Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Thursday, 23 November 2017
Select Committee on Social Protection
Estimates for Public Services 2017
Vote 37 - Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Supplementary)
It would be appreciated if mobile phones were turned off or put in flight mode. Today's meeting has been convened to consider the Supplementary Estimate for Vote 37 - Employment Affairs and Social Protection, as referred by the Dáil to the select committee on 21 November. I welcome the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty, and her officials to this morning's meeting and thank them for the briefing material which has been circulated. I propose that the Minister will make an opening statement and members will then be afforded an opportunity to ask questions.
I remind members that, in accordance with Standing Orders, discussion should be confined to the items constituting the Supplementary Estimates. These are subhead A2, administration - non-pay; subhead A3, State pension (non-contributory); subhead A4, jobseeker's allowance; subhead A5, one-parent family payment; subhead A6, widow's-widower's (non-contributory) pension; subhead A7, deserted wife's allowance; subhead A8, basic supplementary welfare allowance payments; subhead A9, farm assist; subhead A10, pre-retirement allowance; subhead A11, other working age income supports; subhead A13, rural social scheme; subhead A14, Tús; subhead A17, back to work allowance; subhead A18, JobBridge; subhead A19, back to education allowance; subhead A20, Gateway; subhead A21, back to work family dividend; subhead A22, JobsPlus; subhead A23, wage subsidy scheme; subhead A25, disability allowance; subhead A27, carer's allowance; subhead A28, domiciliary care allowance; subhead A29, carer's support grant, subhead A30, child benefit; subhead A31, family income supplement; subhead A32, back to school clothing and footwear allowance; subhead A34, other child related payments; subhead A35, rent supplement; subhead A36, mortgage interest supplement; subhead A37, household benefits package; subhead A38, free trave:, subhead A39, fuel allowance; subhead A41, Office of the Pensions Ombudsman; and subhead A42, miscellaneous services.
Members should refer to the relevant subheads as they ask their questions. I ask the Minister to make her opening statement.
I thank the Chairman and members for the opportunity to put forward the Supplementary Estimate for the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection. We are seeking a Supplementary Estimate of €10 million for the 2017 budget in order to fund the Christmas bonus, which is due to be paid to Vote 37 social assistance recipients next week. Overall, the Christmas bonus is estimated to cost €219 million. As Deputies will be aware, we are providing for an 85% bonus this year, the same as last year. The bonus will be paid to approximately 1.2 million customers over the course of next week. It will provide a significant boost for people in the run-up to the festive season and for local economies throughout the country.
The overall cost is broken down into €100 million for Vote 37 recipients and €119 million for Social Insurance Fund recipients. The Social Insurance Fund will fund, in its entirety, the cost of the bonus that is to be paid to people on contributory payments, such as the contributory State pension, invalidity pension and so on. Accordingly, this element of the bonus does not impact in any way on the Supplementary Estimate. As Deputies may be aware, the Social Insurance Fund is in surplus this year. Income from PRSI receipts during 2017 will result in Social Insurance Fund income estimated at €9.86 billion. It will be over €262 million, or 2.7%, ahead of profile for this year and will be €653 million, or 7.1%, ahead of the position in 2016. I imagine Deputies will agree that this is a positive development. Thankfully, it is clear evidence of the significant improvements in employment levels in recent years.
Expenditure on Social Insurance Fund schemes and administration, including payment of the Christmas bonus, is estimated to cost €8.897 billion. This is €86 million, or 1%, ahead of profile. Even with the payment of the Christmas bonus to social insurance schemes, the surplus of the fund is expected to be approximately €1.4 billion at the end of 2017. In so far as is possible, I intend to keep running surpluses in the coming years in light of the need to prepare, on foot of our ageing population, for the rising cost of pensions.
Overall expenditure on the Department's schemes, services and administration in 2017 is expected to be €19.951 billion. This will be €96 million, or 0.5%, more than provided for in the original 2017 Revised Estimate. The higher expenditure is due solely to the payment of the Christmas bonus.
