Other Questions

As Deputy Eamon Ryan is not present, we will move on to Question No. 5, in the name of Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett.

Question No. 4 replied to with Written Answers.

Public Sector Pay

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

5. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if, in his deliberations on bringing forward pay restoration to April 2017, he considered dealing with the outstanding issue of pay levels for new entrants to the public sector; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3417/17]

I am returning to the issue of equal pay for equal work. As the Minister knows, members of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland are balloting this month. Quite rightly, the association's central executive is recommending the rejection of the Government's proposals. The Government is continuing to refuse to commit to the simple principle of equal pay for equal work for which workers have been fighting since the 19th century. There used to be a pay gap on gender grounds. We now consider it completely unacceptable for women to be paid less than men for doing the same job. It somehow seems acceptable to this Government that young workers should be paid less for doing the exact same job in the exact same school on the basis that they are younger and started work after 2012. What does the Minister intend to do about it?

On 29 November last, I announced a two-phase approach to securing the future of collective pay agreements. It was intended that the first phase would address anomalies arising from the recent Labour Court recommendations in respect of An Garda Síochána and the second phase would negotiate a successor to the Lansdowne Road agreement. My priorities for the first phase were to secure the continued implementation of the Lansdowne Road agreement, to maintain the productivity, industrial peace and stability provided by that agreement and to ensure issues of mutual concern to the parties are addressed in a fair and reasonable way and, above all, in a manner that safeguards existing Government expenditure commitments and the broader fiscal position. Under the settlement that was reached last week, and in acknowledgement of the anomaly that has arisen, the Government in its capacity as the public service employer agreed to an increase in annualised salaries of €1,000 for the period from April to August of this year for those on salaries up to €65,000, those who are parties to the Lansdowne Road agreement and those who do not stand to benefit from the Labour Court recommendations issued in respect of the Garda associations.

The issue of addressing the difference in incremental salary scales between public servants who have entered public service employment since 2011 and those who entered before that date was addressed with the relevant union interests under the provisions of the Lansdowne Road agreement. In addition, flexibility provided for within the Lansdowne Road agreement has allowed the Government more recently to address particular sectoral issues such as the restoration of supervision and substitution payments, new entrant payments in the education sector and the restoration of rent allowances to new entrant firefighters. This shows the value of a collective approach. The Deputy will be aware that the Public Service Pay Commission intends to examine evidence on recruitment and retention of identifiable groups and to compare public service remuneration to prevailing private sector or market rates. It will include its findings in its report, which is to be published in the second quarter of this year and will form the basis of the second phase of our negotiations.

With respect, the Minister's waffle is not an answer to my question about equal pay for equal work. Under the new proposals, a person who started teaching after 2011 will earn €6,000 less in his or her first year of teaching than somebody doing the same job who happened to come in before 2011. That figure will be €5,800 in the second and third years of teaching and €6,000 in the fourth year. This pattern will continue until the ninth year, when the pay gap will be €8,500. Service officers and ushers in the Oireachtas are affected by this. Those who came in after 2012 get 10% less than those who came in previously. People who are working in this building are being paid €2,500 less for doing exactly the same job. Does the Minister think that is acceptable? I do not. Will he commit to equal pay for equal work? Does the Minister agree it is ironic that the actions of teachers and gardaí who took industrial action and refused to accept the Lansdowne Road agreement have forced him to give an extra €1,000 to those inside the agreement, but he will not give this payment to those who actually fought to achieve it? Essentially, he is putting the Sword of Damocles over their heads.

The Deputy does his case a disservice with his characterisation of my answer to Question No. 5. I responded to the various matters he raised in the question and I explained the process the Government is using as it seeks to deal with all of these matters. Unlike the Deputy, I am responsible for deciding how to allocate taxpayers' funds between competing demands. It is simply not possible to deal with this matter in isolation from all the areas in which improved public services are needed, not to mention the other pay issues that are being raised by the trade union movement and employees. I would respond to the Deputy's reference to the Sword of Damocles by expressing my belief that it is absolutely appropriate for the benefits of the agreements we reach with representatives of employees to be confined to those employees.

The message the Government is sending when it issues this threat is "it is our way or the highway". I remind the House that no trade unionist ever had a ballot on the system of pay apartheid that was unilaterally imposed by the Government to deny young people equal pay for equal work. Given that new-entrant nurses are receiving 10% less pay than existing nurses, is the Minister surprised that the Government is unable to recruit nurses at a time when everybody acknowledges more nurses are needed? When that is considered alongside the mess in the health service, it is no wonder they do not want to work here. This problem is going to get worse as the need for public sector recruitment increases. Even more workers will join the teachers in being paid less when they come in. How are they supposed to afford a roof over their heads? The Minister is simply not addressing the issue of equality about which I asked him. The Government could make Apple pay its taxes to pay for this. That would be an alternative way of boosting the budget.

I am in favour of fairness. I want to ensure we have the right level of public services for those who need them. I want us to be in a position to build the homes that Deputy Boyd Barrett quite correctly referenced the need for, to invest in hospitals and universities and to deliver the transport infrastructure mentioned by Deputy Cullinane earlier. The challenge is that the same funding which would have to be used to deliver all of this is the same funding we have to use to pay public service workers. Any single change in the State's pay and pension bill of approximately €15 billion would have substantial consequences for our ability to improve our public services and pay every public service worker fairly, regardless of the point in time at which they entered the public service. It would be great if Deputy Boyd Barrett were to refer in his analysis of this issue to the fact that we concluded our negotiations with the INTO and the TUI with an agreement that seeks to deal with the issue of teachers' pay in a phased manner across 2017 and 2018.

