might look for a performance bonus. I object utterly in principle to that approach. People on salaries of €200,000 or €250,000 per annum are being paid to do their jobs to the best of their ability. If they feel they have done a very good job, they might argue that they should be entitled to a bonus. Like most people, I find that abhorrent.

There should be no scope for bonuses in these remuneration packages. I would be far more interested in a clause that prevents people from getting their full salaries if they do not perform. It is like upward-only rent reviews. The salary is the basic starting point and everything goes up after that. Pension contributions can be substantial, depending on a person’s age. People can have their private health insurance or VHI paid for them. My family pays €4,000 or €5,000 for health insurance. Such additional aspects of remuneration packages can be worth a great deal of money after tax, especially if one has a family. What will the Minister do about these remuneration packages, as opposed to basic wages? I compliment him on the start he has made. I do not expect him to finish it all on his first step. Perhaps he will come back and look at all of these things down the road. I suggest he should draw up guidelines on issues like those I have mentioned.

I was impressed to hear the Minister say that the Secretaries General agreed to the voluntary deduction yesterday. Perhaps he can give us some anecdotal information on that. Did all the Secretaries General meet to discuss this matter? Meetings of what some people call “the real permanent Government” are rare events. Ministers should be worried if the Secretaries General are meeting too often. They have to make plans when they are dealing with a new Government. It is good if they had a meeting. That issue will be considered by the Committee of Public Accounts in due course. Perhaps the Minister can provide some background information. When he speaks about Secretaries General, is he including all the accounting officers in the various Departments?

  1 o’clock

I raise another issue in the context of this amendment. I concur with the Minister’s decision to ask the public to suggest reforms, improvements and efficiencies in the public service. I live near Portlaoise, which is a public sector town. In addition to officials working in organisations like the HSE and the Teaching Council, there are approximately 600 staff in the Department of Agriculture, Marine and Food and almost 1,000 current or retired prison officers in the Portlaoise area. Although public servants are not in love with us, they are well able to tell us where there is room for cutbacks or greater efficiencies. They never say there is inefficiency at their levels. It is always at the higher levels of these organisations.

In truth, I am not being fair to them. Many of them did know that in many cases they were being asked to do things that did not need to be done at all. The Minister will find, if he taps into that resource, there is a wealth of information that can come up on efficiencies. People like taking a bit of pride in their job, they like to feel they are doing something productive, and they could help on that. I would encourage that and look forward to seeing that on the website.

On the second half of my amendment, the published record of all purchase orders is also a long-term project. It is not to do with the nitty-gritty of purchase orders but it would show up value for money, not only in Deputy Howlin’s Department but across the Departments.

The then Department of Transport looked at this. For example, although I do not have the exact figures, it got information from all the local authorities which showed there is a phenomenal difference between the cost of reconstructing or tarring a kilometre of road in Cork and in Galway, Kildare or Meath. I understand most local authorities try, where possible, to wear a county jersey and give the job to a contractor from their own area if at all possible. With all [488]due regard, I would say it would be difficult for contractors from outside Cork to get much work from Cork County Council. That is merely my instinct on the way they work down there.

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Deputy Brian Hayes): Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  That must change.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I am delighted the Minister of State with responsibility for the OPW, Deputy Brian Hayes, is present. That is why I agree. When there are so many State agencies such as the HSE, State bodies, VECs and local authorities in operation, I guarantee the Minister there are different suppliers getting different prices for the same product because some of them merely drive a harder bargain. We all know there are tendering procedures, but the specification can be varied to suit a local need.

I am not always rushing for the cheapest. I am looking for the best value. Sometimes the cheaper product is a dirt product and one does not always want the cheapest. That is why I would welcome that record being developed in due course.

There will probably be data protection issues on the commercial sensitivity of prices on purchase orders, and the Minister might address this matter in due course. These issues will affect people bidding. Commercial sensitivity is often used as a way of spiking the release of some of this information. The Minister must take freedom of information, commercial sensitivity and data protection into consideration when drafting this. Data protection can be a good issue, but sometimes it can restrict the free flow of information between Departments which is in the interests of the public in terms of getting value for money. Perhaps the Minister would respond to these few additional points about the overall remuneration packages. Those are the specific points I wanted to raise at this stage.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I look forward to those responses as well. The Minister will be happy to hear that not alone did I see his website looking for ideas for cost savings, I actually advertised it on my social media——

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Excellent.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  ——and encouraged people to take part in it.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There was so much coming in at one stage yesterday that it momentarily crashed. Four hundred people tried to access it.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  There you go.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  That is like the Olympics site.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  If one is looking for real reform, not merely in systems but in culture, inevitably there is no better place to go than the shop floor because they are the experts in how services are delivered, efficiently or inefficiently.

I want to raise something different with the Minister which relates to commercial semi-State companies. I understand the Minister’s role in superannuation, remuneration, terms and conditions and so on. I want him to clarify his role, or lack thereof, in the commercial semi-State companies as regards section 8, reform and change. What I am driving at is the role of the Minister in the transfer or disposal of assets in part or in whole of any of the semi-State companies. The Minister will be aware that I have written to him about the Cahill report in respect of the ESB. He has not written back. Perhaps he might. I made clear to the Minister and others of his colleagues that he should publish that report in advance of any decision on [489]unbundling. For the purposes of this discussion, perhaps the Minister would set out for me where he is located within that decision-making process.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I thank the Deputies opposite. Deputy Fleming made a number of points. To answer his first, which is probably most important, on how we determine that the highest paid should be the chief executive officer of the ESB, the Deputy will be aware that there was a process done when his party was in Government called the Hay process. It looked at setting pay levels for the commercial semi-State sector, but also at determining the relativities between the chief executive officers because, as my colleague, the Minister, Deputy Rabbitte, stated, I think to the annoyance of the greyhound community, the chief executive officer of Bord na gCon should not be paid the same as the chief executive officer of the ESB. There are relativities. In the list published yesterday, one can see that these run from the ESB at the top to the chief executive officers of some of the smaller port companies at the bottom, and there are significant differentials in pay. That is for a good reason, because the complexity, size and scale of responsibility is different.

I wanted to shy away from a crude instrument of putting a general cap that would flatten that differential and we applied the Hay reductions on a percentage basis to everyone. That is where we came up with the cascading list. The percentage take we took was the aggregate cuts that had been inflicted generally under the financial measures in the public interest scheme plus 10%. That brought everyone except for the chief executive officer of the ESB below the €250,000 threshold. It is a very significant reduction, from the incumbent’s salary to what will be paid to the next chief executive officer appointed. Unless one wanted to make an additional cut to the chief executive officer of the ESB, he would not have come below the threshold. Having discussed it with colleagues at Cabinet, the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, in particular, it was felt that such was an appropriate level of pay. As Deputy Fleming will be aware, I have asked the incumbents who currently breach the €250,000 threshold to take a voluntary reduction of 15% or to reach the €250,000 threshold, whichever has the least impact on their wages.

Deputy Fleming makes a good case about the chief executive officer of AIB. I am sure that if I was sitting on the opposite side of the House, it would be a case I myself would be happy to make. It is not a commercial semi-State company. Currently, the State has a majority shareholding in AIB and there is a case to be made that some level of public service norms should be applicable. These are not legally applicable now. It is a source of aggravation to the public to see with the banks generally the pay rates of those who were in charge of them and who made those decisions that brought such economic devastation to the country, and the pensions with which they have walked away. As Deputy Fleming knows full well, however, it is difficult to do any of this retrospectively under our constitutional provisions.

The NTMA was raised by both Deputies. The NTMA’s staff are contracted on individual contracts, which means the NTMA determines the skills it wants, identifies the holders of those skills, wherever those people might be, at home or abroad, and negotiates contracts with them. As I indicated, I am not happy with the degree of secrecy that surrounds that. I do not know the pay rates in the NTMA. I know the chief executive’s pay, because he disclosed it to the Committee of Public Accounts, and the number who breach the €200,000 threshold, because that was indicated to that committee as well. The Minister in charge of public expenditure does not know these sums as of right, which is not good. I certainly will be taking that matter up with the Minister, Deputy Noonan, who has directly responsibility.

Deputy McDonald is correct when she states that the issue is amplified when one has the placement of NTMA officials in the Department of Finance, as is envisaged. The reason for this, which I had not much chance to explain in the previous debate, is to comply with the [490]determination of Government to have a robust banking division which carries a proper scrutiny. The Minister, Deputy Noonan, has overseen fundamental restructuring of the banking division. Deputies will be aware of the Nyberg report, which contains a detailed analysis and pointed out many weaknesses. These are weaknesses which, by and large, have been dealt with already but there are some things we need to do further. This process will ensure that areas can be transferred under a memorandum of understanding from the NTMA into the Department of Finance. The issue raised in the previous debate was to ensure there would be legal certainty in respect of their status.

One thing I discovered when I was writing the reform document for the Labour Party last year was the Carltona principle. Apparently this comes from a 1940s case in the United Kingdom in which the authority of a civil servant to act on a legal or a constitutional basis on behalf of the Minister was challenged. The principle was established that civil servants acting bona fides had the legal authority of the Minister. The issue was to transfer that legal authority to these new personnel with certainty so that when they sign affidavits or appear before the courts they could have legal certainty in their legal personae. This is what that is about.

The issue of hospital consultants was raised. From 1 January, the 10% pay reduction for all new entrants into the public service has been applied to everyone. All newly appointed consultants are already below the €200,000 threshold. They were not specifically mentioned in the announcement I made yesterday because the Minister for Health is already in negotiations on work practices. I am keen for that work to be concluded before we specifically consider the issue of hospital consultants. The Deputy will be aware that some people have particular additional responsibilities, for example, the Masters of the maternity hospitals or the clinical directors in hospitals. Under the financial emergency measures in the public interest legislation, the allowance element or portion of salary for the post or responsibility was treated differently than basic pay. That principle is replicated here.

The issues of performance related pay and bonuses were raised as well as the general principle. At this stage, all line Ministers have written to the semi-State bodies under their aegis to outline that the Government is against bonuses and that no bonuses should be paid to anyone in the current economic climate. Performance related pay is contractually part of some chief executive officers’ basic pay packages and cannot be dislodged arbitrarily. They have legal comfort in the contractual arrangements. One of the decisions the Government made on Tuesday is to request me to examine fundamentally performance related pay as an issue. I intend to do this. In the past, there have been instances where performance related pay was simply taken as part of basic salary and it was rubber-stamped by a board. That must stop. I have not been convinced yet but there are arguments which hold that there should be an incentive to achieve set goals and that there should be a financial reward for certain chief executives. There must be some mechanism to set goals and to validate their achievements. It should not be automatic. This is something to which we can return.

Issues relating to the reform agenda and procurement were raised. The Minister of State, Deputy Hayes, has embarked on a robust review of procurement in the public sector. He has already been to London to meet his British counterpart who has achieved significant savings in their procurement agenda. None of these things are simple because, as in the case of roads projects, we do not seek a situation where everything one buys is cheaper but it is all manufactured outside the State. There must be some focus that Irish money being spent is sustaining Irish jobs, even if it is marginally more expensive than procuring goods or services with foreign product. Within procurement law we are captured by our treaty obligations as well. These are matters the Minister of State, Deputy Hayes, is very seized of. When the committee is up and [491]running it would be useful to hold a real, open debate on procurement policy, how we do things and so on.

Deputy MacDonald referred to my role in terms of the commercial semi-State bodies. The commercial semi-State bodies are independent of Government in their normal business transactions. This is the statute basis of virtually all of the organisations. My role is to ensure that general Government policy on remuneration is applied. Borrowing for semi-State bodies will involve the joint action of the Minister, Deputy Noonan, and me. The amendment provides for a transfer to the Minister, that is to say, me, of shares or stocks issued to the Minister for Finance by a public body and registered in the name or held in trust on behalf of a person. The list to which the subsection of the legislation refers is in the amendment.

I am unsure what specific information the Deputy sought because I have not seen her letter. I presume it is in transit to me and I will check out the matter as soon as I get back. Deputy McDonald raised the specific issue of the Cahill report. There are two issues of note with regard to my role. Borrowing will be an action performed by the Minister, Deputy Noonan, and me.

I refer to the implementation of the McCarthy report in general terms. I am responsible to Government to receive from each line Department its reaction to the McCarthy report and to co-ordinate a set of proposals which I will then send to Government. To date, we have received from each line Minister his or her initial consideration of the McCarthy report and my officials are working on this. I hope to have proposals to Government before the summer recess. This is the intention. If there is any matter I have missed I would be pleased to refer to it again.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I have no wish to prolong things unduly. I understand that borrowing is a joint function and I understand the Minister’s role in terms of remuneration, pensions and pay. My question relates to the transfer or disposal of the asset in part or whole and where the share resides. I seek clarification from the Minister on this matter. My understanding is that this is also a shared role between the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and the Minister for Finance. This is a critical issue. We are not here to debate the McCarthy report in substance.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  We will find the relevant section for the Deputy.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  It is critical that we are all aware of the rules of engagement on this issue from the get-go.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I will answer that specific question. As Deputy McDonald correctly indicated, the shareholding held by the Minister for Finance will transfer to me immediately on the enactment of the legislation. The disposal of it will be a matter for me in consultation with the Minister for Finance.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I wish to raise several points. The Minister stated that Allied Irish Bank did not come under the definition of a commercial State organisation. My first reaction was whether he was implying that it is a non-commercial organisation given the amount of money we continue to put into it. Perhaps we should set up a new category of body.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  We could call it accident and emergency.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Something like that. Perhaps I missed the reference in the press release yesterday to the case of consultants but I do not believe it was referred to. It was only when we picked up on it that it was suggested the Minister, Deputy Reilly, would deal with it separately. We look forward to it coming to fruition. Will the Minister, Deputy Howlin, have [492]a role in this matter or will it be one strictly for the line Minister? In other words, after it goes to the Cabinet, which Minister will be responsible for its sign-off?

