Dáil debates

Friday, 9 December 2011

Social Welfare Bill 2011: Committee and Remaining Stages

 

1:00 pm

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The use of mobile phones is not allowed in the House.

Deputies:

He is texting.

Photo of Frank FeighanFrank Feighan (Roscommon-South Leitrim, Fine Gael)
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There is an extra €42 in VAT on it, Mattie.

Photo of Mattie McGrathMattie McGrath (Tipperary South, Independent)
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A budget of misery and they are all laughing.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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On a point of order, given the limited time available to deal with Committee and Report Stages, will the Ceann Comhairle set out how we can cover as many amendments as possible? Perhaps we might group them in some way.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I suggest the Whips meet and come to an agreement. It is not within my powers to decide what time should be allocated to any given item. It is a matter for the Whips to meet and decide on a breakdown, if they so wish.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Are we to discuss them one by one?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Will the Deputy, please, wait until I have finished with Deputy Boyd Barrett.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Other Members might have better ideas, but I was going to suggest-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No. I suggest the Deputy ask his group's Whip to meet the Government Whip. If that is the wish of the House, I will be only too pleased to co-operate; otherwise, we will have to proceed in the normal way.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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On a one-by-one basis.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Yes.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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We will never get through them all.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I accept that.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Could we take them in groups of five?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, the Deputy cannot. That is not allowed under Standing Orders.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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That is parliamentary procedure.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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In some of the deliberations of many of the Minister's colleagues they had much to say about certain sections, including those dealing with reviews. However, they will not be allowed time to make contributions on the issues involved within two hours.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Perhaps not, but that is not the fault of the Chair.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Is the Government Whip happy that the Government parties have been accommodated by the style in which the Bill has been brought forward?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy is just wasting time. The grandstanding is getting us nowhere because the order is in place. If there is agreement among the Whips, we can try to co-operate, but I cannot do otherwise.

SECTION 1

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Is it agreed that the section should stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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No, it is not.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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This section has to do with the reduction in the employer's rebate in respect of statutory redundancy payments from 60% to 15%. Is that correct?

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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No. It contains the Short Title of the Bill.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Section 1(3) concerns the Redundancy Payments Act.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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It contains the Short Title, construction and collective citation.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Okay, that stands.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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The Bill, when enacted, may be cited as the Social Welfare Act 2011. This is probably common procedure, as each new Bill has a Title based on the previous one. However, given what is contained in it, it would be an insult to call this the Social Welfare Act 2011 because it is the exact opposite. I am, therefore, disagreeing wholeheartedly with the Bill, given the level of cuts and the groups which have been targeted by the Minister in it. I disagree with the Title, especially as children are being targeted by ways of the cuts to child benefit. In addition, entitlement to domiciliary care is being affected. Thankfully, the Minister for Social Protection listened to the furore over the decision on disability allowance before she went ahead on the bizarre idea that the disabled should shoulder the burden for speculators and gamblers.

The other main group which the Minister is targeting in the legislation includes one-parent families. At various committee meetings she repeatedly said there was a need to address poverty traps, but they are being added to in the Bill. I have received a range of correspondence in recent days from people who are absolutely scared of the consequences of the Minister's actions this week. At this stage in the deliberations I will not read the horror stories, but people have done the sums and understand what is happening. In many cases, they are totally dependent on social welfare and do not have a spare 50 cent, never mind a euro, at the end of the week. The money has often been accounted for before they receive it.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy can deal with these matters when we reach another section. He cannot do so on this section which contains the Short Title.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I am objecting to the Short Title because I do not believe this should be called the Social Welfare Act 2011. I am about to conclude to allow other Deputies to speak.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Thank you, Deputy.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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We have 90 minutes to debate detailed legislation and will not reach some of the issues raised in it. We had to fight to be given two hours for the debate on Committee Stage, yet we do not have even that amount of time now. It is scandalous.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I wholeheartedly agree with the Deputy. This measure should be called the social destruction Bill, not the Social Welfare Bill. This legislation will hit people on social welfare through the reduction in qualified child increase. It will also hit the eligibility of pensioners to receive contributory pensions. It will hit widowers, child benefit and the one-parent family income disregard. This will force single parents back into poverty. The Bill should be described as a poverty creation measure as a counterpoint to all of the commitments made by the Government to provide for labour activation measures. It is hitting the concurrent payment which will also hit lone parents. In what sense, therefore, can the Minister for Social Protection talk about this being a social welfare Bill when all it will do is increase poverty levels? It will increase the level of child poverty, as well as hitting lone parents and the elderly. It will make things worse for some of the most vulnerable sections of society. The Minister simply cannot stand over the Title of the Bill.

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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I also wish to oppose the Title of the Bill. I said this last night, although the Minister was not present to listen to me. According to its website, the Department's mission statement is to promote active participation in society by the provision of income supports, employment opportunities and other supports. However, the Bill, if passed, will do the complete opposite. It will discourage active participation by withdrawing income supports for certain sections of society. For that reason, I oppose the Title of the Bill.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I am not opposed to the Title and do not want to waste time by discussing it. I am opposed, however, to the majority of the measures contained in the Bill.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I want to comment briefly on what Deputies said. When I took office, there were to be cuts of well over €800 million, as laid out by Fianna Fáil, in social welfare provisions.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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It was €600 million.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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It was a little over €600 million.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Through detailed consideration I reduced those cuts to €475 million. I regret, like everybody else in the House, that there must be any cut in social welfare. Unfortunately, we were left in an EU-IMF structural adjustment programme and we must make expenditure reductions as well as general tax increases. They are the terms and conditions of the programme Ireland is in until we can get back on our feet with regard to financial sovereignty.

Last year, social welfare rates were cut across the board by €8 per week, with the exception of the old age pension. Child benefit was cut by €10 per month for all children. I made choices about what would be included in the €475 million of cuts. Those choices have been welcomed by pensioners and many people on a different range of social welfare benefits.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We can get to that later.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Minister should see if the people outside welcome them.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Is this a Second Stage speech?