The numbers on the live register are expected to average at approximately 260,300 for 2017. This is a reduction of 43,800 on the average for 2016. The estimated cost of paying the Christmas bonus of €23 million to jobseekers is being offset by underspending elsewhere in the jobseeker's allowance allocation. Consequently, there is no additional allocation required for jobseekers in the Supplementary Estimate.
The briefing provided to Deputies in respect of the Supplementary Estimate lists the schemes for which additional sums are being sought as well as some information on underspending. We can go through the position of individual schemes, if required, during the meeting. In any event, Deputies should note that almost all the expenditure incurred by the Department is demand-led. This demand is driven by demographic trends and economic factors such as developments in the labour market. An estimate of expenditure for any scheme for the following year is published in December as part of the annual Revised Estimates Volume. The individual estimates are constructed on a scheme-by-scheme basis using data on trends in recipient numbers, average payment values and other relevant factors available for that portion of the year in which the Estimate is calculated. Trends can and do change over the course of each year, resulting in expenditure being higher or lower than provided for in the original Estimate. Actual expenditure on most schemes will never be precisely on target as a result of these factors. The extent of any overspend or underspend only becomes fully apparent at the end of the year when the outturn for the year has been confirmed. Thus, for example, we expect an overspend on schemes such as disability allowance and other illness schemes this year. This is primarily due to the continuing increase in the number of applications. In the first half of this year, for example, the number of new applications for disability allowance increased by 8.2% compared with the same period last year. We should assume that the spend in this area will increase.
I hope my opening statement has given Deputies a broad overview of the Department's expenditure in 2017 and the reason underlying the necessity to ask for a Supplementary Estimate of €10 million. I look forward to engaging with committee members presently.
I thank the Minister. This matter was only referred to the committee earlier in the week. We will in no way frustrate the payment of the Christmas bonus. Does Deputy Brady wish to start? I will take all committee members first. I will then ask the Minister to respond to any specific questions.
I welcome the Supplementary Estimate. Like the Cathaoirleach, I have no wish to frustrate the payment of the Christmas bonus. Many people rely on the payment desperately at this time of year, especially old age pensioners. They view and use this payment as a way to get out of many financial difficulties.
I did a rough calculation some years ago when the payment was completely stopped. My calculation was based on one town, Bray. Predominately, the payment goes directly to the local economy. It is not for going off on shopping trips to New York or anywhere else. It goes directly into the local community. The loss of the payment to Bray amount to between €3 million and €4 million. That is the impact of it.
The bonus must be welcomed, although it would be better if it were a 100% payment. Given the fact that there are savings within the Department in respect of various schemes and that there is surplus in the Social Insurance Fund, is it possible at this point to give out a 100% payment? Let us consider some of the savings across the Department. There is a saving in the fuel allowance. A whole range of savings can be made. The Minister will correct me if I am wrong, but I reckon increasing the payment to 100% would cost in the region of €32 million. Would it be possible to increase it to 100%?
It is positive that we are ahead of the position that obtained in respect of the Social Insurance Fund in 2016. I appreciate what the Minister has said in terms of the need to continue building the fund. My question is on the issue of bogus self-employment. Has the Department carried out analysis of how much we are missing out on through bogus self-employment and employer PRSI contributions? The fact is that the fund is ahead of profile but it could be far healthier.
The Minister says that the figure for disability payments and disability allowance is up 8.2% compared with 2016. Of all the payments, this is the largest increase. There has to be a reason. I understand this may be because JobPath has now come on the scene and many people are having their payments changed. I am unsure whether there is a reason for that other than an increase in applications.
There has to be another reason for it so perhaps the Minister could provide a breakdown of the position. I might have a few more questions but I will let other Deputies ask theirs now.