The Minister mentioned the role of the directors of various State companies. There is a problem in this regard in that the role of departmental staff in some Government bodies is utterly confusing. They are sent there to be the Minister’s eyes and ears, in a sense, but on entering the boardroom, they are told they are there to represent the corporate interests of the organisation. I refer to FÁS and such bodies, and I am sure the same applies to ministerial nominees on the boards of Forfás, IDA Ireland, Enterprise Ireland, the National Roads Authority and so on. When staff move from the Department into these organisations, the shutters are pulled down and they no longer feel able to talk to the Minister because they now have a corporate responsibility under company law to the organisation in question. They are not public interest directors as such. Public interest directors have been appointed to the banks, but even there, they are limited in what they can do. When challenged on their role, they have argued that as board members of a particular bank, they must operate in the interests of that bank. Their background means they have an understanding of the public interest which they carry with them into their new organisation, but there is no mechanism to deal formally with these issues. I accept that there is no simple solution to this problem, but I am interested in the Minister’s comments.

We will deal with procurement procedures in more detail presently. This issue was examined last year by the Department of Finance because there was concern, particularly in the construction industry, that large numbers of public projects, including the printing of some of the leaving certificate examination papers, for example, were being awarded to external contractors. An examination of last year’s figures shows that Ireland is utterly out of synch with the rest of Europe in this regard. For instance, 99% of all capital projects in France are assigned to French companies, and the same applies in Germany. In these countries project specifications are designed to suit what can be provided from within the state. Such an approach is within EU law, and it is open to contractors from any other member state to bid, but it is nicely constructed to suit the French or German way of doing business. We have not copped on to ourselves on this issue. We must be careful to avoid imposing additional costs on the taxpayer, but we are out of synch with other countries which know how to live within EU procurement rules while ensuring as much public business as possible is retained within the state.

We are told that the provisions in this legislation cannot be applied to incumbents because of contractual obligations. Has the Government considered taking a test case in respect of one of these organisations? In the case of judges’ pay, for example, I would have been inclined, at the time reductions were applied to the remuneration of other workers in the public service, to have instructed whoever was responsible to cut judicial pay and see what happened. Likewise, I propose that the same be done in respect of incumbents’ pay and let anybody who wishes to do so take the matter to court. Even if the Government were to lose the case in five years time, the Minister would have shown the public he meant business and sent a signal across the public service that these changes could not be avoided. If the Government were to do this, no doubt the Attorney General and every barrister in the country would be up in arms. However, it is important to bear in mind that the Attorney General’s role is not to dictate to the Government but to offer legal advice. Moreover, that advice is only one key element in the governmental decision-making process; it is not the only consideration. I would be pleased to see the Government doing what it knows is right in this case and facing the consequences in court. We might all be surprised by the outcome. A judge might well agree that there is a reasonable case to be made for an inability to pay, given that we are borrowing €12 billion to €15 billion per annum to meet social welfare payments, provide special needs assistants in schools and so on. [493] The Minister — whether that is Deputy Howlin or another Minister — should go down to the High Court and plead inability to pay the wages of these incumbents. A judge might agree they are not affordable. Setting aside the legal advice, what are the Minister’s views? Sometimes it is necessary to proceed with certain provisions and face the legal consequences further down the road.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I expect we will have some very interesting debates at the committee. On the Deputy’s last point, I hope I will prove to be a courageous Minister but not a foolhardy one. I do not want to put myself at hazard personally for robbing people of their money if I have no legal authority to make such decisions. One must be guided in reasonable measure by legal advice on what one can do. The financial emergency measures in the public interest legislation introduced by the Government of which Deputy Fleming was a part was — I am not sure “courageous” is the right word — difficult to enact, and I do not want to put a strain on it unnecessarily. I am anxious to avoid bringing the whole house down because we are dependent on the flow of moneys from these measures to sustain ourselves. Nevertheless, I take the Deputy’s point. The general objective is one of fairness and equity. There is a necessity to take action, as provided for in these measures. Even when we do not have the legal authority to implement pay cuts immediately for those on very high incomes, there is an aspect of moral suasion. We at least need to know how much the people concerned are earning before we can apply that moral suasion. We will see how we can move further on this matter in the course of time.

On procurement issues, the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, is better placed to answer the Deputy’s questions and will do so later in the debate. In short, we must do better on procurement in ensuring better value for money and so on. Having said that, the Minister of State advises me that 95% of what we purchase as a state, by value, is purchased from providers in the State, which is certainly higher than I expected. This might not be the case numerically in terms of volume of contracts, but in terms of 95% of the value of all contracts, the beneficiaries are based in the State. This compares well with other much larger economies. In an economy the size of the United States, for instance, one can source everything within the boundaries of the state. That is virtually a closed economy because the scale is so great. However, for a small open economy like Ireland, 95% is an impressive figure.

I take the Deputy’s point on public interest directors. It is somewhat jarring when people are appointed to perform a public interest role and subsequently take the position that they are captured by company law and have a responsibility to the company which supersedes or restricts their actions on the public interest side. I do not know how we will deal with that issue, but it is an interesting point which I fully accept.

Regarding ministerial responsibilities, as I said, from the appointed day the property rights vested in the Minister for Finance shall transfer to me. However, in respect of disposals above €50 million, I am obliged not only to consult but to gain the consent of the Minister for Finance. In other words, we will act in concert on the large projects to which the Deputy referred.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 7:

[494]Amendment agreed to.

Section 2, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 8:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 9:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 10:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 3, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move amendment No. 11:

[495]This amendment provides for the insertion of standard provisions regarding the power to make regulations under the Bill. It refers to the content of such regulations, the laying of all regulations before each House of the Oireachtas and the annulling of regulations. This is a standard provision.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I often am a little curious about this standard provision. The amendment states: “Every regulation ... shall be laid before each House of the Oireachtas as soon as may be after it is made and, if a resolution annulling the regulation is passed by either such House within ... 21 days on which that House sits after the regulation is laid ... the regulation shall be annulled accordingly, but without prejudice to the validity of anything previously done thereunder.” Does the Minister of State know whether this happens very often? From my experience as a Deputy, statutory instruments are listed regularly and while they probably are placed in the Oireachtas Library, no one really knows about that. I wish to suggest a good practice for the House. I was Chairman of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government and we asked the relevant Department to ensure all statutory instruments being issued by the Minister were forwarded to the joint committee. They came to us by way of correspondence, although I note we were obliged to fight to be put on the mailing list. It was wonderful because the joint committee had sight of statutory instruments that were relevant to local authorities in particular and it regularly commented on them and tabled them for discussion. However, I am not aware of any case in which we sought to annul such an instrument. I am unsure of the procedure but one probably would be obliged to have a vote in this House to so do. Is the Minister of State aware of this ever happening?

It can happen, especially during the holidays, that even if a committee was aware of a statutory instrument, three months might elapse before it got around to discussing it. As part of the reform process, the Minister of State might consider taking the suggestion back to the Chief Whip or whoever that instead of simply laying a regulation before the Houses, it should be sent to the relevant Oireachtas joint committee for information and possible discussion. There used to be complaints to the effect that the Joint Committee on European Scrutiny, as it used to be known, did not scrutinise European Union regulation sufficiently. However, I am absolutely certain that Oireachtas committees do not examine statutory instruments at all. Other Members who attended meetings of the Joint Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government used to be intrigued by the manner in which we dealt with such issues. I should note that 90% of them were fine and it was good information of which to be aware. However, were issues to arise, one then could get further information or advice or could either tease out the matter or alert people to it. The Minister of State might discuss the general position in this regard. I realise this amendment simply proposes to add a standard procedure to the Bill. However, while the standard procedure in the House may work to an extent, it does not work to the benefit of all Members of the House.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  The Deputy has made a valid point. This is a standard procedure and I refer to my experience of this issue from the other side of the House where the Deputy now sits. It was somewhat frustrating over the years that where a regulation was set out by a Minister and put on the Order Paper, it effectively came into effect within the aforementioned 21 day period. Moreover, as the Deputy rightly noted, the 21 day period is when the House is sitting. Consequently, in the case of an important regulation that requires some parliamentary scrutiny, it can be dreadfully frustrating if the House is not sitting and hence cannot provide itself with an opportunity to debate the measure. I do not perceive any difficulty with the Deputy’s suggestion that regulations should come to the attention of the relevant committee as a matter of course. When the committees are up and running, I do not see a difficulty in the relevant committee seeking an opportunity to debate a Minister’s proposals on regulations with him or [496]her. Moreover, it probably would be good standard practice that detailed discussion should occur on Committee Stage rather than in plenary session of the House.

The amendment under discussion is a standard measure to the effect that the Houses are entitled to be aware of regulations Ministers may introduce and should be given an opportunity to debate them, if it is their wish. However, the regulations effectively come into law after the aforementioned 21 day period. I do not envisage any difficulty in the Deputy’s suggestion, which effectively pertains to secondary legislation. It would be good standard practice for there to be a role for committees with regard to these measures, which may well be controversial. This issue can be considered, although I am uncertain whether legislation would be changed to so do. Nevertheless, as a policy it certainly would be a good thing, when the committees are up and running, that regulations would come before them. Moreover, where a committee believed that such regulations should be debated, this should happen. The Deputy referred to the joint committee with responsibility for European scrutiny and my understanding is it examines all the directives emanating from the European Union. Its members then decide whether to parcel out the measures to other committees, to debate them or simply to pass them without note. This should be a standard procedure in other committees and I agree with the Deputy’s suggestion.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 4 agreed to.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I move amendment No. 12:

The purpose of this amendment is to ask the Minister, within 20 days of the passing of this Act, to lay before the House details of the key procedures, responsibilities and timetables regarding the announcement and enactment of the annual Estimates procedure. The Minister of State should flesh out what precisely will be the procedures and what will happen. Heretofore, in the run-up to the summer recess, the Minister for Finance has sent very strict letters to each Minister directing them to prepare their Estimates with reductions in expenditure or advising them of the overall economic position. The Ministers commence work on conducting their Estimates discussions over the summer and then come back in September, after which bilateral meetings take place. In the past, one might meet a line Minister in the Chamber who would mention being obliged to leave to take part in a bilateral meeting with the Minister for [497]Finance to discuss his or her departmental Estimate for the forthcoming year. The issues concerned were quite important because the line Department’s officials would have flagged the key issues they wanted the Minister in question to defend.

I understand that, from henceforth, this will all be done with the Minister, Deputy Howlin. I seek a framework, timescale or structure in this regard. A structure is in place at present and there has been a move to the unified Estimates and budgets procedure within the past year or so. Previously, Estimates used to appear around the beginning of November, after which a debate on them would take place and, thereafter, the budget was presented at the beginning of December. This was a nonsensical way of doing business as no company, business or organisation can pass its budget in two halves, that is, by considering what it might spend in one month and assessing what income it might raise in another. This process rightly will now take place in a single procedure.

While the Minister of State need not do so today, I ask that shortly after this Bill’s enactment, the timescale involved might be outlined. I suggest the Minister should outline the structure and the timetable in January of each year. Perhaps the Minister of State could give a brief outline of how he perceives the practicalities involved in having the Minister deal with the annual Estimates process and his dealings with each individual Department. The taking control of the Estimates procedure from the Minister for Finance is the key element of this Bill and the Minister of State should provide some information as to how he envisages it will work out.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I thank the Deputy. If I may, I will read out the response to the amendment and Members might then debate this further. The new section 5(5) proposed by Deputy Fleming would require the Minister to furnish a written explanation within 20 days of the passing of the law of key responsibilities and dates under the new budgetary and Estimates procedures. I understand the Deputy may be anxious to have further clarification as to the implications of the new legislative arrangements for the traditional budget and Estimates timetabling and the assessment of responsibility as between the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform and the Minister for Finance. While I am of the view it would be inappropriate to impose a legislative framework on matters which could best be dealt with at administrative level, I assure the Deputy that the new legislation will, in itself, involve a minimal degree of disturbance to the long-established budgetary and Estimates processes and to their timetabling.

What is changing is that the Estimates related processes, including the bringing forward of the annual Book of Estimates, will now be a matter for the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform. I anticipate there will be more wide-ranging reforms to the annual budgetary procedures and I certainly will reflect further on Deputy Fleming’s proposals in that regard. These reforms will be a matter for the fiscal responsibility Bill, which I anticipate will be brought before the Dáil later this year. I do not propose to accept this amendment at this stage.

As the Deputy has rightly raised this issue, it is worth noting there must be much greater parliamentary scrutiny of budgets right across public administration. If we are to have a functioning Parliament which teases out and assesses expenditure items, this requires a fundamental change to the budgetary process. The Minister has already set out his views in the comprehensive spending review, of which the Deputy will be aware and which involves a much earlier anticipation of bilateral arrangements between Departments and also puts much greater focus and responsibility on line Ministers to bring forward proposals for expenditure items. What is crucial in this regard is the role given to parliamentary scrutiny. I understand a much clearer process will be put in place in the September to October period when we will consider options. Given the extraordinary deficit position we face and the importance of resolving this deficit [498]position, ideas emanating from parliamentary committees or from plenary session can be considered well in advance of the budget. The old-fashioned view of the budget, the idea that the Minister, in the manner of Moses, would come out with a tablet of stone and declare everything on budget day, is utterly antiquated and is of no use in the current predicament. If it is not clear as a result of this legislation, it certainly will be clear in the fiscal responsibility Bill which will be brought to the House later this year. This will provide a clear, ongoing framework where not only Government expenditure is assessed but also ideas from all sides of the House in line with other proposals from Government. This is the only way we will make progress and ensure better value for money and greater efficiencies.

No change is envisaged to the presentation of the unified budget material. This is part of a move towards improving the quality of budgetary and Estimates information. Other improvements on the Estimates side include a move to a more output and outcome-focused presentation of the information which will continue to be developed and strengthened. This is the point to which the Deputy refers. We need a much sharper focus in committees throughout the year on the question of outputs and outcomes to ensure we are hitting our targets and there is buy-in to the level of support on spending programmes.

In addition, the normal monthly and quarterly presentation of the Exchequer returns will continue to be available showing both the revenue and expenditure data in the normal manner. There is an acceptance across Government about the need to take radically different action on the comprehensive spending review. It has been correctly assessed that Parliament must be involved to a greater degree than was the case previously. Instead of believing the budgetary process is a four week period in December, we need to alter this perception radically to ensure Parliament has a role in the process.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I refer to the question of the Estimates. I accept the Government is new to office following a general election but the Estimates of expenditure for 2011 were published six months ago and this House has yet to debate a single Estimate for any Department, the exception being the Estimate for the Central Statistics Office to enable the payments to the census enumerators. I will not rehearse the point because the Chief Whip did not like my comments as they were a little harsh on the Government but my point was well made.