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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It is not a speech.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am just replying to the Deputies.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We are wasting time.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister is replying to the points made.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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For the first time in three years there has been no reduction in the primary rates of payment.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The rich are getting away.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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The Minister did not interrupt.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The title of this Social Welfare Bill is entirely appropriate. The third element of the Bill deals with changes to refunds to employers for redundancy payments. In the past number of years this country has spent over €1 billion paying employers redundancy rebates. We have paid very large multinationals €12 million here and there, for example, with €13 million or €14 million going to SR Technics. Diageo received a large amount of many millions of euro.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)
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What about the PRSI contributions?

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The small and medium enterprises make PRSI contributions.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Recently, TalkTalk made employees redundant at very short notice and the taxpayers will pay 60% of its statutory redundancy payments. Will the Deputies think about that? No other European country subsidises employers to make people redundant. We are leaving a subsidy of 15% in place. We are in terrible economic difficulty.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Minister is deflecting from the issue.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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She should move on.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I hope we will move-----

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Why did she not load on PRSI for high income earners instead of hitting pensioners and lone parents?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----to a position where we can develop schemes and structures that will help employers to retain workers, whether on a full or part-time basis, rather than spending hundreds of millions of euro in each year of this appalling financial difficulty to make people redundant. I know Deputy Cowen and others said they had a difficulty with the inclusion of this provision in the Bill. It is very appropriate to try to reorganise the finances of social welfare in a way that provides the maximum amount of money available in very straitened times.

I am delighted we have had no direct cuts in social welfare rates this year, and that is a considerable achievement compared to the €8 everybody lost last year-----

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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What about the €88 from the disability allowance?

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)
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They have lost more than that now.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----and the €8.30 they lost the year before. People are understandably negative regarding any changes in social welfare.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)
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There is €6 gone from rent allowance.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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As I mentioned to Deputy Ó Snodaigh, Mr. Alex Maskey, MLA, welcomed-----

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Move on.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----yesterday a winter fuel payment just North of the Border - not 100 miles away - of £100 for pensioners, and a payment for people on unemployment assistance and benefit of £75.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Deal with the concerns of the people outside.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Come on.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Deputies here have a welcome all-Ireland focus in their debates.

Photo of Dinny McGinleyDinny McGinley (Donegal South West, Fine Gael)
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That is only right.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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People have complained about child benefit.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Does the Minister think the people outside give a damn about what she says?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The woman in Strabane gets €67 per month for a second child.

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin North, Socialist Party)
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The Minister has no say in that. Why does she not deal with the woman in Ballymun?

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Is the name of the Bill agreed? A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, is it agreed?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am delighted to say that the woman with a second child here is having child benefit rates maintained at €140 per month.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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Is this a Second Stage debate?

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I say to all Members-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I want, on behalf of the Government, to welcome this Bill.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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She is taking our time.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Excuse me-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I welcome that there is a social protection Bill-----

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We should move to section 2.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----protecting the primary core social welfare rates and making very sensible changes-----

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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There was €1.7 billion taken in the past few years, with €475 million to be taken this year. That is not protection.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----to a system where many hundreds of millions of euro were previously paid to employers to make people redundant. We are looking creatively at how to use the money which people pay in PRSI and in their taxes to retain employment.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Is the section agreed?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am very pleased-----

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I am putting the question. Is it agreed that section 1 stand part of the Bill?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----to introduce this Bill.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Is the title agreed?

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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I have indicated that I want to speak. This is Committee Stage.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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The Deputy may speak on section 1.

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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The Minister asked for a very honest debate-----

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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We are wasting time.

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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-----and for people to be very clear on what is contained in the Bill. The Minister must begin by being honest herself. It is not €475 million in cuts, as the Minister suggested.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Yes, it is.

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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It is €811 million in a full year. Is that correct?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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No, it is €475 million over-----

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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Is it €811 million in a full year? The Department's figures suggested-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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It is €475 million. The plan Fianna Fáil would have put-----

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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I am not interested in Fianna Fáil. I am interested in what the Minister is doing.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Sorry-----

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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She is taking €811 million in a full year.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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Excuse me-----

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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The Minister should be honest.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I am putting the question.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Sorry-----

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I have been very reasonable and we want to make some progress.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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This is Committee Stage.

Photo of Michael KittMichael Kitt (Galway East, Fianna Fail)
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I am putting the question.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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You are well out of order.

Question put:

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 85 (James Bannon, Tom Barry, Pat Breen, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Catherine Byrne, Eric Byrne, Joe Carey, Áine Collins, Michael Conaghan, Seán Conlan, Paul Connaughton, Ciara Conway, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Michael Creed, Jim Daly, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Paschal Donohoe, Robert Dowds, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Anne Ferris, Frances Fitzgerald, Peter Fitzpatrick, Charles Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brendan Griffin, Dominic Hannigan, Noel Harrington, Simon Harris, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Martin Heydon, Brendan Howlin, Kevin Humphreys, Colm Keaveney, Paul Kehoe, Alan Kelly, Seán Kenny, Seán Kyne, Anthony Lawlor, Ciarán Lynch, John Lyons, Michael McCarthy, Shane McEntee, Nicky McFadden, Dinny McGinley, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Michael McNamara, Eamonn Maloney, Peter Mathews, Olivia Mitchell, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Michelle Mulherin, Eoghan Murphy, Gerald Nash, Dan Neville, Derek Nolan, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Kieran O'Donnell, Patrick O'Donovan, Fergus O'Dowd, John O'Mahony, Jan O'Sullivan, Ann Phelan, John Paul Phelan, Michael Ring, Brendan Ryan, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Arthur Spring, Emmet Stagg, Joanna Tuffy, Jack Wall, Brian Walsh, Alex White)

Against the motion: 42 (Gerry Adams, Richard Boyd Barrett, Tommy Broughan, John Browne, Joan Collins, Michael Colreavy, Barry Cowen, Seán Crowe, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Timmy Dooley, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Luke Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Tom Fleming, John Halligan, Séamus Healy, Billy Kelleher, Séamus Kirk, Michael Kitt, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Charlie McConalogue, Mary Lou McDonald, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, Sandra McLellan, Catherine Murphy, Patrick Nulty, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Thomas Pringle, Shane Ross, Brendan Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Robert Troy, Mick Wallace)

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

Question declared carried.

Section 2 agreed to.

