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Oireachtas Members’ Salaries

Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 4 July 2012

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Questions (10)

Brian Stanley


8Deputy Brian Stanley asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform the annual saving to the public sector pay bill if all TDs salaries were capped at €75,000 and Senators salaries at €60,000. [32374/12]

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Oral answers (37 contributions) (Question to Minister for Public)

The gross annual salaries applicable to Deputies and Senators were reduced, as were salary rates for public servants, under the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009. The gross annual salaries for a Deputy and a Senator amount to €92,672 and €65,621, respectively. When account is taken of the application of the pension related deduction, PRD, the net rates applied are €84,991 for Deputies and €60,781 for Senators. These amounts are subject to the normal taxes and social insurance deductions.

To impose a cap at the limits proposed by Deputy Stanley, a Deputy's salary would be reduced by €17,682 to a gross annual salary of €75,000, or €69,175 net of the PRD, and a Senator's salary would be reduced by €5,621 to €60,000, or €55,750 net of PRD. It could potentially yield an annual gross saving of €3.2 million, although this figure ignores any individual arrangement whereby salary or portion thereof may be waived.

I thank the Minister, although he did not need to go through all of that preamble, given the fact that we are aware of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest, FEMPI, Acts and so on. Is it not a good idea to save €3.2 million? It is a cut and would have implications for people, myself included, but why can we not do it? It would not solve our problems, but doing this would provide leadership and give meaning to the rhetoric of "sharing the pain" and "sharing the burden". We should do this.

The Deputy mentioned rhetoric. The current salary scales for Deputies and Senators are linked to the principal officer grade in the public service and are fair. There is a provision for a waiver. If the Deputy believes that her salary is too high, I will arrange for a waiver form to be submitted to her. It would save the State a certain amount.

The Minister gives that answer to Deputies when we raise this matter, but he is missing the point, which is that Members of the Oireachtas should collectively take a pay cut.

I know what we have done. Please do not rehearse the history. I am speaking about the present and the future. Notwithstanding everything that has occurred to date, there will be another tough budget in December.

The Minister will recant all of the cuts and savings - he will term them "adjustments" - that will have consequences for people who are eking out an existence. As elected representatives, public officials and leaders in our society, we should take a collective pay cut. The saving might be modest, but the effect of showing leadership would be significant. Bar a smart answer, I have never heard the Minister explain why it cannot be done. It is a good idea and we could have a new FEMPI Bill to give effect to it.

There are legislative difficulties with isolating any group of people. We could probably reach a collective view in the Houses about volunteering for the cut without people running down to the courts to take a constitutional case on having their group isolated for a pay cut. Populism is a factor, as the Deputy understands, and she would have something to say about any salary scale. For whatever reason, in the public's mind Deputies are overpaid. We have taken significant reductions. We should not isolate any group, although doing so would be popular and the Deputy loves to court popularity. My general thesis-----

The Government isolated a group in terms of judicial pay.

No. The Judiciary was not isolated. It is very important that the Deputy understand. The same pay cut that applied proportionately to every member of the public service could not be applied to the Judiciary until-----

The Government brought judges into the fold.

-----we held a referendum to allow for it. The only basis for the referendum's constitutionality was that judges would be treated exactly the same as everyone else. This is an important point.

As the Deputy is anxious to give a signal, I will ensure she can give one by waiving her own salary to whatever level she likes. I will arrange for her to have that opportunity.

I have received requests from Deputies Clare Daly and O'Donovan. We are nearly out of time.

The worst excuse I have ever heard is that the measure might be popular, by which the Minister means it would be welcomed by the majority of citizens because Deputies are overpaid. Our wages are in excess of the pay received by the majority of the working population.

Not to mention expenses.

I will get to that point. It is my main question.

A question, please.

The Government has the ability to reduce our pay. The issue of expenses is in the public domain, which I welcome.

I am sure that the Deputy does.

In light of the statement by the Houses of the Oireachtas that Deputies' travel expenses can only be incurred in their constituencies, how can an unvouched allowance of €1,000 per Dublin Deputy be supported? Is the Minister reviewing this situation? Is he reviewing the fact that political parties receive €1 million aside from the party leader's allowance that leaders use to travel around the country and develop their parties? I assume that this is another saving he is examining.

Following on from the previous question, when will the Minister introduce proposals on amending the party leader's allowance? My understanding is that, since the foundation of the State, the allowance was given to political parties to cover the cost of running those parties. It metamorphosed into a payment for keeping people on side so that they might prop up a Government. An unvouched amount of €43,000, or a gross of nearly €85,000, is being paid to people every year to attend the Dáil as Independents. An Independent Deputy from down the country who is in receipt of the leader's allowance and chairs an Oireachtas committee might be grossing as much as €270,000. This is a serious issue and a proposal is long overdue. Many Deputies did not even realise that Independent Senators also received a leader's allowance. The allowance should revert to its original purpose, that is, a leader's allowance rather than an Independent's allowance.

I will allow Deputy Wallace to ask a brief question, as we are nearly out of time.

In reply to the last Deputy, Fine Gael receives €4.5 million-----

No, I give the replies.

We only want a question.

I apologise. The Minister stated he was in favour of a progressive tax to deal with high wages. That was a fair point.

People should pay their taxes.

The figure of 62% is difficult to believe. I will check it. The Minister might be right, but it seems high to be the real tax rate for someone in the €200,000 bracket. One of the few promises the Government has kept is that it has not touched income tax. Perhaps it should consider breaking that promise and increase the tax rate for higher earners.

A number of questions were asked and I hope the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will allow me to answer them. Deputy Clare Daly never ceases to astound me. She has the brass neck to enter the Chamber in the teeth of a storm and when she is claiming expenses hand over fist-----

They are substantially less than the Minister's.

He covers the country.

It is almost like accusing the police for the crime. It beggars belief, but nothing surprises me about the Deputy.

Just answer the question.

I will answer it directly if the Deputy stops berating.

The Deputy is right to be very sensitive on this matter, as she has a brass neck and has been found out. I am reviewing all allowances, including the leader's allowance, because we need solidarity and fairness in these matters. We will table the proposals in the context of the changes to be implemented through the budget. I hope people will apply carefully. Even where allowances exist, they do not need to be claimed. Be it an allowance for toner or something else, Members do not need to ratchet it up to the maximum.

Regarding the specific question asked by my colleague, Deputy Wallace, the maximum tax rate is 41%, the universal social charge on earnings of more than €100,000 is 10%, PRSI is 4% and the pension levy is 7%, which amounts to 62%.