We are nearly in July and half the year is over. The expenditure for the full year is €57 billion and half of this sum will have been spent while a great proportion of the remaining will have been committed. It will be a false, ridiculous, ludicrous charade of a debate in each of the committees in the coming weeks and then we will all troop back in here and vote it through. We would do a greater service if we acknowledged it as a charade on this occasion. This has been a problem historically, and there is no good reason for it. Years ago the budget was held in January and I understood that could affect the Estimates based on budget day announcements. The Department of Finance used to work on bringing the Finance Bill through the House in March and April and when this was finished, the Department concentrated on the Estimates debate and that was well into the year. The budget is now in the first week of December. In recent times, there have been little or no changes in the budget to effect the final Estimates. There is no reason the Estimates for 2012 should not be discussed in the House in December of this year, not halfway through 2012 when the money is already spent. I ask the Ceann Comhairle to assist in this matter because it does a disservice to the House to have committees discussing Estimates of expenditure when billions of euro under each of them have already been spent. We are not giving politics a good name. It is nonsense to talk about public accountability when the money is already spent.

[499]With regard to the committees, Deputy Rabbitte did a report on the Committee of Public Accounts a few years ago with a recommendation to discuss the Estimates committee by committee. Most committees spend about 70 or 80 minutes in the entire year in discussion of a Department’s Vote for €5 billion or €8 billion as the case may be. The same committee will probably spend several meetings belly-aching about what the Government or the Department was doing, having not bothered to spend even a decent period of time discussing how the money would be spent by the Department. It is sometimes left to the Committee of Public Accounts to discuss departmental expenditure a year or two after the event. I ask the Minister of State to take my point into account which is not to do with legislation but rather is good practice.

In fairness to the Minister, Deputy Howlin, a unified budgetary Estimates process has been put in place and in my view, the Budget Statement on budget day should be a joint statement by the two Ministers. The Minister for Finance should announce the details of tax increases and all those matters relevant to the Department of Finance and perhaps matters relevant to the management of the national debt and banking issues. The Budget Statement is based on an analysis of Government expenditure. The Minister on budget day refers regularly to increases in social welfare payments and under various other headings of expenditure while other Ministers make announcements relevant to their Departments. If the Minister, Deputy Howlin, is responsible for expenditure, then he should be here on budget day announcing all the measures relating to expenditure which traditionally have been under the remit of the Department of Finance. Deputy Howlin will probably be pleased to hear me saying this and I do not know if the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, has the same view. If the Government is to give the new Department its head and give it power and if the Minister, Deputy Howlin, is responsible for all the negotiations on expenditure in line Departments and for changes in grant schemes under various headings of capital expenditure, while acknowledging the Minister for Finance must approve capital expenditure, it is appropriate that the Minister responsible for public expenditure should be the one to make the announcement in the House on budget day. We should see a division of the roles and this is the reason for this new Department. It does not make any sense for the Minister for Finance to continue to make all the announcements on budget day when much of them will not relate to his Department and are relevant to the new Department with responsibility for public expenditure. Perhaps the Minister of State would comment on my point and convey it to the Minister. I am concerned the Estimates debate has been a bit of a charade and the same will happen this year but perhaps next year it could happen in a timely manner.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I understand the Deputy’s frustration. There are two reasons the Estimates debate for this year is somewhat confined. In the first instance the restructuring of Departments has delayed the entire process. As the Deputy pointed out we are at the midpoint of the year but it is only now with this Bill that we are putting together a new Department because there was a general election and a new Government. That has delayed the process and I appreciate it is frustrating.

The other reason is that the committees have just been established. I do not know if Senators have joined them. The Deputy can be absolutely assured that, given the new Bill which will come in the autumn and the resolve of the Government to involve Parliament in a much more meaningful way across public administration, committee by committee, that we will see improvements.

The Deputy makes an interesting point. Given that the Department of Finance has been effectively divided between the Minister, Deputy Howlin, on the public expenditure side and the Minister, Deputy Noonan, on the taxation and banking side we have two substantial [500]Departments with two separate focuses, working together in many cases because of the role they previously had.

  2 o’clock

This will inevitably lead to some change on budget day. While the Minister, Deputy Noonan, might put forward views on taxation, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, has responsibility for setting out a framework for public expenditure subhead by subhead, about which he will presumably make a statement. I do not know how the theatre of the event will be organised on the day. The Deputy is right in pointing out that the commitment of the Government in separating the Department of Finance and establishing two key Departments effectively provides a kind of joined up departmental approach.

He is correct in saying there will be a role for the Minister, Deputy Howlin, on or close to the day. I cannot comment on that. As I said earlier, it is also important that if we are going to start looking forensically at expenditure, which I know the Deputy like all of us wants to do, it is crucial the committees not only have a bigger role but that the time line for them in assessing public expenditure profiles committee by committee happens much earlier in the year.

Some of the secrecy of budget day, in terms of considering options, could be altered if those ideas were tested in the first instance before committees as they should be, rather than on the floor of the House. I know it is the intention of the Government that over the next while ideas on expenditure will be examined in a much more focused way and debated in committees.

Whether that can be put in place this year is more difficult given the delays I mentioned. It is something we are committed to doing. We want to make sure that ideas are flagged much earlier in the process rather than at the tail end close to budget day. We are going to have a much more useful budgetary process where we can examine ideas and subheads rather than, as the Deputy rightly pointed out, having a ritualistic one hour every year. It has not worked for anyone. I suspect it did not work for the previous Government.

I am sure there were Ministers in the previous Government who wanted an opportunity to tease out with committees the options they faced in terms of their dialogue with officials. As the Deputy rightly pointed out that has not happened. It has to change if we are going to make the process a more useful exercise.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 5 agreed to.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I move amendment No. 13:

The Minister will be in charge of public expenditure. The gross expenditure in this year’s Estimate is €57 billion. The net expenditure which the Minister says he is responsible for is €46 billion, a difference of €11 billion. The figure mainly refers to appropriations-in-aid. In his Second Stage speech he said he has an implied role over the appropriations-in-aid to be raised in various Government Departments before they settle on their net Estimates, but the Bill does not state that. It does not include any reference to the Minister who is responsible for public expenditure being responsible for certain revenues to be collected in connection with appropriations in the Department. It is a major gap. The points I made on Second Stage are still valid and are the reason I tabled the amendment.

[501]I will give some examples. If the Minister sits down with the line Minister for Education and Skills, he will find school transport fees are an important source of income to that Department and have a major impact on its Estimate. According to the Bill the Minister will not have a role in setting school transport fees, yet has responsibility for the net Estimate for the Department. It is a bit strange that he tells us he is responsible for the revenue generated in the Department when the Bill does not state that.

Accident and emergency, hospital and prescription charges affect the total net expenditure for the Minister for Health to run the Department. There are several other examples. On the Department grant for various local authorities, revenue is generated in terms of water rates, refuse collection, the second home tax and the non-principal private residence tax. All of those taxes have the effect of reducing the payment made to a Department.

It also applies to CIE. How can the Minister agree an Estimate for it here if he has no influence on its revenue and profitability? The Minister claims he has a role in this area but the Bill does not state that. He also said he has an implied role because he is dealing with net rather than gross revenue. If he has a role he should put it into the Bill and refer to raising certain revenues to be collected as part of his function in regard to expenditure for a given Department.

The appropriations-in-aid can be up to €11 billion per annum which is a large figure. Does the Minister have power over them or does he only have authority over the gross estimate for Departments? They are connected; one cannot control half of the equation. I want clarification on the role of the Minister.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I thank the Deputy for tabling the amendment. Appropriations-in-aid are receipts that accrue directly to Departments or agencies and which may be retained by those bodies to offset the cost of delivering services rather than submitted to the Exchequer. The level of appropriations-in-aid is determined in the context of the annual Estimates process.

The proposed amendment would explicitly transfer to the Minister functions relating to the setting of certain revenues. It is essential that there should be no ambiguity in the Bill as to the functions of the Minister for public expenditure and the Minister for Finance in regard to matters relating to revenue. The proposed amendment is somewhat ambiguous as it does not specify or clarify what certain revenues actually means, for which the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform might be responsible. It is intended that functions of the Minister for Finance in regard to appropriations-in-aid will transfer to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

This is reflected in two ways. First, in section 15(5) of the Bill the annual approved expenditure amount is the gross amount including appropriations-in-aid and second, the transfer of the functions of the Minister for Finance to other legislation in regard to fees, charges etc. to the Minister. These functions will mainly be transferred through the transfer of functions order.

It is intended that the appropriations-in-aid to which the Deputy referred will be transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, which would allow him to be clear about the amount to which the Deputy referred. I understand this will be done by way of transfer of function orders rather than legislation. The Deputy’s amendment proposes to set up certain revenues.

The difficulty is that there is no precise definition of what the term “certain revenues” means. The Deputy can be assured, however, that under the transfer of functions order, it is the intention to transfer them across. The appropriate way to do this in legislation is by way of a transfer of functions order, rather than by primary legislation.

[502]Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 6 agreed to.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move amendment No. 14:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move amendment No. 15:

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Amendment No. 16 has already been discussed with amendment No. 6. As amendments Nos. 16, 18, 22, 24, 26, 27 and 84 are related, they may be discussed together.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move amendment No. 16:

This is a technical amendment that relates to the sanctioning of expenses incurred in the administration of any statute. It provides for both the sanctioning and approval of such expenses as opposed to just their sanctioning as referred to in the Bill as published. This is to capture the function of the approval of expenditure referred to in some of the statutes.

Amendment No. 18 is also a technical amendment. It provides for the tidying up of the text of the subsection, although the meaning of the provision is unchanged.

Amendment No. 22 is another technical amendment. It clarifies the Minister’s involvement in any pending legal proceedings concerning functions transferred by the Bill, to which the Minister for Finance was a party prior to the appointed day.

Amendment No. 24 is a further technical amendment. It provides for greater clarity and specificity regarding the definition of “year”, that is, the financial year, rather than the calendar year. This provides for consistency throughout the Bill as “financial year” is referred to sections 6 and 15.

Amendments Nos. 26 and 27 are also technical amendments. Amendment No. 26 provides for the inclusion of the collective citation for the Presidential Establishment Acts in section 16(4), as it would be inappropriate to insert it in Part 2 of Schedule 3. Amendment No. 27 provides that the reference to “enactment” in section 16(4)(b) be substituted for “those Acts apply or that enactment” to ensure both the Presidential Establishment Acts and Part 2 of Schedule 3 are encompassed by the subsection.

Amendment No. 84 is also a technical amendment to insert a comma in the section.

[503]Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move amendment No. 17:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move amendment No. 18:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 7, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Brian Hayes: Information on Brian Hayes  Zoom on Brian Hayes  I move amendment No. 19:

[504]

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 20 not moved.

Section 8, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  I move amendment No. 21:

This amendment relates to public expenditure which I assume falls within the remit of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The amendment seeks to ensure the Minister shall “make available to the Minister for Finance upon his or her request, such officers of the Department as may be required to assist him or her in the consideration of measures to grant tax relief in order to achieve a specific policy objective in relation to the provision of a service or activity which is also funded through public expenditure”. In addition, the amendment seeks that “where the Minister for Finance proposes any such tax relief”, the Minister shall “prepare a statement of how this relief relates to public expenditure policy relating to the relevant service or activity”. The purpose of the amendment is to bring clarity to the issue of tax reliefs, particularly where responsibility lies between the two Ministers. If any new tax reliefs are proposed, whose function will it be to propose them and bring the matter before the Cabinet?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The amendment relates to making officers available to assist the Minister for Finance in matters relating to the granting of tax relief, and a requirement that proposals for tax relief also require a statement on how the tax relief would relate to public expenditure policy. Notwithstanding the reorganisation and division of the former Department [505]of Finance, officials working in the new Departments will continue to work closely in the formulation of policy proposals. It is standard practice for the Department of Finance to consult all other relevant Departments when developing proposals that would impact on the various sectors of the economy. This has been a long-standing policy and will continue to be the case even after the new Department has been established. Therefore, I do not see a need for the proposed amendment. The introduction or abolition of tax reliefs is provided for in the finance Bill which is usually introduced shortly after the announcement of the annual budget. However, in recent years, there has often been more than one finance Bill. I think we have had three this year and the Government is only in its first session. The introduction of tax reliefs can be debated on Second, Committee and Report Stages of the finance Bill in both Houses of the Oireachtas. In addition, there is a general commitment to the completion of cost-benefit analyses, which is implicit in the programme for Government.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  Will the Minister clarify if matters of public expenditure now fall within his remit?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Yes.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  I understand an economic assessment is under way concerning certain tax and property reliefs. If any changes are proposed, will the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform bring such proposals to the Cabinet and ultimately, in the form of legislation, before the House?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Responsibility for taxation matters will remain with the Minister for Finance. Issues to do with amending taxation law will be brought to the Cabinet by the Minister for Finance, although obviously there will be consultation with me on its impact. For example, if either a taxation matter or a matter to do with appropriation-in-aid would impact on the total volume of expenditure in respect of any agency or programme, it would be a matter for consultation between us. However, responsibility for taxation matters remains with the Minister for Finance and such matters will be brought to the Cabinet by him. Members of the Cabinet will make a collective determination on them.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  Just to be sure, will tax reliefs remain a function of the Minister for Finance?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That is correct.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Section 9 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 22:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 10, as amended, agreed to.

Sections 11 to 13, inclusive, agreed to.

[506]

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 23:

[507]Amendment No. 23 provides for the transfer to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform of shares or stock issued to the Minister for Finance by a public body and registered in the name or held in trust on behalf of any person. The list of legislation in regard to public bodies in which this subsection refers is listed in the amendment.

Due to the different way in which shares or stocks are dealt with and constructed in the relevant legislation for each line Department, it was not possible to transfer these particular functions under the transfer of functions order.