SECTION 3

Question proposed: "That section 3 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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There is a lack of detail in the implementation of this arbitrary definition of disablement. On what basis is the definition made? With what expertise is the decision being taken? Does it affect the lump sum payment to be made?

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I oppose section 3 on the basis that it takes us down a dangerous road. We have not had proper scrutiny or debate on the effects of the measure. Is this a move towards degrees of disablement, which it seems to be? In the future, will a person be entitled only to certain benefits? The proposal in the Bill is to allow a payment for a limited disability of at least 15%. Will we soon move to payments for 20%, 25% or 30% disablement? Where is this leading us in the long term? This measure should have been teased out before being included in legislation.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Section 3 provides for limiting the payment of disablement benefit in the case of assessments of loss of faculty of less than 15%. Existing disablement benefit claimants who have qualified for payment before 1 January 2012 on the basis of assessments of less than 15% and cases where the accident occurred before 1 January 2012 but because they are incapable of work and claiming injury benefit they are not able to claim disablement benefit for a period of up to six months, will be protected. These provisions will come into effect from the beginning of January 2012.

Disablement benefit is a payment under the occupational injuries scheme which is payable to an insured person who suffers a loss of physical or mental health as a result of an occupational accident or a prescribed occupational disease. Disablement benefit may be paid as a once-off gratuity or in the form of a disablement pension. It can be paid in addition to any other social welfare payment, including illness benefit. It is payable regardless of whether the claimant has returned to work.

The measure contained in the section, which introduces a 15% minimum disablement threshold, does no more than bring the arrangements in Ireland into line with the approach taken in the United Kingdom and places Ireland broadly in the mid-range of EU practice in this area. Several EU member states have substantially higher thresholds in place, including Germany where the minimum threshold is 20% and the Netherlands where the threshold is 35%.

Section 3 provides that entitlement to disablement benefit will be confined to those where the level of disability assessed is 15% or more and where the initial period of assessment commences on or after 1 January 2012. The section also provides that claimants whose initial period of assessment has commenced prior to 1 January 2012 will not be subject to the new threshold.

Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 4

SECTION 4

Question proposed: "That section 4 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Section 4 deals with the changes to the current entitlement to the payment of a half-rate qualified child increase in a number of cases, such as carer's benefit and State contributory pension.

I oppose this vehemently. What is the prescribed amount? Is it €400 or not? What is it? These are changes to the margins and greatly affect the people in question. By how much would a person who is caught in this trap be affected? How much would such a person lose per week? The same person could be affected by the changes in child benefit. If the two are added together how much would a person lose in that instance?

Is this not contrary to the Minister's claim that there has not been a cut in welfare rates? The effect of this section is to make two cuts within one.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I agree with Deputy Cowen. This is a low attack on the qualified child payment. It is a decrease in a social welfare rate, yet the Minister has made great play of her claim that no social welfare rate has been cut. I oppose the section on that basis alone.

I also oppose it on the basis that it targets many who are dependent on social welfare payments. Under the proposed changes, the current entitlement to the half-rate child increase is disappearing. The Minister's aim is to discontinue that entitlement. Once again, I ask the Minister to row back on this, particularly considering there was an alternative approach available. A number of people outlined the changes required in the taxation system that would allow for social welfare payments to be retained at the rate they were at and which would allow the tax system to be tweaked and changed to penalise those who have most and force them to pay the greater share of the burden which has been laid on society by the previous Administration and the economic crisis.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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I also oppose this section. The issue of child poverty should be central to social welfare. In the framing of this budget, what analysis was done with regard to its impact on child poverty? Even before the budget was announced, Barnardo's estimated that some 130,000 children were living in poverty. We could fill both Croke Park and the Aviva Stadium with the number of children living in poverty. I would have thought that this group would have been one of the first groups to be considered in the framing of a budget and that the impact of any cuts on this group would have been evaluated. It seems that the headline rates have been protected for one reason, because they are the ones that make the news. The impact of the cuts we are discussing here is more fragmented and is personal to the individuals who must work out how they will be absorbed. This is quite cynical.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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There is a common theme to many of the Minister's cuts. What these cuts will do is attack people and families trying to make their way forward, who want to work and contribute to society and get out of poverty. These cuts will act as a disincentive to work and will hit people at the margin of a certain level of earnings. This is wrong. The suggested threshold is €400. If the other spouse is on social welfare and they have two or three children, the hit will be €60 or €90 a month if they happen to be just above the threshold. An amount of €600 is not a lot for a family with children. Therefore, the Minister is hitting people at the low end, people who are trying to work and contribute, and is taking a significant chunk from them. That is the difference between poverty and some sort of living standard for people who are working and trying to contribute to society. This is wrong. It hits the people who should not be hit and the Minister should withdraw it.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The idea of giving a half rate was to try to support people who paid their contributions. As Deputy Boyd Barrett has said, €400 a week is not a big income. Am I correct in thinking that the loss of income through this change is as follows? For a family with four children half of the rate per child is €15, if we ignore the 20 cent on the full €29.80. If we multiply that by four it comes to €60. There is also a cut of €19 a month on the third child allowance and €17 a month on the fourth child. When we add those two, we get a cut of €36 and if we divide that by four it comes to €9. Therefore, will the Minister confirm that this cut for families earning between €400 and €500 will mean a cut of €70 per week? The Minister should remember that when we compare that to cuts at the top end, people at that end were screaming about cuts of €70 a week. This cut is €70 a week. Am I right or wrong?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Section 4 provides for discontinuing the current entitlement to the payment of a half rate qualified child increase, where the spouse, the civil partner or the cohabiting partner of the beneficiary has a weekly income in excess of a prescribed amount, with effect from 1 July 2012. With regard to the incapacity supplement payable under the occupational injury benefit scheme, it extends the reference to spouse of a beneficiary to include a reference also to the civil partner or the cohabitant of the beneficiary. This amendment will take effect from the enactment of the Bill.

