Ceisteanna — Questions.

Departmental Staff.

Enda Kenny

Question:

1 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach the number of occasions since June 1997 to date in 2009 on which officials in his Department, or in the agencies under his aegis, were granted either a discretionary payment or pension top-up on retirement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35609/09]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

2 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach the number of occasions since June 2007 to date in 2009 on which he enhanced payments made to persons retiring or otherwise leaving his Department or an agency operating under the aegis of his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [37274/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 1 and 2 together.

All civil servants retiring from my Department are entitled to an annual pension and lump sum, in accordance with the relevant legislation and conditions of service.

Since 1997, there have been two occasions when discretionary arrangements were made in accordance with comparable terms applied previously in similar circumstances, and were so approved by the Department of Finance. In both cases, the position vacated was that of special adviser to my predecessor. In the Central Statistics Office, the terms applicable to completion of their contracts were applied on the retirement of two former directors general.

Were the guidelines set down by the Department of Finance ever breached in the case of any official from the Taoiseach's Department? I ask because the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, told the Dáil that in the case of the former director general of FÁS, Mr. Molloy, the €1.1 million golden handshake was in accordance with the rules of the Department of Finance. When Deputy Varadkar received the full information about that under the Freedom of Information Act, the internal memos revealed clearly that the assistant secretary in the Department of Finance told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Employment and his counterpart in the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment that the terms given to the former director general were not in accordance with guidelines. He went on to say that he wanted to convey sanction to the proposed terms on condition that it was an exceptional case.

The Minister for Finance told us this was in order. The internal memos of the assistant secretary and the Department show that it was not in order. Is the Taoiseach concerned about this, given the amount of money involved? I heard a young woman say on radio this morning that she lives on €67 a week. Here is a golden handshake of €1.1 million, outside the guidelines laid down by the Government and the Department of Finance. Has this happened in any other Department? Is the Taoiseach satisfied that he is on top of this matter and that these things are not being sanctioned behind his back by Ministers where they consider that exceptional circumstances apply?

I do not want to paraphrase or repeat what went on at the relevant committee but it is clear that in respect of the matters to which Deputy Kenny's question refers there were issues about entitlement on the basis of dismissal and a person ending his service, and to avoid the prospect of litigation, although that had not been formally put to the authorities at the time. However, in an effort to deal with a situation where we would have a changeover of leadership in that organisation, one would move the issue quickly so it would not get bogged down in legal problems. Taking into account the conditions of service and what people were entitled to upon retirement, that package was worked out on that basis. It has been well articulated here in the House and in committees and I do not wish to say anything further about it except that it was regarded as the best way of dealing with the situation in all the circumstances.

I do not want to drag up the individual case either. It is history now — costly history. The point is that guidelines are laid down by the Government and the Department of Finance, and those guidelines were breached in this case. The Minister for Finance told us they were not breached when clearly the internal information showed that they were breached. Since that issue arose and since that matter was dealt with in the way it was, have these guidelines changed? If a case is deemed to be an exceptional one, is that brought to the Taoiseach's attention as Head of Government so he can be satisfied that Ministers down the line from him are not deeming cases to be exceptional and these guidelines can be breached, with large amounts of money paid out as golden handshakes to people?

The Taoiseach should talk to the young woman I heard on radio this morning, who lives on €67 a week, and tell her if she leaves a job she will have a proportionate golden handshake equivalent to €1.1 million. It is a very significant sum. Since that matter arose and was dealt with in the way it was, namely, the guidelines were breached, the Minister said they were not and the case was covered up on the basis of it being an exceptional case, have other such issues been brought to the Taoiseach's attention? Has he changed the rules so that he is fully in charge of this issue?

These matters were dealt by personnel staff in the respective Departments working within the overall guidelines. As I said, the circumstances that were outlined and the particular issue raised by the Deputy have been well articulated, discussed and debated in the House. The rationale for it has been explained in the House, if it is not accepted by some. This is an issue that will be carefully watched in the future to make sure we can avoid any controversy in regard to these matters. However, there is always the question of trying to avoid a situation where, by taking another approach, one might end up not being able to achieve the objective, which was to move the people on in a way which was consistent with the overall requirements of the situation.