I will be brief because Deputy Brady has raised most of the issues. Many people feel that they have been living under the umbrella of austerity since 2008. The fact that only 85% is being given in the Christmas bonus reflects that. Why is the Government not giving 100% back, particularly as the social insurance payments are higher?
Why is there an increase of 8.2% in disability applications? Where does that figure come from or why would people be applying for that now?
The other issue is the yield relating to employer PRSI. The Government is always saying it cannot afford certain things. We are discussing the pension anomaly whereby people find themselves at a loss to the tune of €1,500 per year. The 1% increase in the 8.5% and 10.75% rates of employer PRSI would bring in €707.1 million. That would be a significant amount of money in terms of re-examining the position and giving something back to people. I have tabled an amendment to the Social Welfare Bill which seeks that a report be submitted within three months because I am aware that the Department is examining the figures and assessing how it could be paid back, probably in next year's budget.
I welcome the Minister. I will also be brief. I welcome this measure. It is something I sought and there is general agreement across the parties that we should pay a Christmas bonus. I also agree that we should make an effort to restore it to 100%. If it cannot be done this year, it certainly should be done in 2018. Based on the current figures, the 100% would amount to €1.7 million more.
I also welcome the continued reduction in the numbers on the live register. A further 43,800 people are off the live register, which is a huge number in one year. The challenge is to continue that progress and keep driving down the figure.
I thank the Minister for attending.
I apologise for being late. The proposal is to get an extra €10 million to ensure that the Christmas bonus is paid at a rate of 85%. Naturally, we support that. I also intended to ask about the huge increase in the figures relating to disability allowance. What is the reason for that?
As I understand it, the Social Insurance Fund is €262 million ahead of what it was expected to be this year. Is that correct? That is, in turn, €653 million ahead of the position for 2016. The Minister and her officials have indicated that this is correct. In last year's Social Welfare Act and budget, the Minister provided for the extension of invalidity pensions to the self-employed. A number of people have been in contact with me at constituency level about that and I made inquiries with the Department as recently as last week. I was told that the rules, forms and arrangements are not yet in place. I understood that this was supposed to start on 1 December, which is only a week away. I rang the Department directly but I cannot get any information on what the arrangements or rules will be for a self-employed person who wants to apply for the invalidity pension. Perhaps the Minister could clarify the position.
I have some brief questions for the Minister. The figure for disability allowance is striking. Two questions must be asked because it is significant. Is the Department carrying out a review to understand what is happening? Second, the Minister referred to an increase of 8.2%. How many of the applicants for disability allowance will be transferring from other social welfare payments? The answer to that question might give us an indication of from where they are coming.
Subhead A36 relates to the mortgage interest supplement. How many people were in receipt of that at the start of the year and how many are currently receiving it? Is it still the intention that it will finish at the end of this year and will not be paid next year?
Finally, I had not intended to raise this matter but Deputy Joan Collins mentioned it. In her opening statement, the Minister referred to the Social Insurance Fund being ahead of target. It is the issue of the changes that were made in 2012 to the State contributory pension. When the Minister was before us a couple of weeks ago, she indicated - she did so in the Dáil as well - that she did not want to bring forward something half-baked and that she was nearly finished. We had expected that she would have had an announcement regarding what she was working on, or we were led to believe that she almost had something ready. That was in the interim to the roll-out of the proposals for the total contribution system. Will the Minister provide a further update on the position since she was before us two weeks ago?
Perhaps the Minister will address those questions. If Deputies have supplementary questions, we will take them when she has replied.
I thank Deputies for their questions. Almost all of them raised the same matters so instead of answering them individually, I will speak in general terms.