The measure introduces for the first time an upper income limit on spouse-partner earnings for entitlement to the half rate qualified child increase. It will be no longer payable where a recipient spouse or partner has earnings in excess of €400 per week. Of course, they could be earning a lot more than €400 per week.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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They could be on only €400 a week.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The majority of claimants affected by this measure will be those with a spouse or partner who is in full-time employment with earnings considerably in excess of the €400 threshold. That is the data available to the Department.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Why did the Minister not put it at €800?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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This directs available resources towards the families at the lower end, which is what the Deputy indicated he wanted to do. Where there is a spouse or partner who is not earning or is on low earnings, below €400, the conditions relating to the qualified child increase are not affected and the payment continues. This measure facilitates the introduction of a single social systems payment for people of a working age by aligning the arrangements for the specified schemes with current arrangements for illness benefit, injury benefit and jobseeker's benefit.

I think Deputy Ó Cuív may be under a misapprehension. This will just apply to new claimants.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I know that.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Deputy implied there was a cut to existing claimants. In case people are listening in, it does not affect any existing claimants. It applies to new claimants next year.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The disability issue did not affect existing claimants either, yet a pause was put on it. It is time we found the eject button, rather than the pause button. Apart from that, the Minister mentioned that some people were earning "considerably more than €400". Why did she not put in the words "a considerable amount more than €400" rather than €400? Can we amend the €400 to €800? Would that be considerably more than the €400, to disbar anybody earning that sort of money from this entitlement? I acknowledge that existing claimants will retain what they had budgeted for and continue to budget for on the basis of what they receive. However, it is wrong to set a figure of €400 and then to tell us that what she means is "considerably more than €400". Fifty cent is more than €400.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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What I said is that the data available to the Department indicates that this is used where people's partners, spouses, cohabiting persons are in full-time employment and the earnings indicators are significantly in excess of €400 a week. In the context of how Fianna Fáil left the country - Deputy Ó Cuív was a member of that Government and sat in on the bank guarantee and so on - we, unfortunately, inherited an agreement on structural adjustment entered into by the Fianna Fáil Party with the IMF and the troika. Rather than doing what Deputy Ó Cuív did last year - cut everybody's payment by €8 a week and child benefit by €10 a month - we have kept all the primary rates in tact. I thought that would have pleased the Deputy because the cuts he made last year followed cuts made the previous year of €8.30 a week all payments, bar old age pension. The cut to child benefit that year was €10 a month. We have pressed the pause button on the weekly rates. As the Deputy will know, most people on social welfare receive the primary rate, but there are those whose spouses, thankfully, work. In that respect, there is an income in excess of €400 a week coming into the house. In order to provide resources, we are limiting the measure to those with less than €400 a week. Given the mess in which the country was left, we had difficult choices to make. I would prefer if we did not have to make this change.

Under the social welfare system there is an extraordinary number of schemes, allowances, disregards and so on. One of the commitments Fianna Fáil entered into with the troika was to have single age payments, in other words, somebody from the age of 18 years to the time he or she retires will, broadly, be in the same framework, whether it be on jobseeker's, lone parent's or disability payments. This is part of that process.

If we have economic recovery, it will be so much easier to carry out these necessary reforms. It is such a pity that when Deputy Cowen talked yesterday about there being 300% increases in social welfare paymetns during Fianna Fáil's time in office, the opportunity was not taken to introduce reforms. Deputy Ó Cuív knows the system is very complex and that we are under pressure from our partners in the troika because we are borrowing money to pay, in part, social welfare payments. One of the reasons the country went into deficit was that when the building boom ended, the taxes raised through building, construction and property development and so on ebbed away and we were left reliant on what ordinary people paid through their taxes and PRSI on wages and in VAT.

I wish we were doing this in a time of plenty. I would have liked to bring in a budget based on extra resources being available to everybody in need, but we are not in that position and, therefore, must prepare a budget in the knowlege that much more limited resources are available. What I find disappointing is that while Opposition Members want to preserve basic rates - most of them have acknowledged we inherited a very difficult economic situation-----

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Minister has said that three times.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----they want to oppose everything. The amendment will affect new claimants; it will not affect existing claimants. There was scaremongering in some of the contributions I heard rather than giving the good and positive message that all basic rates will be maintained, unlike what happened in the past two years. There is not a cut of €8 or €8.30 a week, the size of the cuts Fianna Fáil made to basic rates on which most rely.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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I wish to focus on a simple point. Of course, there are very rich pensioners who have not been touched.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Does the Deputy want to cut pensions? That is a new Fianna Fáil policy.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister decided not to touch the payments to the huge swathes of rich pensioners around the country. When in opposition, she always talked about poverty traps, but she has created a great new one and I will explain how. If one's spouse is earning €380 a week and the amount increases to more than €400, one will lose €70. There is no tapering of this measure. If the Minister said she was taking away the half rate payment for those earning €800 to €1,000 a week, I would be with her all the way to the bank. At the very least, she should have provided for tapering. We are experts at clinics and will warn people that whatever they do, they should not go above the figure of €400 if they cannot jump to approximately €600 or €700. The Minister of State, Deputy Ring, who is sensible will know exactly what to tell his constituents this weekend. He will tell them not to earn money if they cannot move from €300 to €700. This measure should be tapered. Will the Minister reconsider the issue and come back with an amendment next week?

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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Does the Minister accept that at the heart of this dilemma of drawing a line in respect of entitlement is the fact that for many years we failed to develop an integrated tax and social welfare system? That is one of the reasons, on which I do not wish to dwell, we are in this financial difficulty. However, a bigger failing of previous Administrations of all hues was that they failed to develop an integrated tax and social welfare system which would have allowed us to deliver resources in a more targeted way, especially at a time when resources were scarce. It is that failure which leaves us with little or no option but to endeavour to make savings. I accept the point being made that when one draws a line, one may fall off the cliff. However, if we had an integrated tax and social welfare system, under which there would be a more progressive wind-down of entitlement, we would not face these difficult choices. While I accept the necessity to make the changes and cuts proposed, will the Minister give a commitment that this time next year when we will again be looking at tax and social welfare issues, there will be the capacity to adopt a more progressive approach in targeting resources where they are most needed?