Question No. 6 replied to with Written Answers

Public Sector Staff Remuneration

David Cullinane

Question:

7. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the savings and efficiencies his Department has highlighted in order to fund the decision to move forward to the earlier date of 1 April 2017 the partial pay restoration due to public sector workers earning less than €65,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3273/17]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

8. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his recent decision to approve increases in annualised salaries in the public service for the period from 1 April 2017 to August 2017; the way in which he is providing for the reported €120 million cost of the increase; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3280/17]

John Curran

Question:

26. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the estimated cost in 2017 to bring forward to April 2017 a €1,000 per annum pay increase for public servants; the proposed savings and efficiencies he plans to make to provide the funding for these increases; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3266/17]

Richard Boyd Barrett

Question:

29. Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the source of the money to bring forward pay restoration for public sector workers earning below €65,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3416/17]

Bernard Durkan

Question:

32. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he expects to be in a position to meet the costs associated with all recent pay agreements while maintaining the principles of the Lansdowne Road and other agreements and remain within budgetary targets; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3419/17]

The Minister has been asked repeatedly to outline to Members of this House where he will find the savings and efficiencies necessary to meet the €120 million cost of the partial pay restoration for public servants earning below €65,000. That restoration is welcome but we need to know the detail of how the moneys will be found. There is a concern that the Government will cut services to fund the cost of the pay restoration. When the Minister says the increase will be paid for through efficiencies and savings, he has a responsibility to spell out what exactly he means by that.

I propose to take Questions Nos. 7, 8, 26, 29 and 32 together.

I have a responsibility, which I will discharge across the year, to put in place measures that bring certainty in respect of the public service pay bill for 2017. I am confident that if I had not taken this measure, Deputy Cullinane would be criticising me on that basis. I have adopted a particular measure and explained the process by which I will identify the funding for it, funding which is less than the amount of savings I identified in 2016. Across the year, through the reviews that are ongoing in my Department in the run-up to budget 2018 and in advance of the publication of the various papers that form part of the budgetary process, I will deal with this matter. Deputy Cullinane welcomed the progress we have made in this area. If I had not made this intervention, I would be subject to criticism today on that head.

We had a lengthy discussion at the budgetary oversight committee about how the €120 million cost of the pay restoration will be met. I was not able to stay for the end of the Minister's contribution but there was grave dissatisfaction with his explanation in that regard. There was extensive discussion with Deputies Cullinane and Pearse Doherty about savings and efficiencies but the Minister did not shed much light on exactly how the moneys will be found. We welcome the restoration of the savage cuts in public sector pay since 2009. However, the Minister seems to be saying that if he had not taken this measure, he would have been facing even greater expenditure later in the year in the wake of the Labour Court finding on Garda pay. Did he seek any advice from the newly-established Public Service Pay Commission before coming to his decision?

The point is that we do not accept the Minister must rob Peter to pay Paul. Workers are entitled to pay restoration, even in excess of the proposed €1,000, but we do not accept that money should be taken from services to fund that. We are seeking a commitment that services which are starved of funding will not be hit as a result of this measure. The Minister likes to ask where else the money will come from. We are tired of telling him that his envelope is too small because he consistently resists our appeals to him to look elsewhere for additional revenue. Additional moneys could be found by making the vulture funds and companies like Apple pay their taxes, by introducing a financial transaction tax, and by obliging landlords and higher earners to pay more taxes. There is plenty of money to be had and it should be used to redistribute the wealth in this country in a fair way, which allows us both to fund public services and give public sector and other workers decent pay levels.

Deputy Broughan asked whether I sought input from the Public Service Pay Commission on this matter. I did not do so because the terms of reference of that body refer exclusively to the potential for and aftermath of a replacement to the Lansdowne Road agreement. It would not, therefore, have been appropriate to ask the commission's view on this matter. Regarding the Deputy's analysis of why I chose to take this particular action, there is much truth in the point he makes. I had a very substantial concern that if the Government found itself in a position, in the course of the year, of having to deal with a set of competing sectoral pay claims, that would have completely undermined our plans for public pay for the second half of this year and the costs thereof, which would have had extremely serious consequences for service delivery.

In fairness to Deputy Boyd Barrett, he is unusual in always sketching out the ways in which he proposes to raise additional moneys. However, where he and I differ is in my view that all the revenue-raising measures he is suggesting would have negative consequences which would, in turn, affect the performance of our economy, security of jobs and our ability to pay for public services. The Deputy referred to Apple but made no mention of the fact that company employs thousands of people in this country. In referring to financial services he did not allude to the tens of thousands of Irish people employed in that sector and that multinational investment is a core part of how we provide employment throughout the State. There are alternative sources of income but implementing the measures the Deputy is proposing would undermine the kind of revenue and economic growth we need to pay for the public services improvements we wish to see.

The Minister should act in the manner in which he would expect the Opposition to act. If I were to come into this House and put forward a proposal that cost €120 million, the Minister would ask how I proposed to pay for it. If I responded that it should be collected through general savings and efficiencies, I would be laughed out of the Chamber, as would any of my Opposition colleagues. We are obliged to line-item and cost every single proposal, down to the cent, that we suggest. The Minister seems to think he can operate in a different set of circumstances, merely having to waltz in and announce a cost of €120 million for this particular measure. I agree with the decision on pay restoration but this is about having a process and ensuring the Minister is accountable. He has not offered us one line item showing how a single cent in savings will be achieved apart from general broad-brush references to savings and efficiencies. That is not good enough. It is not appropriate to treat the Oireachtas and the committee which has responsibility for budget oversight in that way. I am asking the Minister to do what he asks us on this side of the House to do by offering a detailed outline of how the moneys will be found.

The Minister is telling us he has a package of a quantum of savings and efficiencies that will enable him to implement the pay restoration. However, we have a responsibility to ask the questions we are asking. If the Minister were in our position - even if he agreed with our proposal, as we do with his - he would want to know how exactly it was proposed to do it. Does he intend, for example, to rely on tax buoyancy and the expectation the tax take will be ahead of target as the year develops? Has he factored in how this measure will impact on overall spending throughout the year and into the following years? We spoke at the committee about issues like inflation and increasing staff numbers in the public sector. Will the Minister give us concrete answers to the questions we have raised?

Budget 2017 included a figure for efficiencies, counter-fraud, anti-fraud and so on. There was some discussion at the time about the fact the social welfare changes would only come into force in March. The cost to bring them all forward to the beginning of the year was stated as being in the region of €60 million. There were no additional savings or efficiencies achieved last October or November but now we are to accept they will suddenly become available during the course of this year. I support the principle of what the Minister is doing but like my colleagues on the right-----

Is that literally or figuratively?

