State Pensions Reform

Questions (1)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

1. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of the 2012 pension review; the number of persons who have had their pension entitlements reviewed to date; the number of persons awaiting a review; the number of persons issued with a high rate of pension; the number of persons whose pension has remained unchanged; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22982/19]

View answer

Oral answers (9 contributions) (Question to Employment)

I tabled this question to receive an update on the situation for post-2012 pensioners. I understand the reviews are proceeding quickly. I record my appreciation for the staff and the hard work they are doing and the courtesy and accessibility they afford to me, at least, whenever I have occasion to contact them.

I thank the Deputy. Since September 2018, my Department has been examining the social insurance records of approximately 90,000 pensioners who were born on or after 1 September 1946 and have an entitlement to receive a reduced rate contributory State pension, based on post-budget 2012 rate band changes.  The payments are being reviewed under the new model, the total contributions approach, TCA, to pension calculation, which includes provision for home caring periods. Wherever possible, the reviews are processed based on information we already have in the Department.  Where there are unexplained gaps in an individual's social insurance record, a written request for further information is issued.

Over 45,000 of these requests for information have been issued to date. The reviews commenced from 13 February 2019, which was the day after I signed the necessary regulations. Those regulations, with the provisions of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registrations Act 2018, allow the increased payments to be made. Regardless of when a review is conducted, if an increased payment is due, the person's rate of payment is adjusted without delay and arrears are paid, backdated to 30 March 2018 or the person's 66th birthday if it was after that date.  If a person's rate does not increase following the review, he or she will continue to receive the rate of payment he or she was receiving before the review. Some 47,753 reviews, involving more than half of all pensioners identified for review, had been completed by 23 May last. On foot of those reviews, some 23,521 pensioners have received an increase in their rate of weekly pension and 24,232 have remained on their existing rate of payment. Notifications of outcomes will continue to be issued to individuals as soon as their reviews are completed. It may take a number of months to complete the reviews because of the numbers involved and the individual nature of the social insurance records. The work will continue until all identified pensioners have received the results of their reviews.

I acknowledge that the reviews are proceeding apace. On 4 April last, I tabled a question to the Minister for written reply. At that stage, just 13,000 cases had been reviewed and 75% of reviews had resulted in increased pension payments. It appears now that slightly fewer than half of the reviews conducted to date have resulted in increased pension payments. Given that this system was introduced to rectify discrimination against people who were born after a certain date in 1946, as opposed to people who were born before that date, does the Minister think it is acceptable that just half of the people who fall into the former category have benefitted? We proposed a simple reversal of the 2012 situation. This would have cost the same amount and everybody would have benefited.

As I recall it, the legislation that was introduced in this House in October 2018 was accepted without amendment by every Member and party in this House. I took it from the unanimity that existed at the time that Deputies were content with the approach that was being taken. While there are people who have not got an uplift as a result of this approach to making an amount of money people available to people through their pensions, I remind the House that these payments are based on people's contribution histories. We cannot give someone a contribution history that he or she does not have. The 20-year home-caring credit we introduced into the total contribution approach in 2012 is probably the most generous home-caring credit across Europe, rightly so because it is deserved. If the perspective the Deputy is coming from is one that advocates a universal pension, I think that is an entirely different conversation for us to have. This is the State contributory pension. This is absolutely the fairest way of working out a person's contributions without using the averaging model. That is the model we employed from the legislation in 2012.

Of course, the Minister is right when she says we did not oppose the legislation. We accepted it on the basis that half a loaf is better than no bread. It was not an ideal solution from our perspective. I proposed a simple reversal of the 2012 changes. When we are getting something, we do not look a gift horse in the mouth. The Government had two options - to reverse the 2012 changes, or to introduce this long and rather complex system to try to compensate people. The option it chose is not working for half, or possibly over half, of the people who are affected. Two pensioners in exactly the same position with the exact same number of contributions can get two very different rates of pension, just because one of them happens to have been born before 1 September 1946 and the other happens to have been born on or after 1 September 1946. This will continue to apply to at least half of the people who are affected, and possibly more than half of them.

