Apologies have been received from Deputy Mairéad Farrell. Before we begin, I will explain some limitations to parliamentary privilege in the practice of the Houses as regards references witnesses may make to other persons in their evidence. The evidence of witnesses physically present or who give evidence from within the parliamentary precincts is protected pursuant to both the Constitution and statute by absolute privilege. Today's witnesses are giving their evidence in the committee room so we do not have to give the reminder about giving evidence remotely. Witnesses are again reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice that they should not criticise nor make charges against any person or entity, by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable, or otherwise engage in speech that might be regarded as damaging to the good name of the person or entity. Therefore, if their statements are potentially defamatory with regard to an identifiable person or entity, they will be directed to discontinue their remarks. It is imperative that they comply with any such direction.
Members are reminded of the long-standing parliamentary practice to the effect that they should not comment on, criticise or make charges against a person outside the Houses or an official either by name or in such a way as to make him, her or it identifiable. I remind members of the constitutional requirement that they must be physically present within the confines of the place at which Parliament has chosen to sit, namely, Leinster House, in order to participate in public meetings. I will not permit members to participate where they are not adhering to this constitutional requirement. Therefore, any member who attempts to participate from outside the precincts will be asked to leave the meeting.
Members and all in attendance are asked to exercise personal responsibility in protecting themselves and others from the risk of contracting Covid-19. Masks, preferably of medical grade, should be worn at all times during the meeting except when speaking. I ask that everyone co-operates with this.
Today's engagement is the committee's fourth meeting on the issue of the indexation of welfare and the taxation system. This is an issue that we will go into in some detail so I appreciate everybody's attendance. I welcome Mr. Joe Cullen, principal officer, income tax policy unit, and Mr. Matt McGann, principal officer, fiscal analysis unit, at the Department of Finance; Ms Jasmina Behan, acting assistant secretary, and Mr. Cathal McDermott, assistant principal, at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; and Mr. Ciarán Lawler, assistant secretary, Ms Aideen Mooney, principal officer, and Ms Saidhbhín Hardiman, assistant principal, at the Department of Social Protection. We will go to Mr. Lawler first, followed by Ms Behan and Mr. Cullen, if that is acceptable to everybody. I call Mr. Lawler.