Social Welfare (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2003: Report Stage (Resumed) and Final Stage.

Debate resumed on amendment No. 1:
In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:
"3.–The Minister shall, as soon as may be, after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the adverse financial effect to lone parents in returning to the workforce under the Fás Jobs Initiative Programme and to report on the number of lone parents who have seen a reduction in their weekly income as a result of recent wage increases under the Programme.".
–(Deputy Ring).

Are we waiting for the Minister?

I am taking over responsibility of the Bill.

Whatever chance we had of movement on these amendments is gone.

We heard what the Minister intends doing to alleviate difficulties with FIS. Perhaps the Minister might clarify a point for me. During Committee Stage she stated that a lone parent under 66 years of age and over 35 years of age with one dependent child receives a payment of €288.40 under the family income supplement scheme and receives a one-parent family allowance of €79.10 per week amounting to €367 per week. The Minister then said under the new rules taking account of a €10 increase the person will receive €298.40 from the job initiative payment and €39.55 from the one parent family payment totalling €337.95. That indicates a loss of €29.55. The media said there would be a loss of €60 per week. Once one brings in FIS, one must take into consideration child benefit. When assessing eligibility for FIS – the Minister can correct me if I am wrong—

Child benefit is not taken into consideration.

It is not.

No, child benefit is not taken into consideration in any applications.

In that context, the case I was going to make falls. If child benefit was taken into consideration in regard to FIS, one would not get the benefit about which we are talking.

FIS is not taken into consideration for medical card applications either. That would not change people's eligibility.

I compliment the Minister. The mechanism existed under the new scheme to utilise FIS. That is one way to deal with this matter. It will not go all the way about which there is no doubt. I regret we cannot deal with this matter fully but I suppose the Minister has moved some way to try to find a mechanism to deal with it.

Before the Minister responds, I would like the opportunity to speak on amendments Nos. 1, 2 and 13. Most of the points have, however, been covered. The Minister is probably aware of my particular disadvantage of not being a member of the Committee on Social and Family Affairs, even though I am a spokesperson on the area. Report Stage represents one of the few opportunities we have to comment on amendments we might have considered introducing.

In regard to lone parents and the job initiative programme, the Minister explained her case fairly well and the danger of the knock-on effect. One criticism I put to the Minister is that it is a good example of the lack of co-ordination in Government in that decisions are made by one Department but the implications of them on another are not thought through. Perhaps in her discussions with the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment in the future, the Minister might ask it for some degree of prior consultation in regard to the knock-on effects of these increases on people benefiting from services from her Department.

There is a wider argument about PRSI and its use and benefits as a social insurance fund or as a flat rate tax but we do not need to go into that at the moment.

I refer to Deputy Ryan's amendment. It is a well made point and goes back to my initial one that there should be an onus on Ministers who share the implications of decisions to report to the House on those implications, particularly in relation to increases in rates. Anomalies which arise in FÁS job schemes, whether the job initiative, the social economy or community employment schemes, have a marked effect on people in certain categories, including lone parents who were mentioned. There are other categories of welfare recipients who are also damaged by these knock-on effects. Perhaps, through the committee system, we could examine these anomalies periodically.

I hope we have clarified some of the issues. I will try to prepare a note for Members which will explain exactly what we propose to do. The Deputy asked about the number of people affected. The figure is 21,300 and the cost would be in the region of €7.1 million in a full year. I appreciate it is not a perfect solution. I suppose one of the difficulties is that our welfare system is quite complex. Like everything else, if we were starting from this point, it might be different. That said, I hope we have been able to address to the best of our ability the concerns of Members, the partnerships and the people involved. We will continue to review the issues.

In the context of employment supports and FÁS, we do a lot of work with FÁS and meet it on a regular basis. I take the point in regard to the impact of decisions of other Departments on our Department. Likewise, we are often criticised for the impact some of our rates have on schemes under the remit of other Departments. I take on board what has been said in the House. We will try to avoid these things happening but when one sets a threshold, someone is bound to reach it at a certain stage. When one tries to do one's best for people and tries to extend the limits as much as possible, one can find one's self in these difficult situations. I hope this will address the concerns of Members.

I will withdraw the amendment on the basis that the Minister has made an effort to try to resolve this problem. We will monitor it over the coming months. We will have an opportunity at a later stage to deal with it.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"3.–The Minister shall, as soon as may be, after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the number of Jobs Initiative Participants who as a result of the Acts implications are now liable to pay PRSI, the reasons why the threshold figure below which PRSI is not payable by workers was not changed and the cost projections in excluding this group of workers from the PRSI net.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Amendments Nos. 3 and 4 may be taken together.

I move amendment No. 3:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"3.–The Minister shall, as soon as may be, after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report:

a) contrasting the increase in 2002 of the Consumer Price Index with the increases paid to the entitled persons under the Act of 2002;

b) evaluating the suitability and appropriateness of the items and weightings used by the Central Statistics Office in computing the rates of increase in the Consumer Price Index to the needs of the principal categories of entitled persons under the Principal Act;

c) setting out the Department's assessment of those groups potentially most seriously affected by significant inflationary pressures which may arise because of internal and external factors in 2003.".

We discussed this issue at length on Committee Stage. I pointed to the Minister that the recent increases in social welfare do not add up in relation to inflation. I wish to put on record some of the increases which affect people. Home heating oil and fuels are up 8%, motor tax is up 12%, hospital charges are up 26%, the drug refund scheme is up 31%, VHI is up 18%, cigarettes and alcohol are up 15%, bank charges are up 108%, bin charges are up 29%, ESB bills are up 13%, college fees are up 9%, parking is up 25%, bus fares are up 9% and the television licence is up 40%. I could go on and on. There have been major increases in the price of foodstuffs as well. The Minister said that she and her Department were not responsible for inflation, but neither are the people on social welfare.

The consumer price index includes people's holidays and goods they buy for their homes. Will the Department prepare an index on day-to-day spending by those on social welfare on items such as food?

Acting Chairman

I remind the Deputy we are on Report Stage. There is always the danger on Report Stage that one drifts into Committee Stage or even Second Stage.

I will keep going as best I can. I realise I might be hurting you, Chairman, and the Government. If that is so, you should not be embarrassed.

The Chair is neutral on these issues.

