Tuesday, 20 October 2015
I agree fully with the Senator that it is a heavy burden on families. The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform and the Government are very eager to reduce that burden. I concur with the Senator. He quoted the first sentence of my response. I reiterate that, in legislation, the term "pensionable" is defined as not just membership of the pension scheme but also any payment in lieu of such membership. Without being technical about it, that is the legal basis as to why the position is as it stands.
As the economy grows, the absolute priority of the Minister and the Government is to reduce that burden on public servants. We all know the very positive impact that retained fire-fighters have in all our communities throughout this country. The agreed proposals brought forward by the Minister - these are in line with the Lansdowne Road Agreement and will be subject to the enactment of the recently published Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2015 - will provide a significant reduction of the PRD burden on all public servants, including retained fire-fighters. This follows on from a more modest reduction in the rates applicable, which were agreed under the terms of the Haddington Road agreement. The latter was implemented in January 2014. The new Bill, which we will debate shortly in this House and the Lower House and which we will, hopefully, pass into law, provides that the threshold in annual earnings below which the pension-related deduction is not applied will increase from its current level of €15,000 per year to €26,083 per year on 1 January 2016 and will increase to €28,750 per year on 1 January 2017.This substantial relaxation of the PRD, as proposed in the new FEMPI Bill, will mean significant income gains for all affected public servants and, more particularly, ensure a significant proportion of public servants will be fully exempt from the PRD by 2017. Many retained firefighters would be expected to be among those exempt entirely from the PRD in this way, assuming their only public service remuneration consists of their retained firefighter earnings and that they are not simultaneously working in other public service jobs.
The message from the Minister and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform and the Government is that as the economy has continued to improve, we are now in a position to reduce the burden. If the legislation is passed, the threshold will be increased this January from €15,000 to over €26,000 and from January 2017 to €28,000, which will remove many public servants, including many retired firefighters, from the PRD net, which I am sure will be welcomed by all.