I can understand that the Cabinet was very keen to get Mr. Molloy off the pitch as quickly as possible given the controversy he caused and the ongoing embarrassment he was causing to the Cabinet. However, the fact is that the Cabinet is not above the law. It is required to adhere to the law and to guidelines which cover these matters. The guidelines which came from the Department of Finance in 1998 cover situations where chief executives leave their positions and the terms under which they can receive packages. Not only do those guidelines apply to all chief executives leaving their posts, but those same guidelines were an appendix to Mr. Molloy's contract, so there is no question or doubt about the fact that those guidelines should have been applied to the severance package.

Those guidelines set out the terms in which a severance package might be enhanced in the event of a contract being terminated. That was not the case in regard to Mr. Molloy. He had tendered his resignation and, before the deal was done, his letter of resignation was with the Department of Finance.

The Deputy should address this point to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, not the Department of the Taoiseach.

I am coming to that. The guidelines state very specifically that unless the person concerned has had his or her contract terminated, Government approval is required for an enhanced package. It seems that the Minister for Finance took it upon himself to give approval to the package without bringing it to Government. Is the Taoiseach aware of the fact the Minister for Finance actedultra vires in this matter? At this stage, having had an opportunity to consider all of the issues surrounding this, does he accept at this point that the Minister for Finance did act ultra vires, that a Government decision was required for the enhanced severance package of €1.2 million that was granted to Mr. Molloy, that the package was outside of the law and that the Taoiseach now retrospectively needs to obtain approval for that package?

I have not dealt with that specific matter since then. As the Deputy said, this matter has been dealt with by the line Department. I have received no advice to the effect that the retrospective——

Did the Taoiseach take any advice?

The Deputy made an assertion that retrospective Cabinet approval is required for that package. That is not anything I have been advised of. I will check out that matter but I would not accept that the Deputy's assertion is correct.

Who did the Taoiseach take his advice from?

If I may be allowed to answer the question, I will give my opinion, if the Deputy wishes. If she wants to answer it herself, that is fine. I will sit and wait for her answer.

She asked the question of the Taoiseach. She is not going to answer herself.

It is a fair question. I just want to be allowed to reply, that is all. The Deputy made an assertion that this was an illegal payment and that it requires retrospective Cabinet approval. I certainly have not been advised of that and I do not accept the Deputy's assertion that that is the case. Neither do I accept the assertion she makes that the Minister for Finance actedultra vires. That is not my understanding of the situation, nor has anyone suggested to me that it is the case.

I call Deputy Shortall for a brief supplementary question.

I have several supplementary questions to ask. Any fair reading of the guidelines would establish, and my legal advice is to the effect that, the terms of the package came outside of the normal guidelines and, in that event, where there was an exceptional case, Government approval was required for that package. I know there was a big rush to deal with Mr. Molloy and get him out of the way as quickly as possible but the fact is that Government approval was required. The Taoiseach states he is not aware that this was the case. What advice did the Taoiseach take? The Attorney General's office is available round the clock to provide advice. This was a package that has cost the taxpayer €1.2 million and nobody thought it warranted obtaining legal advice from the Attorney General's office. It is outrageous to behave in this manner.

Will the Taoiseach undertake to go back and get legal advice on this matter? It seems he and his Ministers have bluffed their way out of this over recent months. Is he prepared to actually take legal advice on this matter?

I must draw attention to the fact this is a matter for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, not the Department of the Taoiseach.

No, it is not. It is a matter for the Government, with all due respect.

The line Department is the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment. If we are getting into specific detail——

With all due respect, Government approval was required and that is the legal advice on it. The Taoiseach is responsible for the fact that this was not obtained and he needs to take action on that now.

With regard to enhanced severance payments generally, what is the basis for making an enhanced payment to somebody who leaves under a cloud? It seems that this option is being used in situations where somebody has not performed properly and needs to be taken off the pitch. That is completely unacceptable. The Committee of Public Accounts, in examining the whole FÁS debacle, made recommendations that new guidelines needed to be drawn up which ensured that any enhanced pension package would relate to performance. Is it the Taoiseach's intention to bring forward new guidelines to cover this kind of scenario? Does he accept that it sends out all the wrong messages if the Government intends to financially reward somebody who has not performed his or her duties properly?

First, any revision of guidelines would be a matter for the Minister for Finance and the public service in the first instance. To come back to the specific point, I want to make it clear that the situation as it stood at the time was that the person concerned had certain rights and entitlements under the existing contracts he had as an employee of that organisation. The issue then arose on the basis of a meeting between the chairman of the board at the time and the chief executive. They discussed with him settlement terms concerning how he would move on. That was put to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment and then referred to the Department of Finance. The Department of Finance advised the Minister on the matter and approval was given on that advice. That was the situation.

