Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Bill 2011: Second Stage

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

The primary purpose of this Bill is to apply the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act of 2009 to serving members of the Judiciary in line with the positive outcome of the recent referendum on the 29th amendment to the Constitution. This amendment, approved by both Houses, amended Article 35(5) of the Constitution in relation to judicial remuneration. The referendum on judicial pay was passed by a significant majority, 79%, of the people on 27 October last.

The Bill provides for the application to the Judiciary, equally and proportionately, of the public service pension related deduction and the same salary reductions as were applied to other public servants in 2009 under the last Government. The intention of the Bill is not to generate significant cost savings to the Central Fund — it is estimated that some €5.5 million cost savings will arise from the application of the 2009 Acts to the Judiciary — but rather to ensure pay policy is applied on a fair and equal basis to all public servants.

Senators will be aware that a Committee Stage amendment to the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010 is being proposed by the Government. The provisions of that Act reduce public service pensions in payment and for those who retire before the end of the "grace period". The proposed amendment will introduce a higher reduction rate of 20% on public service pensions above €100,000. Pensions in excess of €60,000 are currently being adjusted by 12%.

It is estimated that a reduction in public service pensions above €100,000 such as that proposed would potentially affect pensioners who were formerly office holders, such as the President, taoisigh, senior members of the Judiciary such as chief justices or members of the High and Supreme Courts, heads of universities, Civil Service Secretaries General, chief executives of non-commercial State bodies, some hospital consultant doctors, Garda Commissioners and Chiefs of Staff of the Defence Forces. It is estimated that this measure will give rise to savings in the region of some €400 million in a full year.

The Minister of State wishes.

I apologise, it is €400,000. The zeroes are swimming before my eyes.

This is the fourth financial emergency measures Bill to be put before this House since 2009. The application of these measures to public servants in 2009 and 2010 represented the first statutory reductions in public servants' pay since 1933, and it is worth pointing out that the 1933 reductions only applied for a year. The fact that public servants' pay has been reduced since early 2009 shows the difficult position we find ourselves in and the severity of the crisis faced by the State. Despite these measures, the crisis in our public finances has continued. We all heard the Taoiseach's broadcast on national television last Sunday. On Monday the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin, announced the expenditure Estimates for 2012 and measures to reduce spending. The Minister for Finance, Deputy Michael Noonan, delivered his first Budget Statement yesterday, setting out taxation and budgetary measures for next year. These difficult and unpalatable decisions are designed to contribute to rebuilding our economy and ensuring that the burden of recovery is equally shared.

In the last few days, details of the public finances, including tax receipts, were discussed in detail. Tax revenue in 2011 is currently forecast at €34,175 million, some 28% below its 2007 peak, and still almost €1.5 billion less than was collected as far back as 2004. In contrast, gross voted current expenditure has grown by close to 50% since 2004, with the increase in unemployment-related expenditure having a big impact in that regard. Tax receipts have been very severely impacted upon by the sharp deterioration in economic activity, and the gap that has emerged between revenues and expenditure is not sustainable. Budget 2012 estimates the general Government deficit in 2011 at €15.6 billion or 10.1% of GDP. The Government recognises the difficulties facing the nation and has set out a framework in the medium-term fiscal statement to restore sustainability to the public finances and to reduce the general Government deficit to less than 3% of GDP by 2015. The difficult announcements of the last two days are proof of the Government's intent in this regard.

Nobody will seek to make the case that the savings generated by this Bill will make significant inroads on the fiscal crisis facing the State. However, that is not the rationale behind the Bill or the proposed amendment. The terms of the Bill reinforce the principles of fairness, ability to pay and burden sharing among all of us. It ensures those in eminent office demonstrate their leadership and, most importantly, their solidarity in a real and concrete way with the burdens faced by those most affected by the economic crisis.

The Government has imposed a policy of strong pay reduction and restraint since taking office last March. All members of the Government accepted reductions in their pay on its first day in office. Since last June, a general pay ceiling of €200,000 applies for future appointments to higher positions across the public service and a general pay ceiling of €250,000 applies for future appointments to chief executive officer, CEO, positions within commercial State companies. A voluntary waiver of up to 15% was introduced for current post holders who have salaries in excess of the relevant pay ceiling and this received a positive response.

In the Civil Service, new pay rates were introduced for Secretaries General of Government Departments. A maximum rate of €200,000 now applies for Secretary General Level 1, representing a 30% reduction of salary since September 2008. Therefore, over a three year period there has been a 30% reduction in salary at the top of the Irish public service. All new appointments to the public service are being made in line with the policy adopted by the Government on pay ceilings. These new reduced pay rates will also reduce Exchequer pension costs into the future for those appointees.