There were always winners and losers when pension provisions were changed in the past. When this change in pension formation was being made, I was adamant that there were going to be no losers. The people whose reviews have been completed but who have not received an uplift have certainly not received a decrease. They are continuing to receive the payments they were receiving. A number of options are available to people who have not received an uplift, but who have had a determination. We are by no means finished. As I said, almost 45,000 people have yet to send information to the Department to enable it to make a determination. It is probably unwise of the Deputy to expect that the outcome would be 50:50, as that is not where we would have asserted it from the beginning.

It is gradually declining.

People who have not received an uplift have the option of applying for a review in the first instance. If that review does not stand, they have the option of applying for a non-contributory pension because the contributory pension is not means tested and is based on contributions.

I thank the Minister and the Deputy for adhering to the time constraints.

Social Welfare Code Reform

Questions (2)

John Brady

Question:

2. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she will consider the establishment of a social welfare commission, as outlined in recently published legislation, as a way of tackling poverty; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23104/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Employment)

Unfortunately, the Government has done little, if anything, to address the serious problem of poverty, which continues to be a massive blight on the State. In October last year, I introduced a Bill proposing the establishment of a social welfare commission. I ask the Minister to set out her views on the need for such a commission to tackle the serious problem of poverty. Will she make a statement on the issue?

The legislation sponsored by the Deputy seeks to, among other things, establish a commission to monitor and make recommendations on social welfare rates at least once a year. While I welcome the Deputy's engagement on the issue, I remind him that careful consideration needs to be given to the establishment of a commission and to its composition, parameters and terms of reference. Any change in the current process of setting social welfare payment rates, including the establishment of a commission, would need to be considered in the overall policy and budgetary context. Account would have to be taken of stakeholder views, potential costs, policy alignment, the administration of any proposed system and the alleviation of poverty. As the Deputy will be aware, the road map for pensions reform, which was published last year, commits the Government and all future Governments to examine and develop proposals to set a formal benchmark target of 34% of average earnings for the State contributory pension and provides that a process will be instituted to ensure future changes in pension payment rates are explicitly linked with changes in average wages and prices. The Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection is considering the options open to it as it seeks to make progress with this commitment, including the suggestion made by the Deputy. It has consulted a range of stakeholders, as required under section 19 of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2018, on the examination of the ways in which social welfare rates are determined now and will be determined in the future. The feedback from this consultation is being considered and will help us to inform the development of our approach to benchmarking and indexation. To further the discussion on this issue, I have proposed that it will be considered at the Department's pre-budget forum in July. All the spokespeople in this area will be invited to the forum and I hope they will attend. While I welcome the views of all political parties, without being disrespectful to those parties it is more important that I hear the views, wishes and ambitions of the many stakeholders that come under the Department's umbrella.

As the Minister knows, 760,000 people in the State are living below the poverty line. Children under the age of 16 years comprise almost 24% of that cohort. Over 100,000 people in the State get up early in the morning to go to work, but are in poverty nonetheless. The Government is not serious about addressing this problem. I say that because the action plan for social inclusion is out of date. We have yet to see a new action plan. How can we tackle the problem of poverty without an action plan? When I was bringing forward the Bill I mentioned at the outset, I met the stakeholders whose views the Minister said we need to take into account. They are all broadly in supportive of the need for this commission. I accept that we need to look carefully at the composition of the commission. I outlined that in the Bill I introduced. I think it could be based on the Low Pay Commission. A commission is needed. We need to get serious about tackling the massive problem of poverty. This is a key way of doing it. If the serious issue of poverty is to be tackled for once and for all, we need to take the politics out of the setting of social welfare rates across the board.

I am happy to say the poverty rates in this country are coming down. That is because we made changes in the last few budgets to target the groups of people who are most at risk such as lone parents, people with disabilities and larger families, particularly those with children over 12 years of age. All of those issues have been addressed. Thankfully, the latest data from the survey on income and living conditions, SILC, show that the poverty rate has dropped by a significant 2%. There is still a tremendous number of people who are within the percentages of living close to or on the poverty line, and we will continue to work on ensuring we drive payments towards the people who are most in need. For the Deputy to say that the policies we have employed in the Department for the last number of years, particularly in the last two progressive budgets, and which were supported by every Member of the House without exception, are not working is a little unfair. However, the Deputy is pushing an open door with me. There is no need to fight with me regarding indexation. I say as often as I can that it is something I genuinely wish to do. I hope we are on the same page.