I agree with what the Minister is trying to do but what I do not agree with and what is not fair to Members is the ambiguous way in which these figures are being produced. The savings involved are additional to those already identified in the budget for 2017 that was introduced last October. There was not €60 million available to bring forward social welfare payments to the beginning of January but now there is €120 million for this initiative. The issue is the identification of the detail and clarity on from where those funds are coming.

I call Deputy Boyd Barrett.

I am sorry; I had a lot of making up to do.

Let us be clear. I want to see pay restoration and a hell of a lot more of it. I was talking to some of the service officers in here and they are nearly crying as a result of some of the pay levels they have to put up with. They need this pay. What I do not like, which was implicit in what the Minister said, is that it is essentially one or the other - it is services that are cash starved or it is pay. We do not accept that. We want the details, which the Minister would expect of us, as Deputy Cullinane said. It is not just hypothetical. We have been laughed at and ridiculed by the Minister when we put forward other tax revenue-raising proposals. He said they were nonsense, that he wanted costings and that they would destroy the economy and so on. The Minister insists on detail and he is not prepared to provide any such detail. As a result, we are concerned that this is a case of robbing Peter to pay Paul. The Minister has an obligation to tell us from where the money is coming.

I will make three points. Since I made this announcement, I have outlined that I would put in place the measures and decisions to ensure that services are not affected as a result of doing this. I welcome that all Deputies have agreed with the decision I made and indicated that it was an appropriate response to the matter that developed in the aftermath of the Labour Court recommendation. In line with the commitments I have to the Oireachtas in 2017 on the publication of the work that is necessary in advance of budget 2018, I will identify the choices I will make to deliver this funding while not reducing service commitments to citizens.

I will conclude by responding to the point Deputy Curran made. I remind him that this issue developed in the aftermath of the budget in October. The Labour Court recommendation and the consequences of it for gardaí happened after the budget was presented to the House. If I had stood up in the House and presented higher figures for public pay than were agreed in the Lansdowne Road agreement, I would have been asked by the Deputy and other colleagues why we were changing assumptions on public pay under the Lansdowne Road agreement and why we were asking the House to sanction people being paid more. That would not have been the appropriate thing to do at that point. In 2017, as we move through the management of a budget of €58 billion, I will identify how I will deliver the commitments I have laid out.

Expenditure Reviews

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

9. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on the forthcoming comprehensive spending review; if that review includes the costing of current and possible future tax expenditures; if all current spending programmes are reviewed, including the input of special studies carried out by officials of the major spending Departments; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3279/17]

We had a discussion earlier on the comprehensive spending review, which is, perhaps, the third such review in our recent economic history. The Minister referred earlier to rolling selective reviews. What exactly do such reviews involve? A report from the Department of Social Protection on the free travel scheme that became public recently upset many of our constituents deeply. Is that the type of thing that will be happening under these rolling reviews?

I outlined earlier the way in which we conduct this work. It is a rolling review because it would not be possible to review all Government expenditure in the level of detail I want within a single year. The amount involved is over €58 billion. Second, we will identify a third of Government expenditure per year. That is why I refer to it as a rolling review. I anticipate that it will take three to three and a half years to complete this work. It differs very much from previous spending reviews in our recent economic history, which the Deputy has referred to, because the objective of those reviews was to reduce the amount of Government expenditure. That is not an explicit or implicit objective of this. Within agreed expenditure ceilings, I am looking to find out if there are better ways for policy objectives that Government Ministers are looking to deliver to be achieved. In that regard, it differs significantly from spending reviews that have been undertaken by the previous Governments.

I am glad to hear that it is not a continuation of previous reviews and aimed at cutting expenditure on vital services, which, unfortunately, the Government has shamefully done since 2011. I mentioned the report in the Department of Social Protection. Are all Departments compiling reports on certain programmes? Does the Minister nominate which programmes he wants to hear back on, such as, for example, the free travel or the school clothing and footwear allowance schemes operated by the Department of Social Protection? Does the Minister decide that and then other Ministers have to have the reports compiled? Who actually makes the decision? How are inflationary pressures taken into account? We have spoken, both at the relevant committee and in this Chamber, about important new measures and innovative services that the Government could put in place. Are the latter built into the rolling review?

The Ministers, Deputies Varadkar and Ross, have made very clear that there will be no change to the availability of the free travel scheme. The report that gave rise to this debate was one that was put in place many years ago. We did not change that scheme at the very depth of the economic difficulty the country faced and it will not be changed now.

The Deputy asked me how the policy area will be agreed. It will be mutually agreed between me and the Minister leading the other Department. There has not been any dissent to date in terms of selection so we have not had to get to a point of enforcing the selection of a particular policy area. There has been a happy meeting of minds on selection. The Deputy asked about new policies and innovation. We are conducting this review to discover if there are savings that are possible to identify and that will allow new services to be delivered. The Deputy made reference to the fact that expenditure on public services has been reduced. It was reduced in response to the horrific crisis the country faced. We exited a bailout programme and we are increasing public expenditure year on year but we are looking to do it in a way that delivers better public services.

Is the Deputy happy enough with that response?

When the rolling programme for expenditure reviews is being identified, do officials in the Minister's Department look at programmes where there are demographic or other pressures which cause massive increases in spending year on year?

The Deputy put that question to me earlier when he raised the issue of inflation and I did not answer it. That is related to demographics. We will not select a particular area based on the impact that demographics or inflation will have on it. With regard to public services, the growth of inflation has a particular effect on social welfare payments. It is the responsibility of the Government of the day to make a decision on the changing of either social welfare payments or public sector pay. I do not believe it is the right thing to commit to automatic indexation because we have to respect the ability of a Government to make a decision about how to best use taxpayers' money. The area in respect of which demographics is most important is that relating to primary and secondary schools. The expenditure ceilings we have for the coming years take account of that.