As this is the fourth financial emergency measures in the public interest Bill, it amends and extends the previous measures. I will briefly outline their content. The first Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act introduced in March 2009 provided for a progressive pension-related reduction, at rates ranging between 5% and 10.5%, to apply to public servants with access to a public service pension. It also contained a number of measures designed to produce savings, which would be remitted to the benefit of the Exchequer. The Financial Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 provided for the reduction in the gross remuneration of all public servants with effect from 1 January 2010. The Act provided for average reductions of 7% where the salary of the public servant was less than €125,000. Fixed reduction rates of 8%, 12% and 15% applied to salaries higher than that.

Prior to the amendment to the Constitution, the President and members of the Judiciary were not subject to the provisions of these Acts. The Bill today, if passed, gives effect to the application of these Acts to the Judiciary from 1 January 2012.

The Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010 introduced an income-graduated reduction applied to each gross annual public service pension in excess of €12,000. That reduction already applies to retired members of the Judiciary and will apply to the pension of any public servant who retires before the expiry of the "grace period", after which pensions will be reduced in line with the pay reductions set out in the second Act. I have already mentioned the amendment that is proposed for those on very large public service pensions. The Bill today also includes provision to extend the application of the pension reduction to Central Bank pensioners, with the consent of the Governor of the Central Bank, as was intended by the legislation. This is necessary owing to the legal position of the Central Bank as part of the euro system.

In addition to the three Acts, a 10% reduction in pay from 1 January 2011 was introduced for all new recruits to the entry grades to the public service. This Bill makes provision to apply a similar 10% reduction to new judicial appointments from the enactment of the Bill. The Bill also includes a number of legislative provisions to underpin the significant decision already taken by the Government relating to the remuneration of office holders as well as a number of technical or ancillary amendments.

How much time do I have?

The Minister of State has unlimited time but we must conclude Second Stage by 1.45 p.m.

We can go through the Bill in greater detail later. Senators wish to make a contribution on Second Stage and I do not wish to take up all their time.

The Government is committed to continued sustainability in the overall cost of the public service pay bill. The provisions in the Bill are in keeping with that objective and will provide for greater equity in the application of public service pay policy. I look forward to hearing the views of Senators and to the consideration of amendments and suggestions put forward by them. I commend the Bill to the House.

I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House. I appreciate the allowance of contribution time for this debate.

The 20th amendment to the Constitution is supported by my party and we will support this Bill. A number of amendments have been listed in the Dáil and I have some questions. With regard to the referendum, concerning which we may have an opportunity to talk to the Minister for Justice, Deputy Shatter, on Friday, on that day two referendums were slotted. The 29th amendment was passed; the 30th concerned the establishment of a committee for investigations and oversight and the giving of relevant powers to it. My question lies some way from the Bill but what is the current position of the Government in regard to reviewing that referendum and what further steps will it take to reintroduce a referendum next year or the following year——

In regard to public inquiries.

Yes.

I welcome the measures on pensions, in particular those which most people would agree are considerably above the norm, namely, pensions for senior members of former Governments, senior civil servants, members of the Judiciary and so on. I wish the figure provided by the Minister of State's was actually €400 million because a saving of €400,000 is minimal. I believe he will agree that, seen across the board, the reductions made to the large pensions of retirees are not enough. The Government should review that. For people who are in receipt of large pensions of more than €100,000, which are guaranteed for life unlike those most in the private sector will receive, this reduction is far too small. In its own time the Government should look to making substantial cuts in this area.

I would go further than the Minister of State. On 20 January 2009, I produced a pensions paper for the then Minister for Finance, the late Brian Lenihan, and the then Taoiseach, Brian Cowen, which considered the entire pensions structure. In this Bill, there are reductions in salary for new entrants, as introduced in by the previous Government and with which I agree, but we really must examine the pensions time bomb coming down the track in the public service. I propose, in regard to all future increases and increments to existing public and civil servants, that their requisite pension payment should be made on a defined contribution basis and that all new entrants to the public sector and the Civil Service should not be put into the defined benefit structure but into the defined contribution structure. That would create a hybrid scheme for existing public sector employees and reduce the liability to the State further down the line, which now runs into hundreds of billions of euro. The future pension liability of the State must be tackled by a government. I do not mean the State pension but the pensions of State employees.