I hope we are on the same page. One person living in poverty is one too many, and 760,000 of citizens are living below the poverty line. The Government has set a target of lifting 95,000 children out of poverty by 2020. We must be serious about that. I can only take the Minister at her word, but there is no plan. Where is the action plan for social inclusion? Where is the road map for lifting citizens out of poverty? I firmly believe in the establishment of a social welfare commission and I welcome the fact that the Minister is seriously considering it. We can call it what we wish but there is a need to take the politics out of setting social welfare rates and to be serious about tackling poverty where we can, which is through setting social welfare rates. I asked the Minister to meet me a number of weeks ago. We agreed dates but, unfortunately, it did not happen. Can we do that? I want to progress this as there are great positive benefits. All the stakeholders agree that we must move this forward. Can we meet and discuss doing that?

As I said in a previous reply, we will be discussing this issue at the pre-budget forum and the Deputy is welcome to attend to give his input, as are all the political parties. We do not necessarily need a commission to take the politics out of indexing. We need an algorithm and something on which we all agree that will set the rates. It may need to be within a commission or it may not, but that has to be explored by us and the stakeholders in the next couple of months.

We have a policy of social inclusion. I am working on one and hope it will be released in the next few weeks before the summer recess. The final chapter in the development of that policy was the forum we held with all the stakeholders in the Aviva Stadium last week. I do not do stuff. The Department, long before I ever took office, has had a determined view on consultation and has the height of respect for our stakeholders, as our stakeholders have for the Department. There is no point in devising and designing a social inclusion strategy for the next five years that does not uphold the policies, wishes and aims of the people who are working on the ground. That is what we will be doing in the next few weeks.

Carer's Allowance Eligibility

Questions (3)

Willie O'Dea

Question:

3. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if consideration will be given to changing the rules for carer's allowance to increase the hours a person is entitled to work from the current level of 15 hours to 18.5 hours; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22983/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Employment)

There are approximately 375,000 carers in the country and only one in five of them qualify for carer's allowance. All the studies show that the number of carers is going to grow. This question relates to a proposal from Family Carers Ireland to assist carers to make ends meet by slightly relaxing the rules for qualification for carer's allowance.

The main income supports for carers provided by my Department include carer’s allowance, carer's benefit, domiciliary care allowance and the carer's support grant. Spending on these payments in 2019 is expected to exceed €1.2 billion.

Carer’s allowance is a means-tested payment for people living in Ireland who are looking after somebody who needs support because of age, physical or learning disability or illness, including mental illness. It is a condition for receipt of carer’s allowance that the carer must be providing full-time care and attention for a person who requires such full-time care and attention because of a specified illness or disability. This condition is moderated by legislation allowing the carer to work or engage in training outside the home for an aggregate total of 15 hours per week.

In setting the relevant working hours thresholds, it is appropriate to balance the needs of the carer and the person to whom care is being provided.  The current limit of 15 hours, when it was set, was considered to represent a reasonable balance between meeting the care recipient's requirement for full-time care and the carer's need to maintain contact with the workforce. The threshold was also set taking account of the generous income disregard available under the carer's allowance scheme. The level of the income disregard at €332.50 is such that a person could, if an hours limit was not applied, qualify for the full carer's payment while working up to about 35 hours per week. This would create obvious difficulties in ensuring that full-time care and attention were being provided.

The question of increasing the limit to 18.5 hours has recently been raised with my Department by carers' representative groups. Any change to qualifying criteria would have to be considered in the context of the issues just outlined and also in an overall budgetary context.

The rate of carer's allowance for a single person is approximately €16 per week above what the person would get if he or she was in receipt of jobseeker's allowance. I accept one should add the carer's support grant as well, but it is poor recompense for what is often a 24/7 job. Many carers have approached me, presumably with the consent of the people for whom they are caring, and made the point that they could work for an extra couple of hours a week in the current gig economy and still perform their caring duties. The Minister mentioned 35 hours but nobody is suggesting it. I am simply suggesting an extra three and a half hours. If there is a difficulty with that, perhaps the Minister could amend the legislation to enable it case by case if circumstances warrant it and if the carer can establish that he or she can still care adequately for the person for whom he or she is caring. The Department would have discretion to allow the person to work for more than 15 hours. The Minister said that €1.2 billion is being spent on caring, but in a reply to a parliamentary question on 2 April last the Minister said the net cost of this is approximately €1 million per annum. That will hardly bring the country's finances crashing down.