Departmental Information

David Cullinane

Question:

10. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he can outline the arrangements, if any, for the provision of information by his Department to the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight. [3274/17]

This is a general question about how the Minister sees the relationship between his Department and the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight. We have had two examples of where sufficient information was not given to the committee. The first is the issue of the €120 million, with which we have already dealt. I do not want the Minister to rehearse that because we have heard the response and it is still not satisfactory.

The second was raised by a Teachta earlier, with regard to consultants' pay and contracts. The Minister did not answer the question to any satisfaction at all.

I listened to the Deputy state I have not answered the question to his satisfaction, but we should agree I should answer questions in such a way that reflects the interest of the taxpayers. In the answer I gave to Deputy Calleary, I made very clear that with regard to approaching cases, the State will robustly defend itself. The Deputy is asking me to come in here and identify a potential liability for the State that would then be the subject of court action. This runs counter to the interests of the taxpayers he purports to represent. He referred to the views he has on my not sharing information on how we will fund the agreement, which we debated earlier. I have answered this. As the Deputy outlined my participation in the committee, I hope he will take cognisance of the many information needs the committee has articulated to me and the Department which we have met and will continue to meet.

With regard to how we are looking to work in the coming year and beyond, as the Deputy is aware, in advance of budget 2017 we furnished to the committee the mid-year expenditure report, which laid out the expenditure expectations of the Government for 2017, 2018 and beyond. Since then, the Department has shared a range of documents and information to assist members of the Dáil and committee in exchanging and discharging their work on the budgetary process. Our expenditure report of 2017, which was published on budget day in October, set out the Government's proposed voted expenditure allocations and our expenditure measures for 2017. A summary response to the committee's views in its report on budget 2017 on issues relating to my area of responsibility was also published alongside the Estimates documentation.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House.

The Revised Estimates Volume published in December provides additional details in respect of the total gross voted expenditure allocation of more than €58 billion, with the expenditure Estimates supplemented with key performance information regarding programme output and impacts.

On a monthly basis, my Department prepares voted expenditure reports that are published with the monthly Exchequer returns.

The Irish Government Economic and Evaluation Service publishes a range of documents that can inform budgetary discussions and these are available at http://igees.gov.ie/.

As part of the ongoing engagement between the Department and the committee I understand the committee is scheduling a meeting with the Secretary General of the Department. I am fully supportive of the work of the committee and welcome the opportunity for the Department to discuss with the committee a structured process for the provision of information.

With respect, I am fully aware of the Minister's responsibilities and I am equally aware of my responsibilities. I am not asking the Minister to comment on a liability which does not exist. I am asking him to explain, as he has been asked previously, how he will defend the consultants' contracts he says the State will defend potentially to save the State money if the State has decided to drop a High Court case relating to two individuals.

That is not the subject matter of Question No. 10.

It is because-----

-----there is a potential cost to the State. Information will have to be provided to the-----

Question No. 10 is about the arrangements, if any, for the provision of information by the Department to the Select Committee on Budgetary Oversight.

Yes, and this information will have to be provided because it is the committee that will scrutinise the potential liability and costs. The Minister must deal with the fears we have that there may be cost on this issue, and he has not done so. The issue was raised by another Teachta in the same context. It is a very important issue. It is the first time we have had an opportunity to put the question to the Minister with responsibility, and I hope he will be able to provide answers for us because until now he has not been able to do so.

I am glad to hear the Deputy acknowledge the dangers of his earlier line of approach, because he was asking me to comment on the magnitude of a cost the State does not believe it should incur. We will deal with the matter in court and make very clear, and in the strongest manner possible make known, the views of the Government on the contract for consultants and with regard to payments which they believe they are due which we will dispute.

With regard to my engagement with the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, as the matter develops, and where appropriate, of course I will be happy to deal with questions from Deputy Cullinane on the matter. It is a matter that will be dealt with in court and I reiterate I am not going to come into the House to quantify the level of costs which the State does not believe are due.

The Minister is now stating there will not be any costs. I hope he will not be back in one, three or six months speaking about a cost and stating there will be a liability. In any event, I have dealt with the issue.

There is a real issue with regard to the ability of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight to do its job properly and fairly. I have given a number of examples where information will need to be given to allow us to scrutinise proper spending of public money. I appeal to the Minister because a number of Members in the House sit on the committee and we want it to work. We want to play a constructive part in holding to account the Government, which is our role and job, but we can only do so if we are given the information necessary for us to hold Ministers to account properly. Some on the committee fear that, until now, this has not happened and we are not being given the respect we deserve or the tools we need to do the job asked of us.

I was not happy with the answer the Minister gave on the consultants issue and I am not sure taxpayers would be happy either. Will the Minister provide the background material to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight? We do not need what is being used to fight the case. We want the material that is giving the Minister the confidence which he clearly has in the Chamber that no liability is likely to accrue because of this. How many more cases are pending? How many cases will potentially be pending? This is the type of information that needs to be provided to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight in order that it can adjudicate and its members can make up their minds, as is the responsibility conferred on them by the Oireachtas, on the potential severity of the issue. We cannot take the Minister's assurances. We need the information he has in order that the Oireachtas oversight committee can make a call on it.

As an addendum to the question, has the Minister provided for funding for the budgetary oversight office itself in 2017?

To answer that particular question, if the office is established in 2017, and I hope it will be, I believe the money will come out of the Oireachtas Vote. This is funded. With regard to the issues raised by the Deputies regarding the number of potential cases and what might happen in the coming period, I am willing to supply this information to the Committee on Budgetary Oversight. They were not the subject of this particular question, which is why I will not do so now. I reiterate, as I have made clear throughout the discussion, that with regard to the approaching cases, the State will strongly defend its view on the consultants' contracts and defend the actions taken then, because it is in the long-term interest of taxpayers and reflects policy decisions correctly taken at each point in the process.

