Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Vol. 805 No. 2

Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill 2013: Committee Stage


Amendment No. 1, in the name of Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett, has been ruled out of order by the Ceann Comhairle. I am afraid no debate is allowed on it.

I have to object in the strongest terms possible to the ruling out of these amendments. I submitted 25 amendments to this Bill and 24 have been ruled out of order. That is in the context of a Bill which is being rammed through with a guillotine, which is undemocratic in its very nature in that it attempts to put a gun to the head of trade unionists in this country. It is making a sham of democracy and is utterly unacceptable.

I can understand the Deputy's frustration but, unfortunately, amendments must be in accordance with normal Standing Orders and rules. If they do not adhere to those rules I am afraid they must be ruled out.

A Cheann Comhairle-----

It is on that basis they have been ruled out.

Some of the first amendments-----

The Deputy is just wasting a lot of time. There is a limited amount of time for this-----

The time is a joke anyway.

There are other Deputies in the Chamber besides you, with the greatest respect.

Yes, but the whole thing is a joke. We voted against this guillotine-----

Maybe you think it is a joke but I am applying the rules of the House.

-----earlier because what this Government is doing is a disgraceful subversion of the democratic process-----

You have made your point.

-----namely, imposing a guillotine.

Respect the majority.

The Government continues to do this.

You have made your point, Deputy. Resume your seat.

It shows the arrogance of this Government which thinks it can play fast and loose with democracy because it has a majority.

I am sorry, Deputy. I will ask you again to resume your seat.

On a point of order-----

It is really outrageous that the Labour Party-----

You are showing total disrespect for the Chair.

-----on the anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out would engage in what is effectively a legislative and a democratic lock-out-----

Deputy, I am on my feet.

------against the workers of this country. It is a disgrace.

Will you resume your seat?

I am sorry, a Cheann Comhairle. I understand you have to do your job but what this Government is doing is absolutely out of order.

I am suspending the House for five minutes.

Sitting suspended at 5.23 p.m. and resumed at 5.28 p.m.

I must continue with my objection.

Deputy Fleming has a point of order. Will Deputy Boyd Barrett please resume his seat?

We are here to consider Committee Stage of legislation. I submitted 20 amendments, of which 12 were ruled out of order. The Deputy behind mentioned that 24 of his 25 amendments were ruled out of order as, I suspect, were the majority of the 71 tabled amendments. It would be helpful to us if, through the Office of the Ceann Comhairle, a list could be presented to us of the amendments that are in order. Looking at the schedule in my hand, I have no concept of what is in or out of order. The information is in the House in the pink packets in front of certain people. It would be helpful for us to have the list. The Ceann Comhairle might not be able to supply this now but it should be the practice for future legislation to give Members such a list. There is a grouping schedule for discussion purposes. There should be a list of amendments that are ruled in order so that we can know what is ahead of us for the next few hours. I make that point for future reference, if it cannot be done today.

If a Deputy's amendment is ruled out of order that does not prevent anybody from making a point when we are dealing with the section in question.

On a point of order-----

What is the Deputy's point?

The whole scenario is a farce, presented to us.

We are not here to debate whether it is a farce.

It is an affront to democracy, to be honest. There was no consultation with the pensioners on this.

Deputy, we are trying to deal with Committee Stage of a Bill.

We have only got an hour to deal with it.

At least let us spend the hour productively and not waste it on this sort of stuff. There are other Deputies in the House.

This has huge ramifications for people's livelihoods, and for the working conditions and pay of thousands of workers in this country.

Please resume your seat.

It will impact on thousands of workers-----

Thank you Deputy but let us get on with the Bill.

-----in this economy.

Amendment No. 1-----

I have to continue because-----

The Deputy is out of order and should resume her seat.

-----of my objections to this Bill.

Amendment No. 1 is out of order.

Amendment No. 1 not moved.

It is an affront to democracy.

Amendment No. 2 is out of order.

The Minister should be ashamed of himself.

Amendment No. 2 not moved.

Amendment No. 3 is out of order.

On a point of order, this Bill was published last Thursday.

I understand that.

We are now on Committee Stage.

There were 24 hours-----

We are not going to filibuster, I am sorry.

-----to submit amendments.

Yes, and amendments that are in order will be dealt with.

Three quarters of those amendments are being ruled out of order. It is absolutely outrageous.

