Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2010: Second Stage (Resumed)

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Available revenues have gone back to 2003 levels and, in order to assist growth in the economy, the cost of public service pensions must be brought back into line with revenue. There is a widening gap between the emergency burden being borne by those in public service employment and those in retirement.

The reduction in pensions will apply to everyone in receipt of a public service pension greater than €12,000 per annum. It is a tapered measure which provides for a greater reduction for those with larger public service pensions and will be progressive. Former public servants in receipt of high rates of superannuation benefit, including former members of the Government and the Oireachtas and other officeholders, including the Judiciary, will bear the highest reductions.

The Bill does not alter pension terms; pensions will be calculated in the standard way and then reduced by reference to the table included in section 2. The Bill will have no effect on lump sums or gratuities. The reduction applies to public service occupational pensions only. It does not apply to any State pension which a pensioner may receive from the Department of Social Protection.

The Bill provides for an average reduction of some 4% of pensions in the case of existing public service pensioners and those public servants who retire before the ending of the pay cut grace period, within which pensions will continue to be calculatedprima facie on the basis of December 2009 pay rates. In that connection, the Minister for Finance will make regulations to extend the grace period — the period during which the pensions of retiring public servants will be calculated by reference to pre-1 January 2000 pay rates — to the end of February 2012 which will then become the “relevant date” mentioned in the Bill. The proposed extension is to avoid the effect of a spike in lump sum costs in 2011 caused by public servants bringing forward their retirement plans in order to benefit from the grace period. Such a spike would have consequences for the general Government balance. The pension reduction will not apply to anyone who retires or whose preserved benefits come into payment after the grace period ends. Such pensions will be calculated on the basis of the salary rates currently in payment.

The exemption limit of €12,000 proposed is roughly equivalent to the State pension and the following rates and bands are estimated to produce some €100 million in savings in 2011: a 0% reduction on the first €12,000, 6% on the next €12,000, 9% on the next €36,000 and 12% on the remainder. This means a public service pensioner on, say, €27,000, will be subject to a reduction of about €1,000 per annum. Any spouses' and children's pensions awarded to pensioners affected by the measure will be subject to the reduction provided for in the Bill, that is, their pensions will not be calculated by reference to the pay rates applicable to pensions awarded at the time of the pensioner's death. The majority of spouses and children affected by the measures proposed are also in receipt of widow or widower State pensions.

The proposed reduction in public service pensions should also be placed in the context of the general reduction in prices, that is, the CPI is now at 2007 levels, whereas public service pensioners received general round increases of 2% in June 2007, 2.5% from March 2008 and 2.5% in September 2008 — an increase of approximately 7%.

In contrast to the public service position, the majority of private sector workers have no occupational pensions and for those who have made some provision, the prospects are not good as many funds are in deficit. For those pension scheme members who have defined contribution arrangements or personal retirement savings accounts, negative market returns have greatly reduced their pension savings and the minority who have defined benefit promises face the prospect of not receiving all they have been promised.

The Bill is necessary to give effect to the €100 million reduction identified in the national recovery plan. The savings to be made under the Bill will play an important part in the task of bringing Ireland's public finances under control and the deficit into line with agreed EU targets.

The Bill makes further cuts in the pay of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers. At the beginning of this year, like all public servants, the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and other members of the Government accepted a substantial cut in their rates of pay. The cuts applied were in accordance with the recommendations of the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector which was established in the 1960s to make recommendations to the Government on the levels of remuneration appropriate to senior public service posts. For the purposes of this new exercise, it benchmarked the rates of pay of the Taoiseach and Ministers against their equivalents in a number of countries and recommended reductions of 20% in the case of the Taoiseach and 15% in the case of Ministers. These reductions which were the highest applied in the public service were accepted and implemented in full by the Government. The reductions reflected the fact that, in good times, pay rates in the public service had moved ahead of what we can now afford.

The reductions in public service pay generally which were introduced in budget 2010 brought pay levels back to a more reasonable and affordable level. By accepting a higher level of reduction, the Taoiseach and Ministers have shown that they are fully prepared to shoulder an additional burden. It is the strong view of the Government that they should take a further reduction in their pay because they are asking so much of others in the budget. Under section 7 of the Bill, the Taoiseach's gross pay will, therefore, be reduced again by over €14,000, the Tánaiste's by over €11,000 and Ministers by over €10,000. There can hardly be clearer or better evidence to show that the Government is taking an appropriate adjustment that reflects the difficult circumstances facing the country. The combined change is reflected in the Bill which amends section 2 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 by substituting the increased reductions for those applied on 1 January this year. The reduced pay rates will have effect from 1 January 2011.

I turn to the reduction in the national minimum wage. According to various surveys, there are between 50,000 and 80,000 workers earning €8.65 per hour or less and they represent between 3.5% and 5% of the labour force. A recent study entitled, Review of Labour Force Competitiveness, undertaken by Forfás for the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, concluded that it was likely that the presence of the national minimum wage influenced wage levels for a further 26% of the labour force, that is, those within 1.5 times of the national minimum wage. The Forfás report found that the national minimum wage impacted on sectors in different ways. Sectors such as wholesale and retail, hotels and restaurants, and other services sectors tend to have significantly more workers engaged on or just above the national minimum wage than internationally trading sectors. The sectors and occupations in which the greatest job losses have occurred generally coincide with those in which the national minimum wage is most prevalent, although these sectors have also experienced a major collapse in demand for their output. The national minimum wage was introduced during a period of sustained economic growth and rapid wage increases. Our circumstances have changed dramatically in the past three years. Price levels have reduced and earnings have adjusted downwards to help to preserve jobs. A reduction in the minimum wage level is needed to remove any possible barriers to job creation.

Where a minimum wage is imposed at an excessively high level, unemployment will result. Some workers will be willing to work for a wage lower than the minimum wage but employers are restricted from providing these job opportunities. Other negative effects include it acting as a barrier for younger and less skilled workers to enter the labour force and take up jobs; preventing small and medium-sized enterprises, SMEs, from adjusting wage costs downward to maintain viability and improve competitiveness; and reducing the capacity of the services sector to generate additional activity and employment through lower prices for consumers. The Government has reluctantly decided, therefore, that it is necessary to reduce the rate of the national minimum wage by €1 per hour to €7.65.