One must also remember that what I proposed in January 2009 would not affect any person's existing entitlements. What they have they hold. It related to future increments which this Government will pay next year to the tune of €300 million. Those increments will then lead to a further increase in the projected pension payments for those who received the increments. The Minister of State has had a busy period in this House. I ask him to genuinely look within the Department of Finance, be inventive and think outside the box with regard to the future pension provision for all State employees, including Oireachtas Members. The State can no longer afford to try to fund defined benefit type, gilt-edged pensions. We should seek to move towards a defined contribution scheme.

There is talk of a salary cap but those that were introduced in the Bill relate to future appointments. I note there are 18 individuals who receive more than €250,000 in remuneration. These sums were subject to ministerial sanction.

Health professionals are missing from the Bill. They are entirely exempted and I do not believe that is right. I could make many arguments about this but I believe most people will agree this is not correct. If one includes universities, the Minister for Education and Skills confirmed there are 99 employees in the higher education sector who earn more than €200,000. Of that 99, some 89 are academic medical consultants who are exempted. Why are consultants exempted? An amendment is to be moved in the Dáil that would restrict these people to a salary of €200,000. That should be done. I cannot understand why those health professionals who are paid by the public purse have been left out of this measure when many other segments are not. It does not make sense. Perhaps there is a reason but if there is one, I would like to hear it. I ask the Government to review this because it is not tenable.

A salary cap is also being introduced. I will not politicise the point because that has been done to death over the past week. However, the Minister of State will fully understand, as should the Government, the scepticism with which such caps are regarded when the Taoiseach can overrule the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform and ensure that an individual's salary goes above the €92,000 cap approved for special Government advisers. The Government actually set the cap and I agree with it completely. However, increasing numbers of exemptions are coming through the system and as a result the whole policy begins to lack credibility. I have reams of names I could offer the Minister of State but I do not believe it is fair to mention individuals. He will know to whom I refer.

There is no reason on earth that these posts of special advisers are not advertised. The post of adviser to the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, was not advertised. The individual concerned should have begun at a level of €82,000, not €92,000. However, he got €92,000, was not happy with it and asked for €127,000. The Ministers, Deputies Noonan and Howlin, were right when they refused that, but the Taoiseach directly intervened in the matter. This happened in previous Governments but that does not make it right. The practice should stop. The posts of special adviser have been the trade of Governments of all hues but the trade is wrong. Effectively, these are political appointees. The Minister for Children, Deputy Fitzgerald, appointed a Fine Gael councillor to a post of special adviser. Perhaps that councillor is qualified to be a special adviser in the Department of Children. If there must be special advisers, they must be qualified. At some stage, I would love to see the CVs of the people who have been appointed to see their qualifications. Exceptions are made and there may be exceptional cases. Some people give up jobs in the private sector as did many of us in these two Houses. We have no other job security. I have none — this is the only job I do, yet the people concerned are being paid double a Senator's wage —€127,000 is effectively double our wage. What expertise do they have? Their salary may be more than double that of Senator Cullinane.

The Senator should not forget the expenses.

I was coming to that.

I could come into the Chamber and shout and roar at the Minister of State. However, he knows my point. This is wrong. It is wrong that these posts are not advertised. It was wrong when it was done by previous Governments——

Expenses are very sweet.

——and it is wrong now.

We know where they go.

There are more and more of these posts. In the Taoiseach's office there are four such appointments, at a cost to the taxpayer of €440,000. I want to know if these people are qualified.

The Bill is important. It reaffirms the wish of the people concerning the 29th amendment to the Constitution but it does not go far enough in cutting pension payments to former officeholders and former senior civil servants. I ask the Minister of State to look again at the provision in regard to any person who has a pension of more than €100,000. I wish to put on the record that contributions have been made by these individuals. However, the pension figures are too high. The Department must look again at the pension structure. I would be more than happy to send the document I wrote in January 2009 to the Minister of State. It is even more valid now. It was lamentable that it was not implemented at the time but it should be done now.

Health professionals must be taken into the net. I would like some indication from the Minister of State or his Department as to why they are exempted and what will be done about that.

The Bill is welcome for what it does but it does not go far enough. When we are dealing with changes to day-to-day, current expenditure, it is easy to forget about the future pension liabilities of the State and the problems in this regard coming down the track. Every year the State pension and public pension bill gets worse. We need to get to grips with this. The sooner it is changed, the sooner the State's liabilities will be addressed.