Public Sector Pay

David Cullinane

Question:

11. Deputy David Cullinane asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his views on whether the industrial unrest in the public sector has to do with pay justice for post-2011 entrants and that his decision to bring forward to the earlier date of 1 April 2017 the pay restoration due under the Lansdowne Road agreement will not, in fact, address the substantive issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3277/17]

I have asked, possibly 100 times at this stage, as have other Members of the House, including today, the Minister to commit to the principle of equal pay for equal work and restore public sector pay to a single-tier pay structure to deal with the very real sore that affects so many workers who came into the system post 2011. I again put the question to the Minister. It is not going away and needs to be resolved. The Minister needs to give the commitment to address a very real sore which has been at the heart of so many industrial disputes in the State in the public sector.

It is not going away, but neither is the need for improved public services. I will read out to Deputy Cullinane the number of expenditure requests he has articulated in recent weeks. He has called for increased investment in University Hospital Waterford, increased investment for services for people with disabilities in his county, additional classrooms for a school in his constituency, the amalgamation of two grades in the Civil Service, increased investment in transport in his area, more people to be assigned to the Garda divisional unit, increased investment in Waterford Institute of Technology, funding for Institute of Technology, Carlow and funding for University Hospital Galway. Alongside these, he is asking for increased money and increased investment in public pay.

I have made clear to the Deputy a number of times, indeed well over 100 times, that I am committed to doing so, but it has to be done in an affordable manner. As I have just demonstrated, Deputy Cullinane makes calls in the House for increased expenditure in area after area without taking account of the fact that the overall cost of those calls is not one that the taxpayer is capable of meeting. For these reasons I have said that where possible I will deal with questions of how to improve public pay, but that it must be done in a way that is affordable in the long run and allows many of the other initiatives for which the Deputy has called to happen.

I am pleased that the Minister is aware of my hard work on behalf of the people of Waterford and that his Department is watching every move that I make. He could be my director of elections in some respects, given how he cited the long list of issues-----

That would be some alliance.

-----for which I have rightly campaigned. The people of Waterford deserve proper schools, hospitals and infrastructure, as every city and county does. Contrary to what the Minister said, though, we costed every proposal in our alternative budget to the cent.

When the Minister states that the issue of equal pay for equal work is not going away but that we need to focus on improved public services, what those who have entered the system since 2011 and are being treated differently and discriminated against hear is that the recovery of public services must be on their shoulders. That is not fair. I had this conversation with the Minister yesterday. Even now, his Department is unable to cost a return to a single-tier pay structure. If the Minister is not prepared to agree to the principle of equal pay for equal work, will he give me a commitment to the effect that, by next year's budget, his Department will be able to cost for my party a restoration to a single-tier pay structure?

The Deputy is overstating the case a little to say that I am keeping a close eye on everything that he does. He works hard to represent the people of Waterford effectively, but they also deserve consistency from their public representatives. They deserve and need to know how, when he calls for particular matters to be addressed, those issues will be paid for.

The Deputy referred to the need for improved rates of public pay. Under the FEMPI legislation alone, the amount of unrestored earnings is €1.4 billion. The Deputy is asking me to deal with a particular matter - that of new entrants' starter salaries - in isolation, but it is vital that we demonstrate fairness for those who need public services as well as those who work within them. That is what I am doing.

There is nothing fairer than the principle of equal pay for equal work. We have had several discussions on this issue, so it is on the record that my party is not asking for every FEMPI cut to be unwound in one go. We have called for a new collective agreement, one that is properly negotiated with the trade unions, in respect of 2019 to 2021, inclusive. In that context, it is appropriate that we once and for all put the issue of equal pay for equal work and the restoration of a single-tier pay structure on the table. The Minister asserts that I have a responsibility to account for such proposals, but how can I do so when even he, his Department and its Secretary General cannot provide one? When I met three of his departmental officials, they were unable to provide the cost. Provide the costings and then we can debate how to go about doing this, for example, in one year or over two or three years. Please, do not accuse us of being unable to do something that is impossible to do because the Department will not provide the costings.

The Deputy well knows that any change in respect of new entrants' pay or those who are at the start of a wage curve has consequences for everyone else. We cannot change wage curves for people who are joining the Civil Service, teaching or any other part of the public service without there being profound knock-on consequences for the entire wage bill. For this reason, the issues of retention and starting salaries must be examined in the context of the overall public service pay bill, which amounts to more than €13 billion. That is what the Public Service Pay Commission is doing. It will produce a report for the Government and the Oireachtas in the second quarter. In the aftermath of the Lansdowne Road agreement, we will begin negotiations, which I hope can be concluded, with unions to determine how we can make progress on these issues in an affordable way.

Question No. 12 replied to with Written Answers.

Community Employment Schemes Supervisors

John Curran

Question:

13. Deputy John Curran asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if the community sector high level forum (details supplied) has met since its meetings in November 2015 and April 2016; the progress being made in addressing this pension issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3267/17]

The issue of community employment, CE, supervisors and the pensions that they feel they are due has been around for a long time. The process went to the Labour Court in 2008. Since then, however, there has been no pathway to deal with the issue and it has not gone off the agenda. How can this matter be progressed?

It is the position that the community sector high level forum or working group, previously the informal forum, was convened in 2015 and 2016 to examine certain issues pertaining to the CE sector, having regard to the implications for costs and precedent. The issue includes community and employment supervisors and assistant supervisors who have been seeking, through their union representatives, the allocation of Exchequer funding to implement a 2008 Labour Court recommendation relating to the provision of a pension scheme. In light of the recent appointment of a new chair to the high level forum, a meeting is accordingly being arranged between the parties concerned with a view to scheduling a date in the first quarter of 2017.

It continues to be the position that State organisations are not the employers of the employees concerned and it is not possible for the State to provide funding for such a scheme. The employees are or were employees of private companies, notwithstanding the fact that the companies are or were reliant on State funding. In considering the matter, I must have regard to costs and the precedent that such an arrangement could create.

I will not protract this debate. The issue is known to the Minister and departmental officials. I welcome the appointment of a chairperson. I noted in previous replies that the forum met in November 2015 and on 11 April 2016, so it is well and truly due to sit again.

The Minister explicitly stated that these supervisors were not direct employees of the State, but he also admitted that their employing organisations were primarily funded by the State. Following benchmarking, pay relativity and so on, these employees were closely aligned with public servants.