Each individual section of relevant legislation is itemised in this amendment. I do not need to go through them individually unless the Deputies want me to do so.

The amendment also provides for the insertion of the Title of the Act of 2004, which is the State Airports Act 2004 and it provides for the vesting, management, operation and development of Dublin Airport, Cork Airport and Shannon Airport.

We had a brief discussion earlier on a question asked by Deputy McDonald regarding these matters. The actual holding of stocks and shares currently vested by a range of legislation, all of which are listed in the amendment, in the Minister for Finance will transfer to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The divesting of those will be a matter for me as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in consultation with the Minister for Finance. The divesting of shares or stock above the value of €50 million will require the formal consent of the Minister for Finance.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 14, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 24:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  I move amendment No. 25:

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Does the Deputy wish to discuss the amendment?

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  I ask the Minister to bear with me.

[508]Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  If it is helpful I can reply to it first.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  Yes.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  This amendment proposed by the Deputy opposite will give the Minister for Finance the function of making recommendations as to the level of appropriations-in-aid that should be raised. Appropriations-in-aid are receipts that accrue directly to Departments or their agencies and which may be retained by those bodies, to offset the cost of delivering services, rather than submitted to the Exchequer.

This is a matter that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will discuss with each Department in the course of the Estimates negotiations. As Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform I will manage these issues within the annual approved expenditure amount agreed by the Government. It would not seem necessary also to provide a statutory role for the Minister for Finance in regard to these matters and for that reason I do not propose to accept the amendment.

In essence, the role of the Minister for Finance will be to establish the envelope of expenditure, that would be then presented to me and I will negotiate with the line Departments, having regard to appropriations-in-aid that accrue to different functions and different line Departments. I believe that is the best way of doing it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 15, as amended, agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Amendment No. 26 is in the name of the Minister. Amendments Nos. 35 to 41, inclusive, 43, 45, 49, 51, 52, 57 to 59, inclusive, 62, 63, 65, 66, 68, 76 to 78, inclusive, 81 to 83, inclusive, 87, 89, 90, 91, 95, 97, 98 and 102 are related to amendment No. 26 and they may be discussed together.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 26:

The other amendments being taken with amendment No. 26 are a list of other enactments that are all encompassed. Although it looks like a complicated job lot, it is a simple matter. These all relate to transactions from the Central Fund. Payment of moneys in and out of the Central Fund remain with the Minister for Finance. For the purposes of clarity and consistency of accounting, that was what we determined and for good financial practices. The Accounting Officer for the Central Fund will remain the Secretary General of the Department of Finance.

A large number of related policy functions are transferring to me, as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. In order to link the policy functions of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform with the payment role, which will remain with the Minister for Finance, this [509]Bill provides a role for me as public expenditure Minister in requesting that certain payments be made or in consenting to or approving of certain payments from the Central Fund.

The way it will work is that having agreed the expenditure level with a line Minister within the envelope, I will ask that an agreed volume of money be paid out for an agreed function. The actual cheques will be signed. The authority to release the money from the Central Fund will be made by the Minister for Finance and his Secretary General will remain the Accounting Officer.

The purpose of the list of amendments being taken with this amendment is to list the areas covered under this. They include the Shannon Election Act, the Electricity Supply Act, the State Land (Workhouses) Act 1930 which date back a while, the ESB Shannon Fisheries Act and there are two more pages of enactments which I need not take up the time of the House reading. This is simply to provide for the procedure we have agreed between the two Departments on the handling of the Central Fund.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I am not objecting to any of those amendments but at the core of the potential dilemma the Government may face with these twin Departments is, on the one hand, identifying what is to be spent and, on the other hand, having the authority to spend. I understand the logic of retaining the Secretary General of the Department of Finance as the Accounting Officer and that is logical but I hope there will be singularity of purpose and view as between the Minister and his twin brother, as it were, the Minister, Deputy Noonan, in the Department of Finance on these matters and, whatever about political controversy, that it does not become a source disruption or create a logjam in resourcing and financing front line services in particular.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  I wish to ask the Minister a practical question. With regard to all these functions that require the consent of the other Minister, how will that work in practice? Presumably, the Minister will have to have a paper trail every time he wishes to exercise a function under this legislation, which requires the consent of the Minister for Finance. Will it be a case of letters or e-mails being sent back and forth between ministerial offices? Presumably it cannot be a verbal consent. Can the Minister give us details of how it will work in practice?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  There are a variety of ways depending on the specific legislation referred to in terms of process. For example, section 16 Part 2 of Schedule 3 lists a number of enactments under which the Minister for Finance shall not pay moneys out of the Central Fund unless it is specifically requested by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. There are other areas where I would make the request of the Minister on behalf of a line Minister.

The Deputy is correct in that there will be a requirement for a paper trail in this regard. A formal request would be made to comply with this legislation. This is not new. The consent of the Minister for Finance in regard to expenditure is a norm. Any line Minister expending money would be expected to have the formal consent of the Minister for Finance, but this is how this scenario will work. As I do not know whether the House has debated the issue, I will address it using broad strokes. The spending envelope will be fixed by the Minister for Finance in consultation with me. I will then negotiate the Estimates process on a departmental basis and we will agree a package to be put before the Government. It is a good, co-ordinated method that will ensure double oversight.

To address Deputy McDonald’s point, the two Ministers and Departments have worked in great harmony to date. Despite my lack of legal authority, I have had a most harmonious relationship with the Minister for Finance who has signed off legally on my decisions to date. I look forward to being able to exercise these decisions in my own right shortly.

[510]Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  Has any scoping exercise been conducted to estimate the number of occasions on which consent will be required in each calendar year if the Minister is to be able to perform his functions under the Bill? It is only a formality and we know how Ministers exercise various functions, but given the new configuration of the two Departments and the fact that many functions require the consent of the Minister for Finance, is there an estimate of the number of occasions on which consent will be required? I am considering the logistics which could prove cumbersome. Who will manage the process?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am sure no one has counted the number. These matters arise daily. Any request for expenditure from the Central Fund will be made to the Exchequer section of the Department of Finance. This procedure will continue, but the request will be made by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. It will not generate any great new bureaucratic difficulty. It might lead to better oversight procedures in terms of expenditure, given that there will be a Minister whose exclusive role will be to oversee expenditure and bring about reform and change as opposed to having a Minister with all that responsibility in addition to the macroeconomic responsibilities which, as the Deputy opposite knows full well, occupied full time the working lives of Ministers for Finance in recent years.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 27:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 16, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath  Zoom on Michael McGrath  I move amendment No. 28:

I will allow the Minister to respond.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The order of 1980 refers only to transfer orders under section 4. I have consulted the Office of the Parliamentary Counsel and do not believe it is necessary to refer specifically to the section in this provision. For drafting purposes, the amendment in the name of Deputy Sean Fleming has proved helpful. He has obviously been thorough and I commend him for making this suggestion. When the amendment was submitted, I asked my officials to re-examine the matter and seek the advice of the Parliamentary Counsel. The advice I have received is that it is safer to stay with the wording of the Bill.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 29:

Section 17 relates to the functions of economic planning and development that may be performed by the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The [511]amendment clarifies that the Ministers should consult each other in the performance of these functions.

I do not know whether Deputy Sean Fleming has been around for long enough, but he will probably remember the old Department of Economic Planning and Development, which was an idea of Professor Martin O’Donoghue. Was the Deputy around at that stage?

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  No.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The legislative basis for that Department is still in place. It was simply incorporated into the role of the Minister for Finance. Since the legislative function of economic planning and development continues, we are reciting it as something in respect of which both Ministers will have a role. We will consult each other on economic development matters.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 17, as amended, agreed to.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I move amendment No. 30:

The purpose of the amendment is to remove the subsection that reads: “The Minister shall not perform a function transferred by subsection (3) of section 7 without first consulting the Minister for Finance in relation thereto”. This provision relates to emergency financial measures. If the Minister has responsibility for these issues, he should have autonomy. He will be pleased that I am proposing he have such powers.

I do not know whether he heard my suggestion concerning related matters during his absence from the Chamber. On budget day much of the Budget Statement deals with Government expenditure. I suggested that, if the Government was sincere about having two equally robust Departments, the Minister for Finance should address taxation, financial and national debt issues on budget day, while everything relating to changes to social welfare payments and so on should be announced by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I thank the Deputy.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  He or she should not just issue a press release after the event like any other line Minister. The Minister opposite will probably agree with this suggestion which I made to the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, during his absence.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  What did he say?

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The Minister understands my amendment is intended to give him greater autonomy and I hope he will agree with me that he should have it. He would be well capable of making these decisions on his own without having to consult the Minister for Finance. I have full confidence in him.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am grateful to the Deputy for having trust in me and his attempt to ensure I will not be overshadowed on budget day. As I stated just before he returned to the Chamber, I have a good relationship with the Minister for Finance and we have enough to do individually to keep us occupied. In fact, at recent Cabinet meetings, where I sit beside the [512]Minister for Finance, he told me he believed we needed a third Minister because we were so busy. We are fully occupied.

The amendment refers to the legislation in Part 2 of Schedule 2, under which the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform should consult the Minister for Finance. Part 2 refers to the review provisions in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts. The Bill before us provides that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will, as correctly pointed out by Deputy Fleming, consult the Minister for Finance in carrying out his review functions under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts. The legislation in question requires that regard be had to the revenue of the State and the national competitiveness and it is, therefore, appropriate that the Minister for Finance would be consulted on such matters.

The Exchequer pay bill for 2011 alone is estimated at €14.7 billion. The role of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 in the determination and containment of the cost of such a significant amount of public expenditure demands that the primary role of the legislation should fall to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Section 7 of the Act requires that the Minister for Finance undertake a review of the operation, effectiveness and impact of this legislation, having regard to the overall economic condition of the State and national competitiveness, before 30 June 2011 and annually thereafter. Deputy Fleming may have been in the House during enactment of that legislation and will be aware that, while it is draconian legislation, it is required by the perilous state of our economy. It is right and proper that it would be reviewed. Both parties in Government agree it should be reviewed and this is provided for in the programme for Government. As it is an expenditure matter, that function should fall to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Also, as it impacts on the State’s revenue the Minister for Finance must be part of that process and should be consulted.

Although I am extremely grateful for Deputy Fleming’s support, I believe the process in place, whereby I would undertake the review in consultation with the Minister for Finance, is probably the appropriate way of advancing this.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 18 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 31:

This amendment provides for the inclusion of the Finance Services Ombudsman’s Council in the list of bodies under the aegis of the Minister for Finance. Functions in relation to the superannuation or remuneration of its members of staff are performed by the Minister for Finance in consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The amendment seeks to insert in subsection (2) paragraph (k) Financial Services Ombudsman Council. Are there staff attached to the council or is it just a body that meets? If there are staff attached to it, were they formerly staff of the Financial Regulator’s [513]Office and what type of people are being included under this paragraph? I know this section deals with superannuation and remuneration but the amendment seeks to add paragraph (k) Financial Services Ombudsman Council, to the list of bodies with which the Minister will deal, namely, Central Bank Commission, Investor Compensation Company Limited, Credit Union Advisory Committee, National Treasury Management Agency, National Treasury Management Agency Advisory Committee, National Development Finance Agency, National Pensions Reserve Fund Commission, National Asset Management Agency, Office of the Comptroller and Auditor General and Financial Services Ombudsman’s Bureau.

Is there are a case for some of these bodies to be merged? I would like to know the organisational structure of these organisations. I acknowledge that some of them are stand alone organisations and that the Central Bank Commission is different to the National Pensions Reserve Fund. The National Development Finance Agency was tasked some years ago with dealing with public bodies procuring assets worth more than €20 million. Such bodies had to, apart from in the tendering process, obtain clearance from the National Development Finance Agency which is an offshoot of the National Treasury Management Agency. Much of the work done by the National Development Finance Agency relates to providing advice on the financing of public private partnerships in relation to motorways, roads or schools. I recall that the National Development Finance Agency had to approve financing of the contract for the four schools built in Laois-Offaly. However, there are no new public private partnerships owing to the difficulty of raising money and the cost of capital. The Government is finding it difficult enough to raise its own funds without paying a premium to the private sector to finance some of these projects. The Minister will be aware that many of the planned public private partnerships have been withdrawn owing to the cost of financing projects.

Are there many staff attached to the National Development Finance Agency and what work does it perform now? Do we need it any more? Could staff attached to that body not be returned to their former offices? Perhaps the Minister will say if he believes there is scope for rationalisation of these bodies, many of which are creatures of the Celtic tiger era. The Minister knows the era these were all established. Are they all needed now?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy has raised a good question to which I do not have an answer. However, I will obtain an answer for him as part of the comprehensive review of expenditure undertaken. My attitude does not differ much from that of the Deputy opposite. In the current financial straits in which we find ourselves, every agency of State and expenditure must be justified. When drawing up the reform proposals for the Labour Party, the rubric I used was, could this body be merged with another and is there a compelling reason for it to exist to do a function that no one else can do? Deputy Fleming is correct that there was a tendency during the past decade to create a new agency in respect of every issue that arose. Each new agency had a chief executive, a head of PR, board, building and so on. The Civil Service did not diminish much in numbers at the time all of this happened. For example, creation of the Health Service Executive did not appear to impact dramatically on the volume of civil servants in the Department of Health and Children, although at one stage they were all doing the same job. The health boards were separate.

We have created offshoots with different types of functionality. Many agencies are efficient. We need to carefully examine every agency of State. The comprehensive review of expenditure requires every line Minister to do that and to report back to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform at an early date. All of that information will feed into the Exchequer in terms of the next budget. I cannot answer the specific question raised by the Deputy because I do not know how many staff are attached to the body concerned. My speaking note states that this amendment relates to functions in relation to superannuation and remuneration of the [514]members of staff of these bodies will be performed by the Minister for Finance in consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I presume there are staff attached to these bodies although I do not know specifically how many. I will revert to the Deputy with the specific detail in this regard.