Of course, one would love to be able to give a bonus of 100% given where people have come from in recent years. To be fair, however, Deputies must accept that the reason I am here today is that I am looking for more money. If I were to provide a 100% bonus, I would be seeking a hell of a lot more money. Some Deputies suggested that because there are underspends under certain subheads we could use the money involved. While there are underspends under certain subheads, there are overspends under others. The reason I am here is that I am short €10 million to pay the 85% bonus. As the economy improves one would hope to be able to return to a situation where one can give people what they used to receive in previous years. I agree with Deputy Brady that they spend it. It does not go into a box somewhere or to the Bahamas. They spend it so it is of value and contributes to the local economy. Hopefully, as the country recovers, the Department might be in a position to consider that next year. Some Deputies referred to the fact that the Social Insurance Fund is in surplus and suggested that perhaps it should have been used to pay a 100% bonus. The way the system works is that the Christmas bonus from the Social Insurance Fund can only be paid to those in receipt of contributory benefits. The deficit does not relate to that fund, it relates to the people who are receiving allowances.
Another question was in respect of the Social Insurance Fund and bogus self-employment. The Deputy can bet his bottom dollar that if I had that extra €750 million or so, I would be well able to spend it. I am not sure the figure is anywhere close to that. However, I am sure there are some people - perhaps not in the large numbers that one might expect - who are in precarious situations whereby they are being made to declare themselves as being self-employed when they truly are not. A report is being considered by the Department, in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners, to pursue that element of the Social Insurance Fund contributions, which probably does not exist in reality today. While we are working closely with the Department of Finance and the Revenue Commissioners, I only have the joy of spending the money in the Social Insurance Fund. I do not have responsibility for collecting that money. It is only by working with different Departments that we can influence how that position is reached. However, given that I am in charge of employment rights and employment affairs, we are anxious to extend those same rights to people who are not necessarily self-employed in a self-employed world, if the Deputy understands what I am trying to say. I hope to be in a position to issue the report on bogus self-employment and our views on it before Christmas. If not, it will be issued very early in the new year. I will revert to the Deputy and have a fuller conversation in that regard if possible.
The next question was about the 8.2% increase in the number of disability applications. The main reason for it is that there has been a change in our demographics. In fact, that is the only reason. However, I believe there probably are some people on the live register who should not be on it. We might conduct an analysis of that next year.
If there is a view that maybe there is a draw from one scheme to the other just because of this, it definitely is not just because of this. There is a change in our demographics.
I assure the members that there are strict medical conditions to qualify for receipt of a disability allowance payment. One cannot just arrive and say whatever one wants to say. There are strict medical conditions that have to be adhered to and supporting documentation. Those who apply and are successful and who are in receipt of disability payments genuinely have a disability that proves that they cannot work in the profession in which they would have been able to work and enjoy employment heretofore. We will obviously keep an eye on that. We do not look at rises in schemes and merely say it is well and good. We conduct deep analysis and investigations. However, we are quite satisfied that those in receipt of disability payments are adhering to the strict criteria that were set out beforehand.
At the start of this year 2,000 families were receiving mortgage interest relief. At the end of this year, there are 1,400. We will continue to pay those 1,400, but as the economy improves, I anticipate that number will continue to go down. As long as people satisfy the conditions to receive that payment, they will receive it. We are here to provide income supports for people when they need them. If they need them, they will continue to get them. As I said, I hope and envisage that as the economy recovers and people's personal finances recover, they might not need them.
The indication from the Department in previous replies to parliamentary questions was that it would expire on 1 January 2018. For some time, there have been no new entrants. I am not talking about new entrants but about those who are in the scheme. If their situations have not been resolved, it will carry into 2018. Is the Minister saying it is open-ended?
Yes. It might not be under the subhead that the Chairman is referring to. As long as somebody needs that support, he or she will get that support from some subhead of the Department.
There are no new entrants. The numbers are diminishing. As they continue to diminish, that is better for their own personal finances. As long as somebody meets the criteria and needs that support from the Department, he or she will get it.