In all of the Minister's replies, he has indicated that this matter will be examined by the high level forum, which is welcome. However, the matter has dragged on for a long time. The forum has met twice but has not done so for some time. With the appointment of a chairperson, I hope that it will meet actively and address this issue with the requisite level of seriousness instead of allowing the matter to continue year after year.

The forum will meet under the chairmanship of an official from my Department. I expect the meeting to take place in the first quarter of this year, so it is imminent.

The Deputy outlined the distinction of the case I have made but I would like to reiterate it. The State was not the employer of those raising this case. Their employer was the project in receipt of the funding. We are now being asked to provide pensions for people in respect of whom the State was not the employer and never purported to be the employer. There would be consequences in that regard for the State from an Exchequer and policy point of view. While the forum will meet, it is not an industrial relations forum, which I think is understood by all participants. The position in terms of the provision of pensions for people who were not employed by the State is not one that we will be able to substantially change but we are always willing to talk to those in the sector about their concerns on the matter, as we are in relation to any other matter.

The Minister specifically referred to what the Government is being asked to do now. The point I am making is that it is not the first time it has been asked to address this issue. This is not a new claim. It is a claim that has been awaiting address for a number of years, having been through the Labour Court in 2008.

This matter has been ongoing since 2008, the reason for which is the principle I have just outlined to the Deputy. The Deputy and I are talking here about principles but both us recognise that there are individuals who worked in this sector who are affected by this matter and are hoping to benefit. I acknowledge this matter has caused a great deal of anxiety and worry but the challenge I face, which is the same challenge faced by the previous Government and the one before it, is the principle of contributing to a pension scheme or fund for people who did not work for the State. As in the case of Deputy Curran, there are many good projects located in my own constituency. Sometimes the great benefit of these projects is that they do not report to the State and that the people employed in them are not employed by the State such that they can bring to bear a voluntary ethos or the ethos of their own community. It is because people employed in the project concerned were not employed by the State that I cannot give the Deputy a response that would be more to his satisfaction or theirs.

Question No. 14 replied to with Written Answers.

I understand that the Ceann Comhairle has authorised that Deputy Eugene Murphy may deal with Question No. 15.

Flood Relief Schemes Expenditure

Dara Calleary

Question:

15. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the overall expenditure in the Roscommon-Galway constituency on flood relief works for 2016, in tabular form, with a breakdown for counties Roscommon and Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3426/17]

What is the overall expenditure for the Roscommon-Galway constituency in respect of flood relief works in 2016?

The Office of Public Works, OPW, spent over €1.8 million on capital flood relief activities in the counties of Galway and Roscommon in 2016. Table 1 sets out the details of that expenditure.

Table 1

Project

County

Actual Expenditure 2016

Claregalway Flood Relief Scheme

Galway

€1,165,722

Dunkellin River Flood Relief Scheme

Galway

€427,188

Ballycolgan Minor Works (Direct OPW works)

Galway

€22,318

Deerpark, Ballinasloe Minor Works

Galway

€19,000

Ardacong, Tuam Minor Works

Galway

€9,000

Lakyle, Craughwell Minor Works

Galway

€9,000

Blackrock, Gort Minor Works

Galway

€18,000

Grannagh Minor Works

Galway

€5,400

Carrownamadra, Kinvarra Minor Works

Galway

€13,500

Beagh, Tuam Minor Works

Galway

€14,220

Parkacurry, Monivea Minor Works

Galway

€11,700

Manuslynn, Headford Minor Works

Galway

€10,350

Ballinasloe Town Minor Works

Galway

€96,849

River Jiggy Minor Works

Roscommon

€6,548

Aside from the Ballycolgan minor works, which were carried out directly by the OPW, all other minor works were funded by the OPW and carried out by the local authorities under the minor works scheme and coastal protection scheme. The works I have listed have been carried out.

In regard to the minor works in the above table, the amounts shown are what was actually drawn down in funding by the local authorities in 2016 in respect of each project. There were further amounts approved by the OPW in 2016 for other minor works projects, in respect of which the local authorities have not yet requested a drawdown. Details of all minor works projects are provided below in tabulated form.

In addition to the above capital expenditure, the OPW undertakes maintenance of its arterial drainage schemes throughout the country. The schemes where maintenance would have been undertaken in 2016 which affect counties Galway and Roscommon include the Corrib Clare, Corrib Headford, Boyle, Knockcroghery and Killimor drainage schemes. However, it is not possible to break down this expenditure on a county-by-county basis.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

Minor Flood Mitigation Works and Coastal Protection Scheme

Galway and Roscommon County Councils - Funding Approved and Drawn-down in 2016

Local

Authority

Project Location

Project Details

Approved Funding

Date of Approval

Funding Drawn-down

Galway

County

Council

Manusflynn

Construct a 600mm diameter piped road culvert, remove obstructions & associated works

€10,350

27/02/15

€10,350

Deerpark,

Ballinasloe

Carry out drainage works upstream of the main Deerpark River channel

€19,000

10/03/16

€19,000

Ballinasloe,

Town Centre

Purchase Temp Flood Defence- Aquadam to be deployed as required, to be available for Galway County also

€96,849

22/03/16

€96,849

Ardacong,

Tuam

Study

€9,000

28/04/16

€9,000

Ardacong,

Tuam

Construct a surface water pipe along the route of the Tuam bypass for a distance of 750m to a tributary of the River Clare

*€83,700 (allow in principle)

28/04/16

€0

Lakyle,

Craughwell

Study

€9,000

28/04/16

€9,000

Blackrock,

Gort.

Construct an earthen embankment- crest level is required to have a minimum of 500mm freeboard above the highest recorded flood level which occurred in 2015. A drainage system to cater for internal surface drainage will also be required.

Relevant environmental criteria shall be complied with as the proposed works are adjacent to the Peterswell Turlough SAC

€18,000

28/04/16

€18,000

Fahy's,

Grannagh

Construct a 40m length of reinforced concrete retaining wall, 1.2m high around a section of the farmyard

€5,400

22/06/16

€5,400

Whyte's,

Carrownamadra,

Kinvarra

Construct a 140m length of stone faced concrete block retaining wall, 750mm high around a section of the property & to install a sump & road crossing.