With regard to the consumer price index, the Department should index how this affects those on social welfare. Categorising such people with those in full employment is not right as people on social welfare will not have several holidays per year and will not be affected by the price of insurance on their Mercedes or Jaguar. A price index should be drawn up for those on social welfare and the Department should consider this. It is not right that other goods are put into the price index, which does not give a true reflection of the situation for people on social welfare.

The recent social welfare increases have not matched price increases and people are beginning to feel the pinch and are getting upset. It is the first time in many years that people are coming to my constituency clinics to tell me they are not able to survive on social welfare. They want to know what the Government and the Department of Social and Family Affairs will do about it and that is the question I put to the Minister.

Linking increases to the rate of inflation as measured by the CPI is one of the invidious areas of social welfare. The increase in VAT to 13.5% and the increase in the price of cigarettes, spirits, diesel, credit cards, insurance, medicine and hospital charges announced before the budget affect those on social welfare, particularly elderly people. The House does not doubt that the Minister is working with her best "guesstimate" of the rate of the inflation, which is 4.8%. However, that leaves the elderly, in particular, only marginally better off.

Basic social welfare rates and unemployment assistance for one parent families rose by about €6 and there was no increase in the living alone allowance despite research by the ESRI in 2002 showing that older people living alone, particularly women and rural dwellers are among the poorest in society. Of those aged 65 or over, 43.3% live below the 60% median, in regard to the medium income poverty line, compared to 21% of adults nationally – almost a three-fold increase.

These trends should be measured in a particular way and isolated. The Minister faces a difficulty in that she must play on the pitch that is marked. However, if inflation gallops in at 5% or 6%, as some economists predict, there will be problems. The Minister has tried to align increases to or beyond the anticipated rate of inflation. The Labour Party has argued, as has the voluntary and community sector, that social welfare rates should be increased to 30% of gross average industrial earnings over a specified period. The Minister did that in the revised national anti-poverty strategy where she set out a commitment – though that was deliberately vague – to achieve a rate of €150 per week in 2002 terms for the lowest rate of social welfare, to be met by 2007. Some €150 per week in 2002 is equivalent to 30% of gross average industrial earnings in that year. However, the Government has set its face against making a clear link between welfare and wages. It is predicted that the €6 increase will leave people 30 cents ahead of inflation but if there is any take-off in inflationary pressures, they will be in a difficult situation.

While some people have a free travel pass, bus fares have gone up by 10% and postal services by about 8.8%. When those increases are fed into the inflationary index, social welfare payments amount to a pittance and will not be adequate to cover basic needs. It is from this perspective that Deputy Sean Ryan and I ask for a report on the level of increase on each payment under the principal Acts amended net of changes in the consumer price index, and ask for that to be compared with the gross average industrial wage. That would be an interesting and worthwhile exercise and the relevant committee might look at it with the help of the Department.

The purpose of the amendment is to change the mechanism for evaluating increases appropriate for those living on the lowest rung of the ladder, particularly social welfare recipients. The current mechanism does not take into consideration the poverty that exists and the difficulty for families living on the lowest social welfare rate. Social welfare payments this year are infinitely small after inflation is taken into consideration.

CORI, which is very professional in the way it quantifies increases and which deals with the needs of those on social welfare, states that a person on unemployment assistance got a €6 increase and, even taking inflation into consideration at 4.8%, that works out – the Minister has not denied this – at 30 cent per week. It is hard to imagine and must be considered with all the other U-turns by the Government with regard to indirect taxation, which has not been considered with regard to the 4.8% inflation rate. For example, local authority rents have increased by well in excess of 4.8% and there is an increase of just 54 cents per week for a single person with one child.

Is the Minister living in the real world? An unemployed single person with one child is worse off in real terms but the Minister for Finance, when it suits, flies to the races in England and forgets about the problems here. A single person with one child will be worse off, and the Minister stands up in this House and takes credit for that. It is scandalous. The people at the top end of the market are looked after, with concessions here, there and everywhere. Merely taking inflation into consideration is not the proper way of dealing with this issue, and we must deal with it to try to lift people out of poverty. Perhaps the Minister did not have the capacity this year to deal with it, but there has been a great deal of discussion behind the scenes about the proper way to tackle poverty and many recommendations have been made to take gross average industrial earnings into consideration. That is the way forward. We need a commitment to deal with poverty once and for all, and we cannot do so until we get that system in place and quantify poverty properly. Until we get to that stage, there is no point in the Government going to the media with hyped up claims of percentage increases across the board.

It is the people on the ground who understand the problem, social welfare recipients, lone parents and the unemployed. These people live with the realities of inequality. There is one way to deal with this problem, and that is to take on board the spirit of these two amendments. The Minister obviously cannot take this initiative this year, but she must give us a commitment to put her expressions of concern – which I acknowledge – into practice and change the system.

I can see merit in both of these amendments. My preference would be for amendment No. 4, in the name of Deputies Ryan and Penrose, as it mentions the specific benchmark of average industrial earnings. The social partners, through the NAPS process, seem to be agreed upon a figure of 30% of average industrial earnings as a sufficient benchmark. My party sees a figure of 50% of average household income as a more appropriate benchmark, but there is not too much difference between the two figures.

In the absence of any willingness on the part of the Government to introduce index-linked payments, a mechanism that could show the difference in not having index links would be preferable to many of us who try to assess the impact of social protection expenditure. I caution the Minister for Social and Family Affairs against any attempt by the Minister for Finance or the Minister for Health and Children to interfere with the consumer price index in relation to tobacco and alcohol. There is ready agreement about the deleterious health effects of both tobacco and alcohol, but to remove them from the consumer price index would be detrimental to those depending on social welfare payments. Like it or not, lower income groups and those depending on welfare payments have higher consumption patterns in terms of tobacco and alcohol. If we try to mess around with the consumer price index in such a way as to make the inflation figures lower, those who have their payments weighted accordingly would ultimately lose out. We must come up with better strategies than that to encourage people to live healthier lives.

This possibility has been discussed. The Ministers feel the inflation figure would be lower if we did not count tobacco and alcohol, but we do not live in a ideal world and our inflation figures are set in comparison with other European countries. As long as that stands, we should have the same inflation measurements as anywhere else. I support these amendments and hope the Minister can give some effect to them as they do not have cost implications. They should help in terms of framing policy and assessing the effects of policy on an on-going basis.