Of the 27 member states of the EU, 20 have national legislation setting statutory minimum wages. Our minimum wage is the second highest in absolute terms compared with other EU countries and is sixth highest when expressed in purchasing power terms. The minimum wage has been increased six times since its introduction in 2000 and is currently 55% higher than its original level. By contrast, it is forecast that the consumer price index will have increased by approximately 28% since 2001. Therefore, the current national minimum wage of €8.65 is significantly higher in real terms than when it was first introduced more than ten years ago.

The Bill has a preamble and recitals similar to those used in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts 2009, situating the measure in the context of the severe budgetary and fiscal crisis facing the State. Section 1 is the interpretation section and repeats many of the definitions used in the legislation last year with regard to the public service pension scheme, etc. A new definition is that of "pensioner", who is defined as a person who is entitled to a public service pension payable under a public service pension scheme, or has a preserved benefit in a public service pension scheme with preserved pension age falling before the relevant date, or is a surviving spouse or child of a public servant or former public servant who was himself or herself entitled to payment of a public service benefit before the relevant date. This is because someone in receipt of a public service pension benefit, such as a spouse, may never have been a public servant.

"Public servant" is defined to cover office holders or employees of public service bodies. "Office holders" include the President, Members of either House of the Oireachtas, members of the Judiciary, a military judge appointed under Chapter IVC of Part V of the Defence Act 1954, members of local authorities, Members of the European Parliament, and qualifying office holders such as Ministers, the Attorney General, the Chairman and Deputy Chairman of the Dáil and Ministers of State.

"Public service body" means the Civil Service, the Garda Síochána, the Permanent Defence Force, local authorities, the National Treasury Management Agency, the Health Service Executive, the Central Bank of Ireland, vocational educational committees, the Economic and Social Research Institute, the Institute of Public Administration, primary and secondary schools, third level institutions, and the non-commercial semi-State bodies where a public service pension scheme exists or may be made.

"Public service pension" is a periodic pension payment, which is not a lump sum, payable to or in respect of a public servant or former public servant under a public service pension scheme. It is important to note that unlike the pension benefits to be calculated after the end of the grace period, the lump sum is not affected by this Bill. The definition of public service pension scheme does not include a scheme or arrangement in respect of a body specified or referred to in the Schedule, that is, bodies considered "commercial" in nature, or bodies whose schemes are subject to the minimum funding standard under the Pensions Act.

The "relevant date" is the date specified by the Minister under section 3(1)(b)(ii) of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009, that is, the date which ends what is commonly known as the grace period within which retiring public servants would have their pensions calculated by reference to the pay rates applying before the application of the pay reductions introduced by section 2 of that Act. The Minister for Finance will extend this to the end of February 2012.

Section 2 requires that the proportionate reduction must be made by the paying authority with effect from 1 January 2011 from the public service pensioner's pension by reducing the annual pension using the annual rates and bands decided by the Government: no reduction on the first €12,000, 6% on the next €12,000, 9% on the next €36,000 and 12% on the remainder. The section also provides that the reduction shall be made notwithstanding existing arrangements, including enactments, statutes including university statutes, pension schemes, circulars, instruments, contractual or written arrangements or verbal agreements, arrangements or understandings or any expectation.

Section 3 provides that the calculation of the public service pension entitlement shall not be affected by the reduction measure, which is applied after the pension is calculated in the normal way. Section 4 provides that the reductions of public service pensions under section 2 shall be paid or disposed of as the Minister may direct and that where the amount of any reduction in a public service pension under section 2 has not been duly remitted in accordance with this section, the Minister may recover the amount from the paying authority concerned as a simple contract debt in any court of competent jurisdiction.

Section 5 states that a pensioner is not entitled to receive an amount of public service pension greater than the amount provided for in section 2. It also provides that if a paying authority pays to a pensioner an amount of public service pension greater than the amount provided for in section 2, then the pensioner shall have no legal entitlement to the overpayment, which shall be recovered. The Minister may direct a paying authority in writing to recover the overpayment. If the overpayment has not been recovered by the paying authority, the Minister may reduce or adjust the financial support given to the body accordingly.

Section 6 provides that where the Minister is satisfied that there are exceptional circumstances because of some particular aspect or condition relating to the pension, the public service pension or the public service pension scheme concerned, including the funding of that scheme in respect of a particular class or group of pensioners, and those circumstances materially distinguish that class or group from other classes or groups of pensioners to which section 2 applies, then the Minister, if he or she considers it to be just and equitable in all the circumstances to do so, may by direction exempt that class or group from the operation of section 2, either entirely or to such extent as the Minister considers appropriate, or modify the operation of section 2 to reduce their public service pensions in such manner as the Minister thinks fit, having regard to the nature and degree of the financial burden that would otherwise be borne by that class or group. This is an important section modelled on similar provisions in the earlier legislation.

Section 7 amends the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 to provide for an additional reduction in the remuneration of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers of the Government to take effect on 1 January 2011. The remuneration of the Taoiseach will be reduced by 25% instead of the 20% reduction applied on 1 January 2010, to €214,187. The remuneration of the Tánaiste will be reduced by 19.5% instead of the 15% reduction applied on 1 January 2010, to €197,486, and that of Ministers of the Government will be reduced by the same percentage, to €181,283. Subsection (2) is a clarification.

Section 8 amends section 3 of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 to include a person who was at some time before the date specified under paragraph (b)(ii) of that section a public servant and has a preserved benefit in a public service pension scheme in respect of which the preserved pension age of the person falls on or before that date.

Section 9 inserts a new section into the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009, thereby providing that the ministerial direction under section 6 of that Act on the pay of Civil Service deputy secretaries and assistant secretaries and related grades elsewhere in the public service will not apply to the determination of their pension entitlements after the relevant date, that is after the grace period has expired. For the purposes of calculating pensions for those who retire after February 2012, the effect is that the pensionable pay of these groups will be reduced in line with the general reduction being imposed on all public servants.