I must remind Members that the Minister of State must be asked to conclude not later than 1.45 p.m.

I will not take up my ten-minute allocation in case I cut other speakers short.

Senator Darragh O'Brien raised several matters about costs and I wish to provide him with some more information on them. The Taoiseach's office now costs 47% less than his predecessor's with a much small cadre of people advising the current Taoiseach than was the case with other Taoisigh.

While I agree there needs to be pay restraint, there must also be pension restraint. I recall the consternation in RTE when on the communications committee in the previous Dáil over some in the public sector receiving a defined benefit pension while others were receiving a defined contribution pension. It is a difficult issue. The Estimates stated pension provision in 2012 would cost the State €3 billion. This is a large amount of money but the majority in receipt of it have put in a good shift for the State.

The judges who did not take a voluntary pay reduction were the main reason the recent referendum on judicial pay was passed. I do not agree with voluntary reductions in salaries. The State should legislate for pay reductions for everyone, not for some. We are here to legislate and we must take the consequences if people are displeased with legislation.

The 20% levy on those receiving over €100,000 in public service pensions was proposed at a Fine Gael Parliamentary Party meeting by Deputy Paschal Donohoe. It was attached quickly to this legislation. While we would all like to go above the 20% rate, the Attorney General warned that, taking into account other considerations such as the universal social charge, PRSI and PAYE levies, a pension recipient could take a legal case and win. There is no point in introducing legislation that will not stand up in the courts.

One concern about public sector management structures is there is no analysis of performance-related pay of individuals. The best example is the 100 or so highly paid academics who are world leaders in their fields and have magnificent contacts with industry. If they can prove they have created jobs and attracted investment, I would not be opposed to them getting more than €200,000 in an annual salary. If they cannot prove it, however, I would be more than happy to reduce their pay downwards. Senator Darragh O'Brien also raised a similar point. My main concern about the Croke Park deal is that the best public servant gets the same pay and increments as the worst. It was the unions' objective to protect this arrangement which is not the best approach. I would prefer a performance-related arrangement like that in the private sector.

On this side of the House, we regard ourselves not as Opposition but as non-Government because sometimes we are with the Government. I welcome the Minister of State and this Bill to the House. I regard it as a rubber-stamp of the will of the people. More than 80% of us voted in favour of a reduction in judges' pay. The obvious question is whether we can reduce the top public sector salaries even further. I accept Senator Michael D'Arcy's point that we must compete for the best people to run State and semi-State bodies. However, can we make further reductions in salaries?

I was to attend a meeting recently in Greece on a Monday and Tuesday. I travelled over there on Sunday but there was an air traffic controllers' strike that day, meaning I did not get in until late Monday morning. On Monday, there was a metro strike and the roads were blocked. On Tuesday, there was a bus strike and in the following days there was a taxi strike. Looking at the Greek reaction to this crisis, it is obvious that if we are going to solve this problem, we need to keep everyone, including the unions, on side.

We have a strange situation where it would be more financially beneficial to the State to pay off certain heads of semi-State bodies to retire than to continue to pay them. Will the Minister introduce more pay caps in State and semi-State companies? We always try to attract the best person for the job which means commensurate salaries. Savings could be made, however, if the cuts at many of these semi-State bodies were voluntary.

Dr. John P. Martin of the OECD stated Ireland should consider reducing public sector wages to reflect falling private sector incomes, even if it means breaking the Croke Park agreement. I hope the Government will prioritise examining the agreement as it is seriously damaging and hindering our competitiveness in the marketplace. In a recent Red C poll inThe Sunday Business Post, 65% of those surveyed want the Croke Park deal reviewed. In this respect it is interesting to study the Lithuanian experience. I have become a fan of the Lithuanian economic approach.

I have heard the Senator speak of it before.

Lithuania had really reached a low — it was much worse than Ireland — when the IMF was called in but it has come back up very quickly. It implemented tough measures such as a straight-off reduction of top public sector salaries by more than 20%. That along with other cuts has seen Lithuania become one of Europe's success stories. It is now one of the fastest growing economies in Europe, with an annualised growth rate of 6.6%. When one compares that to ourselves, one realises how well they are doing, and that was during the first have of this year. We must take heed of this example of how targeted cuts can be of significant benefit.

I do not like to single out anyone in particular but certain chief executives of semi-State bodies are still on a basic salary of €400,000. That is not sustainable. Significant savings can be made which can then be put back into helping the most vulnerable in society. Perhaps we should also look at former Ministers and taoisigh who are in other employment. Should those who are working be entitled to pensions?