The extenuating circumstances surrounding the issue had something to bear on it but there were basic entitlements. There is this idea that if people were dismissed they would not have certain entitlements but they would have entitlements. The issue was that if we went down that route, would there be a legal challenge and to what extent would that halt the means by which a move could be made and a new person put in place. All of that had to be taken into account.

I do not accept the Deputy's contention that there was something illegal about this, that is not the situation. The decision was made on advice based on discussions between the chairman and the chief executive, referred to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, referred then for approval to the Department of Finance, and approved by the Minister on that advice.

We really must move on.

This is an important issue, it cannot be swept under the carpet.

The Deputy should bear in mind that the line Minister is in a different Department.

Is the Taoiseach aware that three senior officials in the Department of Finance provided advice to the effect that Government approval would be required for this package for Mr. Molloy? Does the Taoiseach accept there is a need for new guidelines covering severance packages so they relate to the person's performance in the job?

I do not have the file in front of me but I want to make clear that the advice the Minister took came from the senior official in the Department.

Who advised the Government that approval was required.

I have not been before the committee listening to the ins and outs of this in the way the Deputy has been. I would rather have the full file in front of me because I would then have no problem answering the questions.

Perhaps the Taoiseach will have a look at the file some time.

Perhaps if the questions were put down for the relevant Minister, the Deputy would get the full answer. I cannot be expect to have all of that in front of me.

This has been in the public arena for long enough. The Taoiseach should have checked the file.

We must bring this to a conclusion.

The Deputy cannot ask me a question and then decide if I have the information. The purpose of questions is to table specific questions to get specific answers. I have sought to extend the courtesy of replying to the Deputy based on the knowledge available to me without notice but if the Deputy wants to play another game that is her business.

Social Partnership Negotiations.

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

3 Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Taoiseach if he will make a statement on the outcome of his meeting on 20 October 2009 with the social partners. [38395/09]

Enda Kenny

Question:

4 Deputy Enda Kenny asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his meeting with the social partners on 20 October 2009; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [38483/09]

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Question:

5 Deputy Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Taoiseach if he will report on his recent meetings with trade union representatives and others in the social partnership process; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [44309/09]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 3 to 5, inclusive, together.

The Government has made it clear for some time that the public finance position is unsustainable. Our tax revenues have fallen sharply back to 2003 levels. This means we will have a deficit in the region of €22 billion this year. To bridge this gap, we are borrowing more than €400 million per week. We have made it clear that this cannot continue.

By the end of this year, the national debt will be about €76 billion, double the level at end of 2007. Our main priority now is to stabilise the public finances. The Government has stated unambiguously that the public service pay bill must make a significant and proportionate contribution to the necessary adjustment in the public finances in 2010 and subsequent years. Furthermore, the Government was keen that this significant adjustment would be achieved by agreement.

Against this background, the Minister for Finance and I held discussions with trade union and employer representatives in Government Buildings on 20 October. In the course of these discussions, we set out in detail the context framing budget 2010 and provided an assessment of the medium-term economic outlook. We also elaborated on some of the key choices facing Government in the period ahead. Similar engagements with the other pillars of social partnership took place on 27 October last.

Following this initial round of meetings, the trade unions represented by the public service committee of ICTU proposed that the necessary adjustment could be found by means other than cuts in rates of pay. In good faith, the Government facilitated the trade unions with detailed information about the composition of the pay bill and the implications in cost terms of various potential changes. Discussions also took place with the associations representing the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces.

On the morning of Tuesday, 1 December ICTU presented its proposal based on pursuing payroll reductions through the accelerated implementation of an agenda for change and transformation of the public service. This was a positive vision that would reflect in many respects the Government's own vision of the public service of the future, which we had provided at the request of the unions. Savings would arise over time.

Given that such transformational changes would take some time to put in place, it was suggested that an interim approach would be taken by deducting payments from the payroll in 2010 on the basis that staff would take 12 days of unpaid leave in a way which would avoid disruption of services. This approach was discussed by Government on Tuesday, 1 December. As the amount of the savings in 2010 was less than the minimum amount required, it did not provide a basis for agreement and the Government reserved its position. The Government informed the public service unions that this was not the basis for agreement and the public service unions responded by indicating that they wished to develop their proposals further.