Section 10 provides for an annual review of the operation of the measures in the Bill, consideration of whether the provisions of the Bill continue to be necessary, and the making of findings as the Minister thinks appropriate. A report of the review will be laid before each House of the Oireachtas.

Section 11 provides that the Minister may make regulations for the general implementation of this Act. Section 12 provides that where a doubt, question or dispute arises in the operation of this Act in respect of whether a person is or is not a person whose public service pension is subject to section 2, then such doubt, question or dispute shall be submitted to the Minister by the person who authorises or would authorise the payment of the public service pension concerned, and be determined by the Minister after consulting such persons, if any, as the Minister considers appropriate in the circumstances, and the determination of the doubt, question or dispute by the Minister shall be final.

Section 13 provides for the amendment of the National Minimum Wage Act 2000 as follows: section 11(1) provides that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation shall, by order, vary the minimum wage rate to €7.65 per hour; section 11(2) provides that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation may amend or revoke the order from time to time; section 11(3) provides that the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation may amend or revoke the order, whether or not a recommendation has been provided for in a national economic agreement or in a Labour Court recommendation made following an application made by one or other of the main social partner interest; and section 11(4) sets out the criteria to be taken into account by the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation before making any future order. These are the same criteria that the Labour Court is obliged to consider under the Act before making a recommendation to the Minister. While the text is presented differently from that in the current legislation, it is expressed in a clearer manner and represents no policy change on the issue. Section 11(5) provides that the national minimum wage may include an allowance for board and-or lodgings. Such an allowance is provided for under the current legislation. Consequential amendments are made to sections 12 and 13 of the Act.

Section 14 provides for the Short Title of the Bill. The Schedule contains a list of bodies that are not covered by the measures introduced in section 2.

The budget announced on Tuesday began the process of implementing the national recovery plan with a wide range of taxation and expenditure measures designed to secure the budgetary position and put the economy on course to recovery. The preamble and recitals to the Bill show the scale of the difficulties Ireland faces. The future of the country is at stake and we must move at once to put in place the necessary policy response. This is the reason the Government decided to introduce this legislation to the House immediately. We do not have time to delay. The changes to the national minimum wage show we are determined to support employment creation and to restore competitiveness to our economy. It is entirely reasonable that some retired public service pensioners make a fair and proportionate contribution to the required adjustments in light of the generally favourable terms of public service pensions and the fact that, up to now, no adjustment of any kind has been made to those pensions.

Together with the pay reductions in the Bill, the Government has shown yet again it is prepared to shoulder the burden and will lead by example. The Government cannot and will not ask those in public service employment at the moment to bear significant additional burdens, or indeed ask the community as a whole to accept tax increases or expenditure reductions, while nothing is asked of those public service pensioners who can afford to do so to make a reasonable contribution. The measures in the Bill are a central and vital part of the Government's response to the economic crisis. I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Conor Lenihan. Fine Gael does not support the Bill, which is emergency legislation that follows on the announcement in the budget last week regarding a reduction in the minimum wage, a reduction in pension provisions for retired public servants and a reduction in the wage paid to various office holders.

I have a number of difficulties with the proposals in the legislation and would like to refer to some of the issues raised by the Minister of State. When speaking about the reduction in public service pensions, he mentioned that bodies considered commercial in nature were excluded. I presume they are excluded for some reason to do with the contract of employment. Will the Minister of State elaborate on that and outline to the House why those pensions are specifically excluded? He also went into detail with regard to various increases in the minimum wage over the past ten years and said we had come through a period of huge wage increases. I agree we did. However, the result of the passing of this Bill and of the budget is that the burden is being placed disproportionately on those who can least afford to pay.

I have a particular view of politics and economics and largely take the view that taxation should be as low as possible and that the Government should keep out of people's lives as far as is possible. However, the measures introduced by the Government in the past week are unsatisfactory. Just about an hour ago, we completed consideration of the Social Welfare Bill, which consisted of a series of attacks on the people who are least capable of paying for the economic mess in which we find ourselves. The reduction in the minimum wage is aimed at a sector that is not responsible for the economic mess we are in, but they are being asked to pay a disproportionately high price through the proposed reduction of €1 per hour in the minimum wage.

I am a member of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Enterprise, Trade and Innovation and in the past 12 months the committee has received various submissions from unions and employers. Most of the employer groups did not suggest there was a need to reduce the minimum wage but did refer to our antiquated system of joint labour committees, registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders which allow some sectors of the economy to have a minimum wage three or four euro higher than the minimum wage of €8.65. The employers affected by these joint labour committee positions justifiably called for the position to be rectified, but few called for the minimum wage to be reduced. As a result of the announcement made in the budget to reduce the minimum wage, possible benefits may accrue to self-employed company directors. They may find themselves better off while people on the minimum wage could be up to €1,500 less well off. It is difficult to justify that.

These changes are coupled with a complete failure on the part of Government in the past two years to reduce its own costs. I welcome the measures in the Bill that reduce the wages of office holders, including those of the Taoiseach, Tánaiste and members of the Government, but that should have happened a long time ago. It is unsatisfactory that even at this juncture our Taoiseach earns from €40,000 to €45,000 more per annum than the Prime Minister of the neighbouring island. This is unjustifiable. At a time when we are reducing the minimum wage of those in the lowest ranks of the economy, the cost of living has not decreased dramatically. There have been reductions in the cost of some of the basic requirements and grocery bills have been reduced, but the cost of services and of attending doctors or dentists and availing of such facilities has increased dramatically in recent years with no sign of a reduction during the current economic mess. Therefore, the costs faced by many families and individuals remain high, yet still the Government has attacked the minimum wage with this measure.

I understand and have some sympathy with the Government position on the reduction in the pension provision for retired public servants. People still working in the public service have faced a significant reduction in their incomes as a result of the different levies and measures imposed in the past two years, while people who retired prior to then enjoy a pension provision based on the income they had before they retired. I understand the need for an adjustment in that regard.