The Bill also allows for a reduction in the case of the chairman of An Bord Pleanála and the Ombudsman as those posts are connected to that of a senior judge. If it is linked to it, I can understand why that happens. The Minister states that it is up to future Ministers to decide, and yet this Bill refers to current judges. Why are there different standards? Does the Minister intend to implement this and reduce their pay in the near future? The reason I ask is that the longer we wait for a decision, the more money we are losing. We should try to run the Government as a business and get down to reducing costs as the legislation allows us.

I remind Senator Quinn that he has four minutes left but there are two others offering.

I will conclude. I have made the point I want to make. I have confidence that the Minister, who has considerable listening ability, has taken into account the points I made.

I thank Senator Quinn. There are four minutes in which to fit in Senators Gilroy and Cullinane, if I can, before I am required to call the Minister of State at 1.45 p.m.

I welcome the Minister. Most of what needs to be said about the Bill has been said but I want to stress that this is the result of the referendum. The people have spoken on this. It is our firm intention that everything we do in Government will be fair and seen to be fair and this is just one small element in that step.

Our intent is clear on this, that voluntary reductions in pay are not the way to go. An example of what might happen if we go that route is what happened in the presidential election, for instance, where one candidate stated he would do it for whatever price, another stated, "I would do it for less again", then someone else even stated, "I will not take any pay at all". It made a mockery of the system.

Voluntary reductions do not work. The judges have demonstrated that they are not interested in voluntary reductions and that made clear the requirement for this measure. I am glad it did. I have other points to make but I will not do so. I am want to let my colleague speak.

I will not waste my time, because I have two minutes. I have tabled a number of amendments and I am sure I will get to many of the substantive points I want to make. However, it is important to state that guillotining Bills such as this, which are important and which deserve proper scrutiny, is not what the Government promised in its programme for Government. Many among the public, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly, are cynical about politics and the political system. When there are Bills such as this which deal with the pay of senior Ministers and which deal with the pay of senior staff in the public service——

This does not deal with Ministers.

It can. Senator Gilroy should take a look at the amendments which my party put down and he will see that it can deal with it.

Senator Cullinane should speak to the relevant amendment when we come to it.

We are talking about reducing pensions again for senior officeholders and Government representatives. The problem here is that people get angry when they see Bills such as this being rushed through when it is about pensions and pay for those at the very top in the public service, whether they be judges or Ministers. It is regrettable that again today we are rushing through important legislation, which is not the way to do business. It is not the way to properly scrutinise Bills such as this.

There will be time to discuss the amendments the Senator tabled. Does Senator Leyden want to make a brief point? I must call the Minister of State at 1.45 p.m.

The point Senator Quinn mentioned about those working taking pensions in the public service is worthy and the Minister could look at it. I made this point when I relinquished a ministerial pension. When I returned to the Oireachtas nine years ago I was surprised that the ministerial pension continued.

Furthermore, there is another anomaly with respect to the Garda State drivers. They all left the job but now I understand a number are back driving Ministers. They are both on pension from the State and receiving remuneration from the State. This is a levelling out situation. Every situation must be scrutinised in a careful manner in this regard because there are those who have and those who have not. In fairness, and against our own situation, we must look at it.

I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, and the Government for what they are doing in this regard. I was pleased to vote for the judicial pay review in the constitutional amendment.

I welcome the Minister of State and call on him to respond.

I will not detain the House in my reply to Second Stage because it will give us an hour and a quarter to go through the amendments that colleagues have tabled. I will make a number of general points. I thank the Senators for the contributions made.

On the issue of a well paid public servant or former politician who had served for many years and who has a pension of €125,000, as a result of the accumulative reduction in his or her pension, it is now down by €13,760. The totality of the pension is down to approximately €112,000. However, when one factors in the marginal rate of tax, now at 41%, plus 11% for USC and PRSI, one can see that approximately 40% of that is now going back to the State in tax. At two levels, the totality of the pension has come down but also, because of the increase in taxation over the course of the past three years, the amount accruing to the person has substantially reduced, and that is exactly as it should be.

The Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin, has already put through legislation which will radically alter pension provision for public servants in the future in terms of career averaging. As Senators will be aware, in the past the pension point was very much determined at one's exit point. Now it is based on a career average, and also with a later pension age. That will generate substantial savings to the public purse in the coming years.