Deputy Fleming asked the broader and more pertinent question of whether these agencies can be merged. Whatever scope exists for merging agencies or the resumption or subsumption of their functions back into a parent Department is very much on the agenda in the context of the comprehensive review of expenditure. There are some mergers already in the public domain and the Deputy can be assured that there will be many more. The term “quango” is often used but these are in many instances important agencies. Section 19 provides that “the Minister for Finance shall not perform a function in relation to superannuation or remuneration of members or members of the board..... of”, for example, the National Treasury Management Agency. While that might be well and good for members and members of the boards, there is no control of superannuation or remuneration of employees of these agencies. These are all matters we might fully explore in our discussions during the comprehensive review of expenditure and more specifically within the committee, so we might be able to probe jointly the functioning of these bodies to see if we can get better value.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 19, as amended, agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  We move to amendment No. 32. Amendments Nos. 32 to 34, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 32:

I understand amendments Nos. 32 to 34, inclusive, are being taken together. These amendments relate to the purported performance of functions. On amendment No. 32, functions regarding the superannuation, remuneration, appointment, terms and conditions of staff of public service bodies, or of members of boards of public service bodies, are being transferred collectively from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under section [515]7. Functions regarding sanctioning or approving expenses incurred in the administration of any statute are also transferred under section 7.

Given the volume of statutory provisions involved in these functions, it is necessary to provide for a potential scenario where one Minister may inadvertently perform a function of the other. Therefore, a function of the Minister for Finance performed by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform shall be valid if at the time the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform believed that the function was vested in him under section 7(1) or 7(4). This does not include those functions for which the specific statutory provisions are explicitly transferred under this Bill. Therefore, it does not include a function of the Minister for Finance to which sections 14(3), 15, 16, 18 or 19, or Part 4, applies.

Amendment No. 33 is the reverse. Should the Minister for Finance perform a function of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, it shall be valid if the Minister for Finance believed that the function had not been transferred away from him. This does not include those functions for which the specific statutory provisions are explicitly transferred under the Bill. Therefore, it does not include functions transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform under section 6(1) or 6(2), section 7(2) or 7(3), or a function to which sections 14(3), 15, 16, 18 or 19, or Part 4, applies.

While it sounds convoluted, it is a saver clause. Where functions are explicitly transferred, they can only be exercised by the Minister to which they apply. However, where there might be any doubt and where there is consultation and other matters, if the wrong Minister exercises the function, it is deemed to be valid so that we do not have any hiatus in the proper functioning of Ministers in regard to the disaggregation of functions that is enumerated in these sections.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  What of amendment No. 34, which is in the same group?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I should have included it. Amendment No. 34 provides for a situation where doubt arises as to which Minister has responsibility for any particular function vested under this Act. The Deputy probably raised this matter, which is not unique. While I do not expect there to be any doubt, in the event of doubt arising about a particular function being the responsibility of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform or the Minister for Finance, the Taoiseach shall make that determination. There is a similar provision in the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act 1939 which is simply replicated here and which deals with the issue of a doubt about functionality.

If I recall correctly, the position of Minister for Supplies was created during the war, before the Acting Chairman’s time. There was doubt about the authority of the Minister for Supplies to carry out a function and to decide whether it was his function or not, so it was left to the Taoiseach to make that determination. This is simply carrying that through. It is a belt and braces job, as the Deputy will appreciate.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  That is the point. I find it unusual that we have these three amendments. In layman’s English, the Minister is essentially saying that if the wrong Minister makes a decision and he genuinely believed at the time he was the right Minister to make it, it is valid. I do not believe this would apply to anybody else in the country. If a person tells a judge “I made a mistake; I genuinely believed I was not driving over the speed limit”, the case does not get thrown out or dismissed. I have never heard the like of this in my life. It would be the best defence. If this was to apply nationwide, no law would ever be implemented.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  If the Deputy had only been here in 1939, he would be very familiar with it.

[516]Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I will come to that. I am intrigued to know the precedent for this as I had never heard of it. I can understand why there would be panic at Government level during a world war, with bombs dropping on the North Strand and a need to get such a measure through in a hurry. However, we are not in a war situation at present.

Deputy Colm Keaveney: Information on Colm Keaveney  Zoom on Colm Keaveney  We might be in a worse situation.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  This is why I suggest the overall legislation has been a bit rushed in the past week. If we had taken an extra week or two, we would have been able to be more thorough and remove all doubt, and not have to insert these measures stating, “If in doubt, even if the Minister was wrong, if he thought he was doing the right thing, it is his right”.

This would not wash anywhere. In a way, it is one law for the Minister and one law for everyone else in the country. Nobody else could ever offer a defence like that in court. Laws we pass in the Oireachtas should be even-handed, should be the same for every citizen and should not give powers to a Minister that one would never dream of giving to another citizen, even if the mistake was genuine. If the Minister or I make a mistake in front of a judge, we pay the penalty. We could not say “I genuinely believed I was doing right at the time”.

With regard to the position of the Taoiseach, I can understand that events were happening quickly during the war and legislation had be passed. However, if there is a legal dispute, it is the courts which adjudicate on it. If somebody challenges the signature of a Minister or a Department for taking a particular action and it ends up in court, it is a matter for the Judiciary to decide whether a Minister had the legal authority to act. In a way, the Taoiseach is now taking the adjudication role that would normally be the function of the Judiciary. It is an example of how rushed the legislation is. It is extraordinary that a “dispute shall be determined by the Taoiseach” and that we are essentially writing into the Bill a dispute resolution mechanism.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is that not very far-seeing?

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Politically, the new Department has been set up because of the difference between the two parties in Government and both have to be satisfied. It is unfortunate that we must formally insert an amendment for a dispute resolution mechanism between the two Ministers which is to be decided on by the Taoiseach — I presume he would consult the Tánaiste. It does not look the best that this dispute resolution mechanism must be stitched into the legislation. While the Minister may say it is a belt and braces approach, it raises questions as to why this is necessary in the calm light of day and why everything was not done thoroughly in the beginning. If it had been, we would not need the Taoiseach to have a dispute resolution mechanism between the two Ministers. I hope this section never has to be invoked. That is all I will say.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy is being a little mischievous. It is not at all untoward for this sort of provision to be inserted. The Deputy says he might have understood it in terms of the Second World War but, of course, we did not have the Second World War in Ireland.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  There were bombs on the North Strand.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  We had the Emergency, and I think we have an emergency now — we have an economic emergency. There are those out there who think that current conditions, in terms of the parlous state of the economy, are akin to a war.

What is laid out here is fundamental change — the Deputy is correct in that. We are creating a structure that is fundamentally different from the Department of Finance that has existed [517]since the foundation of the State. We are taking out the expenditure side and the public service management side of the Department and forming those into a Cabinet-ranked Department of State. We have all sorts of new architecture involved in that but it is good. Most people who have looked objectively at the intention and the structure are supportive of it. The Deputy repeated this notion that it was somehow a compromise because of political ambition, that two parties claimed the same job. That is absolutely untrue. I certainly did not voice any ambition to be Minister for Finance.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Deputy Joan Burton did.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I was anxious this architecture would come about because of the analysis we had done in advance of the general election that required, if genuine reform was to be achieved, a Cabinet Minister with access to the expenditure line. We were advised by the best authorities who had carried out significant public sector reform abroad that this was the model to replicate. I had meetings with the head of the civil service in New Zealand, which is undergoing public sector reform, when he was visiting here to learn from us. I told him we had only been doing this for 100 days and he replied that we have good ideas. I want to learn from New Zealand in return and I have asked them to send back ideas arising from their reform process. This structure will work.

For the avoidance of legal doubt, we said that where a function might arise in the future that cannot be envisaged at present, and that is presumed to be a matter for the Minister for Finance or the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure, it is deemed to be legal. It important because there might be Exchequer requirements for such a belt and braces approach to ensure the State is not exposed to any cost.

It is a limited provision, applying only to the general description in section 7(1) relating to public service matters and section 7(4) relating to a broad range of functions transferred for bodies under the aegis of the proposed Department of public expenditure and reform. If something new arises and there is a lack of clarity over whether it should be a matter for the Minister for Finance or the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure, there must be a mechanism to determine it lawfully, legally and quickly, which is that it should be determined by the Taoiseach, as we have allowed for here.

There was a question about the Financial Services Ombudsman Council. It has seven members appointed for five years. They are representatives of industry, academia and the money advice and budgeting service. It is chaired by Mr. Jewell of the Consumers Association of Ireland. Its role is to ensure the efficiency and effectiveness of the Financial Services Ombudsman, to advise the Minister on matters relevant to the operation by the board of the scheme, and to prescribe guidelines under which the ombudsman operates.

We will have an interesting time in future going through all these functions to see if they are justified. We must ensure every agency established in the past ten or more years has an enduring function and cannot merge or disappear with causing damage to the operation of the State.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I hope the possible confusion never arises. That will be the best test of the legislation. Will there be a board of seven people? Apart from being paid to sit on the board, do they have superannuation rights? Is that why it is being included in this section? When people are appointed to a board for a term, they are paid, but do they also accumulate pension entitlements when they are no longer board members for a position that may involve attending meetings once a month? That is worth looking at.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy makes a valid point. We must examine all these organisations. I was looking at the full functioning of the council and it has an important function. [518] It appoints the Financial Services Ombudsman and his deputy. We will look at that in due course when the committee is up and running to see what each of the bodies created in the past does, if it is still fit purpose, whether there are economies we can make or mergers we can operate or whether the body can be subsumed back into a Department. There was a tendency in the last decade, whenever a function appeared on the horizon, to create a new agency to carry it out.

Amendment agreed to

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 33:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 34:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 20 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 35:

In page 13, before section 21, to insert the following new section:

[519]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 36:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 37:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 38:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 39:

[520]Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 40:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 41:

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Amendments Nos. 42, 44, 46 to 48, inclusive, 50, 79, 80, 86, 88, 93, 101, 105 to 108, inclusive, and 110 to 127, inclusive, are related and will be taken together by agreement.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 42:

[521]

These amendments relate to the borrowing function of State bodies and the role of the Minister for Finance in consenting to such borrowing. This function is being transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Similarly, if the Minister for Finance requires to be consulted about such borrowing, that function is transferred to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. Where in any enactment previously the Minister for Finance was the person whose consent was required for a State body to borrow, it will henceforth be a matter for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The reason for the long list of amendments is to list all the places where such borrowings would occur. The list covers everything from the Local Loans Fund Act to the District of Fergus Drainage Act, the Universities (Local Government) Acts and the Kilkenny Design Workshop Limited Act. That is why the recital is so long but in general the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform will have the policy responsibilities for these bodies so it is important that Minister has the role of granting of consent for such bodies to borrow money.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Amendment No. 42 seems to deal with the local loans fund, which states that “the Minister for Finance shall, with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform”. The Minister for Finance retains control of the local loans fund and if he wants to make payments into it, he must consult the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform.

  3 o’clock

I refer to amendment No. 50, which seeks to amend the Finance (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 1945 in order that the Minister for Finance can exercise his power after consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. In that case it works in the opposite direction. The Minister might explain, in general terms, why as Minister he will have power in respect of certain funds when he consults with the Minister for Finance whereas in respect of others that Minister has the power and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform must consult with him.

I do not describe this as extra red tape but, in regard to consultation generally, does this mean a chat in the corridor or will there be a formal mechanism for consultation? At the end of the process will there be a paper trail showing that a Minister proposed to do such and such and provided documentation to be sent to the relevant Minister, who then signed it, showing there was consultation? Will this consultation process stand up and be testable according to legal scrutiny should there ever be a dispute as to whether functions were performed properly? We do not want to find a gap in the file three years later, with no evidence of consultation. We do not want to be over-bureaucratic about every instance where a Minister could take action without having to consult another Minister but we must now put a new structure in place in respect of this type of consultation. We all know from planning and everything else to do with legislation that if a process is not done properly, whether a consultation in a planning application, an environmental impact statement or any such, it can be found to be faulty. Will we see statutory instruments in respect of the working of this consultation process? We need to see what is backing up the process. The Minister might comment on that.

I presume the local loans fund relates to local authorities. Why is the Minister for Finance retaining control of that particular area? Am I correct to think that this section, in spite of all the areas included, excludes NAMA? Is NAMA being dealt with separately and outside the remit of this legislation? It seems to be outside the remit of this group. Is it being treated as a separate case, strictly under the remit of the Minister for Finance, as is the case now, and will no consultation be required with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform?

[522]It is a question of borrowing and we all know about borrowing requirements. The Minister will be aware that during the past two years all local authorities have received forms in respect of their level of local borrowing and bank account balances. A circular was issued under the EUROSTAT borrowing requirements, looking for statistics in order to build up a picture of our national debt. All local authorities received letters — I believe it was the year before last — stating that they were not allowed to spend any development levy funds they had in their account in the coming year because that balance was intended to make up the overall Government balance. The authorities were allowed spend only the new funds that came into the development account during the course of the year. At the end of the year the requirement was that there not be less in the account than there had been at the beginning of the year. The Minister may recall that, even though he was not directly involved, being in Opposition at the time. It crossed the desk of the Oireachtas Committee on the Environment, Heritage and Local Government in the previous Dáil.

These measures have implications. Must all these bodies submit monthly or annual returns to one new Department or other in regard to their current bank balances making up the overall Government balance? The Minister might comment on that, and the NAMA situation.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy made a number of important points. On the general definition of what consultation actually constitutes, I consulted and had discussions on the form it should take. Where there is statute provided for there will have to be a formal consultation, whether this is a formal meeting or an exchange of letters. It must happen as required by the new Act.

In general terms, most of these bodies will transfer to me but the local loans fund will not. This fund, established in 1935, will remain under the control of the Minister for Finance. However, a role is being provided for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform because of the policy remit involved in these matters.

The purpose of the local loans fund in 1935 was to provide a system of local authority capital funding. Since 1988 new loan approvals for the fund are very limited, as the Deputy probably knows well, because they have been replaced, by and large, by direct Exchequer grants for individual local authority capital projects, such as water, sewage, and so on. In the case of housing loans the housing finance agency was established in 1986 and provided local authorities with the requisite funds, at variable interest rates, to provide for housing. In essence, therefore, the local loans fund is being wound down and does not have a long-term future. It will stay with the Minister for Finance because essentially it is a funding mechanism rather than an agency of State.

