Wednesday, 19 December 2018
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
49. To ask the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the extent to which her Department has direct contact with other jurisdictions with which a bilateral arrangement for social welfare exists with particular reference to the need to ensure a smooth and expeditious process in dealing with claims particularly in circumstances in which contributions in two or more jurisdictions arise; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [53447/18]
This question relates to the countries with which we have bilateral arrangements in respect of pensions or entitlements for which contributions have been paid in more than one jurisdiction and to the need for the Department to play a leading role in this area. If it does not, it may take a long time for the constituents falling into this category to have their cases processed.
I thank the Deputy for this question in particular as it is an issue on which we exchange correspondence weekly. In addition to the general EU regulations governing interoperability of social welfare between the 28 member states of the EU, Ireland has concluded ten bilateral agreements on social security with jurisdictions including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Quebec, Switzerland, USA, South Korea and Japan. The agreements are limited to certain social welfare benefits and are mostly pension related.
In considering the need to negotiate a bilateral social security agreement, priority is given to countries with which there are the highest levels of worker migration and countries in which Ireland has greatest economic interest. The nature and scope of the social security system in operation in that country is also another significant consideration. The main purpose of these agreements is to protect the pension rights of people who have worked and paid social security contributions in Ireland and the countries with which Ireland has such agreements. This is achieved by allowing reckonable social security contributions paid in one or more of these countries to be aggregated with Irish full-rate social insurance contributions for the purposes of qualifying for certain contributory payments in Ireland or in these countries. Liaison arrangements are in place with the relevant authorities of the countries with which Ireland has social security agreements for the transmission of, or request for, information in order to compile the full extent of a claimant’s insurance record. These agreements are underpinned by legislation.
If the Deputy is referring to a particular case, he might give me the details and we will see if we can resolve any existing issue.
I thank the Minister for her reply. The Department previously pursued applications for such benefits abroad, particularly in the UK, as if they related to this jurisdiction. That was very satisfactory. In the current circumstances the Minister might consider ensuring that our Department plays a lead role and pursues applications for entitlements to a satisfactory conclusion. Particularly in cases where entitlements arose in two jurisdictions, and where responsibilities and entitlements were divided, the attitude of the other jurisdiction seems to be arbitrary. We need to contest that vigorously because the people concerned made pension contributions in the UK and are entitled to recompense by way of pension.
I believe the Deputy is talking about preparations for Brexit and the security of the common travel area in particular. For the record of the House, I met with Esther McVey MP at the beginning of 2018 when she was the UK Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. Both of our Departments have subsequently been in constant negotiations and discussions with regard to preparations for the variety of possible outcomes of the negotiations between the United Kingdom and the EU 27 which may take effect in March. I have recently been in contact with Amber Rudd MP who, as the Deputy will know, is the new Secretary of State for Work and Pensions. We are working together with a view to establishing a bilateral agreement under the auspices of the common travel area. That will replace the current working relationship we have enjoyed under EU Regulation No. 883/2004. It is anticipated that the existing rights and arrangements we have enjoyed for many years will continue to be enjoyed by the Irish and the British living in one another's countries.