Third, next year we anticipate, as a result of reduced numbers and a reduction in the pension bill in its totality, that in net terms there will be a saving of €300 million because of the smaller public service numbers. That will continue over the course of the coming years. The total saving is €400 million in gross terms. When one factors out the net amount less pension cover, it is another €100 million. That is a significant saving that has been, and will continue to be, made in the coming years.

Senator O'Brien asked about health professionals and consultants. He raised an appropriate point. The view of the Minister for Health, Deputy Reilly, is that he wants to ensure much greater efficiencies within the health service and buy-in and support for his radical plans across the acute health care system. He is in negotiation with the consultants. Senator O'Brien spoke about the carrot and stick approach. It is the view of the Government that, in terms of our negotiations with the consultants, we will wait for the conclusion of those talks to see whether we get the buy-in, the efficiencies and the kind of additional reforms that we need to see in the health sector before the issue of pensions for consultants is addressed further.

On the question of the Croke Park agreement and increments, implicit in the agreement is that the Government will not reduce public sector pay again in the way that it has over the course of the past three years, a reduction on average of 15%. That will not be reduced again and we will not introduce compulsory redundancies, if we get buy-in and support for our radical public sector reform plans which was launched by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and myself only three weeks ago. Will that happen? If we do not see those changes, significant change in terms of rationalisation, shared services and an ability to move across the public sector, then the issue of increments may well come back on the agenda. However, if increments were to be frozen for a period of time who suffers most? Those who suffer most are clerical officers and others who do much of the processing of the work on behalf of the State. It is not those at the top of the tree.

They are younger staff.

They are younger and poorly paid staff within the public sector. Those who make the point about increments — in respect of which I understand the saving would not be €350 million, which figure is being bandied about by the press — should note the Government is clearly of the view that it needs to have buy-in and support for its reform agenda. There are over 200 actions in the reform plan set out by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and me. There are dates, timeframes and specific responsibilities set down. If we get sufficient buy-in and support, we can justify this process. If we do not, the issue will be back on the table again.

We are to proceed from having a public service staff of approximately 320,000 in 2008 to having one of slightly over 280,000 in 2015. Over the course of the seven years, 37,500 public servants will effectively have been removed from the entire public service, representing a reduction of approximately 12%. This has an enormous impact. The pension changes we have introduced have a similar impact on the total public sector pay bill. I understand approximately 38% of the total expenditure is on public sector pay and pensions. A reduction of 12% over a period of seven or eight years is radical. If we achieve this, we will have a totally transformed public sector in terms of staff number and base, and also a transformed system for pension cover.

Senator Darragh O'Brien referred to advisers. The total budget for advisers of the Government is 30% lower than that of the previous Administration owing to reductions in the number of advisers. There has been a saving of over 50% with regard to the number and cost of advisers in the Taoiseach's office.

If a person enters the public sector from the private sector to do a specific job for the Government for a minimum of three to five years, he or she should at least be expected to receive the same rate of pay earned in the private sector. This is an incentive with regard to buying in expertise and support.

If one examines the reductions across the ministerial and officer class within the entire Oireachtas in recent years, one will note there have been very significant reductions in pay. The first act of Ministers of the new Government, when it took office, was to accept a further reduction in pay. We have reduced by 25% the total number of personnel in our offices. A former officeholder in my office had ten Civil Service staff. I do not have any civil servants running my constituency now, I have two staff of the kind allocated to all Deputies.

Not only have we said we would take the steps we said we would take, we have taken them. We have more than halved the total cost of ministerial transport. We provide our own cars. I understand the people who work for us now receive one third of that received by the previous members of staff, who were members of An Garda Síochána. I can, therefore, point to savings. They will not make a considerable difference in making up the total deficit we face but we must lead by example.

I fully agree with the Senator in that regard.

That this issue has arisen on four separate occasions since 2008 by way of separate Bills is an example to both Houses that this issue is under constant review. No one knows what our position will be as we enter next year and as the crisis unfolds.

As other colleagues stated, we are today fulfilling the wishes of the people in respect of judicial pay. We all want to ensure this happens appropriately, and that is what the Bill is about. I wanted to reply to some of the issues raised and I would like an opportunity to debate some of the amendments.

Question put.

Senators

Vótáil.

Will the Senators claiming a division please rise?

Senators David Cullinane, Trevor Ó Clochartaigh and Kathryn Reilly rose.

As fewer than five Members have risen, I declare the question carried. The names of the Senators dissenting will be recorded in the Official Report and the Journal of Proceedings of the Seanad.

Question declared carried.