Regarding NAMA and its remit, NAMA will remain under the aegis of the Minister for Finance. The board and its members were already dealt with in an amendment and I will have a role in determining those. Unfortunately, as I indicated, I will not have a role in determining the pay and conditions of the employees of NAMA because they are contracted on an individual basis. That is something I must reflect upon in order to see how I might get a role in that regard. I reiterate I do not believe anybody should be on the public payroll unless we are entitled to know how much he or she is being paid, but in the case of NAMA we do not know this. I am sure the officials are doing great work, although there may be disagreements on that. One of the early decisions of this Government was to ensure there would not be a second tranche of properties transferred to NAMA, what was referred to as “NAMA 2”. That did not happen and we got the consent of the troika to stop that transfer. It seems there is a jaundiced view of NAMA’s operation.

[523]The Deputy asked a general question about all the bodies under the different remits, whether they have funds and how the general Government balance is determined. He is right. We need to ensure there is proper accounting and reporting of all funding available. This is certainly done in regard to local authorities, vocational educational committees and everybody else, so we can have an accurate picture, because the general Government balance is determined not only by the Executive’s balance sheet, so to speak, but by the State’s balance sheet in all its forms and agents. The troika required that.

In my 107 days, or three months odd in office — we should probably stop counting — I have been impressed by the accounting mechanisms in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and for that reason was very glad to launch the website I mentioned in order to give that information to the general public. In that way, we will have close to real time a monthly report on where we are in terms of balances, expenditure, procurement and so on. Not that many countries in the world could be as accurate and comprehensive and as quick in providing that data. I present to Government on a monthly basis the current balance sheet in terms of income and expenditure so we know where we are. Deputy Sean Fleming is right; this filters down to all the agents of the State. If there are hidden pots of money I would like to discover them although I would be surprised if there were any. It would be worse if there were deficits we had not discovered. We need to know the complete picture and we do, as far as I am aware.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace  Zoom on Mick Wallace  I am very confused about the lack of accountability in NAMA and do not understand it. Did the Minister state it would not come under his wing?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Minister for Finance will retain NAMA.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace  Zoom on Mick Wallace  Right. There seems to be a lack of accountability in regard to NAMA. Who decided what the wages would be?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  That is a very good question.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace  Zoom on Mick Wallace  Who decided who would get the jobs? I have encountered many people who worked for banks and in real estate who have moved into NAMA. It seems they are getting more money now than they ever got in their previous jobs. I do not understand that, given that they are doing much the same type of work. It is questionable whether they should have got the work when one considers that they were part of this mess in the first instance. Why are they getting much more money now that they are working for the State, which is pretty short of money? Who should I ask these questions of?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy raises some very pertinent questions. I made my general view clear yesterday, when I announced the new cap on salary levels within the public service. I said that nobody in the public service should earn more than €200,000, which is a healthy top-level salary, and that nobody in the commercial semi-State sector should earn more than €250,000. The exception to that will be the National Treasury Management Agency and its subsets, one of which is NAMA. Deputy Sean Fleming will be much more familiar with this than I am. Did he participate in the famous all-night sitting on the NAMA legislation?

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  No, I was not on that committee.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  The Deputy was not part of that. He was spared that ordeal. As he is aware, the NAMA legislation was passed by this House during an all-night session. I remind the Deputies opposite who spoke about rushed legislation that it was decided that the NAMA Bill could not wait until daylight. It had to be passed during the night. Deputy Wallace will be aware that a Wexford man — Dr. Bacon — was the genesis of this device. Perhaps I [524]should not be name-checking people. As I understand it, Dr. Bacon was brought in as a consultant to the then Minister for Finance. He devised the NAMA concept as a vehicle for deleveraging the banks’ burden of impaired assets and loans. That was the policy platform of the previous Administration. This Administration is determined not to go ahead with the second tranche of it. The Acting Chairman will stop me any moment now because what I am saying is not appropriate to the debate on this Bill.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  I understand that.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is a matter primarily for the Minister for Finance, who is responsible for NAMA. He will ensure it continues to function in the best interests of the economy. I am sure the Minister, Deputy Noonan, will make any changes that are required in that context.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  If Deputy Wallace tables questions to the Minister for Finance on the matter, I am sure he will get some replies.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace  Zoom on Mick Wallace  I have some very interesting questions for him.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The amendments we are discussing highlight another difficulty I have with this Department. I will not contest it too extensively with the Minister, but I have to make an observation about the consultation between the Ministers for Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance. Every Member of this House will understand that the public service can be good at passing the buck. Public servants often say somebody else decided the policy or made the decision. When one contacts the guy who made the decision, he says he was only following the policy made by someone else and the wheel goes around.

I will give the House an example from my early days as a Deputy. I do not know how I was clever enough to do what I did in this case. I must have been caught out once or twice before I learned. This example relates directly to the amendments before the House. Some years ago, the National Roads Authority was changing the signage used on national primary routes in various areas. Its workers arrived in County Laois to put up the big signs used on open roadways to declare the maximum speed limit or warn motorists about major junctions. When we discovered that it wanted to place one of these monstrosities on the lovely green in Durrow, we all reared up and asked what was going on. We told the engineer that the works were not on because they would destroy the village. We said smaller signs would be more appropriate to a little urban area. We got the run-around before the job was eventually stopped because it was going to be a shambles.

At that stage, I decided to send identical letters to the local authority and to the NRA. I will not say I was clever because I should not praise myself. The letters asked who authorised or approved the signs and who decided they should be located in Durrow. The responses I received were brilliant. All Deputies will have received similar letters. The NRA said it was responsible for deciding policy and providing funding, but that decisions on the placement of signs were made by local authorities. The local authority wrote back to say that the signs were being put in place under a scheme designed, approved and tendered by the NRA and that the specifics of the contract were approved by the NRA before any work commenced. That is how the circle goes around. I am worried that this legislation will make the wheel of irresponsibility or of not taking responsibility bigger.

I will give another example. If a local authority wants to propose a roads project, it has to contact the NRA. Up to now, the NRA would have contacted the Minister for Transport for policy approval, or else it would have been agreed under the overall scheme. On occasion, the Minister for Transport would have had to get it cleared by the Minister for Finance. Under the [525]new system, not only will the local authority, the NRA and the Department of Transport be involved, but the Departments of Public Expenditure and Reform and Finance will be involved as well. The Minister will have to consult the Minister for Finance, or vice versa as the case may be. Five bodies will have direct responsibility for implementing the work, carrying out the work or setting the policy. We are making the wheel bigger. The way the system works means that the wider the sphere of responsibility for a particular action, the less likely it is that an individual will be held responsible. We are getting away from accountability for decisions. The Department of Finance will have to be consulted when the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform is setting policy. Each line Department will have its own role further down the road. Can the Minister understand my fears?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I can, but I will do my best to disabuse the Deputy of them.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Will the new Department add another layer?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It will not. The broad decision-making authority with regard to expenditure matters, which has traditionally been vested in the Department of Finance and the Minister for Finance, will simply become my responsibility and that of my Department. There is no new tier at all. That is what is happening, in a broad sense.

I will comment on the matters raised by the Deputy. Major road projects are matters for the capital programme. As the Deputy knows, the capital programme is agreed by the Cabinet on a collective basis. We have to get the balance right when deciding how much to spend on roads, hospitals or schools. Everybody chips into that process by making a bid before the balance is determined. The proposition will be brought by me, as the Minister responsible for expenditure. The bids will be made by the line Departments and the overall capital programme will be determined. The role of the Minister for Finance in those matters will be to sign the cheques. I will be responsible for policy on line expenditure. As I have explained, the Central Fund will remain under the control of the Minister for Finance. For the most part — it will depend on the actual function, as set out in this Bill — he will simply act on my request to release funds for agreed projects. I will consult him on some matters.

No great extra line of bureaucracy is associated with this approach. It provides for joined-up government and ensures there is greater scrutiny of expenditure. The Minister responsible for expenditure does not have to deal with the macroeconomic situation or attend ECOFIN meetings, but has Cabinet-ranked responsibility nonetheless. We also have the economic management council, which comprises the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste, the Minister for Finance and me. Overall economic policy is determined by that body, as a subset of the Cabinet. This system ensures, for the first time, that all elements of government, including the Department of Foreign Affairs, the NTMA and the Central Bank, understand Government policy and sing from the same hymn sheet. I do not think I am revealing any State secrets when I say that during the negotiations for the programme for Government, one of the things that jarred most with us was the lack of joined-up government. When we came into office, we found there were different takes on the solutions to problems being pursued by different agencies of the State. We need to have one forum for making economic policy — the economic management council — and every agency of government should feed into that. The committee’s findings should be disseminated across the public service. They should be used in all interactions with external funders like the IMF, the EU and the ECB and with our colleagues in other European governments. That will ensure they know where Ireland stands and what Ireland’s policy is. It will allow us to map our way to economic sustainability in an incremental way. That is what we have set about in the first three months. The establishment of this Department is an important step in [526]having such an integrated, co-ordinated system that allows the focus of Government to be shared to the best advantage of reaching economic sustainability.

Amendment agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  Amendment No. 43, a new section the acceptance of which involves the deletion of section 21, was already discussed with amendment No. 26.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 43:

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Can I speak to this new section?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Jack Wall): Information on Jack Wall  Zoom on Jack Wall  The Deputy certainly can.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The amendment provides that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform shall prepare a scale of maximum charges for returning officers in university constituencies, and it will be paid by the Minister for Finance with which I have no difficulty. Has the Minister information on the scale of fees that apply to returning officers? How many returning officers are there? There is one for every Dáil constituency. The Minister might confirm the matter in relation to Dáil constituency returning officers is already in the legislation. He might advise me on whether we have come to it. I do not see an amendment on it and perhaps the Minister is happy with the section. He might tell me because I want to speak on that section, if, as I presume, it is in the Bill. We are dealing with the university panels and I presume the Dáil, for which, I think, the Clerk of the Dáil is the returning officer, are already in the legislation.

On the university panels, I refer specifically to the scale of fees for returning officers for the Seanad elections in the section of the Act to be amended. I suspect the biggest fee item to be incurred would be the cost of postage to each of the electorate, many of whom are abroad or deceased. We are all aware from general elections of the state of the voters’ register and we might come to that separately if it is covered in the legislation.

On the Seanad election, I imagine there must be significant waste of money. I propose the following in the case of the Seanad. I do not know how many candidates there were for the Seanad election. Every one of them sent us literature, once, twice or, in some cases, three times, and those of us who are graduates were getting that stuff. I was voting for the NUI panel. There were approximately 25 candidates on that and I certainly received post from the [527]majority of them. I literally had a drawer full of stuff come polling day and I do not know whether I ever got to look at one item or another.

There is enormous waste. I am giving the Minister a concrete suggestion for saving money. I made it at the Committee of Public Accounts and I think the Department of Finance, in its response, was receptive to it. It did not happen on this occasion but there is no reason it cannot happen. I could take a general election or the Seanad election as an example, but I will take the general election to keep it simple. As with a referendum where a book goes to every house or every premises where there is a registered voter, it is possible with technology that a single book should go to every registered voter in a constituency with a pen-picture. If there are ten candidates, the ten pen-pictures would be in one little booklet so they get one item of literature, not ten different items of literature from ten different candidates, all being paid for by citizens and taxpayers. If the Referendum Commission can put a booklet together, it is possible.

When handing in nominations — this applies to the Seanad — one must supply one’s photograph etc. and that process could include supplying the photograph for this book. If they can get ballot papers printed with all of the photographs and a short pen-picture of the candidate including his or her name and details, there is no reason that could not be put into booklet form and one document issued to each voter instead of if there are 20 candidates each of them sending it at massive cost. The cost of duplication runs into several million euro. The electorate gives out bitterly about the wasteful expenditure at election time and it certainly applied here in the university panels. It is a way of reducing costs.

The Minister, as he will be consulted on the scale of fees, should insist that they help reduce the cost. An Post will object to this because it is a revenue stream for it during an election campaign. There are 60,000 on the register of electors for the NUI or TCD. I am not quite sure of the exact figures but there is an enormous cost. It is possible with technology to get a booklet printed quickly within the first week of a campaign after nominations are in and to send that booklet at the cost of one postage stamp rather than 15 candidates sending their own stuff at the cost of 15 postage stamps. When the Minister is consulted on the scale of fees, will he take that into account? He might tell me whether the parallel general election situation is covered in this legislation.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am impressed by Deputy Sean Fleming’s ability to make a significant input on an issue that is entirely tangential to the Bill.

Amendment No. 43 relates to section 15(2) of the Seanad Electoral (University Members) Act 1937. That 1937 Act provides that the Minister, now the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, shall prepare a scale of maximum charges for returning officers in university constituencies, and that every such returning officer shall be paid by the Minister for Finance, with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, out of the Central Fund.

Deputy Sean Fleming makes a good case in terms of rationalising the expenditure. On the last occasion I was in Government, as Minister for the Environment, I introduced the Electoral Act 1997, for the first time putting a cap on electoral expenditure generally.

This is a matter primarily for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government. Obviously, they should look at the cost of elections generally. However, there are two different issues. One issue is whether it is constitutionally possibly to prohibit a person’s spending. One can set spending limits within reason, but I am not sure one can be so prescriptive on how persons spend their own money. It is a matter, not for me but for the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, to explore and I am sure Deputy Sean Fleming will explore it with him.

[528]As a general rule, I agree there is scope for further limiting the amount of expenditure at elections. Incumbents enjoy advantages in that they might not need quite so many posters etc. If one is introducing a new candidate, it is a different kettle of fish.

People get annoyed if there are five or six voters in a house and each voter gets his or her own, not piece of literature but set of literature. At the last general election my office received several telephone calls from persons stating they did not want any more and I replied that this was the first round, every other party would have it in the system and even if one rang them, they could not stop it because one cannot merely pick out individual houses not to get it as they are delivered uniformly. No doubt it is something Deputy Sean Fleming can raise with the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I think the Minister missed my point. I refer specifically only to expenditure paid for with taxpayers’ money, not to expenditure by candidates. I refer specifically to expenditure under the Minister’s remit.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Is it to do with referendums?