Acting Chairman

I call upon Deputy Seymour Crawford. I remind Deputies that we are on Report Stage. I know Deputy Crawford, being a long-time Member of the House, will appreciate that.

It is very strange that the Ceann Comhairle should choose this point in time to curtail debate and discussion.

I wonder why?

Acting Chairman

I merely seek to conduct the debate in accordance with Standing Orders.

I do not take it personally and it does not annoy me in the slightest. I support these amendments. The Minister is as aware as anybody of the serious price increases experienced in recent months, which were brought about, in the main, by decisions of the Government. The increase in car tax is an example. The increases in motor insurance are a result of the Government's failure to deal with the situation. I know the Tánaiste is now making all sorts of promises in this regard, but she did nothing in five years other than set up a committee that took five years to report. I hope her new initiatives will give some real support to motorists in the not too distant future.

Other examples include electricity, TV licences, third level registration fees and bin charges. One could go on and on. These increased charges were all imposed by the Government. Such increases should not be imposed without an evaluation of how they will affect the lower paid, the poor and those on social welfare or other benefits – the people who need help most. The Minister knows as well as I do that these people do not all have medical cards. There are many hidden costs for them, especially for people living in rural areas who must have a car or else must pay bus fares. It is essential to make these points. An increase in unemployment assistance of €6 may have seemed generous at the time, but our clinics are full of people in a state of desperation.

Before Christmas, I talked to an individual in charge of collections for the Society of the St. Vincent de Paul, and he told of the tremendous response they received from the general public. The public realise there is poverty out there and want to help. There is a willingness among people to make allowances for the less well off to ensure that they get a chance in life. Obviously, we cannot obtain more money from the Minister this year, but I hope she will look at our proposals sympathetically and try to put new structures in place to make life more meaningful for people at the lower end of the ladder.

Acting Chairman

Is the amendment being pressed? I am sorry, the Minister wishes to respond.

The Minister wishes to give a commitment to accept the amendments.

That would be more than my life is worth. I do not question the sincerity of what Deputies are saying. As political animals, we are all very aware of people's needs and aspirations and of our duties as public representatives. However, I have discussed this issue five or six times now in the context of two Bills we have brought forward. We must take into account the average inflation rate, which, Deputies are agreed, is at present 4.8%. The lowest social welfare payment increase I have offered is 5.1%, and the majority of increases are well above that. I know there has been a great deal of discussion about taking the average industrial wage into consideration. As I said on Committee Stage, if we had tied increases to the average industrial wage over several years, we would be in a more regressive situation. That is not the way forward. The CPI is the most professional way of dealing with this issue, through the CSO.

It is the Opposition's job to express its points of view, but it is my job to put across the balancing viewpoints. I admit there have been price increases – all of us who strive to run families encounter challenges – but the prices of other essential items, such as clothing and footwear, have decreased. All households do not have the same needs, as needs vary depending on various factors. I was interested to hear Deputy Boyle's remarks about the effect of inflation on the price of alcohol and cigarettes. I would not necessarily consider such items to be essential, although one might consider cigarettes to be essential if one were a smoker. I prefer to consider the cost of life's more essential items, such as food, heating and electricity. I have taken these issues into consideration.

The Government has set targets in the national anti-poverty strategy for the next seven years. They do not have to be met in the first year, but I intend to meet them within the NAPS timeframe. If inflation exceeds 4.8%, certain issues will have to be taken into consideration by my Department in the context of next year's budget. The impact of this year's decisions on the people's lives will have to be considered. The Department's position does not necessarily have to be a reactive one, but changes in inflation must be taken into consideration and will be examined in the context of next year's social welfare increases. There have been huge increases in payments in recent years and the amount of money provided through the budget has increased. One tends to forget that rates have increased well in excess of inflation in the past five years, in particular. The fact that the base line is much higher than heretofore does not take away from the basic goal we all share – the eradication of poverty.

Other services offered by my Department must be borne in mind along with the financial supports it provides. I have mentioned that the money advice and budgeting service is available for those who are unable to manage their financial affairs. Other schemes are provided to support the elderly and people who are disabled and my Department also organises employment support services. The services provided by my Department should not be viewed in isolation and are not totally dependent on finance. While funds are important, other issues, such as encouraging people to work, can be more important when trying to alleviate poverty. The most vulnerable people in society need to be assured that supports are available to them as they try to make progress in life.

I do not agree that additional indexes should be provided to advise me, the Department or the Government in relation to household budgets. The Combat Poverty Agency, the Economic and Social Research Institute, the National Economic and Social Forum and a huge number of other institutions provide statistics for the Government. An inflationary base of 4.8% has been set by the Department of Finance, following consultation, and we are advised of the inflation figures at the end of the month. The most recently published consumer price index report by the Central Statistics Office, which relates to January 2003, states that the rate has been reduced so far. We do not know what will happen in the future, as there may be increases and decreases as the months go by. I am happy, if not ecstatic, with an inflation rate of 4.8%. I am satisfied that we will have relative adequacy when we come to the rates that have been provided in this Bill and the Bill that was passed before Christmas.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"3.–The Minister shall as soon as may be after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the level of increase in each payment under the Principal Act as amended net of changes in the Consumer Price Index, and shall further compare the level of increase with that of gross average industrial earnings.".

Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman

As amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 26 are related, they may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 5:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

"3.–The Minister shall as soon as may be after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on promises made by Government in the Agreed Programme for Government and the National Anti-Poverty Strategy, the average annual increase in payments which would be required to meet the NAPS promises by 2007, and whether in any case this level of increase will be met in 2003, and if not what proposals if any are envisaged to phase in the increases required.".

There has been a great deal of discussion on this issue on all Stages of the Bill. Deputies have outlined clearly to the Minister the reasons we feel this amendment should be pursued, but it is obvious that she feels she cannot accept it. I accept that she has commitments and I do not intend to embarrass her, but if she accepts the amendment she might find that the Government's commitment to the national anti-poverty strategy and the national wage agreement—

Acting Chairman

The Chair is increasingly concerned about the Deputy's intentions. He is trying to broaden the debate.

The amendment refers to the national anti-poverty strategy.

Deputy Ryan's intentions are purely professional.

As I do not wish to embarrass the Minister, I will be content just to formally propose the amendment.