The Government did not lead by example in reducing its own costs. That is my primary difficulty with the Bill, alongside Fine Gael's objection to reducing the national minimum wage, rather than streamlining the joint labour committee system, registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders which impose additional charges in particular sectors of the economy. These changes were sought by employers in these sectors and could have been justified. We have an antiquated system of joint labour committees. The legislation recently passed by the Houses amended some of the systems in place, but it missed the opportunity to restore competitiveness without reducing the incomes of those who could least afford it.

Welfare payments for the unemployed have been cut, but the incentive to work will decrease when the national minimum wage is reduced. I am not ideologically hung up on the issue, but there is a danger that the incentive to work will be removed. I would like to hear the Minister of State's opinion on how we might avoid this possibility.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2010 gives effect to a number of the measures announced in the four year plan and the budget last week. There is no doubt some of them will be painful for every household in the country and everyone will have to make sacrifices and adjustments. Taken in isolation, the individual measures are unfair and difficult to contemplate but considered in their entirety they are as fair as they could be in the difficult economic circumstances facing the nation.

The Bill reduces certain public service pensions by an average of 4% to save €100 million in 2011. There is further scope to do this in future budgets. It is unsustainable for people to earn pensions that are multiples of their starting salary or average earnings during their careers. Somebody elected to the Dáil in 1969 would have earned the equivalent of €1,500 per year, but after a full 20 years would have been entitled to a pension of approximately €52,000. That is unjustifiable and we were unable to afford it, even at the height of the Celtic tiger. However, while it is appropriate that we revisit these issues, we should do so across the entire public sector. I welcome this as a contribution to the overall figure of €6 billion to be achieved this year.

Reference was made to further reductions in the pay of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers. I welcome these reductions, although there is scope for more. While it is enshrined in the Croke Park agreement that we must not touch public sector pay, we benchmarked wages against those in the private sector that was falsely bloated by an economy fuelled by an unsustainable property boom. In the medium term wages will have to be benchmarked against those in the public sector in other countries rather than the private sector. The first review by the independent body of the remuneration of the Taoiseach and the Tánaiste was based on the pay of their counterparts in other countries. This is the benchmark that should be used in the future and the process needs to begin sooner rather than later as we cannot afford to continue to pay ourselves at current wage levels.

Among the conditions set by the IMF is that further pay cuts will become a reality if the savings envisaged under the Croke Park agreement are not achievable. As I have previously pointed out, it is laughable in the extreme that, after nine months, it is considered that we need a further nine months to consider further pay cuts. If the agreement is truly the business plan for the public service to meet future demands and challenges, the matter would have been decided yesterday and implemented today. The commercial world has to operate in that context. We have to target the public service and political classes in the same way by introducing the level of agility demanded in the commercial sector to a cumbersome and lethargic public and political sector. A review of agreement needs to be conducted at the earliest opportunity and, if this is not done before the general election likely to be held in the spring, any new Administration will have to deal with the matter decisively in the interests of protecting the country's future.

Senator Phelan specifically referred to the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers. I have had my rant on public sector pay in general, but it would also be useful to consider the figures involved. The average public sector worker's pay has already been reduced by 14%; Deputies' pay has been reduced by 26%, while Ministers have seen cuts of up to 40% and 46%. While that is certainly just and there may be scope for further cuts, it is superficial to focus on this area.

We have to lead by example.

I have no difficulty with giving leadership by example but others must also follow. The political class or those who are in control must deal with the issue. The Judiciary, for example, is ridiculously bloated. The highest judge in the land earns €225,000 compared to a figure of €35,000 in Romania and €20,000 in Andorra.

It is $180,000 in the United States.

The proposed salary cap of €250,000 in semi-State companies is just, but, equally, there should be no sacred cows in existing companies. I accept these companies have a commercial mandate and it has often been argued that we will not attract the talent if we are not prepared to pay the appropriate salaries, but I doubt that is the case in this day and age. In a country with an excellent education system that produces fantastic graduates who work throughout the world €250,000 remains a great deal of money for which many Irish people with ability would be delighted to work.

On the Order of Business this morning I spoke about the good work being done by the Minister for Finance to reverse the proposed bonus payments to AIB workers. That bank's staff are effectively public sector workers at this stage because the State is the company's largest shareholder. The pay of senior executives has been capped at €500,000, while bonuses are not being paid for 2009, 2010 and, as a result of the Minister's actions, 2008. The banks as a whole have taken no pay cut whatsoever. While none of us wants to contemplate pay cuts, the reality is that the pay levels of staff in the banks were struck at a time when these banks were making profits for their shareholders and backed up by a great amount of commercial activity. That is no longer the case and a large amount of taxpayers' money — borrowed money — is now propping them up and ensuring they continue into the future.

We need to examine the pay grades throughout all the banks with a view to making savings on behalf of the taxpayer. This is not about punishing many of the hard-working people in the banks who bear no liability, such as the tellers one meets when one goes into the bank and the various other staff in junior, middle level and supervisory roles. It is an area where Government can legitimately ask those questions.

I have no difficulty whatsoever with the minimum wage reduction. As the Minister of State said, we have the second highest minimum wage in the European Union area. Senator John Paul Phelan referred to registered employment agreements and employment regulation orders which were all set at levels appropriate to a different time. They were there to give workers protection, and the work of the National Employment Rights Authority, NERA, and other organisations ensured this. The reality, however, is that circumstances have changed and these rates have become an impediment to the maintenance of jobs and a deterrent to the creation of new jobs.

For those labour intensive sectors such as the retail and hospitality sectors, while the reduction in the minimum wage is a good political football to kick around, all the employment organisations have welcomed it as a positive step. At a minimum, it will stop further jobs being lost and, to consider it optimistically, there is a tangible possibility we will have job creation as a result. Again, one does not expect accolades for such moves from the Opposition when it comes to budget time nor from the trade union movement, but on balance it is an appropriate step. These levels were struck when the world was a very different place and when the outlook for Ireland was very different. Circumstances have changed and, with that, it is important and appropriate we change our policy outlook and adjust downwards.

In the relevant period, the minimum wage increased by 55% while inflation increased by 28%. While we have moved to 2007 rates for social welfare, those rates are still 117% higher than in 1997. In fact, although consumer prices are back to 2007 levels, social welfare recipients will still earn close to €2.20 more now than they were paid in 2007.