Yes. The Social Insurance Fund is in surplus to the tune of €600 million but, as everybody has seen from the actuarial review, it quickly will not be in surplus. If we do nothing else except carry on, knowing the increase in demographics in that particular category over the next few years, within a short few years this fund will be in deficit and in the medium term it will be in serious deficit. That is why, as the committee will be aware, we are moving to a new pension reform system and going to a public consultation, it is hoped either before or immediately after Christmas, with a view to moving to a new system by 1 January 2020. That has been well documented and mapped out. We will determine within the public consultation the exact parameters of that new system but we are all hoping to move to a total contributions model. We will discuss the wherewithal during the public consultation and I look forward to the committee's input on it.
With regard to the 42,000 men and women who are suffering a pension anomaly arising from the changes in 2012, the report is just completed. We are considering it in my Department with a view to bringing it to Cabinet. We have made a decision to bring it to a sub-Cabinet committee meeting as opposed to a main Cabinet committee because there are significant resources required to address the issue. I expect that will happen in the coming weeks.
Yes. As I stated, there are 42,000, the records of half of whom are electronic. Half of the records are paper records. The report that I would expect to be able to publish is a synopsis of the overall problem in the area, the cost of the problem and the positions that I would suggest and set out to fix the problem. Once I get an agreement at Cabinet on that solution, it certainly will become public knowledge and I will be seeking the committee's report.
I beg Deputy O'Dea's pardon. We are going live on 1 December. The Department is conducting an advertising campaign and everything is ready to go. If the Deputy is anxious that it is not, he might give me-----
Deputy O'Dea might give me a shout and we will talk about it. However, it absolutely is. The criteria are the same. The total contributions that are required are the same for an employed person. It is exactly the same. It is merely extending the same rights to invalidity pension to the self-employed as exist currently for employees. If the Deputy has concerns, I ask him to let me know what they are and I will address them. I am sorry, I did not mean to ignore that.
I have two questions. On the bogus self-employed, the Minister stated a report is being compiled and she expects that before or just after Christmas. Will that be published? Will that lay out clearly what needs to be done? Who carried out that report? Was it the Department itself or was it an outside consultancy agency?
The Minister disputed the figure of €750 million that the Department is missing out in employer PRSI contributions. Has a proper analysis been carried out by the Department, even on the definition self-employed? I might get an answer on that.
On the 42,000 who are receiving reduced payments, the Minister stated that report is due to be published. She said that a couple of weeks ago. The Minister stated two or three weeks ago it was due to be submitted to Cabinet the following Tuesday, which clearly has not happened. Now the Minister is saying it will be published and given to a sub-Cabinet committee. Is she sure about that? Can we have an exact timeframe? That report, that the Minister stated will be published, will lay out clearly what needs to be done to rectify the changes and that it will not be put on the long figure until 2020. Can we get a rock-solid guarantee on that?
I would welcome that report on the bogus self-employed. Many in industry are waiting for us to analyse it.
As soon as I walk out of here, I will get loads of phone calls from constituents asking if the Minister said that they would get the shortfall due to the 2012 anomaly returned to them. To be clear, the Minister has the report and reckons she will be able to go to a sub-Cabinet committee before or after Christmas. At that meeting, will the Minister be looking for the funds to pay it? Will she have to wait until next year's budget or is she looking to resolve the issue between now and next year?
I look forward to the report on the bogus self-employed. The Minister disputed the figure of €750 million. I can tell her, anecdotally, from my own experience and what I have seen in my own area over recent years, that €750 million is, if anything, probably an understatement. There are workers on building sites, such as ordinary labourers, carpenters and blocklayers, all designated as self-employed. I have come across persons working in shops who are supposed to be self-employed. It is ludicrous. The sooner we get to grips with this the better.
In relation to the 2012 changes, I repeat the question of Deputy Joan Collins. When does the Minister envisage she will be able to rectify this anomaly? It is a glaring anomaly. It is an injustice that continues every day while the present regime is in existence.