The revised national anti-poverty strategy sets out the Government's social welfare commitments, albeit somewhat reluctantly. I assume that brilliant people in the Department have ensured that the commitments are sufficiently vague to allow the Government some room for manoeuvre. The strategy states that a minimum social welfare rate of €150, in 2002 terms, will be achieved by 2007. In light of the Government's failure to meet that goal in 2003, Deputy Ryan and I have asked the Minister to outline her proposals to ensure it will be met by 2007. The recent budget, which was the first to be announced after the revised anti-poverty strategy was published, provided for a basic social welfare increase of €6. If inflation remains at the rate of 4.8% predicted by the Government, the increase will be just 30 cent. The rate of social welfare decreased in real terms when one considers that there have been increases outside the normal consumer price index basket.

The Government has restated its commitment to NAPS in the proposed partnership agreement. It has said that increases will be made in social welfare rates during the period of the agreement in order to achieve the strategy's targets. No commitments have been made to provide additional resources for social welfare payments, however. The Minister for Social and Family Affairs will have the support of my party at the Cabinet table, as she challenges right-wing Ministers who do not share our social democratic conscience. The Labour Party is ready and willing to assist the Minister if she needs help in removing such elements from the Government.

It is quite clear that the Government has missed its targets in relation to the national anti-poverty strategy. A recent report indicated that Ireland's child poverty levels rank sixth highest on a list of 26 OECD countries. Some 29% of lone parents and 19% of two-parent households live in poverty. It upsets me when I hear Ministers repeat the language of the Government's spin doctors. The Minister, Deputy Coughlan, has pointed out how well the Government has done in recent years, but she has to admit that we started from a low base. It cannot be denied that additional funds were allocated to social welfare when things were going well, but people on social welfare were the first to lose out when the economic downturn came. It is not right and it is not fair. Irish people are not mean and do not mind paying tax if they feel it is being distributed evenly. They want social welfare recipients to receive a fair amount of money. As Deputy Penrose has said, people in certain political parties – some of them are in Fine Gael – would like to get rid of people on social welfare, if at all possible.

I would not like to have to get that through a convention.

As the saying goes, the poor will always be with us.

I hope they are not in the Deputy's constituency.

I am not saying that because there is a strong social conscience in my constituency. Many people think that people on social welfare do not count, but they do. They are human beings and are part of our culture. The downturn in the economy led to many reports. This country is great at producing reports – I am not blaming the Government in this respect – and our librar ies are full of them. If we started burning them today, they would not all be burned in 25 years' time. It would cause an awful problem.

We want to see the national anti-poverty strategy put in place and people on low incomes and social welfare being looked after by the Government. A percentage of the public wants nothing done for people on social welfare but most are fair-minded and want to see social welfare recipients keeping in line with everybody else. There has been a problem with the increases this year and it is difficult for the Government to match its targets. I know the Minister will tell us that the Department is examining many schemes and will deal with the problem. However, I am appalled by the way in which people on social welfare have been treated, particularly in recent months. The level of anger is increasing.

I do not want to be critical of the Government but it did not do well this year. It was Deputy Coughlan's first time to be a Cabinet Minister and she might not have learned a lot. I suppose the more senior people took advantage of her. At the Committee on Social and Family Affairs I said that I knew there would be bad days ahead when I saw her colleague Deputy Dermot Ahern, whom I know she will defend, running out of the Department.

The Minister knows more about Deputy Dermot Ahern than I do, but I knew there would be problems. She has learned a lot this year from the committee. Budget targets are now being set for July and she should make sure that she and her officials are not shoved aside by the Progressive Democrats and others as they were this year. She should fight for the poor and the weak and make sure that increases of €6 and €8 are not wiped away by inflation. We will be nice to her this year because it is her first year, but I assure her that we will attack her more vigorously next year in respect of these increases if she lets us down.

That is a promise.

I suppose the NAPS has always been an unfortunate acronym for the national anti-poverty strategy. I am surprised that the tabloid newspapers in particular have not made more use of it when accusing the Government of napping in respect of its approach to poverty.

I have always considered the figures outlined in the NAPS to be singularly unambitious. The Minister and I have argued before about the use of consistent poverty as an indicator. Its use as an indicator and the failure to reach the targets further indicate the poverty of the NAPS. This is particularly marked in the area of child poverty, which is the subject of a wide-ranging campaign. The End Child Poverty Coalition would not have existed if Government policy was seen to be working. NGOs, which are at the coalface in relation to poverty and income distribution issues, have actively lobbied those in public life to achieve higher standards. That is the point we are starting from.

I am very disappointed with what Deputy Penrose has just read from the Sustaining Progress document. I presume that is what the Deputy was reading.

It might be summarised.

It seems to contradict the press reports that led us to believe that clear benchmarks were to be achieved by way of this document. It is too vague, not weighed down and gives the Government an opt-out clause in terms of meeting its vague promises in the future. I am surprised that elements of the community and voluntary pillar have been prepared to say they might be willing to accept this aspect of the partnership agreement. We have moved backwards and more progress needs to be made, even to reach the unambitious targets of the NAPS. These amendments are an attempt to make this progress and I hope the Minister will take at least some of the suggestions on board so the NAPS can get back on track.

In her reply to the previous amendment, the Minister said that all the other strategies had to be taken into account, such as the back to work scheme. This is part of the problem. There was a back to work scheme until this year, but it has been removed to all intents and purposes. People were doing reasonably well on FÁS, but for the sake of a small additional sum they are being put back on social welfare. The numbers prove that and one only has to talk to a community group to realise how serious is the issue.

Yesterday I received a phone call about a small school which employed a girl through FÁS whose job it was to look after a handicapped child. The job specification has changed and a loophole has been found that enabled the school to put the girl on notice last Friday to finish this Friday. She is being removed from the school.

A man was telling me how well he fared in terms of money for the Society of St. Vincent de Paul. I said to him that he will need it. He has come back to me and has told me in no uncertain terms that this was only too true and that there is desperation and child poverty in society. As I mentioned in previous debates, young widows with young families are finding it difficult to get by. We know the Minister is sympathetic to these people but the boot has to be put in.

At a time when there are two finance issues being discussed, one in the Dáil and another in the Seanad, it is a national scandal that the Minister for Finance and the roll-over Minister of State at the Department of Finance, who claimed to be able to solve all the problems—

He was up in the Visitors Gallery.