In the Dáil on Wednesday, 2 December I confirmed that a basis for agreement would exist only if the scale of the reduction in the public service pay bill were sufficient, it were permanent in character, and any transitional arrangements did not impact negatively on services to the public. I also made clear to the House last Wednesday that proposals emerging from the discussions were considered by the Government and that it was indicated to the unions that they did not in their present form provide a basis for the Government to confirm that it could not consider other options to effect the necessary savings.

In discussions that followed, the unions felt that they would be in a position to increase the level of savings to be offered in 2010 on the basis of the structure which had been already proposed, namely, a voluntary reduction from pay associated with 12 days of unpaid leave. Discussions with management in the various sectors of the public service also clarified the nature of the change agenda which would be undertaken by agreement and these changes are significant and worthwhile. The unions also indicated their agreement that the arrangements for the taking of unpaid leave could be spread over a period of years.

It is clear that the level of savings generated in 2010 would need to be sustained and increased in 2011 and subsequent years. Accordingly, the proposals would require an assessment to be made of the level of savings generated from the change process and further discussions next year on other steps necessary to secure the necessary level of saving.

The Government considered that the proposals did not constitute a basis for agreement. This was because of the combination of the requirement that the pay savings in 2010 be accompanied by a reduction in days worked, albeit over an extended period, and that there would be no certainty about the specific basis upon which the necessary savings would be achieved in 2011 and thereafter.

The Government has made it clear that the fiscal adjustments to be made in 2010 must stabilise the public finances; reduce, on a permanent basis, the structural element of the deficit; and form part of an overall package of adjustment measures which are balanced in terms of their certainty and effect. We must now proceed to implement our plan to reduce the public service pay and pensions bill by €1.3 billion next year compared with 2009.

As I indicated in my statement last Friday, the Government is appreciative of the constructive and dedicated effort of trade union officials to develop proposals which would be helpful overall. The engagement with all of the social partners during this difficult period has been most welcome and the contribution made to discussions on these issues is very much appreciated. The Government continues to believe in the value of social dialogue as a way to maximise common understanding and engagement between all sectors. The inability to achieve consensus, although regrettable, does not alter the fact that the savings are essential. The Government must act in the interests of all our citizens.

I understand from media reports that the Public Services Committee of the ICTU has signalled that it is considering a "long and sustained" campaign of industrial action. I regret this development and hope that if any action is undertaken that it does not adversely impact on the delivery of public services especially at a time when we need to ensure we make best use of the limited resources at our disposal to protect services to the most vulnerable in our society and that we do not create obstacles to economic recovery.

When the Taoiseach answered questions in the House on social partnership in May, he stated that it is clear there is a great deal of common ground between the Government and the social partners and that there is a strong case for the continuation of social partnership. That was the Taoiseach's view in May but it was certainly not his view last week, given the unilateral decision taken by the Government to collapse the pay talks. In many ways, that decision by the Taoiseach sounded the death knell of social partnership. Is it not the case that the Taoiseach was within touching distance of an historic agreement that would have provided for radical reform of the public service? We know from the various documents put into the public arena in recent days that radical reform, particularly in the areas of education and health, had been signed up to and that the Taoiseach has blown it for his own political reasons. Does he see any future for social partnership? Does he see any way back from the damage he caused last Friday? Is it not regrettable that he chose to put short term political expediency ahead of the national interest?

Quite the contrary. It is not about political expediency at all.

We had a deal on Friday morning.

Are we back into this process again?

We had a deal on Friday.

Given that good substantive questions have been asked I would like the opportunity to reply. I listened attentively in silence to what the Deputy had to say and I would like to respond. After my first sentence, perhaps people will allow me to expand and give my side of the equation. I do not expect the Deputy to agree with everything I have to say but, perhaps, that courtesy could be extended to me as I have extended it to the Deputy.

Social partnership is about more than one pay agreement. I regret the fact that it was not possible to reach agreement. Everyone made good efforts in good faith to achieve an agreement but it was not possible. Much work was done. The strategic gains are important pieces of work that have been done sector by sector, where a common vision has been outlined between management and unions about how we could proceed with reforming of public services. Clearly much of that work was being done in the hope of also achieving agreement on the contribution the public sector pay bill would make towards the consolidation of the public finances that we will discuss this afternoon. Unfortunately, we were not in a position, for a combination of reasons which I have outlined in my reply, to reach agreement. I regret that. I did not in any expedient way seek to avoid agreement. What we had to have was a permanent reduction and an ability to see beyond 2010 that a reduction would be of that magnitude and that further reductions would be possible and further contributions from the changed programme would be able to be made.