These are not measures for which one expects accolades, and they are very difficult. If one takes them individually in isolation, they are painful and difficult to justify and appear unfair. Overall, however, I believe the balance was struck correctly. There is no doubt that if the 60 Senators were given the opportunity to frame a budget, we would all come up with different versions. I commend the Bill to the House, difficult as it may be. I am afraid little choice was open to us.

I will be opposing the Bill for reasons I have made clear on the Order of Business and throughout the day when other measures were being discussed. With regard to the minimum wage, I was concerned because I had been contacted by people involved in the restaurant business and by people in unions. As far as I am concerned, the situation has been satisfactorily ironed out and I have no difficulty in voting against a cut in the minimum wage.

I know there is an issue about comparability with Europe and all the rest but I make this comparison, which is a devastating one. Consider the people in Allied Irish Banks and the €40 million in bonuses, which happened with the clear collusion of the directors of the bank in a disgusting, underhand manner. The entire proceeding was front-loaded and fast-tracked to deceive the public, and the Government appears to have been complicit in this. How can we ask people on the lowest possible wage to take a cut when we have people at these vast salaries sticking their snouts in the trough once more? I cannot stomach that and I will not.

I will give one other figure and leave it at that. I was listening to the news broadcast this evening and, exactly as I suspected and had said, I found we are being punished as a country for being good citizens of Europe by our alleged comrades and colleagues in Europe. Other countries have received the kind of assistance which is provided under articles of the treaty intended to provide emergency funding for countries in particular and extraordinary difficulties. None of the other countries has been charged an additional premium, yet we have been charged an additional 3% by the financial sources that helped flood this country with easy and cheap money. They alleged they had stress tested our banks and that the banks were perfectly all right. I find that an outrage against the decent people of Ireland. In these circumstances, we expect the lowest paid to take a cut. No thank you, I am voting against. I am glad to have the opportunity to say this.

I wish to share time with Senator Dearey.

Senator Norris has voiced his concerns with how the Bill is being portrayed as an attack on the poor. Undoubtedly, there are a series of unpalatable decisions in the whole cocktail of measures the budget for 2011 has involved and in the package from the EU and IMF. I believe there has been huge misrepresentation, however, about the degree to which this is unfair and does not constitute all sectors of society taking particular measures. I would prefer if there was more balancing in year one of what will be a four year package but there is undoubtedly no avoiding the fact that 40% of our expenditure could not have been left untouched as part of the series of first measures. I agree with Senator MacSharry that more sacred cows will have to be slain, in particular the levels of pay in the public sector. I cannot see this or any subsequent Government avoiding that in the coming years.

Senator Norris concentrated very much on the minimum wage. There are arguments for and against, and my colleague will tackle many of those arguments. In the brief time available to me, I wish to deal with the other measures in the Bill.

How about a minimum interest rate from the ECB, like the other countries?

The question of a minimum interest rate is what is available to us on the international market. I received a very interesting e-mail today from a Philip Coyle and I presume other Senators received it as well. The e-mail outlined the impact of default in Argentina in 1991 and demonstrated that the rates of poverty increased incrementally during the ten year period that followed.

They were on their own.

When I hear people saying that default is the option open to us, they are talking directly about the Argentinian experience. If people are talking about social justice and addressing poverty, they should look at Argentina. Dare they say this is a vista that should be visited on this country?

The Argentinians were not part of an economic union.

These are the alternatives we are talking about. In terms of the rest of the Bill, I express my concern with regard to controlling public sector pensions. We know that 80% of expenditure is on health, education and social protection, and we know 40% is on social protection alone. One of the most frightening statistics for me is that 50% of all expenditure is made up of a combination of 26% on public sector salaries and 24% either going on provision for future public sector pensions or on the current payment of pensions. That is not sustainable. Neither is it sustainable that Secretaries General who have retired in the past ten years are now earning more in pension than they earned while in full State employ. These are issues that should never have been created and which the Bill will stop.

In addition, measures have been introduced in regard to public officials. There have been significant pay cuts for Ministers and Ministers of State, but I would go further. There should be pay cuts for Members of the Oireachtas.

We are taking an income reduction of 5% because of the PRSI changes, but that is largely seen as cosmetic.

Some 90% of the measures contained in the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Bill 2010 are positive and correct. They counterbalance most of the negative reaction to budget 2011 and the EU-IMF package. I hope that, rather than having a late night debate at the end of a long Seanad session, we will give the Bill the priority it deserves. As of now, we have lacked such equality in our debates.

In regard to the national minimum wage, I believe in the concept of creating a social floor below which people's incomes should not drop. However, that view is not shared in the labour market throughout Europe. It is surprising to note the countries in which a national minimum wage does not apply. Sweden which has a reputation of being socially progressive has not introduced a national minimum wage. It is not that it does not believe in the protection of workers, but it uses other mechanisms. It has a range of sectoral wage agreements, some of which we have, in addition to the national minimum wage, which mean many workers who would otherwise be on the national minimum wage earn well above it, sometimes by in excess of 50% because of the registered employment agreements under which they operate. We have a strange mix in terms of how wage rates are set. In an analysis of labour costs in a recent report Forfás estimates that the national minimum wage has a direct impact on all those earning up to 50% above it. Somebody earning up to €13 per hour is directly affected by the most recent rise in the national minimum wage which occurred on 1 July 2008. The national minimum wage affects not only those on it but also small companies operating in the hospitality sector, the retail sector etc. The question is not whether there should be a social floor but at what level it should be set.

Irish wage rates are the fifth highest in the OECD. We ceded much of our competitiveness through a range of agreements, in particular sectoral agreements, the benchmarking process and the partnership process which has been in the limelight in the past day or two because of comments made by the Minister for Finance, with which I broadly agree. As a result, we must together take a step down to regain the competitiveness we have lost and align rates once again with those of our competitors. In a small trading economy we simply cannot afford to lose the symmetry we formerly enjoyed and which has become asymmetry that has seriously affected our ability to trade with the rest of the world. This will be critical to our recovery.

