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Dáil Éireann Debate, Wednesday - 4 July 2012

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Questions (6)

Pádraig Mac Lochlainn


6Deputy Pádraig Mac Lochlainn asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform if he will provide a list by Government Department of current secretaries general who retain TLAC terms of added years and special severance gratuity payments. [32384/12]

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Oral answers (11 contributions) (Question to Minister for Public)

Reform of the TLAC terms was a major priority for me on taking office. As a result, I introduced a significant reform of the Top Level Appointments Committee, TLAC, terms with effect from November 2011. Under the new arrangements, it is part of the contract terms of all future appointees that, when that contract expires, no added years are available on their pension; no pension will be paid before the minimum pension age; an alternative post will be offered where the Secretary General has been recruited from the Civil Service and does not have the requisite 40 years of pensionable service; no severance payment will be made, except where the person is not of minimum pension age or has not been offered an alternative post, and then a severance payment of up to one year's salary applies; and no severance payment will be made if someone is offered an alternative post and refuses. Officials appointed before my reforms and to whom the former TLAC terms continue to apply are Mr. Tom Moran of the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine; Mr. Joe Hamill of the Department of Arts, Heritage and the Gaeltacht; Mr. Liam O'Daly of the Office of the Attorney General; Mr. Jim Breslin of the Department of Children and Youth Affairs; Mr. Aidan Dunning of the Department of Communications, Energy and Natural Resources; Mr. Michael Howard of the Department of Defence; Ms Geraldine Tallon of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government; Mr. David Cooney of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Mr. Brian Purcell of the Department of Justice and Equality; Ms Clare McGrath of the Office of Public Works; Ms Josephine Feehily of the Office of the Revenue Commissioners; Mr. Robert Watt of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform; Mr. Adrian O'Neill of the President's Establishment; Ms Niamh O'Donoghue of the Department of Social Protection; Mr. Martin Fraser of the Department of the Taoiseach; and Mr. Tom O'Mahony of the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport.

This is another issue I have raised consistently with the Minister. One of those entitled to the TLAC terms is the Secretary General of the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform. Perhaps the Minister might clarify when he was appointed and explain the turn of events. I understood he was appointed on the Minister's watch.

I have raised this issue in the past and was not talking about future postholders. The availability of added years and severance payments cannot be justified at any stage but particularly in the current economic climate. I want the Minister to fix this and he would do so if he was serious about public sector reform and ensuring equity. He told me previously that he could not go after these pensions because of their constitutional status and that he could not give retrospective effect to regulations. However, the Bill on public service pensions is being considered and it contains an enabling clause which will allow the Minister to alter pension arrangements and conditions retrospectively. The bottom line is that I want to the Minister to fix this issue not for future Secretaries General but for those in place currently, because those pension pots cannot be defended.

I explained this to the Deputy already. I do not know if she was not listening or chooses not to hear. We are not retrospectively changing pension entitlements in the Public Service Pensions (Single Scheme) and Remuneration Bill 2011; we are giving the power to the Minister to change the basis for future pension increases only, not to reduce current entitlements. The Deputy understands that, I know full well, but chooses not to articulate it.

On the question about the Secretary General of my Department, a number of Secretaries General have been appointed in the early years of the Administration since the Government came to power in March 2011. It took us some time to do all that we wanted in the first number of months. It took a number of months to establish my Department because there had to be a huge trawl of legislation. The Deputy will remember that when we introduced the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, it took some time to get everything through. By the time we reviewed the situation, took legal advice and drew up the necessary statutory instruments, it was November before the fundamental TLAC terms were changed. That was done with great alacrity. These terms had been in place since 1987. I regarded them as unacceptable and within a matter of months of coming into office and getting the legal authority to do so, I changed them. The new terms apply to all appointments made subsequent to that November date.

The Minister is hiding behind advice from the Attorney General on pension rights being vested property rights.

In factual law.

I have told the Minister before, even though I know it is not customary, to publish the advice from the Attorney General. It would be useful if he would do so for the purpose of public debate. The enabling clause gives the Minister retrospective powers in respect of people's pension entitlements. I asked a specific question about this and it was disallowed on the basis that the information sought in the question would require the Minister to interpret the law, but he has no problem coming in and giving an interpretation of law in respect of the other questions. If I have jotted down the answer correctly, there are 14 Secretaries General who still qualify for those TLAC terms. I do not believe for a second the Minister has shown any willingness to deal with that issue. He kicked the can down the road in respect of future appointments, but it is hugely important that he deals with this matter. If he is so convinced by the Attorney General's advice and has a pain in his neck from me raising this every week, he should publish the advice and let us see it.

The Deputy would never give me a pain in the neck.

I am so relieved.

That is not the part of the anatomy that is affected at all.

The Deputy does her usual thing about my unwillingness to deal with the issues. I have dealt with the issue.

The Minister has not dealt with the issue.

I did it within a number of months of being appointed. Whatever it was, it was not quick enough for the Deputy. A number of Secretaries General have been appointed subsequent to the change, for whom the new conditions apply: the new Secretary General at the Department of Education and Skills, Mr. Seán Ó Foghlú, the new Secretary General at the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Mr. Murphy, the new Secretary General at the Department of Finance, Mr. John Moran, the new Secretary General at the Department of Health, Mr. Ambrose McLoughlin, and the new Director of the Central Statistics Office, Mr. Pádraig Dalton. That will augment and the new terms will apply more and more. The term of employment of Secretaries General is only seven years and the new terms will apply for ever more. It was done within a matter of months but it had not been done in the 20 years previously. I do not expect any acknowledgment of that by the Deputy opposite.