It was not an external report. The report was compiled by a senior officials group across the three Departments - Revenue, my Department and the Department of Finance. The reason it has not been published is because I am only considering it. It is being worked on. As soon as I have worked through the report, it will be published. I am exceptionally clear in this area. I look forward to the day that I have the money to spend that we can recoup from those who are not genuinely self-employed. As soon as I can do that, it will be done.
The difficulty, in response to Deputy Joan Collins, is that there are 360,000 designated as self-employed. Without speaking to each individual, one does not know who is and who is not self-employed.
What we have is anecdotal. I know there are certain industries in which it is much more prevalent but there are industries that we do not even recognise in which it is a significant issue. I am not trying to downplay whether it is €750 million. If it was twice or three times that, I am sure we would all enjoy being able to spend it, but I do not want to set expectations for people and then have us end up with an extra €50 million a year in reality. We will go after whatever the amount is and will enjoy divvying it out to people who deserve it most under income supports and schemes in the Department.
If nothing else, that is what is driving me, not the money. If we get money, we will spend it. Whether we get it from the recovering economy or from this pot, we will spend it. We will spend whatever money we get. The driver for me is that there are people in precarious positions who could be let go this Friday through no fault of their own. They do not get paid sick leave or paid holidays. It will be dealt with. That is all I can say to the Deputy and it is a categorical commitment. To be clear, the paper compiled by my Department on the anomalies and the working suggestions to resolve it will be sent to the next Cabinet sub-committee. That will happen before Christmas or immediately after Christmas. So as the Deputy does not think I am misleading him, there is a Cabinet sub-committee meeting today. The paper is not quite ready to be put on the agenda today, but if there is another one next week or next month, it will be on that agenda and what the paper is and what the options are will be made public to the Deputy. I would value Deputy O'Dea's support in dealing with that.
In answer to Deputy Collins, the reason it is going to a Cabinet sub-committee is because I do not have the money to fix the anomaly right now. If I did have the money, we would most likely not have to ask for money. We in the Department do not have the money to fix it within the finances allocated to us for next year. It has to go through the normal methods of seeking the cross-departmental commitment that it is agreeable that this is how we fix it and to determine how best to find the money to fix it. Deputy Collins is not the only person who will get calls afterwards. That money does not currently exist in anybody's Department which is why it has to go to the Cabinet sub-committee to try to determine if the options we are going to provide are agreeable to other Departments, and then to determine how quickly we can fix it based on the resources we have. That is the commitment and roadmap. That paper and the options in it will go to the next Cabinet sub-committee meeting, and once that committee has considered it, I assume it will then allow us to bring it to a full Cabinet meeting and it will be made public as soon as I can do so.
Deputy Brady wants to speak, but before that, I thank the Minister for her comments on the anomalies. This committee has been acutely aware of them for some time and it is not something that can be dealt with in the roll-out of the total contributions scheme in three years. It needs to be dealt with as a stand-alone issue. That group of people is directly discriminated against when compared with those who retired earlier.
I acknowledge the Minister's commitment to deal with it. This committee was concerned, following previous replies, that it would only be dealt with as part of the total contributions system in three years. I acknowledge that it has been dealt with. We have always wanted this issue to be recognised and dealt with on its own. The total contributions system that will be rolled out in a number of years is a different issue. I acknowledge that the Minister has made that point. I call Deputy Brady.
I want to get some clarity on the same issue. Mixed messages have come from the Government over the past week or so. I think the Minister said she wants to address this next year. I think it should be addressed and sorted out now, but leaving that aside, the Taoiseach gave a different message. He said it will be addressed when we move to the total contributions system in 2020. Completely different messages have come from the Taoiseach and Minister. Has the Minister had any discussions with the Taoiseach on this issue? Is he committed to making the changes that are so badly needed for 42,000 people who are being discriminated against? There are mixed messages, with the Minister saying she wants to address it and a different message from the Taoiseach. Have there been any preliminary discussions with the Taoiseach or the rest of the Cabinet? Is the issue of this being sorted retrospectively up for discussion? Is it being looked at in this report? Is it an issue that is not on the table at all? There would a big push to have this payment made retrospectively to those 42,000 people who have been discriminated against.