He was in the Visitors Gallery, organising walk-outs and other things. After being elected to the Dáil he deems Cheltenham to be the most important place he could be. I know the Minister for Social and Family Affairs thinks as badly of that as I do. It is a national scandal that the poorest of the poor are told that they have to exist on increases of €6 with all other expenses taken from that while the Ministers spend as much as they like of their own money and that of the Government having a good time. Will the Minister consider the very genuine messages she is getting from this side of the House?

I will not rise to the bait.

Will the Minister not roll over?

I never rolled over. I appreciate the Deputy's concern about my short tenure as a Cabinet Minister. I was in the back benches for a long time and would be—

We appreciate that you are here.

I was aware of the issues and how things were done within Government. I will provide the Deputies with some figures because facts are often very handy. During the budget speech, the Minister for Finance stated that the full-year cost of personal tax reductions was €186 million. The largest allocation from last year's budget was the €530 million which was made available to my Department. That represents a commitment to supporting the less well-off. Whether people like it or not, the tendency has been to address disadvantage.

Much of it was created in the past five years.

As I indicated on Committee Stage, we are reviewing the national anti-poverty strategy by assessing what has been achieved and examining its targets. This process was outlined in the social partnership agreement "Sustaining Progress" which stated:

The NAPS explicitly recognises the multi-dimensional and dynamic nature of disadvantage and provides the framework to address poverty and social exclusion and to protect vulnerable groups. It commits to building on what has been achieved to date so as to move to a new phase in the development of a more inclusive society. This commitment is reflected in the setting of an objective of reducing, and ideally eliminating, poverty in Ireland; a specific target of eliminating long-term unemployment and a new benchmark for the lowest social welfare payments of €150 by 2007 in 2002 terms. The challenge now is to achieve the targets set out in that strategy in light of changed circumstances and to ensure real and significant progress in relation to implementation.

The Government has made a clear commitment through the national anti-poverty strategy and it will do so again when the strategy is revised. Building an inclusive society involves reaching the strategy's targets within the timeframe set out. As I indicated, the first kick of the ball does not constitute the final score.

The Minister does not always find the net.

There have been a few own goals scored over there, but I will not embarrass the Deputy by listing them.

The national anti-poverty strategy has been put in place and is multi-dimensional. It takes account of the views of many NGOs and operates across various Departments to implement a multi-faceted approach to addressing poverty and social exclusion. The national anti-poverty strategy is the way forward which is why I disagree with Deputies who criticised the package provided under the budget. In the context of the national finances, my Department and the people I have to care for through it have received a considerable amount of money. The allocation of €530 million for the full year compares very favourably to other packages and to taxation in particular.

We did not know how bad the finances were, but the Government did.

The commitment is there. The Deputy would not like to be embarrassed by reminders of how well his party managed the economy a few years ago.

We did it very well and left the economy in surplus.

It was well down a cul-de-sac before we got there.

The mistake we made was to hand over an economy that was too healthy.

We spent too much.

Fiscal rectitude on our side of the House was a consequence of dealing with the mess the boys on the Opposition benches left behind a number of years ago. It is very easy to sit on the other side of the House. In the course of debates over the past few months, I have not heard any proposals from Opposition Deputies as to how they would fund the choices they would make.

If we told the Government our proposals, they would run with them and take all the credit.

I would certainly take on board astute proposals from the Opposition. I listen to my own backbenchers when it comes to the issues they feel are important. We look for ward to achievement of the goals set out in Government policy and the promises made under the national anti-poverty strategy.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

3.–The Minister shall as soon as may be after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the issue of having regard to the reference in NAPS to increasing the lowest social welfare payment to €150 per week in 2002 terms, whether the expression ‘in 2002 terms' means indexation of the target to wages or prices.".

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendment No. 7 not moved.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 8, 12 and 14 are related and may be discussed together, by agreement.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

3.–The Minister shall as soon as may be after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the implications of abolishing the means test for carer's allowance and introducing a top-up carer's payment for those in receipt of another social welfare payment.".

Much consideration has been given to carers and the need for respite, but certain statistics should be recorded. In 1999, the Central Statistics Office reported that 35,000 people were providing more than 50 hours unpaid personal care per week, 17,000 people were providing 20 to 49 hours of unpaid personal care per week and 79,000 were providing unpaid personal care for between one and 19 hours per week. That represents a substantial contribution by unpaid carers to our society and it is the context in which we should examine respite provisions. We must consider the carer's ability to continue caring and to cope with life when caring ceases. Time off is necessary to enable carers to develop a life outside the home and to acquire a certain level of disposable income. They should be able to connect with other people as far as possible while they give their time and energy to their loved ones.

In this year's budget, the respite care grant was increased by a miserable €100 to €735. Carers provide an invaluable service to the State and it is up to us to acknowledge the role they play. To provide an increase of €100 to those carers in receipt of the respite care grant is despicable. The total increase of €2 million in respite care funding for the year is degrading when looked at in the context of the budget as a whole. Hopefully, the committee chaired by Deputy Penrose will use its professionalism to recognise carer's needs. If the respite needs of carers are not met, people will burn out and the contribution they make to society will be lost. We must consider their health and make a greater effort to provide them with the incentive to continue with their work.

I support those sentiments. Our committee is examining the work of carers and we will examine the number of anomalies in the social welfare system. I have a great personal commitment to carers and I hope that we will produce a report that will be of use to the Minister in her endeavours to secure additional funding and indeed significant structural changes in relation to carers and carers' payments. In particular the means testing of the allowance serves to deprive a number of people who work extremely hard 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks of the year. They provide care for their loved ones and save the State multi-millions of euro because the patient does not have to go into a convalescent or nursing home. The charges in those homes are significant and families have to join forces to scrape together the money. Carers work for about €100 which is only about 80 cent an hour. People feel deeply aggrieved, even insulted, at the lack of recognition of their work. It is important to have definitive statistical information about carers which will strengthen the Minister's hand.

We can do something about respite care and at no great cost. The respite grant could offer widows or widowers looking after somebody in the home for a number of years an opportunity to go out and take a break. I acknowledge that the increase of €100, small though it is, is a step in the right direction. It would be a great help if people could get their hands on it. Widows and widowers who are looking after somebody in the home cannot avail of respite because of the rule forbidding the payment of a second social welfare payment. These people are not eligible for carer's allowance or respite care, but because of their natural love and affection they continue to provide extraordinary care and friendship to their relative. I implore the Minister to do something in this area. It would be a significant and compassionate step and would be long overdue recognition to those people who are an inspiration to us all. It is an indictment of all of us that nothing has been done about making the respite care grant available to people who may well be in receipt of another social welfare payment.