€13,500

22/06/16

€13,500

Dark Road,

Castletaylor North,

Ardrahan

Study

€9,000

22/06/16

€0

Beagh,

Tuam

To extend a 900mm diameter pipe across the N83

€14,220

20/07/16

€14,220

Parkacurry,

Monivea

To clean & maintain overgrown sections of the open channel, up size 1 no. road crossing to a 900mm diameter pipe, install 100m of 225mm diameter surface water drainage pipe & road gullies and provide two new headwalls and trash screens to outfall to existing open channel

€11,700

20/07/16

€11,700

Roo,

Kinvara

Culvert upgrade, channel improvements & environmental reports.

€76,500

20/07/16

€0

Kilcrevanty,

Tuam

Construct a 1.2m high earthen embankment, install a flood gate barrier & associated works

€14,400

27/09/16

€0

Kilcloghans,

Tuam

Construction a flood defence wall and associated works

€19,845

27/09/16

€0

Labane,

Gort

Maintenance & improvements to existing swallow holes

€9,000

14/10/16

€0

Roscommon County

Council

River Jiggy,

Roscommon

Cleaning & maintenance works on the River Jiggy over a 3km stretch

€7,200

07/11/13

€6,548

Killeglan Stream

Replace culvert at Onagh & remove growth from Killeglan Stream over distance of 5kms

€64,800

10/08/16

€0

Beagh Brabazon,

Ballinasloe

To install drain to divert surface water to open drain

€27,000

10/08/16

€0

Fairhill,

Dysart

Works to raise the ground level and install piping

€18,000

10/08/16

€0

Moneymore

To install culvert drain & inspection chamber

€20,700

10/08/16

€0

Curnalee

To install pipe

The pipe size to be a minimum of 900mm in diameter

€18,000

10/08/16

€0

Ogulla River

To carry out maintenance on channel, replace culverts & repair to existing weir structure

€54,000

10/08/16

€0

Beagh Brabazon,

Ballinasloe

To install 250m length of 900mm twinwall HOPE drainage pipe with 4 manholes

€36,000

31/08/16

€0

Curnalee

To install pipe & construct 4 new manholes & a sluice valve

The pipe size to be a minimum of 900mm in diameter

€1,800

31/08/16

€0

Moore

Install 160m of 600mm diameter pipe with manholes & install culvert

€14,850

31/08/16

€0

Rockland

Install new culvert under R357

(600mm diameter with collection chamber and connection to existing open drain)

€14,850

31/08/16

€0

I thank the Minister of State for his detailed response. However, I must point out that Claregalway, Dunkellin, Craughwell, Gort, Kinvara and Monivea are not the Roscommon-Galway constituency. Those areas are in the Minister of State's constituency of east Galway. The question relates to the Roscommon-Galway constituency. The Minister is correct that money was provided for works on the Jiggy river in Roscommon and in Ballinasloe.

Roscommon County Council submitted an estimate to the Department last year for funding for repair of damage done by the appalling floods at that time. The estimate was €11 million, in respect of which €6.4 million was allocated by the Department. This means Roscommon County Council was short €5 million for repair works caused by the floods. To date, the remaining funding to carry out the extra work needed has not been forthcoming. It is essential that we get that funding in 2017. I was told yesterday by Roscommon County Council that it has no money available for houses threatened by flooding, some of which were flooded or almost flooded last year. It is essential that the Minister of State reflects on that and ensures the additional money is provided for works in the Roscommon-Galway constituency.

The Deputy is correct that the information provided in the reply is in respect of counties Galway and Roscommon. However, the information provided in table 1 shows exactly where in each area the money was spent. I should also point out there are 15 other projects, which I have not listed, which have been approved but in respect of which Roscommon County Council has yet to draw down funding. I suspect that these works are ongoing.

Applications for minor works which meet the criteria and cost benefit will be processed and funded as a matter of course. I have written to the local authorities, including Roscommon County Council, instructing them to send in applications for funding because funding is available. Where a particular project is not approved for funding it may be because it does not meet the criteria laid down but the local authorities have been asked to reassess such applications to see what can be done to bring them within the criteria.

I acknowledge the Minister of State's comment that the reply relates to projects in counties Galway and Roscommon but the constituency concerned is Roscommon-Galway. As I said, Dunkellin, Claregalway, Craughwell and Gort are outside of that area. However, I accept the point made by the Minister of State.

The Minister of State referred to 15 projects in respect of which Roscommon County Council has not yet drawn down funding. We need to ensure that funding is drawn down as quickly as possible. I acknowledge that the Minister of State has visited, engaged with and listened to representatives of the constituency and that he has never refused to take my calls or to have a meeting with me on these issues. The cost of the damage done in the Roscommon-Galway constituency, particularly in Roscommon, was in excess of €11 million. To date, the council has received funding of only €6.4 million. I am told by the engineers in Roscommon that there is already a deficit of €5 million. The Government has had one good friend over the past eight or nine months, namely, good weather. If there had been further flooding last year or were there flooding this spring, we would be in dire straits. I appeal to the Minister of State to avail of every avenue open to him to get the money that is needed to repair damage that was done last year.

In regard to the list of projects in respect of which funding has been sought by Roscommon County Council, they have been approved but the council has not requested that the funding be drawn down. That is the reply.

Some of what the Deputy has said about damage being done may concern funding applied for not to my Department but perhaps to the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport for road repairs, etc., or the Department of Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government for other repairs. It would not have related to my Department as anything going there is for flood relief works. They are being dealt with as quickly as possible. There are 12 schemes that have been approved but county councils have not drawn down the funding. The Deputy has that information.

I thank the Minister of State.

Deputies Brendan Smith and Mick Barry, who tabled Questions Nos. 16 and 17, respectively, are as láthair.

Questions Nos. 16 and 17 replied to with Written Answers.