On the proposed reduction of €1 in the national minimum wage, many models could have been used. I would liked to have seen a more subtle approach being adopted — for instance, limiting it to a certain age group among whom unemployment is a particular problem. Up to 40% of male school leavers are unemployed, a particular cohort which is very vulnerable to unemployment. It would have been good, therefore, if it had been more targeted. Nonetheless, this kind of measure is important in order to sustain current employment levels. Forfás acknowledges that it will lead to job growth in the medium term. We will not see any growth in the short term because of the measure, but Forfás confidently predicts there will be job creation as a result. There will also be job retention, a point I have made previously. Companies are struggling to pay staff and taking the option of cutting their hours, numbers or the days they work. This will allow them to retain staff currently protected by fixed contracts, the terms of which cannot be breached. It is important to stress the fact that current contracts cannot be breached and that the new rate will apply to new entrants who are finding it extremely difficult to find their way into the labour market. If this change can assist in the medium term, as Forfás predicts, it must be welcomed.

I wish to correct something I said. One of my colleagues said I had mentioned Anglo Irish Bank as being the bonus people, when I meant to say Allied Irish Banks. Perhaps the record might show this.

I wish to share time with Senator Buttimer.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

One of the features of this debate on the national minimum wage is the dearth of evidence on which the measure is based. A reference to the Forfás report, to which Senator Dearey referred, appeared in the Minister of State's speech. Perhaps Senator Dearey was going a little too far, even from the point of view of his own argument, when he said Forfás had confidently predicted job creation would flow from this measure. The Minister of State did not go that far, although he did point out that Forfás had stated it was likely that the presence of the national minimum wage influenced wage levels for a further 26% of the labour force, that is, those within 1.5 times of the national minimum wage. That point is often invoked.

It predicts growth in job creation in the medium term.

Is that as a result of the national minimum wage coming down? I will have to check. Senator Dearey has said Forfás confidently predicts that the €1 reduction from €8.65 to €7.65 in the national minimum wage will lead to job creation. With all due respect to my colleague, I very much doubt if it has stated this because one thing is certain: if the Minister of State had such a clear argument available to him to support what he was doing, it would have been included in his speech, but it is not. He was much more careful and made the point, which is not untrue, that Forfás had spoken about the fact that the national minimum wage as a benchmark had an influence on pay levels in a wider section of the labour force.

In 2000 the Oireachtas put in place a regime under the National Minimum Wage Act which involved a process to determine the appropriate level for the national minimum wage. This was one of the last western countries to do so. It was not a figure which was supposed to be pulled out of a hat. On the various occasions it has been reviewed by the Labour Court it has been reviewed on the basis of a clear process set out in the legislation, involving an analysis and a consideration of labour market trends, the wider economic environment and the context in which it was set. The national minimum wage has been increased five or six times since 2000 and on each occasion there were lengthy debates on what the rate should be in the context of national pay agreements and programmes. The 2000 Act contemplates an agreement between industry and the trade unions on the basis of discussions and the Minister actually makes the order. That is a satisfactory process because it involves an input from both sides and, ultimately, a decision being made by the Minister.

The biggest concern I have in regard to the change in the national minimum wage is that it seems to amount to an arbitrary reduction to €7.65 without the presentation of evidence or an analysis as to why there should be a reduction. I do not accept Senator Dearey's point that there is a clear nexus with job creation. Not only is it problematic in regard to the figure chosen, but the process put in place under the 2000 Act for careful consideration and deliberation involving people who know about and have experience of the issues involved, including employers, has been set aside by this arbitrary decision which, it seems, has been made not on the basis of analysis but on what looks good for the optics. We are going to act macho and reduce our minimum wage rate by €1. Why is it only reduced by €1? Who has chosen the rate of €7.65? What is the scientific basis for €7.65, other than it looks good? Where does this come from? Senator Dearey or another speaker made the point that the philosophy behind the minimum wage is that there should be a threshold. I know many employers but I have met very few who would ever want to have to pay their workers more. Of course employers' representative bodies and employers will welcome a reduction in the rate of pay they have to pay to their employees and very few employers would say otherwise but that is not the point. We do not allow this to be determined by employers. This is a State intervention, an intervention by the community to say there is a certain level below which we are not prepared to allow wages to go. I will remind the House what that figure is. A rate of €8.65 over a 40 hour week is approximately €330 a week and €15,000 per year. We decided in 2000 and through all the processes and changes since then that we would not leave the determination of pay entirely to the market, although the market has to have a very strong influence over it. We require and insist legislatively that there should be this basic floor of a minimum wage of €8.65 by 2007. These figures were not pulled out of the sky in any manner whatsoever.

I have no difficulty with the issue of the review of the joint labour committees and the registered employment agreements which is a separate proposal and which review the Government intends to implement. I have no difficulty with a review. However, Senator MacSharry is incorrect to say that the levels were set at a different time as if these levels were set in a completely different era. I almost had a sense that Senator MacSharry was talking about some kind of Dickensian period back in the distant past when these rates were set. The 1946 Industrial Relations Act meant the process was going on all the time and it is not something that is way back in the dim and distant past.

There is no hard evidence, other than anecdotal evidence from employers, that they would prefer the wages to be lower. There is no anecdotal evidence on which we can reasonably, as a Parliament and as a Legislature, agree to this reduction without a lot more analysis and persuasive argument from the Minister and the Government. This is the difficulty with both the Minister of State's speech and this measure. Little or no evidence has been given to us. It does not affect the bottom line. The Minister of State said that spending has to be reduced. I presume this is in the context of the pensions aspect of the Bill. This does not affect Government spending nor the bottom line.

The Minister of State said that workers in the retail, hotel and restaurant sectors are more affected by the minimum wage. Of course this is the case. This is the reason we need a minimum wage because people are most exposed in these sectors. This has been invoked as an argument for reducing the minimum wage because this is an area where the minimum wage has most impact. There would not be any point to it if it did not have an impact. The idea was to target areas of low pay and to bring people up to the basic threshold. It should not come as any surprise and it should not be invoked as an argument for reducing the minimum wage. The sectors with low pay are also where there is the risk of exploitation and abuses and there should be a minimum standard.