Thank you Deputy, you have made your point.

Amendment No. 3 not moved.

It is an affront to democracy and the House. The Minister had the affrontery to cut the pensions of pensioners-----

Resume your seat.

-----and surviving spouses without consulting them.

Amendments Nos. 5, 57 and 60 are related.

The Minister is simply-----

Deputy McDonald is not here to move her amendment.

Amendment No. 4 not moved.

We are being denied an opportunity to discuss this Bill.

I am now dealing with the section. Deputy Joe Higgins has opposed the section.

On a point of order-----

We are dealing with the section. What point of order does the Deputy have to make on dealing with a section?

It is on the same issue.

We are not on the same issue. We are dealing with Committee Stage of a Bill in a Parliament that is elected by citizens to pass legislation. We must act in accordance with the rules of the House.

We are now on Committee Stage and a filibuster is taking place. I am not going to tolerate that.

I am not filibustering.

If the Deputy does not sit down I will suspend the sitting and we will not have Committee Stage.

It may be helpful-----

Make up your own minds.

I have a point to raise on the same lines as Deputy Healy.

This is an absolute disgrace.

I have a point of order.

What is your point of order?

This is a disgrace.

This is a sham of a democracy.

I tabled four of the six amendments ruled out of order. I sought clarification.

In future, particularly when there is little time between finding an amendment has been ruled out of order and the Dáil debate, I ask to be given a rationale for ruling amendments out of order. I had to make several telephone calls-----

Officials of the House are available at all stages to explain to Deputies why their amendments may be out of order.

They did so. I am asking-----

They have explained the reasons to the Deputy. I have to proceed in accordance with the rules of the House.

I am asking for the co-operation of Deputies so that we can deal with the legislation.

There is no point in going through it all over again.

We are not. When there is little time - my office received a letter just a few hours ago stating what was out of order - I ask that the Ceann Comhairle's office to provide an explanation as to why certain amendments are ruled out of order.

The Clerk of the Dáil's office will provide an explanation for anybody.

My request is that we get the explanation when we receive the ruling.

We all have to learn what is in or out of order. The Deputy can ask officials at any stage. They are only too willing to be of assistance.

I had a discussion.

I would like to move on. We are just wasting time.

I have taken note of the Deputy's point and I will pass it on.

Question proposed: "That section 1 stand part of the Bill."

This is an attack on the freedom of workers to join a trade union.

It might be of assistance if I addressed the amendments and provided an explanation to the House.

The Government has completely subverted the democratic process.

Please resume your seat.

This is a sham of democracy.

Amendment No. 4 seeks to delete the definition of increments in section 1(2) of the Bill.

You are not going to get away with this without us hitting out.

This is a simple but-----

This Bill is an attack on workers' right to freely associate.

It is monstrous. The Minister should be ashamed of himself.

This is an absolute disgrace.

It is absolutely disgraceful.

It is a sham of democracy.

I thought we lived in a democracy.

The Government knows it is manipulating the democratic process.

The Deputy has no respect for Parliament.

The Minister has no respect for workers or trade unionists.

He has no respect for the traditions of the Labour Party.

The Deputies should be ashamed of themselves.

Sitting suspended at 5.15 p.m. and resumed at 5.30 p.m.

As Deputy Mary Lou McDonald was not present, her amendments were not moved and we proceeded to debate on the section. She may speak to the section in time.

On a point of order-----

The Minister was in possession.

-----I wish to call a quorum.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

On a point of order, I have still not been given an explanation as to-----

I am not listening to any further points of order. The Deputy should resume his seat.

-----the reason 50 of 71 amendments have been ruled out of order.

I remind the Deputy that this is a democracy.

The Government is making a joke of democracy.

The Deputy should resume his seat.

It is precisely to protest about the joke the Government is making of democracy and the way it is conducting this debate that-----

The Deputy can continue talking to himself; I am suspending the sitting.

Sitting suspended at 5.35 p.m. and resumed at 6.05 p.m.

Section 1 is a standard mechanism in legislation which sets out the necessary interpretative provisions to provide clarity in the understanding and application of the terms of the Bill. Shorter titles are defined in the context of the other legislation referenced in the Bill. The precise meaning of increments and points on the pay scale, for the purposes of this Bill, are outlined. This is a standard provision.