One of principal conditions for receipt of carer's allowance is that full-time care is being provided. In addition, the carer must comply with the means test. The conditions attached to the payment of carer's allowance are consistent with the overall conditions that apply to all social welfare assistance payments. The system of social assistance supports provides payments based on the income needs. It is not about paying the person for the care. The Deputy and I are at odds as he is asking the question on the basis of the provision of the care and I am answering it on the basis of it being an income assistance support. They are not quite the same. Everyone in the country values and depends on the care being provided by hundreds of thousands of people who are either receiving an income assistance or are not. Many thousands are not. That does not discount the value to the State of the care being provided. This is an income support which requires adherence to a means threshold. It also must be considered in the budget context.

If somebody can care for a person full-time and work for 15 hours per week, there are many instances where somebody could care for a person full-time and work up to 18.5 hours per week.

I have two brief supplementary questions. Does the Minister have plans to review the Carer's Leave Act 2001 with a view to introducing more flexible working hours? Second, when the national carers' strategy was published in 2012 there was a commitment to revisit it when the country's finances and economy improved. Are there plans to do that now that the finances have improved?

I know that I have a reputation of sticking my nose into stuff that has nothing to do with me but neither of the Deputy's questions falls within the remit of my Department.

The Carer's Leave Act is the responsibility of the Minister for Justice and Equality and responsibility for the national carers' strategy rests with the Minister for Health. A couple of weeks ago, I stated we needed to have a proper conversation about care but I got my nose chopped off. The latter could be done by a review under the carers' strategy. My Department provides income supports and, while it sounds cold and callous to say this, it is only money. Some people offer genuine support and put in hundreds of hours but get no pay for it. I am sometimes portrayed as a cold person but I am not a cold person. We need to discuss the value of care, both in the home and in the extended community.

Social Welfare Appeals Waiting Times

Questions (4)

John Brady

Question:

4. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the length of time it takes for social welfare payments to be processed following an application granted on appeal when returned to the relevant section; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [23105/19]

View answer

Oral answers (7 contributions) (Question to Employment)

I am seeking a breakdown of the length of time it takes for social welfare payments to be processed following an application granted on appeal when returned to the relevant section.

My Department is committed to providing a quality service for all recipients.  This includes ensuring that decisions on entitlement are made as quickly as possible.  Where a customer’s appeal is successful, every effort is made to implement the decision of the appeals officer without any delay.

There is no metric for the time taken to process claims following decisions from the social welfare appeals office.  Different legislative conditions apply to different schemes and the claiming process is different across the schemes.  As a result, deciding officers issue decisions at different stages of the claims process, depending on the scheme is being applied for or adjudicated on.

For some schemes, like carer’s allowance, a decision will be made on all the areas of entitlement at once and a decision letter will issue to the customer covering each area of entitlement.

For other schemes, like the State pension non-contributory, entitlement is assessed on a step-by-step basis.  Deciding officers first examine the right to reside and habitual residence condition, HRC, and issue reports in that regard.  If a deciding officer determines that this condition has not been satisfied, a decision letter will issue to the customer at that stage and the claim will not be processed any further unless additional information is supplied, thereby necessitating a review.  Where the HRC is satisfied, the claim moves to the next stage, the means test, which may also be appealed.

For claims processed on a step-by-step basis, the length of time between a successful appeal and the customer receiving payment will depend on the stage of the claim process at which the claim was originally disallowed.  A claim appealed on the grounds of the means test is further along in the process than a claim appealed as a result of the HRC, so those customers may receive their payment more quickly.

Customers can claim supplementary welfare allowance while their appeals are being considered.

I tabled this question because there are huge delays in processing payments for people awarded disability allowance following appeals. This was first brought to my attention a number of weeks ago when I learned of a person who applied and was rejected in 2018 but who appealed in April and was successful. That individual is still awaiting payment. We have been in touch with the Department, which has informed us that it is only processing payments from the end of March. This means that there is a delay of eight or nine weeks. The waiting time for processing an initial application in March was 13 weeks. When a case goes to appeal, there is a wait of 23 weeks but there is a huge delay when the appeal is successful. There is a particular problem when people with disabilities, some of the most vulnerable individuals in our State, are left waiting for such a length of time. I hope the Minister is aware of the problem and ask her to outline what is being done to address it.