The Minister of State made a bald assertion:

Where a minimum wage is imposed at an excessively high level, unemployment will result. Some workers will be willing to work for a wage lower than the minimum wage but employers are restricted from providing these job opportunities.

We are expected and asked to believe that there are workers anxiously knocking on the doors of these employers who are dying to take them on but they cannot because of the minimum wage. I do not buy it and I would like to see the evidence.

I thank Senator White for sharing time. I refer the Minister of State to the statement by the Minister for Finance of 12 months ago: "Our plan is working. We have turned the corner." The plan has not worked, the corner has been turned but it is called a cul-de-sac. We are now pummelled into the cul-de-sac because of the financial measures taken by the Government. The minimum wage is being cut. In his heart of hearts does the Minister of State believe that cutting the minimum wage by 12% and cutting the Taoiseach's salary by 6% is fair and just? The minimum wage is about the people who need work the most, the low paid and those in casual labour who are predominantly young people. It is a reduction of almost €2,000 per year. This is linked to the issue of political reform. The Government funked it. It missed an opportunity. It could have got rid of Ministers of State and reformed the Dáil but it did not do so.

Does Senator Buttimer still support the abolition of the Seanad?

The Government funked it.

Does Senator Buttimer support the abolition of the Seanad?

The Government did not take the ball. It did not have the bottle. It took the least difficult option.

Does Senator Buttimer support his leader's policy?

I am not in Government but Deputy Lenihan is. He is making the decisions.

It is your leader's policy. I am just curious.

The Government said there would be political reform but it did not do it; it funked it. The Government picks on the most needy, the people on the minimum wage, and then it goes after retired public servants. The litmus test of this budget is that it was not pro-jobs nor did it protect the most vulnerable and there was no stimulus plan. The Government made a complete hames of political reform.

With permission, I will share the time remaining with Senator Larry Butler. In supporting the emergency measures in the public interest, the important words are "in the public interest". There has been a very large shortfall in the amount of taxation. Money is not being spent in the country because people are fearful. Some of that fear was deliberately stoked and other factors were at work to deliberately play down the economy. The media have a case to answer in this regard.

The Government has had to raise funds and the best way of raising funds is to ensure equity. Retired public servants with very generous pensions which are secure and index linked now find that for the past two years there has been an 8% decrease in the cost of living. This is a net increase of 8% because one can buy 8% more with one's money. I am certain many retired public officials wish to share in and do their bit for a fair and equitable system to ensure the country's finances are put back in order. This is one way of doing so. I acknowledge that many of these people have repaid their mortgages at this stage and are in receipt of a very significant and generous pension of one and a half times their gross salary at a favourable tax rate. The State is asking for a reasonable contribution at a difficult time. Whereas people are not spending money, I am certain they will once they see this financial measure will ensure stability and continuity in our finances and a rate of growth to bring us out of the current difficulties. These measures, along with the reductions in the pay of the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Ministers, also show that the Government is committed to fairness. I commend the Bill to the House.

I call Senator Butler. There is one minute left.

I will need to be brief. I draw Members' attention to the fact that we have taken in €32 billion this year. The Minister has done a marvellous job with the budget because if one follows it to its logical conclusion, pay and pensions would be cut by 30% across the public sector in order to balance the books. He did not go down that route and instead we decided to borrow further moneys. The budget has been much maligned in terms of the sector.

Much has been made of the €1 cut in the national minimum wage, but I do not believe that holds any water. It will be mainly the entertainment, hotel and retail sector that may take the opportunity. The minimum wage is what a person is worth and the experience they have in the job that they do. The minimum wage was only saying one could not pay less than that. Most employers in retail and other areas if they find they have a good employee will pay the best possible rate they can afford.

It is important to bear in mind——

Time, Senator.

I will finish on this point. We need to sweat the banking system down to a smaller size than what we have been used to in AIB and Bank of Ireland. I would like to see a new banking sector that would deal with the export business, which is where the country will win in terms of job creation and growth.

I thank Senators for their contributions. While the Government emphasises the importance of the smart economy as the engine for future export-led growth, we cannot forget such basics and staples as the indigenous traded sector in retail, hospitality and — the source of huge foreign earnings — tourism, which represents a litmus test for our competitiveness. It is very clear that deciding to change the minimum wage as we have done will assist people in those sectors to recruit new people where they have laid off many people since the downturn began. It does not affect people with current employment agreements but affects people coming into those sectors for the first time. It is a positive thing; it is absolute positive discrimination in favour of employment.

We all know the figures about our minimum wage, which is the sixth highest in Europe based on a purchasing power rather than the nominal figure, in which we are second highest in the European Union. The common thread running through all the contributions in this House and the other House as we face this extraordinary economic challenge and crisis is that we allowed our cost base and competitiveness to be eroded in recent years. That applies not just to the State sector, but also to the private sector. There is no point in quoting, misquoting or presenting the Forfás and OECD reports on the minimum wage in a partisan or partial manner. As a member of the Cabinet sub-committee on economic recovery I participated in lengthy and intense debates on the minimum wage which went back and forth for several months a long time ago. The Forfás report was commissioned to resolve those differences. We had people telling us that changing it would make no difference, but it is impossible to argue with the fact that only 3% to 5% of employees in the economy are on the minimum wage. However, the 3% to 5% on the minimum wage influences a further 26% of wages above it — in other words wages that are 1.5 times that of the minimum hourly rate. We must take that into consideration as an inhibitor of competitiveness and an extra cost for certain types of business. I know it is very difficult for politicians who, like me, have spent the best part of 13 years taking partnership for granted and assuming that everything that emanated from the social partners was like the Commandments handed down by Our Lord. We need to change our attitude and view in favour of competitiveness because without competitiveness, including competitive wage rates and salary-setting mechanisms, we will move off the map in terms of our capability to drive recovery by export-led growth.