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I refer specifically to expenditure of the Minister’s Department and the Department of Finance. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance came before the Committee of Public Accounts on a special section in the Comptroller and Auditor General’s report about returning officers’ fees in previous elections, some of whom five years after the election had never filled their complete statement of affairs. Some of them — I will not name the constituencies — spent €30,000, €40,000 or €50,000 in excess of a returning officer in an identical neighbouring constituency. We, in the Committee of Public Accounts, looked at this. Obviously, that is the cost of polling day, but the cost of the election is borne by the taxpayer through the Minister’s Department. I refer only to this, not to anything to do with candidates’ expenditure.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I thought Deputy Sean Fleming was referring to literature coming in doors.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I refer not to leaflets but to litir um thoghcháin where the postage is paid for by the taxpayer. I suggest that one litir um thoghcháin issue and that the booklet, paid for by the taxpayer, should include the name of all candidates, as is the case on the ballot paper. All I am saying is the biggest cost in an election to the taxpayer is everybody’s postage. I accept the returning officer must send a polling card to each registered voter. After that, however, there should be one communication for each candidate, rather than each candidate using the free litir um thoghcháin at taxpayers’ expense. That is paid for by the Department and is a major cost in elections. The matter comes directly within the remit of the Minister’s Department.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I will examine it, as I would any suggestion with regard to expenditure reduction. The Presidential election is the next due to be held and, if we have time, perhaps we might take up that suggestion. I will raise the matter with colleagues.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 21 deleted.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 44:

[529]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 45:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 46:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 47:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 48:

[530]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 49:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 50:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 51:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 52:

[531]

Amendment agreed to.

Section 22 agreed to.

Amendment No. 53 not moved.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 54:

This amendment relates to Central Fund payments. We have already discussed the issue, not in terms of this amendment but in terms of the role of the Central Fund and how payments are to be made. The amendment relates to section 81 of the Sea Fisheries Act 1952. It provides that the Minister for Finance may, on the recommendation of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and after the Minister has consulted the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, advance sums to An Bord Iascaigh Mhara from the Central Fund. The amendment to section 21 of the Sea Fisheries Act 1952 provides that, for the purposes of providing for the repayment by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara of the advances made to it from the Central Fund, An Bord Iascaigh Mhara shall make to the Minister for Finance half yearly payments commencing on such date and continuing for such a number of years for such an amount and payable at such times as the said Minister, with the approval of the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, and after consultation with the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food shall appoint.

Section 21 of the Sea Fisheries Act 1952 provides that all sums paid by An Bord Iascaigh Mhara to the Minister for Finance under this section on foot of interest shall be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in such a manner as the said Minister may, after consultation with the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, direct. Section 22 of the Sea Fisheries Act 1952 provides that An Bord Iascaigh Mhara may, with the consent of the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food and after consultation with the Minister for Finance and the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, [532]borrow temporarily by arrangement with bankers such sums as it may require for the purpose of providing for current expenditure.

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 55 not moved.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 56:

This amendment deals with export credit insurance. The amendment to section 2(1) of the Insurance Act 1953, as inserted by section 1 of the Insurance Act 1983, provides that for the purposes of encouraging the exportation of goods and the provision of such services as are specified by order, the line Minister, with the consent of the Minister of Finance and the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, may make arrangements for giving guarantees in connection with the export and manufacture, treatment and distribution of goods and the provision of services or any other matter conducive to that purpose. The amendment to section 2(1)(a) of the Insurance Act 1953 provides that the line Minister, with the consent of the Minister for Finance and the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, may make arrangements for giving guarantees in respect of the rendering of services to which this subsection applies.

The amendment to section 2(4) of the Insurance Act 1953 provides that any amount required to meet a liability incurred by the line Minister under the section shall, with the approval of the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, be advanced by the Minister for Finance out of the Central Fund and shall be repaid to the Central Fund from moneys provided by the Oireachtas. The amendment to section 2(7) of the Insurance Act 1953 provides that all moneys received by the line Minister in pursuance of arrangements made under this section shall be paid into or disposed of for the benefit of the Exchequer in accordance with the direction of the Minister for Finance given after consultation with the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform.

[533]The amendment to section 3(1) of the Insurance Act 1953 provides that the line Minister shall cause to be prepared in such form as the Minister for Finance may, with the consent of the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform, direct the accounts of the receipts and expenditure of each financial year in respect of arrangements under section 2 of the Act.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 57:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 58:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 59:

[534]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 60:

The amendment to section 10(A) of the Shannon Free Airport Development Company Limited Act 1959 provides for the reference to the Minister of Finance holding shares in the company. We seek to change the shareholding from the Minister for Finance to the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 61:

This is another Central Fund payments matter. It is a standard provision.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 62:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 63:

[535]Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 64:

The amendment to section 6(1) of National Building Agency Limited Act 1963 provides that the Minister of Finance may, with the consent of the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform and on the recommendation of the line Minister, make advances to the National Building Agency for the carrying out of its objectives. The amendment to section 6(2) of National Building Agency Limited Act 1963 provides that advances under this section shall be made on such terms as to repayment, interest and other matters as may be determined by the Minister for Finance after consultation with the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform. The agency is being merged into the new Housing and Sustainable Community Agency. We are making arrangements by transferring functionality from the Minister for Finance to the Minister with responsibility for public expenditure and reform.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 65:

[536]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 66:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 67:

The same principle is applied here, in this instance in respect of Bord Gáis Éireann.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 68:

[537]

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Amendments Nos. 69, 71, 72 and 75 are related and will be discussed together.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 69:

These amendments relate to references to the requirement for the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Finance. We are taking an opportunity to tidy up the language, which was somewhat convoluted. The amendments reference the Wildlife Act 1976, the Housing Finance Agency Act 1981, the Kilkenny Design Workshops Limited Act 1982 and the Transport (Re-Organisation of Córas Iompair Éireann) Act 1986.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 70:

[538]

Amendment agreed to.

Section 23 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 71:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 72:

Amendment agreed to.

[539]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Acceptance of amendment No. 73 will involve the deletion of section 24.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 73:

[540]The amendment provides, in regard to section 16 of the Postal and Telecommunications Services Act 1983, that the articles of association of An Post and Bord Telecom Éireann shall be in such form as may be approved by the line Minister with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. The amendment also provides, in respect of section 17 of the 1983 Act, that no alteration in the memorandum of association or articles of association of either An Post or Telecom Éireann shall be valid or effectual unless made with the prior approval of the line Minister, given with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

The provision relating to section 24 of the 1983 Act states that all moneys required by the line Minister to meet payments required to be made by him or her in respect of shares taken by him or her shall, with the consent of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, be advanced to him or her by the Minister for Finance out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof. The provision in respect of subsection 27(1)(a) of the 1983 Act stipulates that An Post and the board of Telecom Éireann may borrow money for capital purposes but where a borrowing is not from the Minister for Finance, the consent of the line Minister, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Minister for Finance is required.

The amendment also provides, in regard to subsection 27(2) of the 1983 Act, that An Post and Bord Telecom Éireann may borrow money temporarily but that the aggregate at any one time of such borrowing shall not exceed such amount as may be provided by the line Minister with the consent of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform. I will not waste time by going through the remaining provisions of the amendment. In essence, it provides for a role in all of this for the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I am curious as to why this provision is apparently being dealt with in a different way to the others. For example, there is reference to borrowing powers for working capital, which is not mentioned in other sections. There is also reference to payments for pension gratuities and other allowances in respect of members of staff of the former Department of Posts and Telegraphs. Will the Minister indicate, now that he is taking over policy in this area, what gratuities and allowances are still being paid over and above pensions to those staff?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I have not taken it over yet, so I am not fully briefed. Where we needed a specific amendment to deal with a particular case there is a stand-alone amendment; in other cases there is a recitation amendment. The difference in this instance arises for the very reason to which the Deputy alluded, namely, that there are residual responsibilities to the former civil servants who were employees of An Post. In the case of Eircom — formerly Telecom Éireann — a new fund, the Eircom No. 2 fund, was established to provide for the Exchequer pre-vesting the pension liability, and funding of €1.016 billion was provided for this purpose. As a result of differing actuarial estimates of the liability, the trustees of the new Eircom fund did not accept full liability. Final settlement was made in 1999. As a result, there is an understanding that the Exchequer retains a liability should the moneys provided in the No. 2 fund prove insufficient to meet the cost of the full pension liability in respect of service given by employees pre-vesting. In short, when Eircom was privatised the trustees wanted an assurance that should the pension fund that was set up not prove robust enough to meet the earned liabilities that there would be a contingent liability in place.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I am intrigued by the Minister’s response. Some weeks ago the Government announced the imposition of a levy of 0.6% per annum on private pension funds, amounting to 2.4% over four years. That levy will impact on the ability of the Eircom pension [541]fund to pay its pensioners and the Minister is saying that this shortfall will effectively be underwritten by his Department. This is completely new information to me.

Arising from the imposition of the new pension levy, what other categories of pension funds will the Department underwrite as a consequence of reduced resources being available to pay pension liabilities? The Minister will probably say the figure is indeterminate and I accept that he cannot provide the information today because the legislation is not yet enacted. However, I ask that he come back to the House with clarification of this matter and that the Department contact the Eircom pension fund to ascertain the extent of the possible exposure even before the pension levy is imposed. Perhaps the State’s liability was well known at the time but I do not recall being made aware of the information. It is emerging now that we seem to have given some underwritten guarantee to the pension fund of a private company which made a great deal of money for certain individuals before it was privatised. We are all aware of its current financial difficulties and that it has changed hands repeatedly. My concern is that there will be a severe temptation for shareholders to raid the pension fund if they know any shortfall will be underwritten by the taxpayer. The Minister must tease out this issue from the perspective of the shortfall or potential liability, as well as the contingent liability. In particular, what will be the cost to the taxpayer that must be picked up through, or with the consent of, the Minister’s Department or the line ministry, to make up for the shortfall now existing in the aforementioned pension fund on foot of the pension levy the Government introduced a fortnight ago? I ask the Minister to begin to tease out this matter.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Essentially, the questions asked regarding the pension levy are a matter for the Minister for Finance. The pension levy is a levy on funds to generate money to invest in jobs and while one can always contrive an argument, on balance few people would argue that it was not a good mechanism to leverage money for the important purpose of job creation from funds that were put aside by people who received considerable tax relief. The Deputy’s question presumes there is a deficit in the fund——

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I do not know.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  ——but I have no reason to believe that. I can make the inquiries for which the Deputy has properly asked. As I indicated in my earlier reply, the trustees of the fund — even though a considerable amount of money, more than €1 billion, was provided for it — were smart enough to insist that there would be a contingent liability should the event arise that it would not be sufficient to meet the pre-vesting debt liability. The pre-vesting debt liability only relates to service given before vesting day. Consequently, it is not something that is newly-accruing and the scale should be known. It does not relate to pension costs arising from the current pension fund provisioning, if the Deputy is following me.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Fully.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Consequently, the point is, it is incorrect to argue the taxpayer will meet the cost of the now accruing pension liability. Nevertheless, for my benefit and that of the Deputy, I will the state of the Eircom No. 2 fund and the estimate of liability of the State, if any. There may not be any liability. I hope this is the case. I hope the fund is sufficiently robust to meet the pension rights of individuals who will have accrued pre-vesting pension entitlements.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I agree with the Minister and hope I did not give the impression that I was talking about recent employees or of pension liabilities that have accrued since the [542]organisation was privatised. It relates to those who formerly were staff of the old Department of Posts and Telegraphs or of Telecom Éireann, some of whom benefited from ESOPs.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Pre-1999.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  While I do not recall the exact year, all Members will have encountered them in their constituencies and many of them are still alive and well.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Thank God.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Yes, thank God. Consequently, there could be a pension levy attributable to them. There must be a clearly defined number of such people because the number of staff is known, as is the number of those who still are alive. The exact figure is worth getting and I hope there will be no liability. However, the door is open and it is desirable to know the precise extent of any contingent liability.

Amendment agreed to.

Section 24 deleted.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Amendment No. 74, before section 25, already has been discussed.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  In what group was it discussed?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  We have discussed it with amendment No. 69.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  My grouping list refers to amendments Nos. 69, 71, 72, 75 and 75.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Amendment No. 74 is included there.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Not on the grouping list I have to hand.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  If the Chair will permit, I am happy to deal with amendment No. 74.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The grouping list refers to amendments Nos. 75 and 75, which is a typographical error. However, I wish to comment on the amendment.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 74:

[543]

The amendment in respect of section 12(1) of the National Lottery Act 1986 provides for the substitution of section 12(1). It provides that the articles of association of the company shall be in such form as shall be approved of by the Minister for public expenditure and reform. This does not apply in respect of articles of association currently in force. The amendment in respect of section 14(5) of the National Lottery Act provides that the directors of the company shall hold office for such term and upon such terms and conditions as the Minister for public expenditure and reform may determine when appointing them. This amendment also provides for the new definition of the “Act of 1986” as the National Lottery Act 1986.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  While the Minister might suggest the point I am about to make is tangential, it is not.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Off we go again.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  This is a great legislative item in that it covers a wide range of areas. As the Minister is taking on many responsibilities, Members have had an opportunity to raise matters that will be fully——

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is the first gallop, of which there will be many more.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  Yes. These matters will be in the Minister’s brief and consequently, my question pertains to the powers the Minister proposes to take on under this amendment. The amendment provides that the Minister will be involved in the appointment of directors to hold office for such term and upon such conditions as the Minister will deem fit, which is fine. I make a point about the lottery that the Minister may take into account. I do not expect him to have an answer to hand today. In general, the lottery makes an annual contribution of a couple of hundred million euro into the Central Fund of the Exchequer, which then is disbursed. The disbursement of funds will fall under the remit of the Minister’s Department and as this is the source of the fund, I raise this point with him.