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The fact that Fianna Fáil sold out the country to the troika, bankrupted it and did equally disgusting things in the last budget does not in any way justify the Government's actions in continuing the same policies. We will not reach and properly scrutinise other sections of the Bill because the Government is ramming the legislation through. This is the most important Bill the Government has introduced since it took office because it is tangible, concrete and will affect huge numbers of ordinary families, yet it is being rammed through. We spent days talking about stuff which, frankly, was of marginal importance to the majority of people, yet when it comes to something which matters to tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of low and middle income families, lone parents, the elderly and children, legislation is rammed through and we are not given a chance to discuss it. The income disregard, the qualified child increase and the transitional payment will hit people struggling out of poverty traps if they exceed certain earnings. Is there an easier and fairer way to do this that would address the question of high income earners? The Minister for Finance could do it. If the Government taxed incomes of more than €100,000 at a higher level it would not need to hit struggling families. The Minister for Social Protection could have done something via this Bill. Why not increase PRSI on earnings of more than €100,000?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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We are.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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Some 5% of taxpayers pay 44% of the total tax.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Minister should increase it further instead of hitting people at the bottom. We would not have these anomalies then. However, the Government has resolutely refused to impose higher taxes on those who can afford them. If people at the bottom are hit, it will create more poverty and cost society more. It will not just cost the Labour Party many seats at the next election or cause people anger and anguish.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I agree with Deputy Creed. A key issue with the interaction between the taxation and social welfare systems is that the two sets of computers do not speak to each other. The basis on which income tax is calculated and the household is identified differs greatly from the way in which the household is described for social welfare purposes.

One way to address this problem is to move to a system of tax credits, particularly as they relate to benefits that affect children. This would achieve the purposes to which Deputy Ó Cuív referred. Shortly after becoming Minister, I appointed an expert advisory group to consider the integration of tax and social welfare with specific reference to the question of how families and children are supported. As Deputy Creed knows, targeting such supports has been discussed for more than 20 years. Fr. Seán Healy has written a great deal on the subject.

We will need greater IT compatibility between the Department of Social Protection and Revenue as well as changes to the fundamental rules defining income earners, family units etc. Given that Ireland has different kinds of families, I agree with Deputy Creed's points.

I do not agree with Deputy Ó Cuív when he suggested that Fianna Fáil wants to cut what pensioners receive. Doing so would be wrong. In the budget, I have tried to ensure that basic contributory and non-contributory pensions are maintained. Pensioners need as much certainty about their incomes as possible. Deputy Ó Cuív was the Minister before me and he may have had ideas about cutting pensions for what he described as wealthy pensioners. Most pensioners are not particularly wealthy. The contributory pension is based on people's contributions. Maintaining the basic rates of contributory and non-contributory old age pensions in so far as we can is an important objective of the Government.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Many people will no longer qualify for the contributory pension.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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We have succeeded in preserving the basic rates of contributory and non-contributory pensions. Deputy Ó Cuív's suggestion about rich pensions, as he described them, was interesting.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The Minister is misrepresenting the man.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Allow the Minister.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Most pensioners are not rich, so I disagree with Deputy Ó Cuív and Fianna Fáil's position.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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We are discussing changes to one aspect of the social welfare code, namely, the qualified child increase, but we seem to be drifting everywhere. Will the Minister confirm that only 50% of social welfare recipients get the full, primary rate? According to the Department, this is a fact.

Much of the Minister's response referred to how great it was that the primary social welfare rates were untouched. I agree with her and have no problem saying well done. Instead of doing as we suggested and leaving every aspect of the social welfare code untouched except where a tightening up of the system was required to address major problems, the Minister went after secondary rates, including the likes of the qualified child increase, fuel allowance, back to school allowance, rent supplement etc. These were introduced to address identified poverty traps because people could not afford to live on the primary rates. While I welcome that primary rates have not been affected, by cutting the amount that people get through secondary benefits, the Government is targeting the most vulnerable and those who depend on social welfare rates.

We would all love if secondary rates were not necessary because primary rates captured everything. I discussed working towards this objective with Deputy Ó Cuív last year and have since discussed it with departmental officials, but it is a long way off. If the Government keeps slashing secondary benefits, which were set up to help those living in misery, it will be taking a dangerous route. The majority of the people in question have families and it is usually children who suffer the most.

We can blame Fianna Fáil, the troika and everyone else, but there are alternative proposals to capture moneys from wealthy members of society. There are many such people, including those who receive considerable amounts of money from the Exchequer, for example, consultants. Although moves have been made previously, the Government could have legislated to reduce consultants' remuneration to €150,000 per year, thereby saving €100 million or €120 million. I cannot remember the exact figure. A number of steps could have been taken before the Government even considered taking money out of the pockets of social welfare recipients. I have warned of the consequences in terms of jobs.

As we have limited time, I will not prolong the debate on this matter. We are not on a proper Committee Stage where we could tease it out fully.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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If a spouse in a family earns €400 per week, the annual total is €20,800. A person in receipt of jobseeker's allowance earns approximately €9,776, leading to a combined income of €30,576. If that person has two children, he or she would receive €34,000 or more. That is a tight amount of money, particularly for someone with two children, but we had to draw the line somewhere and this is where we chose to draw it.

Question put and declared carried.

SECTION 5

Question proposed: "That section 5 stand part of the Bill."

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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The Minister said in one of her last comments that she was not touching pensions, contributory or non-contributory, but section 5 suggests the opposite, that now people must work not five years, but ten years to contribute.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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This is a different section. The qualifying condition for the State pension contributory and State pension transition increases from 260 paid contributions to 520 paid contributions and comes into effect in April 2012. This was legislated for in 1997. I am introducing a saving clause into the legislation to ensure existing pensioners currently in receipt of the State pension who have less than 520 paid contributions, because they were not required to have them, will not have their pensions touched. Does that make sense?

I am advised on legal grounds that the new condition for the pension is 520 contributions. This was legislated for 15 years ago and the legal advice is that existing pensioners who would have gained their pension under the 260 contributions until next April could face a legal challenge to their continuing entitlement to a pension because they did not have 520 contributions. This section was inserted following advice by the Attorney General to ensure all existing pensioners maintain their pensions. I hope the Deputy will support that.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I will support it and I want to move on to other matters. The difficulty is that the Minister has the advantage on us because we want to scrutinise this and the Minister again has not given us time to look at it. I hope she is right and I will support it if it is a measure to maintain pensions.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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We made a briefing available to the Opposition, including Deputies from the United Left Alliance. I did not do the briefing but the officials did and they were available to any Deputy who had a query on any section of the Bill.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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That is what we are supposed to do now, on Committee Stage of the Bill.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The officials gave a briefing and made it available.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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At present, 115,000 people are on that scheme. If what was in the legislation had not been corrected, new entrants would be expected to increase contributions by 330%. Is that correct?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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This is the legislation from 1997?