While the increasing salaries and wages did not hit the multinational investors as they did the indigenous traded sector, we need to get the indigenous traded sector up and out into the world. We all know that 76% of our exports are driven from the multinational sector. It is the other indigenously driven 24% that we must motivate, encourage and push in the years ahead. We had the innovation task force to provide much needed innovation capital for companies that are scaling or growing.

One of the other Opposition Senators mentioned that we seemed to be talking as if we were not dealing with the other issue in parallel with the minimum wage, which is the employment regulation orders and the registered employment agreements. These will also need to be reviewed, changed and totally rewritten if necessary. We have a review that will report back to the Government very swiftly on this and there is no premium on delay. Swift decisions are what we need. Members who currently serve on the Opposition here, if they have the privilege to serve in government within a year or two will thank us greatly for the quick decisions we have taken on many different levels. It will be most enjoyable to see some of the disagreements between those major parties of Opposition because we have already seen in this and other debates on the economy the vast differences between Fine Gael and the Labour Party on very elemental matters of economic policy.

There was no difference between the Green Party and the Progressive Democrats.

No interruptions, please.

Fianna Fáil killed of the Progressive Democrats and it has the Green Party nearly buried.

The Minister of State is not saying that often enough. I want him to say it more often.

The Minister of State to continue, without interruption.

Without dwelling on the policy chasm between the two main Opposition parties that are meant to replace the Government, it was amusing to listen to an Independent Member suggesting that default was an option and comparing Ireland with Argentina. In fairness the Fine Gael and Labour Party speakers this evening did not go down that road, which is a road of utter madness. One cannot compare the Russian or Argentinian economies with the Irish economy; they are vastly different economies in vastly different stages of economic, political and regulatory development. Our economy does not enjoy, as do those two other economies mentioned frequently in what passes for economic commentary here, the interest rate or currency levers and we do not control our money supply. We are elementally knitted to part of the European Union through the single currency. As long we are part of that our room for manoeuvre and our default option, the devalue option and of course the quantitative easing option are not available to us. That is a critical difference between us and every other country which has bothered to default or move their way out of a crisis such as we face through devaluing currency, lowering interest rates or just printing money; we are not in that space.

Eight or nine years ago when I served on the Committee of Public Accounts under the late former Deputy, Jim Mitchell, while I did not get much of a hearing from the other members, I suggested the idea of us adopting the Gramm-Rudman type legislation that was being promulgated in the United States of automatic reductions in public spending when they got to certain levels. We need to consider such options again. I was surprised that there were no takers at the time. There is no doubt that the Government has been culpable — we put our hands in the air in this respect — of being very generous in our spending allocations in health, education and social welfare over the boom years, and we are now stuck with those increases and forced to reduce them in a manner commensurate with the times in which we live. We do not impose austerity with pleasure or relish, but the cost structure of the State must be reduced.

The new Robin Hood.

No interruptions, please.

This same applies to the size of the public service and the pay and pension entitlements enjoyed by public servants. The public service has failed to outsource activities in a serious and meaningful manner during the past 20 years.

As in the case of the home care packages.

When I worked in industry and business "outsourcing" was a mainstream word in the lexicon of every business manager and executive. Outsourcing has not happened in the public sector, and that is a fault.

What about home care packages?

We need to make a more serious effort to outsource facilities and activities in the public sector that can be done more efficiently by the private sector. We need to sell some of our State assets. We need to ask fundamental questions about whether it is of value for the State to be involved as a shareholder or otherwise in the outright ownership of certain activities. We need to have that public debate. It should be done in an open and not a surreptitious manner of people hinting that it might or might not happen. We have to examine the taking of such actions.

The last time we went through a process of austerity under Mr. Haughey from 1987 onwards we achieved an enormous reward from that process. Admittedly, the growth and the jobs came slower; we had to wait until the early 1990s before we moved out of a period jobless growth, having previously moved from a period of utter austerity from 1987 onwards. However, the austerity was worthwhile. We achieved growth and then we achieved job-led growth later in the 1990s. I hope this time around it will not be as slow. Ireland is a much more internationalised and globalised economy today than it was then. If we — I refer collectively to the Government and Opposition parties, which naturally wish to participate in government — get our act together quickly and deliver the harsh medicine quickly, there is the tantalising prospect of a full recovery, a jobs-led recovery rather than jobless economic growth.

I thank the Members for their contributions. It is a pity to see the two great parties of Opposition disagreeing on the fundamentals of how we can get out of recession but I am sure——

Are the members of the Green Party leaving government or are they still in government? Where are they gone?

No interruptions, please.

——that will be intensely debated in the context of the forthcoming election. I wish those Members present who will courageously put their names forward as candidates in the forthcoming election the best.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 17.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • O’Toole, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Maurice Cummins and Alex White.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Is that agreed?

Question put: "That Committee Stage be taken tomorrow."
The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 16.

  • Boyle, Dan.
  • Brady, Martin.
  • Butler, Larry.
  • Carroll, James.
  • Carty, John.
  • Cassidy, Donie.
  • Corrigan, Maria.
  • Daly, Mark.
  • Dearey, Mark.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Feeney, Geraldine.
  • Hanafin, John.
  • Keaveney, Cecilia.
  • Leyden, Terry.
  • MacSharry, Marc.
  • McDonald, Lisa.
  • Mooney, Paschal.
  • Ó Brolcháin, Niall.
  • Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
  • Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
  • O’Brien, Francis.
  • O’Malley, Fiona.
  • O’Sullivan, Ned.
  • Ormonde, Ann.
  • White, Mary M.
  • Wilson, Diarmuid.

Níl

  • Bradford, Paul.
  • Burke, Paddy.
  • Buttimer, Jerry.
  • Coffey, Paudie.
  • Cummins, Maurice.
  • Donohoe, Paschal.
  • Fitzgerald, Frances.
  • Hannigan, Dominic.
  • Healy Eames, Fidelma.
  • McFadden, Nicky.
  • Norris, David.
  • O’Reilly, Joe.
  • Phelan, John Paul.
  • Prendergast, Phil.
  • Ryan, Brendan.
  • White, Alex.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Niall Ó Brolcháin and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Jerry Buttimer and David Norris.
Question declared carried.

When is it proposed to sit again?

Ar 10.30 maidin amárach.