In any year, approximately 85% of claims to the Department are awarded. The application process is relatively simple, albeit lengthy. Only 1% of people who apply make an appeal. This is a small number but the Department makes every effort to adjudicate on appeals as quickly as possible. Significant efforts and resources have been devoted to this process in recent years, as a result of which appeals processing times improved between 2011 and 2017, from 52 weeks for an oral hearing in 2012 to 26 weeks in 2017. It took 25 weeks for a summary decision in 2012 but 19 weeks in 2017. The processing times for 2018 were 30 weeks for an oral hearing and 24 weeks for a summary decision. There have been improvements in the first quarter of this year, following staff moves, and we are recruiting. There were, however, a number of retirements from our appeals section and we cannot expect new people to have the experience and knowledge of dealing with appeals that their predecessors had built up over many years. New staff need to train and build experience but by the end of this year we will have a fully operational, manned and womaned team and I expect the numbers to which the Deputy referred to come down.

That does not really answer the question. The Minister stated only 1% of people appealed. I accept that, but there is a massive waiting time for people who go through the appeals process and, in particular, for the awarding of payment following an appeal. We are informed that people with disabilities, who have gone through a very lengthy process of applying and going to appeal and who win their appeal, have to wait for eight or nine weeks without payment. The Department has indicated that it is only now processing payments from the end of March. That is totally unacceptable. Vulnerable people are forced to seek money elsewhere, having already gone through a stringent and lengthy process. What is being done to address this? Is the answer to move people around?

The people who make the payments are not the same people who make the decisions. When a decision is made, the case is transferred to the section that makes payments. There is a delay but we are trying to reduce it. It may cause undue distress but there is not a single person who has been awarded a claim and who cannot get money from their local office. We make house calls to ensure people who have been awarded a claim get a supplementary welfare payment in the interim and nobody suffers hardship as they await their payment. The Deputy is right that having been awarded something and having to wait seven or eight weeks is a pain, particularly if a person has already waited a long time. The Department is constantly looking at staff resources and reviewing where people can be sent when they are freed up from other projects. When possible, we put people where they are needed most, in this case our appeals section.

I thank the Minister and Deputies for co-operating. We were a little late starting but we are moving along nicely.

Employment Rights

Questions (5)

Willie Penrose

Question:

5. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the status of her plans to quantify and measure incidences of, and trends in, bogus self-employment; her plans to table new legislation to address the issue; if the proposed new legislation will be published in advance of the Dáil's summer recess; if her Department and other Departments and State agencies plan to bring forward specific proposals to address the problem of bogus self-employment in the construction sector; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [22920/19]

View answer

Oral answers (6 contributions) (Question to Employment)

Does the Minister agree with the Labour Party's view that, in order to deal with bogus self-employment, robust penalties in law are required in respect of bad employers who force workers into disguised self-employment arrangements when they are, to all intents and purposes, employed? This dodgy practice deprives workers of their rights and their appropriate social welfare payments and cheats the State out of tens of millions of euro in lost PRSI and income tax revenue each year, meaning less money for social welfare payments and our hospitals and schools.

Disguised employment, commonly known as bogus self-employment, occurs when businesses deliberately misclassify workers as being self-employed when they are de facto employees of the business concerned.  This is done largely to avoid payment of the employer portion of social insurance contributions and to limit the accrual of employment rights.

I share the Deputy's concerns that any attempts by employers to misclassify workers, no matter the number of employers concerned, must be properly policed and appropriate sanctions enforced.

There are already strong legislative provisions within the Social Welfare Consolidation Act 2005 prohibiting the practice of misclassifying employment.

Deliberate misclassification of employment status is a criminal offence subject to fines and-or imprisonment on conviction. Given the concerns expressed, I now wish to bring renewed focus to the enforcement of these provisions. Therefore, I am reallocating resources in my Department to increase the level of inspections. However, I do not intend that inspections should be limited to any sector. We would be missing the point if we did that. While the construction sector will feature, no market sector will fall outside the potential for inspection and enforced compliance.

Based on experience from inspections already completed and recognising that there is a particular challenge when dealing with large companies or companies with complex legal structures, I have also tasked the Department with establishing a focused team to tackle these complex cases and provide themselves with expert training to ensure that, in the context of the hidden cases, no wool is pulled over anyone's eyes. The first members of this team are being assigned to their new roles as we speak. I will recruit additional members later this year.