Acting Chairman

I call Deputy Connolly.

I think those who tabled the amendments should be heard first.

Acting Chairman

I call Deputy Ring. My apologies to Deputy Connolly.

There are two big problems when it comes to social welfare recognition of the rights of women. The Minister is a woman and I wish to inform her that there are many women who feel very let down by the State. They are looking after their loved ones but because their husbands or partners earn more than is allowed by the means test they are not given recognition for their work as carers in the home.

A constituent of mine is caring at home for a very severely handicapped child. Because she is in receipt of a widow's pension she does not qualify for a second State payment. She is given no recognition for her work in looking after a very sick child who should probably be in full-time care. She is not eligible for a respite grant and I ask the Minister to investigate this situation. There is only a small number of people who are affected by this regulation. They are given no recognition as carers but they should at least be given the respite grant. A person who looks after a loved one for many years is not eligible for payment of a respite grant in the year of the death of the patient. I ask the Minister to right that wrong.

There are more than 140,000 people acting as carers in the country. About 23,000 carers are given some recognition in the form of a carer's allowance or a partial allowance. Deputy Penrose and the committee have been listening to groups representing carers. When people come to my clinic I know by the look of them that they are looking after an elderly person at home. I ask the Minister to do something for people who are not being given recognition by the State. A small amount of money such as €60 would be a way of thanking them because they are saving the State a fortune.

We can no longer cope with the number of people who want to go into State homes. Carers are saving the taxpayer a fortune. The Ombudsman has made it clear that as the law stands a person over 65 years with a medical card is entitled to a place in a State home. Many people would prefer to die in their own home and want to be cared for at home. Their family is happy to care for them but they would be grateful for some support, both financial and respite. Carers feel upset that society does not recognise their work. Many of them have given their lives to the care of an elderly parent or sibling without recognition.

I know of a person who spent years as a carer and who was paid the carer's allowance. When his relative died he applied for social welfare but did not get it even though he had spent years looking after his father. He felt humiliated by the system.

I say to the Minister that the people are crying out for a hero and whatever Minister for Social and Family Affairs deals with this anomaly will always be remembered and will be the most popular Minister ever. The carers feel they have been forgotten by all Governments, yet they do all the work. If this Minister cannot deal with it maybe the day will come when I will be in a position to do so.

It will be either a hero or a heroine.

I understand that Deputy Connolly is next.

I believe that respite care has massive potential to offer the best value for money to the Department of Health and Children and to the health boards. It also has the potential to give carers much needed short and regular breaks. If people could be reassured that they would be given respite on a regular basis, it would make life much more comfortable for them. It would relieve the pressure to find a permanent nursing home bed for the patient. Many people who could be at home are taking up places in nursing homes. However, if they go home they are afraid they may lose a bed and may have to go through the whole routine of trying to secure a place again and so on. It makes life very difficult for these people.

When licences are being provided for nursing homes, a certain number of beds should be held for respite care. This would help in the same way the social housing policy helped the housing market. If people had such a guarantee they would be more willing to remain at home.

Deputy Ring referred to people who give up their time to care for relatives. That is a thing of the past. Dual income earners nowadays do not have the time to do this work. There needs to be some form of encouragement to keep people in the home. We all know that people prefer to live in their own home and they must be encouraged to do so. It is cheaper and good for everyone, a win-win situation.

In regard to carers, these people save the State approximately €420 per week by providing residential care places. Yet they receive approximately one quarter of that amount through the carer's allowance. It is time carers were given some form of tangible recognition. They are the unsung and unacknowledged heroes and heroines of the country. Carers do not seek headlines. There is scant recognition of the part played by carers of disabled or incapacitated people. There is little evidence of real Government commitment to improving the lot of carers and, by extension, the people for whom they care. The Government is not doing enough in that regard. Only 20% of carers receive any form of State allowance. The State is getting care on the cheap without any acknowledgement of the strains or pressures on carers for 24 hours a day. Carers help to keep people out of institutions. As I said earlier, these people are giving real value for money. There is great potential for savings for health boards.

It was once said that there are two kinds of people in the world – those who are prepared to work and those who are prepared to let them work or provide care. I put the Government in the latter category.

I support the amendments. The Minister and her officials are well aware of where I stand on the issue of caring and respite care. However, it is important to put it on record.

An enormous number of people are doing a wonderful job looking after their parents and loved ones. I refer again to single social welfare payments and the need for that issue to be reconsidered. Perhaps the Minister will give a commitment to look at that matter. If carers lose a loved one, either a husband or wife, and are looking after their partners' parents, they are no longer entitled to carer's allowance or respite care on being widowed. People who are in receipt of widow or widower's allowance are not entitled to respite care, yet they are entitled to work and retain their pension in full. I do not understand why these people cannot receive at least half the carer's allowance and, through that, respite care. This whole area needs to be reconsidered. The issue of respite care cannot be over-emphasised. The money people receive is very welcome and it is something that should be encouraged. However, the red tape that prevents approximately a dozen or less people receiving this care is unreal.

I heard on the radio recently about a catastrophic situation in Beaumont Hospital where people could not be discharged because they had nowhere to go. Yet, down the road in Swords, people could have gone to a nursing home with 49 beds. While that aspect is not the responsibility of the Minister, it needs to be emphasised.

I ask the Minister to reconsider the issue of single social welfare payments. If a carer is looking after two people, they receive one and a half times the allowance. If someone is caring for one person and they are entitled to hold down a full-time job, why are they not entitled to at least half the allowance?

I support the amendment. Carers are the most underrated people in the State with just 20,000 of more than 100,000 of them receiving carer's allowance. We do not value carers. From a financial point of view, they contribute an enormous amount to the State in the work they do and this should be recognised. More important, the quality of life they give to the person being cared for is not recognised. I am sure the Minister has been in contact with the Carer's Association, which is very active, and that its members have made clear to her their concerns and needs.