On a point of information, I contacted the Bills Office during the suspension and it has now provided to Members a list of the amendments that are deemed to be in order. Some 52 of the 71 amendments tabled have been ruled out of order and the other 19 can be discussed. Perhaps the Standing Orders of the House might be changed in order that, in addition to grouping schedules, lists of amendments that are deemed to be in or out of order will be circulated to Members as a matter of course.

Section 1 of the Bill contains several references to previous legislation relating to financial emergency measures in the public interest. I am of the view that the section should also have contained a confirmation that there continues to be a financial emergency in the country. One could argue that a financial emergency was in existence when the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (No. 2) Act 2009 - by means of which serious pay cuts were imposed - the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act 2010 and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest (Amendment) Act 2011 were all introduced. In 2010, we were obliged, for example, to borrow money from the troika of the EU, the European Central Bank and the IMF. We are almost ready to emerge from the troika process and the IMF is scheduled to leave our shores in December. As already stated, the section refers to the titles of several items of legislation relating to financial emergency measures in the public interest.

Will the Minister explain his assertion that there is a financial emergency in the country? There is still a deficit, but "deficit" is not the definition of "financial emergency". The deficit is being reduced year on year and we are meeting all of our EU-IMF targets. Today, various reports were published on many EU countries. Spain has a deficit of 7% while Belgium and others have much larger deficits, yet they do not consider themselves to be in financial emergencies.

We are dealing with financial emergency legislation at the end of May 2013. Notwithstanding the need to reduce public expenditure and our deficit, it is incumbent on the Minister to clarify whether a report that is available to the House has confirmed that we are in a financial emergency. The Acts referred to in section 1 - the previous financial emergency measure enactments - require an annual report to confirm the existence of a financial emergency. Such a report was issued in 2010 and 2011. The last report I saw was in June 2012. Perhaps as soon as next week, the Minister will have an up-to-date report on the financial emergency. It would have been better to have had the published report before the completion of this legislation. There is no reason not to delay Report and Final Stages for one week. With the report, we and the public would then be in a position to judge whether there was a financial emergency.

In the context of this debate, some of the recent legislation resulted from the referendum on cutting judges' pay. This was done on constitutional grounds rather than on grounds of a financial emergency. The reasoning was that judges should not have been exempted from reductions in public sector pay. A cut was deemed to be proportionate and the people of Ireland voted accordingly.

Before the Minister proceeds with section 1, will he explain, including in writing, why he is convinced that we are still in a financial emergency? It should not be the usual reference to the need to cut the deficit and to reduce expenditure. At the conclusion of Second Stage, the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, spoke on the Minister's behalf. He stated:

Deputy Fleming also asked for the Government's estimate of when the financial emergency would end. I cannot, unfortunately, guarantee that the crisis will end on a particular day or in a particular month.

While I accept this and the situation depends on growth in the international economy and other factors, the Minister should be able to outline the circumstances in which financial emergency measures will no longer be necessary.

This legislation is concerned with pay and pension cuts over a three-year period or longer. Why are we passing legislation for three years' time when we might not even be in a financial emergency? Who adjudicates on whether the emergency still exists? Is it the troika, the Minister, the Government, the Houses or the fiscal council? By definition, none of the legislative measures in question should continue to exist once we are out of the financial emergency. Will the Minister clarify why he views this Bill as necessary?

I am unsure as to who is next, but I will call Deputy McDonald.

Is that gender neutral?

A bit of solidarity in the Chamber. I thank the Acting Chairman.

I proposed an amendment proposing an alternative Long Title. Sadly and like many other amendments, mine was ruled out of order. In the midst of this financial emergency, it sought to highlight the need to address the considerable pay inequity within the public service. Were the Minister serious about crafting legislation in the context of a financial emergency, this would be the first issue addressed. He has not done so. He is still going further down the payscale to seek cuts that he claims are necessary and in the public interest.

No public servant or trade union activist who has followed this debate believes that it is in the public interest to visit more hardship or cuts on low and middle income workers in the public service. The CPSU, which represents clerical workers within the service, has come out strongly against the Haddington Road agreement accompanying-----

It has yet to vote.