There was also the question of the unpaid leave aspect. I can understand the negotiating position of the unions on the other side. They had come with a very restrictive mandate and that was not to accept pay cuts, reductions in rates of pay. A deduction was proposed for 2010 which involved banking equivalent unpaid days leave subsequently. It was further developed to provide that over a longer period than the original proposal would suggest. That was in an effort to see in what way disruption to levels of service could be minimised while that would take place. The problem was also that, in the context of where the proposal had been developed, further talks during 2010 would have been required on how the contribution to the deficit could be made up in the event that the changed programme would not have provided savings of €1 billion in 2010 on the pay side. I always believe that one should try to find agreement if possible but regrettably we were not in a position to find sufficient agreement on that basis.

Social partnership is a structured approach to an interaction between stakeholders in society that has to take place. One has either a structured approach to what it is one is doing or one has an unstructured approach. Having a structured approach is far better because in the modern governance of any society it allows all stakeholders to put their proposals not only on the traditional areas of industrial relations, which are quite narrow in terms of pay and conditions, but on the wider vision of a society and how one can expand equality of opportunity and improve the lot of people in society. That is what social partnership is about. While it has been fashionable to malign that process in recent times, for whatever reason, one has to acknowledge the contribution it has made. It has not been the panacea and solution to all our problems but it has been the new way for the past 20 years of trying to deal with problems and finding accommodation and a way forward. Not every side gets what it wantsin toto but it is a means by which a structured discussion can take place that can lead to, hopefully, coherent outcomes. It is more than a single pay agreement.

We have been able to have extended discussions on social partnership over a series of programmes. Many have taken far longer to negotiate than others because of the complexity and difficulties that have to be encountered at any given time when a programme is being formed. The idea of something beyond simply pay and conditions and the relationship between those who employ and those who represent employees, Government, farming and the voluntary and community pillar representatives is a far more inclusive concept of social dialogue than would have been the case with precursors to its emergence and development over the past 20 years.

I fully accept that national agreements have to be about a wider vision of society. In fairness if one looks at the work various unions have done in terms of the wider economy and society generally, they have produced a good deal of material in that area. It was clear from the recent talks that the Government had no vision about where the country was going. There was an over-emphasis on cuts without any wider vision and without setting down any principles for protecting the weakest, ensuring the economy was positioned for an upturn, that training and education would be available to those who had lost their jobs, the need for a stimulus package and all those wider issues. It appears to me that the Taoiseach took a decision last Friday to collapse those talks — it is something his predecessor, for all his faults, would not have allowed to happen — and he has plunged the country into very serious industrial relations problems for the coming year. What now is his position in regard to social partnership? For example, what is the status of the Towards 2016 agreement and the Towards 2016 review and the transitional agreement concluded in September 2008? Do these documents have any standing now?

The Towards 2016 document which was devised some years ago was a ten-year framework which set out very challenging objectives for everyone in social partnership. The economic crisis that has enveloped every country around us clearly means that many of those objectives have to be modified or prioritised because they were based on a time when the foreseeable future was far less uncertain than now. That framework agreement remains in place.

I do not underestimate the level of disappointment about last week's outcome. There are issues, however, to which we will all need to return at some stage and in my opinion this is always sooner rather than later. It will be a question of how to allocate resources in order to maintain services for our people against a background of much tighter and straitened financial circumstances, of how to use such resources to the greatest effect. We are still going to have to find a way to deal with the issues being discussed last week because otherwise we put at risk the ability of the system to deliver to the people to the best possible effect, given the available resources.

From my point of view, it is unfortunate that an agreement was not possible. We had to provide for permanent reductions. There is a serious structural deficit that has to be addressed and it is about giving confidence to all sections of the community. There is wide acceptance by all sections of the community that we are all in a position where we have to cut our cloth to the current measure. We would do a disservice to everybody, including people who depend on public services, were we not to take the necessary decisions now to address the fundamental unsustainability of the current position.

It is called social partnership.