I have attended public meetings with carers and I have heard very emotive stories about the difficulties they experience, whether in regard to people with intellectual disabilities, physical disabilities or elderly people. People sometimes give up a lot of their time at a crucial period to care for a parent or sibling who needs long-term care. This service should be recognised. There should be a programme to reward all carers and a criterion should be drawn up for deciding what is a carer – one already exists but it is a bit restrictive. However, I will not go down that road today. I cannot sufficiently emphasise the need to recognise carers and to move towards a regime where there is financial support for all carers. I appreciate that the Minister cannot go from 20,000 to 100,000 in one Bill, but there should be a programme over a short number of years to afford all carers recognition through a carer's allowance.

In regard to respite care, this year 1,014 people with intellectual disabilities who require respite care will not get it because the funding was not made available. While this may be the responsibility of the Minister for Health and Children, it is important to put on record that the Government did not provide one shilling extra this year for respite care for people with intellectual disabilities.

The issue of means testing for carer's allowance, respite care and so on has been raised ad infinitum during my short time as Minister. I appreciate that the committee will look specifically at caring and carers. My Department has been involved in a study looking at the long-term financial implications of caring. There is a need to address these issues when one considers the age profile of people in this country who give of their time voluntarily to look after loved ones in the long-term or short-term.

The recognition of caring has progressed through new initiatives such as carer's leave, the respite care grant, carer's allowance and carer's benefit. When those who were previously in work take up caring, their contributions continue and can be taken into consideration at a later stage.

Varying views have been expressed on whether the abolition of the means test is the best way to proceed. The cost would be approximately €150 million in a full year. Some argue that some people can well afford private care. However, I agree that others are outside the remit of the scheme because of the means test. This is an ongoing issue and it is one we will have to address.

Unfortunately, there is no data base dealing with carers, but the CSO has done work in this area which indicates that 35,000 people provide more than 50 hours of unpaid personal help per week, or seven hours per day. Some 17,000 people provide between 20 and 49 hours unpaid help per week, or between three and seven hours per day, while 79,000 provide between one and 19 hours per week, or between nine minutes and 2.5 hours per day. At present, 20,500 carers are in receipt of the allowance, or approximately 40% of the 52,000 carers we believe to be operating.

The carer's allowance is concerned with those who provide full-time care and attention. We also provide for those carers who do other work, up to a maximum of ten hours per week. The respite care grant covers those who require a break from their caring role and we are committed to increasing it. I would also like to see the eligibility thresholds raised, even where those covered are outside the remit of the scheme.

Last year, overall expenditure on the carer's allowance amounted to €160 million, which is considerable, especially when people are not paid to be carers. The allowance is an acknowledgement of the difficulties they face and offers them some kind of financial support. The household budget schemes supplement the allowance. These include free electricity and a free telephone allowance and they are considered to be very helpful in the same way as they help the contributory widow's pension and contributory old age pension.

I appreciate the argument that if disregards are allowed to those who work they should also be allowed to those in receipt of the carer's allowance. However, with the exception of the blind pension, the policy of the Department is to disallow double payments. The Department often advises applicants that it is better for them to be eligible for the carer's allowance scheme because of the additionally in terms of benefits and the recognition that additional costs in terms of light, heating etc., arise when one is caring. There are choices open to applicants and my Department offers advice on the best way forward.

This debate will continue, especially given the changes in society, including the role of the family and the necessity to appreciate the huge personal commitment made by those who care for people. I would like to progress this scheme and I intend to increase the disregard again next year. This year we increased it to allow more people join the scheme and to provide additional funding to those in receipt of a lower rate of the allowance. We have also made a commitment with regard to the respite care grant.

I will hold ongoing discussions with the Carer's Alliance and those who represent carers on the question of addressing outstanding issues. These represent a challenge to us as politicians and to society in general. However, that does not take away from the fact that we have progressed well on the issue of caring. I hope the good work of recent years will be built on. I also look forward to the recommendations of the Oireachtas joint committee after it has concluded its proposed hearings on this issue and to further deliberation on the issue in due course.

The Minister acknowledged the work of the Oireachtas joint committee and she indicated that her Department is engaged in ongoing studies.

They have concluded.

The joint committee will advertise for submissions to its deliberations on this issue in the near future. Is it the Minister's intention to make one?

We will facilitate the committee as best we can. It may be better if the committee's report reflected an outside view of the issue. The research undertaken will be published shortly and we will be pleased to make it available to the committee. We are also considering the issue from the perspective of the Department of Health and Children with a view to taking a more holistic approach. We will invite members of the committee to the launch of our reports.

I understand Comhairle recently issued a social policy report in favour of carers, of which the joint committee will take account. The report points out that demographic trends suggest there will be an increase in demand for carers at a time when there will be a fall in the supply of traditional carers, who are generally women in the home. They have done tremendous work in this area. The report points to the strong social arguments for properly supported home care being provided by families within the home. It is the preferred option for those being cared for and there are strong economic arguments in favour of it. Departments, especially the Department of Finance, probably attach greatest importance to cost benefit analyses and this approach would provide them with a winning situation.

The traditional carer might be under threat, given that dual incomes are required to fund households. The Minister is a woman of compassion with a deep interest in this area. Although progress has not been made in this debate, it will be made in the near future, especially as the Oireachtas joint committee, which is an all-party committee, has given this matter priority.

Amendment put and declared lost.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

3.–The Minister shall as soon as may be after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the implications of funding and extending school meals programmes to the extent sought by the Combat Poverty Agency.".

We discussed this extensively on Committee Stage. Indeed we went back 90 years to the lock-out and discussed where the school meals programme originated. In fairness, the Minister has made an attempt to try to expand and deepen the provision of school meals programmes. They are available throughout the country and are important in both urban and rural areas. We exhort her to continue on the path of expansion and to ensure that the proper structures are put in place. The programme is an important source of help to people of particular socio-economic backgrounds. I urge the Minister to continue in that vein.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

I move amendment No. 10:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

3.–The Minister shall as soon as may be after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the implications of rectifying the position whereby improvements in social provision are being clawed back through higher rents.".

This amendment was dealt with extensively on Committee Stage. It deals with the area of responsibility of local authorities so we will not push it.

I contacted the Minister for the Environment and Local Government on behalf of the Deputy and he advised me of the circular.

I am glad to hear that. The Minister should direct the councils not to take away the money from the unfortunate people.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Acting Chairman

Amendments Nos. 11 and 29 are related and will be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 11:

In page 4, between lines 3 and 4, to insert the following:

3.–The Minister shall as soon as may be after the passing of this Act prepare and lay before both Houses of the Oireachtas a report on the implications of extending the social welfare free schemes to widows and widowers who do not currently qualify in that regard.".