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Yes. If it remained as it was, it could be construed that new entrants would be expected to have increased their PRSI contributions by 330%.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The new conditions would be applied retrospectively to existing pensioners who are already retired and on a pension. We are introducing a saving clause to make sure their entitlements are not disturbed in any way.

Photo of Alex WhiteAlex White (Dublin South, Labour)
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To be sure, to be sure.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Ar eagla na heagla.

Question put and agreed to.

NEW SECTION

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I move amendment No. 1:

In page 8, before section 6, to insert the following new section:

6.—(1) Section 125 of the Principal Act is amended—

(a) in subsection (1) (amended by section 17 of the Act of 2010) by substituting the following paragraph for paragraph (a):

"(a) that the widow, widower or surviving civil partner has qualifying contributions in respect of not less than 260 contribution weeks in the period beginning with his or her entry into insurance and ending immediately before the relevant time, and",

and

(b) by inserting the following subsection after subsection (1):

"(1A) Where the date of death occurs before 5 July 2013, subsection (1)(a) shall be read as if '156' were substituted for '260'.".

(2) This section comes into operation on 5 July 2013.".

This is to provide for an increase in the number of qualifying contributions required by the surviving spouse or civil partner, or the deceased spouse or civil partner where appropriate, from 156 to 260 during the period from July 2012 to 27 December 2013 to qualify for a survivor's pension.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I wish we had enough time to debate this properly. This means people must work much longer in this category to qualify for the contributory pension. If they do not have sufficient years paid in contributions, they must rely on the State non-contributory pension, a lesser pension that is means tested. That is an attack on a particular group and the pension entitlements they might have reasonably hoped to have. Was it not one of the justifications for not inflicting far more deserved cuts in the pensions of politicians and Ministers and former taoisigh, who walked off with massive pensions of €145,000, that we had to be careful because they had a reasonable expectation they would have these pensions while they were working? Would this category of people not have a reasonable expectation that they would qualify for the contributory pension, which is a better pension that is not means tested? It is another nasty cut at a group who should not be cut.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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The change in section 6 means someone must have an extra 364 contributions. While we can argue whether it is good or bad, if we are introducing it as of 2013-----

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I amended it; that is what the amendment states.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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It is amended for 2013.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Yes.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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The full effect in total is an increase from 156 to 520 in the end.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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No, it is not.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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So 520 is gone? Fine, but even at that, it is still between 156 and 260, an additional three years' contributions.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Two years' contributions.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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Two years, but the Minister is not extending it beyond 2013, which is the change. That means anyone at this stage must ensure they can work an extra two years or find another two years. There is no lead in. It is good the Minister made the change and it is no longer seven years, because that was bonkers, especially for those who could not make up such contributions.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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It was a mistake and we changed it.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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I accept that and I have not made a big play of it. However, for people who are at that age it is still difficult to find an extra two years to make up the contributions required whereas if the Minister allowed a longer lead-in time it might be more appropriate and there might be an opportunity. I am opposed to the change anyway, but I am just saying that it if it was 2015 or 2016, it would give extra time and people might find some mechanism to get the additional contribution or credits that they could then qualify for the contributory pension.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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I have three issues with this. There is no impact analysis, which is a criticism of most parts of the Bill. We have very little time to debate the Bill, but what would make it possible to debate would be having poverty impact analysis, gender impact analysis and regulatory impact analysis, none of which is available. We do not have the resources of the Civil Service to crunch the numbers quickly for us. In fact in the Technical Group we do not have any central resource to crunch any numbers for us.

Photo of Michael CreedMichael Creed (Cork North West, Fine Gael)
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The Deputy has his own leader's allowance of €41,000.

Photo of Michael RingMichael Ring (Mayo, Fine Gael)
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He could give it up.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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He also has a secretarial assistant.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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We have had that out - we have done that.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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It is tax free, is it not?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Through the Chair, please. The Deputy should get on with his point. This debate will finish in 18 minutes.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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The Ceann Comhairle might ask them to stop with the nonsense.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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The Deputy should ignore the side comments from now on.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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The point is that poverty impact analysis would be very useful. I also have a issue with the phasing. I understand it will be extended by two years. However, the people, who find they need to work the extra years, are at the end of a projected working life. They now need to go back to employers and ask to be kept in employment for the next two years, which will be a potential problem.

I also have an issue with the entire concept of these contributions. It takes no account of the amount of money people are contributing through PRSI and their tax. It is based on an archaic stamp system, which is from an old world where people went into jobs for life. We will have a major problem with, in particular, people in negative equity who will not have a huge amount and will be relying on these.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Part-time workers.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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It will also affect part-time workers.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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This is the widow's pension.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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Yes. Section 6.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Could I explain?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Just a second, please.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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The Deputy should read it.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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I did read it.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Deputy Ó Cuív would be better able to explain than I would.

Photo of Stephen DonnellyStephen Donnelly (Wicklow, Independent)
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What are contributions?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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We are discussing the widow's pension. Becoming a widow or widower normally happens as an unforeseen event. This provision mainly affects young widows and widowers. I welcome the reduction from ten years to five years in the amendment. If a person's spouse dies before he or she has five years - it used to be three years - of contributions, there is no contributory pension. It affects the very sad cases of young widows - taking widows in the generic sense - but statistically it affects more women than men. For what I regard as a very niggly cut affecting a very small number of people, how much money will the measure as amended save the Department in a full year?

