Business of Joint Committee.

I remind members and those in the Visitors Gallery to ensure their mobile phones are switched off completely for the duration of the meeting, as they interfere with the recording equipment in committee rooms, even if in silent mode. I ask that they respect my request that they be switched off completely.

The minutes of the meeting of 19 December 2006 have been circulated. Are there any matters arising?

I seek the Chairman's guidance as regards my most recent correspondence with him in relation to the motion on the nuclear non-proliferation treaty. Can we take it at the next meeting?

We can.

I want the committee to have an opportunity to deal with it and not to be taken by surprise.

That is agreed.

Have there been any further developments on the issue of pensions for missionaries and volunteer development workers?

Officials of the Department of Social and Family Affairs are due to come back to the committee at the end of the month.

I want to support Deputy Durkan on this issue because we have been over this ground so often and it keeps coming back to a single rock, namely, the notion of habitual residence. We do not want to imagine that we are making progress when we are not. The concept of habitual residence will either be changed in the Social Welfare Bill or it will not. As the Chairman knows better than I, an interdepartmental consideration is involved. If there is to be a change in the rules, we can make progress but if not, we will simply go back over old ground time and again to draw negative conclusions.

The fact is that the numbers involved are diminishing fast. Most of the people about whom we are talking are aged between 75 and 85 years who come back to Ireland for only two months every three years. In that way they are entitled to very little. However, they are solely dependent on this and I know that if they were given the money, they would certainly use it, not just for themselves but for other causes also. As I suspect that it is the Department of Finance which is blocking the matter, the Chairman might use his good offices to expedite a favourable decision for missionaries.

We shall do so. We have been discussing the issue and can add our views. The minutes are agreed.