We dealt with this in great detail on Committee Stage. It is appropriate for a member of the Labour Party to refer to the provisions for widows and widowers, particularly those who are under 65 years of age. They are a group of social welfare recipients who have been hard done by over the years. They feel they have been let down by Government. I ask the Minister to take that on board, try to deal more sympathetically with them and acknowledge their rights.

I support that. This is an area that needs more attention. It is when a person loses a spouse and is left with two or three children that the person is most vulnerable. That is particularly accentuated in rural areas. I harp back to rural areas because I come from a remote rural area. Those people have nothing provided for them at this vulnerable time when they need most help. The free schemes could be just the additional help that is required at a time when a person is vulnerable and has a lot to look after. A spouse might be in the position of having to deal with a myriad of problems that were previously shared with or dealt with wholly by the dead spouse. We make this argument from a compassionate viewpoint.

I support my two colleagues. I hope that when we have dealt with carers our next report for the Minister will be in relation to widows and widowers. They are one of the most neglected and vulnerable groups in society and have not been looked after by Government during the past 20 years.

I want to comment on the free schemes particularly in regard to rural transport. We had a major debate on this issue in committee last week. The Government will have to look at some kind of voucher system in areas where there is no public transport available for people with free passes. They should, at least, be able to come to town on a Friday to do their shopping and collect their pensions. A voucher scheme of some sort needs to be put in place. It is fine to have the free travel pass but people in rural Ireland do not have the DART or Luas available to them.

The Minister for Transport has talked about reorganising public transport and allowing the private sector take it over. We know what the result will be if that happens. The only place the private sector will want to operate is in the cities. It will not want to operate in rural areas. The Minister must protect the people in the free schemes. This is 2003 and we should be looking at new ways of doing things. I said in the committee last week that the Department is brilliant at stopping schemes. I ask the Department now to be positive and try to use the free schemes in a better way.

I have one straight question for the Minister. In recent years people on the back to education schemes were paid for the summer months. Will that happen this year?

No, they will be paid when they revert to the scheme.

That is outrageous and very wrong.

I support the amendment. Since I was elected I have been surprised by the number of people who have called to my constituency office to outline the circumstances in which they find themselves. Many of them are women over the age of 50 and under the age of 65. Even if we cannot allow them the full entitlements we should at least examine the cost implications of phased entitlement to many of these services. Even though they are over the age of 50 there are often young teenagers involved in the family units. For all the wrong reasons people over 50 are not con sidered to be as economically valuable as they should be. Because of these constraints the Department needs to look at the circumstances of people in this situation. I commend the motion on those grounds.

I wanted to target the people who are over 66 and some of the anomalies that existed there. We have made progress on that and I hope to address it completely next year. I agree that people under the age of 66 do not benefit from schemes except where there is a spouse. There is an interim period between the ages of 60 and 65. I appreciate what the Deputies have said and that it is a huge difficulty for people from an emotional and financial point of view. If I was to do everything I was asked to do I would run out of money. I appreciate the concerns and I hope they will be addressed in due course.

Deputy Ring may be heading to "Five Seven Live" now to do something about the back to education scheme.

I am very upset over it.

Post graduate payment is eliminated and payment during the summer is also eliminated. I issued this news in a press release in November 2002. If people do not receive employment benefit during the summer period they automatically revert to the scheme in which they were participating in the first place.

The back to education scheme, the back to work scheme and the summer jobs scheme have been abolished.

I am not responsible for the summer jobs scheme.

Amendment put and declared lost.

Acting Chairman

As it is now 5.30 p.m., I am required to put the following question in accordance with the order of the Dáil of this day: "That the amendments set down by the Minister for Social and Family Affairs and not disposed of are hereby made to the Bill, Fourth Stage is hereby completed and the Bill is hereby passed."

Question put.

Ahern, Michael.Ahern, Noel.Andrews, Barry.Ardagh, Seán.Aylward, Liam.Blaney, Niall.Brady, Johnny.Brady, Martin.Brennan, Seamus.Browne, John.Callanan, Joe.Carey, Pat.Carty, John.Cassidy, Donie.Collins, Michael.Coughlan, Mary.Cregan, John.Curran, John.Dennehy, John.Devins, Jimmy.Ellis, John.Fitzpatrick, Dermot.Fleming, Seán.Fox, Mildred.Glennon, Jim.Grealish, Noel.Hanafin, Mary.Haughey, Seán.Hoctor, Máire.Jacob, Joe.Keaveney, Cecilia.

Kelleher, Billy.Kelly, Peter.Killeen, Tony.Kirk, Seamus.Lenihan, Brian.McDowell, Michael.McEllistrim, Thomas.Martin, Micheál.Moloney, John.Moynihan, Donal.Moynihan, Michael.Mulcahy, Michael.Nolan, M. J.Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.O'Connor, Charlie.O'Dea, Willie.O'Donnell, Liz.O'Flynn, Noel.O'Keeffe, Ned.O'Malley, Fiona.O'Malley, Tim.Power, Peter.Ryan, Eoin.Sexton, Mae.Smith, Brendan.Smith, Michael.Wallace, Dan.Wallace, Mary.Wilkinson, Ollie.Woods, Michael.


Boyle, Dan.Breen, Pat.Broughan, Thomas P.Bruton, Richard.Burton, Joan.Connolly, Paudge.Costello, Joe.Coveney, Simon.Crawford, Seymour.Crowe, Seán.Durkan, Bernard J.English, Damien.Enright, Olwyn.Gogarty, Paul.Gormley, John.Harkin, Marian.Hayes, Tom. Healy, Seamus.


Higgins, Joe.Higgins, Michael D.Howlin, Brendan.Kehoe, Paul.Lynch, Kathleen.McGrath, Finian.McManus, Liz.Mitchell, Gay.Naughten, Denis.Neville, Dan.Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.O'Dowd, Fergus.O'Keeffe, Jim.O'Shea, Brian.

O'Sullivan, Jan.Penrose, Willie.Perry, John.Quinn, Ruairí.Rabbitte, Pat.Ring, Michael.Ryan, Eamon.Ryan, Seán.Sargent, Trevor.Sherlock, Joe.Shortall, Róisín.Stagg, Emmet.Stanton, David.Timmins, Billy.Twomey, Liam.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Hanafin and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Durkan and Stagg.
Question declared carried.