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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How many people will be affected? We initially got figures for the original change. However, now that it has been reduced, do we have a revised figure for the number of people?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Ireland requires three years' contribution from either spouse in order to qualify for a widow's pension. In terms of the demographics, people might know that three years' contribution for a widow's or widower's pension is a very small number of contributions and is one of the reasons our social insurance fund is in such deficit. The number of contributions for other people for the contributory old age pension was defined back in 1997 to go up to 520 contributions.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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That has nothing to do with widows.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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That was laid down in legislation.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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It was to be capped at-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask the Minister to ignore the side comments.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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When the Deputy was Minister he did not seek to change it.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Of course I did not.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy please, you are interfering with the discussion.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I understand why. It was because we have a social insurance fund that is in deficit to a huge degree. We might all like not to require any contributions for a contributory pension. However, some contributions are required to keep the fund in some sort of balance with generation of income. We are having a much lower level of contributions for a widow's pension.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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What is the saving?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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It will go from three years-----

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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What is the saving?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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-----to five years on either spouse's contributions. Fianna Fáil's proposal to align it was to go to ten years.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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It was not.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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I am only going to five years. When the Deputy was Minister he never sought to change the requirements.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Of course I did not.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I ask Deputy Ó Cuív to allow the Minister to speak. We have to get on with the business.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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She asked me a question.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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We do not want to have private discussions across the floor.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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Deputy Donnelly spoke about poverty. If somebody with little or no income, who does not have three years' contribution, becomes widowed, without any contributions he or she gets the non-contributory widow's pension. The current arrangements will apply in future also. If somebody suddenly becomes widowed early in life without time to build up contributions and is not well off, he or she will qualify on a means-tested basis for a non-contributory widow's or widower's pension. Even someone in his or her early 20s will get that until he or she goes onto the old age pension or until he or she chooses to remarry.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I have two simple questions. How many people will this affect?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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We have no idea.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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How much money will be saved? I find it unbelievable that the Minister and her officials are unable to answer those questions.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy O'Brien.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Could the Minister get that information for us?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I have called Deputy O'Brien.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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Could the Minister get the information for us?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Would Deputy Ó Cuív sit down?

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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If she does not have it today, could she get it for us?

Photo of Jonathan O'BrienJonathan O'Brien (Cork North Central, Sinn Fein)
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I asked for revised figures. Do I take it they are not available?

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The statistics I have here indicate that the average weekly recipients who we expect would be affected in 2012 is zero; in 2013, zero; in 2014, approximately 700; and in 2015, approximately 1,400. Therefore the savings, if any, would only arise after 2014 and they would amount to less than €2 million in that year. Deputy Ó Cuív chose to retain legislation where the number of contributions required for the contributory old age pension would rise this year. That legislation was enacted as long ago as 1997. Comparative legislation was to have been introduced in respect of widows. I have ensured that it will come in. There are few jurisdictions in which one can receive a widow's, widower's or civil partner's pension with three years' contributions, soon to be five years. In respect of the alleviation of poverty, about which Deputy Donnelly is rightly concerned, survivor's pension for a widow, widower or civil partner is a means-tested payment and continues unchanged.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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Put the question.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I am Chairman.

Amendment put and declared carried.

Question, "That section 6 stand part of the Bill," put and declared carried.

SECTION 7

SECTION 7

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

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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This section has been withdrawn.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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I welcome its withdrawal.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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No, it has not been withdrawn.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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At last we press the eject button. We are no longer pausing or rewinding.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Reverse the cuts.

Photo of Michael McCarthyMichael McCarthy (Cork South West, Labour)
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It is the reject rather than the eject button.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call on Deputy Cowen to make his contribution.

Photo of Éamon Ó CuívÉamon Ó Cuív (Galway West, Fianna Fail)
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We are agreeing to the withdrawal of the section.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Section 7 has not been withdrawn.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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It has not been withdrawn.

Photo of Barry CowenBarry Cowen (Laois-Offaly, Fianna Fail)
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The cuts to the one-parent allowance impact particularly on mothers. They severely penalise those recipients who make the effort to upskill or join community employment schemes. The Government is sending the message to one-parent families that upskilling to try to get into the workplace is to be discouraged. More than 90% of the recipients of the one-parent family payment are women. These changes are being made through the backdoor and will severely impact on women reliant on this payment. One-parent families are at greater risk of poverty than most other families. One is 4.5 times more likely to live in poverty if one is part of a one-parent family. There must be sufficient support for these vulnerable mothers. The change to the income criteria, the penalisation of recipients who make an effort to upskill or join community employment schemes and the dramatic halving of the age eligibility limits his these recipients severely. This flies in the face of the mantra that there have been no cuts to social welfare rates. Make no mistake about it, this is a severe cut to the rates for one-parent families. Those who make an effort to upskill and engage in community employment schemes are to be penalised by virtue of this proposal. Fianna Fáil vehemently opposes this section. It can have no hand, act or part in supporting it.

Photo of Aengus Ó SnodaighAengus Ó Snodaigh (Dublin South Central, Sinn Fein)
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This measure is illogical bearing in mind what the Minister and the Government said about dealing with poverty traps and activation measures. The Minister and her officials have identified one-parent families as a group in society which needs to be supported, in particular, in the transition from unemployment to full employment, given the additional costs incurred such as child care and so on. As I stated, the secondary payment which continues for a period of up to six months where a claimant's earnings do not exceed €425 is a valuable tool in assisting those making the transition from dependance on social welfare to full employment. This is a strange cut and not much money will be saved. Given that there are no jobs available, not many will be making the transition for some time. It is to be hoped some will manage to do so and exceed the figure of €425 allowed. It is to be hoped some will gain employment to put bread on the table and pay all their bills.

The Minister is penalising families which are struggling. Some 65% of the country's poorest children are living in one-parent families. Every lone parent I know wants to work, which is to be welcomed. The transition payment was a mechanism to assist and encouraged such parents, but now they are being hammered again. This is a disincentive and a retrograde step that should be, as suggested by the Minister, be withdrawn, even though she was thinking of the next section. If anything, this mechanism should be extended to other social welfare recipients to assist them in making the transition from dependance on social welfare to full employment, given that more people will become dependant on long-term social welfare assistance, which will cause difficulties in terms of expenditure, particularly for those who previously were able to take care of their children and now have to pay to have them cared for. This is akin to a person being entitled to retain his or her medical card following the move from welfare dependancy. Is that, too, likely to be withdrawn? I urge the Minister to do what she said she would do at the commencement of the discussion on this section, namely, withdraw it.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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A Cheann Comhairle-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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I call Deputy Collins who is as entitled to speak as Deputy Boyd Barrett.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I know that.