In addition to more rigorous policing of the existing law, I intend to introduce a number of new legislative measures to strengthen the requisite powers further. These measures include putting the newly revised guidance on determining employment status on a statutory footing and introducing measures to address the potential victimisation of workers who seek a determination on their employment status.

Additional information not given on the floor of the House

These latter provisions will likely mirror similar provisions I brought into law earlier this year via the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2018. I also intend to introduce provisions to apply interest charges to employer PRSI payments in cases where payments were underdeclared as a consequence of the incorrect classification of workers. Subject to legal advice on these matters, I intend to progress them through an appropriate legislative vehicle in the coming months. While the drafting of this legislation is complex, its timely introduction to the Oireachtas remains a priority.

The misclassification of workers as self-employed is an issue that has exercised those of us in the Labour Party and the wider trade union movement for a considerable period. It costs the State hundreds of millions of euro in lost PRSI revenue and workers are deprived of key rights and benefits, in particular the full range of social welfare benefits and employment rights under Irish and European law. It is rampant in the construction sector. Last autumn, the general secretary of Connect Trade Union, Mr. Paddy Kavanagh, said that research indicated that the State was losing millions of euro. He wanted the Government to stamp out this practice, which was also resulting in workers being deprived of key rights and safeguards.

The Minister is correct, in that this practice is also found in the media, IT, pharma and many other sectors. While we welcome the Minister's establishment of a stand-alone team to investigate bogus self-employment, will the legislation apply penalties? We want tax avoidance laws to clamp down on this practice, as proposed by our Seanad Bill in the name of Senator Nash. There is no good reason for an employer who deliberately misclassifies the status of an employee not to be considered a tax and PRSI cheat and have the same penalties applied to him or her as would be applied to other tax avoiders. That is the way to stamp this out.

The legislation on the victimisation of workers is important. In recent months, I have been approached directly by a number of people who were genuinely afraid that even if they won their cases, they would have no choice but to leave their organisations because they would be treated so badly. That is not acceptable and that culture needs to be stamped out. We will do that in law. Similar provisions that we introduced this year through the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act are working nicely and should be used to reflect this matter also.

The two issues that the Deputy has sought to have resolved do not fall within my remit, but under that of the Minister for Finance. I am sure he would be delighted to hear the Deputy concerning them. What I can do, however, is introduce legislation to address the issue of employers who misclassify deliberately. We must define what "deliberately" means as opposed to "unknowingly", "unwittingly" and all of those good legal terms that can be used to get one off the hook. Where payments are underdeclared, the case will not just be as it is, where those payments must be repaid starting from the date the worker started working with the company. Rather, we will introduce significant fines. I hope they will deter people from such actions.

The 2007 code of practice contained new criteria to help determine whether a worker was an employee or a self-employed contractor. Obviously, the code is inadequate now. That initiative has not served those workers well. This is why Senator Nash's Bill adopted an holistic approach. Surely the approach taken to address the issue should be across government, with the Department of Finance taking the opportunity to ensure the penalties imposed are proportionate to the offence, that being, forcing people into an area of work where they are deprived of significant benefits and rights. In whatever the Minister introduces, there should be a whole-of-government approach. That is why our Bill adopted an holistic approach to the determination and classification of employment status and would have put in law a clear set of rules that applied to all State bodies and were enforceable in courts and administrative tribunals. This is an opportunity for a whole-of government approach to rid us once and for all of this blight, which has bedevilled a number of industries and is spreading to others. I compliment the Minister on taking an objective view and forcing this issue onto the agenda.

That is exactly what we are doing. Since the Deputy might not be aware of it, I am not trying to be smart when I say we actually are taking a whole-of-government approach. The code of practice is being reviewed by an interdepartmental group comprising the Workplace Relations Commission, the Department of Finance, Revenue and my Department. We are also having conversations with ICTU and IBEC within the confines of the Labour Employer Economic Forum, LEEF. The code of practice will need to be renewed, given that the legislation was probably weak in some areas and, more importantly, in the light of the case law from cases that people have taken in the past few years. The new code of practice will have been devised and determined by all of the experts I referenced and, I believe, will be placed on a statutory footing later this year. I hope it will have an impact.