If the outcome of the discussions does not result in the certainty and permanency which are needed, one has to consider alternative ways of going about it. I do not take away——

It is called negotiation.

I agree, but some negotiations succeed and others do not.

Not unilateral decisions.

The Deputy should allow the Taoiseach to continue without interruption.

One proposal was referred back to the trade unions and then further discussions took place on the sectoral side. A further proposal was starting to emerge but it did not meet those tests, which is to be regretted, in my view, and people on the other side also regret it. There is the idea that, once negotiations are commenced, they have to end up successfully — that is what one always hopes for — but, unfortunately, sometimes one does not get there.

Maybe with a bit more time, if they had started earlier.

With respect, a full divulging of the composition of the pay bill and all the necessary data was being exchanged for weeks in advance. It is all very well giving advice as to what to do a week or a month before but we had come to the substance of the issue and it was not possible to find an agreement. This is unfortunate and I regret it as much as anyone else because I had been working for it. I hope to return to working on it as soon as circumstances allow.

Last Tuesday morning, was a telephone call made to Mr. Peter McLoone on behalf of the Government to inform him that the Government had signed on for the measures which were contained in the proposals from social partnership, including the compulsory unpaid leave? I have my views on the logistical nightmare this provision would cause. As I understand it, these talks went on until 7 a.m. on Friday morning when it appears agreement was reached. With regard to the health service issues, the document clearly shows a recognition that numbers would decline in the years ahead against a background of reduced budgets and workforce numbers. It states the challenge, therefore, is not only to maintain the level, quality and safety of services, but to expand the range of services that can be easily accessed by patients and clients.

I refer to the Taoiseach's comment about providing more with less. There have always been serious difficulties in the health sector with regard to changes in rostering practices. Item No. 12 in the document refers to the introduction of an extended working day, covering the period 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., while item No. 13 refers to the introduction of five over seven rostering throughout the system. This would appear to be a pretty massive shift from the intransigence that was always shown within the health sector towards such change. I also understand that, during the negotiations, people in the education sector were actually offering new ideas to the Government. It appears that, for whatever political reason, these talks collapsed on Friday. I may be mistaken and I ask the Taoiseach to confirm it, but the union personnel say that Government had agreed the figures, that, from the perspective of the figures, their offers, in whatever way they were made up, met the demands of Government for 2010 and whatever bridging was to be there between 2010 and onwards was recognised.

It seems as if it was either internal politics or the impact of business outside saying this compulsory unpaid leave was a disaster or the reaction from the Taoiseach's own party at the meeting that seemed to cause a change of heart. Anyway, it is done now and it appears as if the social partnership model and structure that was in existence for 20 years, inadequate though it was in many respects, is now dead or certainly dead with this Government.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that an official call was made to Mr. McLoone to say that the Government had signed on for this proposal and it would be part of the process? It is obvious this would have included the support of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance. Did the Government accept the figures put through by social partnership? Was the collapse on the basis of 2011 or 2012? In view of the fact that the Government has consistently said that a more effective and customer-orientated delivery of public services is required — I agree — how does the Government intend to proceed to deliver on major public service reform when the structure which has been used for 20 years by Government is now dead and buried, at least with this Government?

I reiterate that the Government met as a Government on Tuesday and I communicated thereafter to the trade unions the Government position. The first basic requirement was the quantum, the amount of money that would have been generated by this proposal in the first instance, was insufficient and, therefore, the Government would reserve its position in respect of all other aspects of it because we had not reached that point of the equation. We are all mindful of the work and effort of the people involved. When people say they would like to further develop the proposal to see if it can be moved forward, then we are open to this happening. By having that continuous negotiation and that further discussion over the days, we saw further developments taking place in sectoral discussions which are of benefit and of value and which provide, in my opinion, a basis for moving forward in the required transformation of public services. The intrinsic merit remains. It is also a case of necessity——

Goodwill does not, though.

If I may reply to Deputy Kenny, the intrinsic merit, worth and value of that remains because it is against the background of much tightened financial constraints on Government — on any Government. The issue of having to provide new ways forward that will not only maintain services and improve them for service-users, where possible, but also improve the work and the environment of service-providers and provide the flexibility and the operational co-operation between departments would be of benefit. These are important matters which need to be considered for the future. It is a question of ensuring a permanent outcome and being able to identify at this point where the 2011 savings would come, knowing the change management agenda, as ambitious as it is compared to previous agreements. The amount of money that would unlock in 2010 would not make up the difference in the bridging mechanism to which Deputy Kenny referred. Therefore, certainty about where we were going in 2011 and subsequently was not achieved at that point.