Photo of Joan CollinsJoan Collins (Dublin South Central, People Before Profit Alliance)
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I will try not to repeat what other speakers said. Earlier, when I joined the protesters outside the gates, I met a young woman who told me she had been looking forward to returning to work in January until she worked out the figures and discovered she would only gain €20 extra in so doing. The Minister is forcing lifestyle choices on women who are in the main the parent in one-parent families as to whether they should go back to work. This proposal should be reversed and the Minister should stand outside with the people who elected her to defend them. She is forcing a lifestyle choice on women. Shame on her. Members of her party should vote against the Bill, in particular the proposed cut to one-parent family allowance.

Photo of Catherine MurphyCatherine Murphy (Kildare North, Independent)
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I fail to understand the strategy being pursued, given that the Minister has stated her objective is to get lone parents back to work, which is reasonable and correct. However, there must be support mechanisms in place to allow this to happen. Therefore, transitional arrangements are important, as there is a limited number of jobs available. Without child care and transitional payments, returning to work for lone parents is incredibly difficult. I do not understand how this measure sits side by side with the Minister's philosophy as outlined yesterday. It appears to me as though it simply is a money-saving exercise rather than a policy position or decision regarding a strategy to get people back to work.

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Boyd Barrett, very quickly because the time has expired.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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When one considers this measure and the other measures, namely, the concurrent payment and the income disregard, all of which are directed at lone parent families that might be trying to return or that have returned to the workplace and when one also takes into account the community employment cuts, it is difficult to believe the Minister has not resorted to specifically targeting-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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Hold on. Is the Minister-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, I will not hold on. It is now past 3.30 p.m. and the Deputy should either-----

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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-----specifically targeting single mothers? Can the Minister respond and-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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No, she cannot respond.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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-----explain how she can honestly claim-----

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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Thank you, Deputy.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Minister, Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Wexford, Labour)
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The time has been used up.

Photo of Joan BurtonJoan Burton (Minister, Department of Social Protection; Dublin West, Labour)
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The Ceann Comhairle is the boss.

Photo of Richard Boyd BarrettRichard Boyd Barrett (Dún Laoghaire, People Before Profit Alliance)
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-----she wishes to encourage lone parents to return to work when she is removing precisely those supports that allow them to so do?

Photo of Seán BarrettSeán Barrett (Ceann Comhairle; Dún Laoghaire, Ceann Comhairle)
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As it is now 3.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Social Protection, and not disposed of, are hereby made to the Bill; in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, other than sections 8, 9 and 10, that the section is hereby agreed to in Committee; the Title is hereby agreed to in Committee; the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House; Fourth Stage is hereby completed; and that the Bill is hereby passed."

As it is now 3.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with an order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Social Protection, and not disposed of, are hereby made to the Bill; in respect of each of the sections undisposed of, other than sections 8, 9 and 10, that the section is hereby agreed to in Committee; the Title is hereby agreed to in Committee; the Bill, as amended, is accordingly reported to the House; Fourth Stage is hereby completed; and that the Bill is hereby passed."

The Dáil divided by electronic means.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Kildare South, Fianna Fail)
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As a duly appointed teller and in light of the guillotine and the manner in which this is an unfair, unjust and nasty item of legislation that has been very rushed through the House, I call for a vote to be taken by other than electronic means.

Question again put:

The Dail Divided:

For the motion: 87 (James Bannon, Tom Barry, Pat Breen, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Ray Butler, Jerry Buttimer, Catherine Byrne, Eric Byrne, Joe Carey, Áine Collins, Michael Conaghan, Seán Conlan, Paul Connaughton, Ciara Conway, Noel Coonan, Marcella Corcoran Kennedy, Michael Creed, Jim Daly, John Deasy, Jimmy Deenihan, Pat Deering, Regina Doherty, Paschal Donohoe, Robert Dowds, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Alan Farrell, Frank Feighan, Anne Ferris, Frances Fitzgerald, Peter Fitzpatrick, Charles Flanagan, Eamon Gilmore, Brendan Griffin, Dominic Hannigan, Noel Harrington, Simon Harris, Brian Hayes, Tom Hayes, Martin Heydon, Brendan Howlin, Kevin Humphreys, Colm Keaveney, Paul Kehoe, Alan Kelly, Seán Kenny, Seán Kyne, Anthony Lawlor, Ciarán Lynch, John Lyons, Michael McCarthy, Shane McEntee, Nicky McFadden, Dinny McGinley, Joe McHugh, Tony McLoughlin, Michael McNamara, Eamonn Maloney, Peter Mathews, Mary Mitchell O'Connor, Olivia Mitchell, Michelle Mulherin, Eoghan Murphy, Gerald Nash, Dan Neville, Derek Nolan, Aodhán Ó Ríordáin, Kieran O'Donnell, Patrick O'Donovan, John O'Mahony, Jan O'Sullivan, Ann Phelan, John Paul Phelan, Pat Rabbitte, James Reilly, Michael Ring, Brendan Ryan, Alan Shatter, Seán Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Arthur Spring, Emmet Stagg, Joanna Tuffy, Jack Wall, Brian Walsh, Alex White)

Against the motion: 47 (Gerry Adams, Richard Boyd Barrett, Tommy Broughan, John Browne, Dara Calleary, Joan Collins, Michael Colreavy, Barry Cowen, Seán Crowe, Clare Daly, Pearse Doherty, Stephen Donnelly, Timmy Dooley, Dessie Ellis, Martin Ferris, Luke Flanagan, Seán Fleming, Tom Fleming, Noel Grealish, John Halligan, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Billy Kelleher, Séamus Kirk, Michael Kitt, Pádraig MacLochlainn, Charlie McConalogue, Mary Lou McDonald, Finian McGrath, Mattie McGrath, Michael McGrath, Sandra McLellan, Catherine Murphy, Patrick Nulty, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Jonathan O'Brien, Maureen O'Sullivan, Thomas Pringle, Shane Ross, Brendan Smith, Brian Stanley, Peadar Tóibín, Robert Troy, Mick Wallace)

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

Question again declared carried.