A change to legislation can only take effect on the day it is brought in. I will rule that out clearly and emphatically for anybody listening. There is no possibility or way for us to introduce something retrospectively. I will take responsibility for the mixed messages that the Deputy may be getting. The last day I was here, I answered a question from Deputy O'Dea and had hoped to be in a position to be able to bring the paper to Cabinet the following week or the week after. Probably because of my naivety, I did not realise that I cannot bring something to Cabinet unless I have the resources to fix it because to go to Cabinet is to ask somebody for a decision to fix something. Therefore I have to bring it to the Cabinet sub-committee. We made a commitment to recognise the anomaly, and we recognise it. The commitment to fix the anomaly is entirely in place. There might have been a loss in translation following something reported here of what I said and it was then suggested to the Taoiseach that we would fix it within a couple of weeks. He knows the reality, that this requires new money which is not currently there so he would have tempered his response accordingly.
When the paper is ready, it will be sent to the next Cabinet sub-committee. If that can happen before Christmas, it will be before Christmas, and if not, it will be immediately after Christmas. Arising from the discussions of that committee, based on the options to resolve this issue, it will be published and go to Cabinet thereafter. This anomaly will be fixed as soon as the money is available, depending on the options chosen in the paper to resolve the issue. The commitment has not changed. I stand with the Chair and say that this is an entirely separate issue from our pension reforms which will come into place in 2020. It is entirely dependent on the resources required to fix this and we all have to acknowledge that new resources are required to fix this but the intent is to recognise it as a stand-alone issue and to fix it as soon as we can.
It is disappointing that mixed messages are coming out. It is unhelpful to the 42,000 people who are expecting something for the head of Government, the Taoiseach, to come out and remove any potential hopes they had. Some €5 million is being spent on a spin unit. Maybe that should be put to some use to get a solid message that Government is singing from the same hymn sheet on this because, ultimately, 42,000 people are being discriminated against and being made fools of.
I have no problem being hung out to dry for this but that week we had a conversation here and what I said that day still stands. The following Friday morning in Cork, a local regional newspaper announced that we would not only pay people, but that we would be giving them back-pay which they would get within the next number of weeks. I had no hand, act or part in the report of that newspaper. I did not even speak to that journalist and do not, most of the time. He took the transcripts of our meeting here that day, took something that I said at 11 a.m., mashed it together with something I said at 10.10 a.m., rolled it up into a ball and made a front page story that was not true and which set expectations for women and men that they would get money retrospectively and that they would get nearly it all by Christmas. I will not take responsibility for that. That was what the Taoiseach then replied to the following Tuesday.
The expectations that were set were not mine and certainly were not his. Let me be emphatically clear to the journalist if he happens to be listening. We will issue a paper on how to resolve this issue and will put it to the Cabinet subcommittee, which will decide whether to accept our proposals or better them. If and when we find the money to fix this anomaly it will be done. I am talking about new money and I am here today asking for money because we do not have it at present.
I acknowledge and accept what the Chair and the committee have said to the effect that this is a separate issue from the ambitious pension reforms on which we are embarking next year, and which will come into play on 1 January 2020. We hope to resolve this issue long before that date.
The 2012 anomaly in the contributory pension was not recognised for a long time as being a stand-alone item but was regarded as part of the general reform of pensions. I acknowledge the progress the Minister has made and wish her well, along with her Cabinet colleagues, in the coming weeks as it has to be addressed. I thank her for work and the clarity she has brought to the matter today. I also thank her officials, namely, Mr. McKeon, Mr. Crean and Mr. Lawler, for their attendance. I remind members that the joint committee will meet at 10.45 a.m.