The Deputy referred to the unpaid leave issue. I did not make any public utterances at any time last week. In the course of last Tuesday, the idea emerged from some comments I heard subsequently that the strike was not going ahead on the basis that a deal had been done. That was not the position. I do not believe that, in all the circumstances and on reflection, if people were in the same position again today that position would be advisable or regarded as wise because it created a context in the negotiations which made agreement even more difficult. The message seemed to be conveyed by some, not necessarily those who were in the prime negotiating position, that a deal had been done and it was only a matter of tying up loose ends.

Two junior Ministers were conveying the opposite message.

As we know, that was not an accurate reflection of the status of negotiations at the time.

I watched the events of last week and the Government did a good job of stage managing the collapse of the talks with public sector unions. Was the so-called revolt by Fianna Fáil backbench Deputies over the proposal for unpaid leave a real revolt? Did it not suit the Taoiseach? Did the Taoiseach support the unpaid leave proposal and, if so, what action did he take to persuade his backbench Deputies and party of its viability?

Does the Taoiseach believe the events of last week, specifically the revolt of Fianna Fáil backbenchers and the breakdown of the talks with public service unions, have undermined and compromised his position? Is it not hypocritical of those who revolted to sign up to extreme cuts in the social welfare payments made to the most vulnerable in society to avoid having any deal or arrangement with the public service unions?

I do not agree with the Deputy's contentions or theories on this matter. The Government entered this process in good faith, knowing it was difficult for all sides to try to find a common agreement on the issue. On the issue the Deputy raises, the Government considered its position on Tuesday morning and conveyed what its position was. It confirmed that the amounts that were contemplated as savings by the proposal, as developed on Tuesday morning and put to the Government by the trade unions, were not sufficient to meet the requirements of the situation. This message was conveyed as was the message that our position was also reserved on all other aspects of the proposal.

The Government was prepared, and the unions were anxious, to seek to develop the proposal and it was right and proper that we would do so. Unfortunately, despite the good work being done in sectoral discussions the following day, the State must not only act as employer because the need for wide public acceptance of any proposal to come forward is also an important factor.

The issue relating to the unpaid leave aspect of the proposal arose because of the very restrictive mandate the unions had to contend with. In other words, they did not have a mandate to negotiate a pay cut. This issue was linked, therefore, to a proposal on a deduction in pay to be compensated for by subsequent unpaid leave days, albeit further negotiated over a longer period subsequently. This formed a consensus in the union approach in terms of how the unions would negotiate and could not be broken or de-linked. In addition to the inability to identify post-2010 savings that were adequate to meet the requirements of the situation, there were factors which meant that the certainty and permanence required did not eventually evolve.

Despite comments made during the course of the week, I do not believe there was any bad faith on any side in relation to the efforts that were made. Good efforts were made and good work was done. While it is regrettable that agreement was not possible, there have still been strategic gains from the work that was conducted and we will have to revert to these sooner rather than later. I understand, however, the level of disappointment there may be about the outcome.

Will the Taoiseach place on the record of the Oireachtas Library the sector by sector draft proposals, which have been placed in the public domain by one side to the negotiations? Will he place the Government's side in the Library and submit the documents prepared by each Department which led to the draft proposals being made?

I do not see what purpose the Deputy's proposal would have. What one should rely on is the work that has been put together and on which there would have been agreement had other things been worked through. There is an intrinsic merit and a worth to these documents that should not be easily forgotten and can form the basis of work for the future.

Does the Taoiseach not accept, given the transformational nature of the proposals that were made, that the public have the right to this information? Those who maligned the process were excluded from it. We all have a right to know the scale of the potential agreement and to access the background documents surrounding the process. Placing this information in the public domain would help rather than hinder the process.

The documents, as they emerged, do not require further background information. They set out the direction of reforms and transformation that could be contemplated in the right circumstances. As I stated, these circumstances can and should arise again sooner rather than later.

Before moving to the Order of Business, I ask Deputies to bear in mind that Private Members' time is scheduled to commence at noon.

While I accept the Taoiseach had to put certain matters on the record, he made some very lengthy replies.

Opposition Deputies kept asking questions.