All Members are aware that in recent years, no lottery application processes for sport and recreation facilities were undertaken. They also are aware that many previous approvals still are working their way through the system and consequently, considerable sums of money are being paid out and work is being carried out. However, through the Estimates documentation published by the outgoing Government, which will be resubmitted to Members for discussion in committees in the next few days, I tabled a series of parliamentary questions on the use of national lottery funding through various Departments. In particular, I inquired in respect of the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government, Health, Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht and Transport, Tourism and Sport. There may have been one or two others, as well as the Department of Finance itself. I asked where was the money being spent and the important point from the public expenditure perspective is that the answer I received from all the Departments was that individual projects are not now identified. For example, under the heading of social housing in the Department of the Environment, Community and [544]Local Government, the reply stated that this subhead was part-funded by national lottery funding. While the subhead may have covered €40 million in expenditure, €2 million of lottery funds may have been spent. However, no one knows or at least I was not provided with such information in replies to parliamentary questions that issued within the last week or two. I was not informed whether such money went to certain social housing schemes for a particular purpose or whether a particular mechanism was in place under which it could be drawn down.

My point is that under the Estimates processes, there is a complete lack of transparency on the destination of funding. The list of beneficiaries is available for all to see in the national lottery’s annual reports and information on who receives grants under the sports capital project also is published. While they are specific projects, money that goes into the Departments of the Environment, Community and Local Government or Health simply gets lost. It appears to be a simple substitute for Exchequer money, which was not the original intention. The Minister should try to disaggregate that expenditure to ascertain whether it is being used for a specific purpose, as was originally intended. After the legislation has been enacted and when the Minister has a few minutes, I urge him to get his staff to try to disaggregate this expenditure from the system.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  I share Deputy Sean Fleming’s views, as I am sure does the Minister, on transparency in respect of those funds. What will be the process for the appointment of directors?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  First, I fully share the views expressed by Deputy Sean Fleming regarding transparency. Even if such expenditure is for a particular purpose, it must be in compliance with the National Lottery Act. I must examine this issue and am anxious that there will be full transparency with regard to all public moneys. I would be interested in studying the replies to the parliamentary questions and if the Deputy gets a chance, he should forward them to me. I will examine them because were a Deputy to table a parliamentary question to any line Minister, I would expect him or her to receive a clear view of how the money is being spent if national lottery money is involved.

  4 o’clock

I will look at that.

With regard to the appointment of directors generally, the Government plans to bring transparency to all public sector appointments. I am currently formulating proposals which are at an advanced stage. Unfortunately, I cannot share them with the Deputy until such time as they are brought to the Government. The programme for Government contains a commitment to have a fully open and participative system for appointing directors so members of the public who believe they have a role to play on any particular State board will be able to offer themselves and their credentials can be independently validated before a Minister makes the decision.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 75:

[545]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 76:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 77:

[546]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 78:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 79:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 80:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 25 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 81:

Amendment agreed to.

Sections 26 and 27 agreed to.

[547]

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 82:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 28 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 83:

[548]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 84:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 29, as amended, agreed to.

Section 30 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 85:

[549]

As I have indicated, the Paymaster General will stay with the Minister for Finance. This amendment gives a role to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform regarding the drawing down of money which is held by the Minister for Finance. In this case, it relates to the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I ask the Minister for further information. This amendment establishes a special account to be funded from moneys by the Oireachtas to be used to pay benefits under the relevant insurance scheme to pay the costs of the scheme. I think this is a new account. Why is a new account needed? We have spent this afternoon transferring existing powers but this seems to be something new. I ask the Minister to explain further. How are these people being paid at present? Why has it been decided to set up a new account to take over the payment? Are new cases arising? I ask for this information and if it is not available today I ask him to forward it to us.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It is not a new account in that sense. There is an existing account under the Hepatitis C Compensation Tribunal (Amendment) Act 2006. The account is new only to the extent that its draw-down process is being amended. I am informed that this special account to be funded from moneys provided by the Oireachtas is to be used to pay benefits under the relevant insurance scheme and to pay the costs of the scheme administrator in administering the scheme. The amendment provides that moneys shall only be issued out of the account on the direction of the Minister for Finance with the approval of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and subject to such terms and conditions as the Minister for Finance, in consultation with the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, shall determine. It is new only to the extent that it is a new way of drawing down the moneys involving the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform in the process. As for the numbers and the beneficiaries, I do not think they have changed.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 86:

[550]

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 87:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 88:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 89:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 90:

[551]Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 91:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 92:

This amendment refers to section 12 of the Horse and Greyhound Act 2001 which establishes the Horse and Greyhound Racing Fund. The fund is simply transferring to the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the amendment gives a continuing role to the Minister for Finance because it involves excise duty on the taxation side of it and taxation matters will continue to be a matter for the Minister for Finance. Excise duties from off course betting is important. An appropriate role is retained for the Minister for Finance although the fund is transferring formally to my Department.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 93:

[552]Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Amendments Nos. 94 and 96 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 94:

These are standard amendments relating to the insertion of a reference to the new Department.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 95:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 96:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 97:

[553]Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 98:

Amendment agreed to.

Section 31 agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Amendment No. 99 is a negative amendment to section 32 and will delete the existing section.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 99:

[554]

Paragraphs (ii) and (iii) of subsection (8) provide that in regard to certain matters making regulations will be subject to the sanction of the Minister for Finance following consultation with the Minister for public expenditure and reform. Is the Deputy interested in the matters to which it refers? It is related to subsections (2) and (3) of the parent Act, which is the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. It provides that regulations will be made by the Minister for Finance. The amendment inserts a consultative role for me.

The section referred to is the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005. It concerns employment contributions; modified insurance; calculation of reckonable earnings; employment by more than one employer; payment of contributions and keeping of records; self-employment contributions and insured persons; regulations providing for determination of contributions payable; and regulations providing for the collection of self-employment contributions. In essence, it includes all the matters related to pay and the social insurance fund.

Amendment agreed to

Section 32 deleted.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 100:

This amendment deals section 13 of the Health Repayment Scheme Act. As Deputy Sean Fleming indicated, section 13 establishes a special account to be funded from moneys provided by the Oireachtas to be used to pay prescribed repayments of the costs to the executive in administering the 2006 Act, in so far as it relates to prescribed repayments and the executive’s establishment and management of the fund.

The amendment gives a role to the Minister for public expenditure and reform in addition to that of the Minister for Finance under the Act. In regard to the issuing of moneys out of this account and the terms and conditions relating to it. I understand it is an existing account. It is simply taking what is covered under the Health Repayment Scheme Act 2006 and giving a role to the Minister for public expenditure and reform in regard to the distribution of its funding.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The Minister might explain why the amendment looks unusual. We spent the day hearing that the Minister could take action after consultation with the Minister for Finance and that he could take action after consultation with the Minister for public expenditure and reform and that powers were being transferred. The amendment states:

[555]

Both Ministers have to give their approval. Why are two signatures required on a cheque? The matter goes to the HSE and the Department of Finance approves it. Why is the authority not transferred to the Minister for public expenditure and reform?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  To be sure to be sure.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  There is a difference. Why is the normal process not taking place?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  In normal circumstances I would deal with it but the account is with the Paymaster General, the responsibility for which is staying with the Minister for Finance. We decided in the case of this fund dual authorisation would be required.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 101:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 102:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 103:

[556]This amendment deals with the status of the staff of the NTMA when working with the Department of Finance. We debated the matter for an hour today. I presume we have exhausted ourselves.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  Without exhausting ourselves any further I cannot let it go without reiterating the unacceptability of the amendment and the lack of transparency which the Minister has acknowledged. I urge him and the Minister for Finance to address the matter by whatever means necessary because it is deeply worrying and unacceptable.

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 104:

This is the second of the two amendments that we transposed into the Bill today. We had a one hour debate on this today and we indicated in some detail that the amendment provides that Revenue shall be independent in the performance of its functions. It arises from the [557]Moriarty tribunal and gives what is custom and practice, as Deputy Sean Fleming rightly acknowledged, a statutory basis henceforth.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 1 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 105:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 106:

No. 23 of 1938 Industrial Alcohol Act 1938 Paragraph 4(d) (inserted by section 10(c) of the Industrial Alcohol (Amendment) Act 1980) of Schedule

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 107:

No. 21 of 1944 Transport Act 1944 Section 17(3)

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 108:

Amendment agreed to.

Amendment No. 109 not moved.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 110:

Amendment agreed to.

[558]Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 111:

No. 12 of 1958 Greyhound Industry Act 1958 Section 17

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 112:

No. 26 of 1982 Kilkenny Design Workshops Limited Act 1982 Section 10

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 113:

No. 28 of 1986 National Lottery Act 1986 Section 16

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 114:

No. 27 of 1987 Transport Act 1987 Section 3

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 115:

Amendment agreed to.

[559]Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 116:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 117:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 118:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 119:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 120:

No. 23 of 1999 Electricity Regulation Act 1999 Paragraph 24 of Schedule 1

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 121:

No. 1 of 2001 Aviation Regulation Act 2001 Section 25
No. 34 of 2001 Adventure Activities Standards Authority Act 2001 Section 29

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 122:

[560]Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 123:

No. 15 of 2004 Electoral (Amendment) Act 2004 Section 29(2) and (3)

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 124:

No. 8 of 2006 Sea-Fisheries and Maritime Jurisdiction Act 2006 Section 64

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 125:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 126:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 127:

Amendment agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 128:

S.I. Number
(1)
Order
(2)
Provision
(3)
S.I. No. 279 of 1986 Health Research Board (Establishment) Order 1986 Article 30
S.I. No. 109 of 2000 Pre-Hospital Emergency Care Council (Establishment) Order 2000 Article 30(1)

This amendment inserts Article 30 of the health research board establishment order 1986 and article 30 (1) of the pre-hospital emergency care council (establishment) order 2000 into schedule 2. Both articles deal with borrowing. They are bodies with the power to borrow money and that is why they are attached to Schedule 2 with other such bodies.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The Minister may have the information to answer my question. Is there any way he could enlighten us as to what the pre-hospital emergency care council is?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It was established by the previous Government so I thought the Deputy would know.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  The Minister has uncovered many organisations in his trawl for this Bill, some of which I had not heard of before. Does anyone know who or what they are? Why do we need that body? Why does the HSE not do the job?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  It was established by the Deputy’s party when in government. It has been a useful exercise because we have had to trawl through the legislation covering every organisation, agency, quango, council and body. We discussed the role to be performed. I am sure that in 2000 there was a compelling case made somewhere to someone for the establishment of the pre-hospital emergency care council. I will have to re-examine the matter and, if the Deputy is interested, I will send him a copy of the statutory instrument in order that he can see what it does.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I will take the Minister’s word for it.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I thank the Deputy.

Amendment agreed to.

Schedule 2, as amended, agreed to.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  I understand the Minister does not wish to proceed with amendment No. 129. Is that correct?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  Yes. I should explain that functions were cited in the Bill, but when we went to look for them, we found that they were no longer functions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Amendment No. 129 not moved.

Schedule 3 agreed to.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I move amendment No. 130:

[562]

This amendment seeks to amend the Long Title of the Bill to take account of the two additional amendments inserted earlier.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Title, as amended, agreed to.

Bill reported with amendments and received for final consideration.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt  Zoom on Michael Kitt  Since there are no Report Stage amendments, we will proceed to Fifth Stage in accordance with the order of the Dáil.

Question proposed: “That the Bill do now pass.”

Minister without Portfolio (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I thank the Deputies opposite. This is convoluted and unusual legislation, the purpose of which is to create a Department and disaggregate a complicated existing Department. I pay tribute to the staff of my Department, some of whom are present in the Chamber, for their Trojan work in bringing the Bill into being at great pace. I know there was frustration among Opposition Deputies that it was taking three months to have the Bill passed, but it involved an enormous amount of work that I wish to acknowledge.

While the Technical Group is not represented in the Chamber, I heard what it had to say about briefings. As a matter of course, I will ensure its Whip is contacted in future. I have asked the Government Whip to ensure this is done as a matter of routine in the case of all Ministers. Therefore, briefings will be provided for all Opposition groupings.

I thank Deputies Mary Lou McDonald and Sean Fleming who have been here all day for engaging with us on the Bill and coming up with constructive ideas. All we have done today is set the groundwork in terms of how we will operate. I look forward to Question Time, as well as committee debates.

I will be bringing other important legislation before the House shortly, the Pensions Bill. I want to use that vehicle to amend the Financial Measures in the Public Interest Bill to deal with the pay measures I announced yesterday to ensure they will have legal validity. We will have plenty of interaction in the future.

I thank the staff of the House and the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for their help in getting this important legislation through today.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  I thank the Minister for bringing the Bill before us after three months in office. There was a lot of work involved in establishing a new Department. It is not the normal transfer of functions that happens between Departments. I acknowledge and appreciate all the work done by departmental staff in trawling through all of the statutory instruments involved. Over 200 statutes have been referred to and amended in one form or another in the course of the afternoon. We had a useful and constructive debate on Second and Committee [563]Stages. It is a pity, however, that the Bill was not taken on Report Stage next week. Having had time to digest what happened over four or five hours on Committee Stage, we would have come up with some valuable and constructive amendments had there been an opportunity to do so before Report Stage. However, that will not happen, as we are concluding our work on the Bill now. The Minister has given an assurance that in the future he will try to ensure there will be a proper interval between the various Stages to give us time to reflect on and table amendments. I wish him well in his new Department. We have been trying to put parliamentary questions to him for a long time.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin  Zoom on Brendan Howlin  I am raring to go.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming  Zoom on Seán Fleming  We look forward to being able to speak directly to him in the Chamber on the issues within his ministerial remit. I wish him every success in his new Department.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald  Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald  The Minister should always acknowledge the work done by his staff and I am delighted to hear him doing so. I acknowledge what must have been an arduous and daunting task for all concerned. We have expressed our reservations and queries concerning the new Department’s processes and mechanisms. It is in all our interests that this legislation works and that the new Department delivers significantly. In addition, the consequences of the Minister’s policies and work should be felt not just in this House but, critically, on the front line also. The success or failure of this innovation will be judged as people seek to access public services. In the course of our deliberations I said the balance between expenditure and cost control, on the one hand, which are absolutely necessary and legitimate, and public sector reform, on the other, had not been struck in the way it might have been. However, I wish the Minister the very best in his new role. I am delighted that the new Department will be on an official footing and that we can, as they say, get the show on the road.

Question put and agreed to.


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