Capital Expenditure Programme

Dara Calleary

Question:

18. Deputy Dara Calleary asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide details on the capital review which is due in 2017; the timelines involved; if he will be inviting submissions on the capital review; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3425/17]

Thomas P. Broughan

Question:

19. Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will report on his preparations to publish the capital review alongside the 2017 mid-year expenditure report; the level of capital expenditure necessary by 2021 to upgrade Ireland's infrastructure urgently; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3281/17]

Bernard Durkan

Question:

33. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the extent to which he and his Department have undertaken any audit in respect of infrastructural requirements such as housing, water, roads and or sewerage treatment facilities requiring urgent investment with a view to determination as to the way such investment might be undertaken as a matter of urgency thereby facilitating the provision of vital infrastructure and economic progress notwithstanding compliance with public spending guidelines; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3420/17]

This morning the Central Bank issued its most recent report, reducing growth forecasts on account of Brexit. What work is under way in the Minister's Department on the impact of Brexit on expenditure plans or the likely impact of Brexit on the budgets for 2018 and 2019?

May I confirm that Question No. 18 relates to the capital review?

I apologise. I spoke to the wrong question.

I will answer on the capital review. The capital plan Building on Recovery is being reviewed to ensure capital spending is strictly aligned with national economic and social priorities, consistent with the programme for partnership Government objectives. A key goal for the review is to focus available capital resources on investment that can best underpin sustainable medium term economic growth and social progress and enhance Ireland's future growth potential. To answer the earlier question from the Deputy, the impact of Brexit is specifically included in the terms of reference I set for the capital review and the regional consequences for Brexit are recognised in the work that will happen across this year.

The review of the plan will be undertaken in two stages. The first phase will comprise a focused review of priorities aimed primarily at advising the Government in the context of budget 2018 on how the additional funding committed by Government for capital investment should be allocated over the remainder of the period of the plan. This will examine priority areas for investment, consistent with the objectives of the existing capital plan and also reflect the specific investment priorities set out in the programme for Government. The second phase of the review will assess and report on the framework required to underpin longer-term analysis of Ireland's infrastructure planning needs.

Submissions will be sought from Departments and key stakeholders and a public consultation will also be undertaken to inform the review. As part of the process, it is currently intended that my Department will publish output as part of the 2017 mid-year expenditure report, including a stock-take of progress to date on delivery of the capital plan; a macroeconomic analysis that will make reference to Brexit; and an infrastructure demand analysis, benchmarking existing infrastructure being supplied to assess its capability to meet demands as the economy continues to grow.

Will the Minister outline some of the dates for when the public consultation process will get under way and when there will be engagement with the Departments and various stakeholders, local authorities etc.? What role will the new national planning framework have in the context of the capital review? The Minister for Housing, Planning, Community and Local Government, Deputy Coveney, has given an indication that the framework will be restricted to an area south of a line to Galway city and including that area: other areas north of Galway city will not necessarily be included in that national planning framework. In terms of Brexit - that is the subject of my next question - the area that will be most impacted is the Border region. What specific Brexit initiatives will be in the review of the capital plan to assist it?

I have asked the next question consistently. What engagement has the Minister had with the European Commission around state aid and expenditure rules or its commitment to allow for capital expenditure beyond normal rules? President Juncker at the beginning of autumn stated that he wanted to see investment in infrastructure. This can be viewed particularly in the context of the pronouncements from the US relating to capital.

I anticipate we will begin public consultation in a few weeks and local authorities are welcome to make their views known. I have had a role with the European Commission relating to the classification of capital expenditure but the responsibility for what the Deputy seeks sits with the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, in the division of responsibilities between the two Departments. The Minister, Deputy Noonan, has responsibility for engagement with the European Commission with regard to the split between current and capital expenditure and our compliance with fiscal rules.

With regard to regional impact, as I stated earlier I will particularly examine the economic consequences of Brexit on a regional basis. I am particularly aware the north west of our country and the Border counties will be particularly affected by the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union.

On the capital plan, there was an earlier discussion on public private partnerships. There were 45 extra PPPs proposed for 2017 within the existing capital plan but how many will be met during the year?

I expect all of the PPP commitments we have under the capital plan we have up to 2022 will be met. With regard to those that are due to land across 2017, there is a bundle of primary schools - school bundle No. 5 - due in the education sector. In the transport sector we will see the M17 and M18 Gort to Tuam road. The other significant project is the Dublin City Council waste-to-energy incinerator.

The Minister would agree that the Government has a deplorable record in the provision of capital so going forward with this capital review is urgent. We have heard time and again at the budget committee that we have not even been meeting normal depreciation targets. One only has to go around the country and look at the "R" roads, such as those of the Minister of State in east Cork. The Government has allowed infrastructure to go to rack and ruin so the matter is urgent. I am interested to hear the Government is consulting the European Commission. It is pretty annoying that the likes of Portugal or France are two of the various countries that are allowed to do things when we are not.

The investment in our local and regional road network was increased by 11% this year.

They were in bits.

The Deputy made the charge that we allowed our capital infrastructure to go to rack and ruin. The Deputy clearly has not seen the Luas cross-city project now being built.

That is one item. Has the Minister been on the N32?

I made reference to the Gort to Tuam road a moment ago. It is a magnificent transport project.

That started long before the Minister was around, in fairness.

Of course we acknowledge that there are capital needs to be met but this is the reason we are reviewing the capital plan. It is the reason for the additional resources that will be available to the State, assuming a moderate degree of economic growth over the coming years. We have prioritised capital expenditure to benefit from that. We can consider what has been done in housing alone, where €2.4 billion has been committed to investment in public housing. A further €2 billion will be allocated to capital expenditure, assuming growth is inside the parameters we have set. That has been done precisely to address the fact that we need to invest more in maintaining infrastructure and delivering a select number of new projects.

Unfortunately, the time has expired. I gave as much latitude as I could.

May I ask a question on just one point?

You will not be able to get the answer, Deputy.

The Minister is going to answer it. We urgently need it. As Members are aware, 40% of our air connection is with the UK. In the context of Brexit, is the Minister going to deliver metro north under this programme?

The Minister wants to answer.

The Minister will correspond with you, I have no doubt, in that context. Time has now expired. It will be a special note for northsiders.

Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.