The union's leadership has come out strongly against the agreement accompanying the Minister's legislation because it believes that additional hours and the freezing of increments for its workers, who start on the grand salary of €22,000, constitute a bridge too far. I would wager that there is not a clerical officer within the service who believes that visiting more hardship on that group by freezing increments, seeking an effective pay cut - an increase in working hours amounts to this - and increasing the expense of the child care services for which many of them must pay can be considered to be in the public interest. It is a pity that the Minister fails to see this.

I proposed an amendment on the definition of increments because incremental payments should not be touched, including a freeze. As the Minister well knows, incremental payments are of most significance to those earning lower wages. For example, the Secretary General in the Minister's Department has no worries about incremental scales, given the fact that it is a one-point payscale. It filters across the system.

Diminishing with each enactment.

No one would imagine that undermining the collective bargaining traditions of the State, as the Minister is doing by introducing this legislation in a pre-emptive strike against trade unions and their members, was in the public interest. Clearly, it is not. If the Minister had full confidence in the deal as set out by the Labour Relations Commission, LRC, and the trade union leaderships, he would not introduce legislation at this time or in this manner. He has had form throughout the process. From the Croke Park debacle to Haddington Road, his form has been to wave a big stick at unions and their members and to be shrill, badgering, hectoring and threatening. This legislation, which would allow the Minister extraordinary powers to freeze increments, cut pay and extend working hours, is just the latest in a long sequence of that bullying approach.

I am sorry that my amendment on the Long Title was ruled out of order. Deputy Sean Fleming and others have pointed out that a significant number of the amendments that we proposed in good faith have been ruled out of order. This raises an issue for the Dáil in terms of the decisions made on what is allowed. Given the importance of this legislation, it is farcical that the majority of our amendments have been ruled out of order.

The Minister and I have different views of what might be in the public interest.

It seems to me that he seems to think it is a good plan to have policies that are targeted at low and middle income workers and their families that have, as a consequence, a contractional effect on the domestic economy and high levels of unemployment and emigration. I differ with the Minister in that regard. Public sector workers in large number also disagree with him. They are not alone, because many in the private sector see clearly how flawed and damaging the strategy has proven to be.

First, I wish to comment on the way in which the vast majority of amendments that have been submitted have been ruled out of order. It makes an extraordinary joke of democracy that out of 71 amendments, more than 50 are ruled out of order on a Bill that has such profound effects on hundreds of thousands of families in this country, their quality of life, pay and conditions, and that debate on such issues is short-circuited in this way.

We are discussing the section.

The decision to rule the amendments out of order is even more extraordinary in that, on the one hand, of the 25 amendments I submitted, 24 were ruled out of order, many of them on the grounds that they would result in a charge on the Exchequer and that they would interfere with the finances of the Bill, while on the other hand, a series of amendments to section 1 were ruled out of order because they did not have any impact on the Bill. If one's amendments have an impact on the Bill, they are out of order, and if the amendments do not have an impact on the Bill they are out of order. Pretty much everything is out of order if one disagrees with the Government.

Particular amendments were ruled out of order on the grounds that they were "declaratory" - whatever that means - because they factually sought to rename the Bill as the "Financial Emergency Measures in the Banks' Interest" rather than the current name referring to "the Public Interest". It seems to me that one can justify what is in the Bill in many ways but the one thing one cannot do is claim it is in the public interest. Even the Minister, at times of slightly greater honesty in dealing with this current crisis, has said when pushed that he does not like doing this to people and that he would rather not have to do it to them. I suppose when he says that, it is a begrudging admission that what he is doing is not fair, just or good for the public or the workers on whom he is imposing the changes. He tells us he is doing it because he has to because the policy to which he has agreed and that is being pushed on us by the ECB and the troika is that the first step on the road to so-called economic stability is to protect the banks. They say we must get the banks and the financial system up and running before we can do anything else. At least it would be honest to say that is the purpose of the Bill, that it is a Bill to shore up the banks yet again and to ask public sector workers to pay for it, but one cannot even make an amendment to the name of the Bill even though it is a factually accurate description of the Bill.

First, the Minister does not decide what is in order. The decision is an administrative one based on Standing Orders. The Ceann Comhairle makes the decision and the Minister has no involvement in it. Second, Deputy Boyd Barrett should confine himself to speaking to the section. He cannot discuss the Bill as a whole. He can do that at the end of the debate but at this Stage he must speak on the section.

Everyone was speaking to the entire Bill, so I will just do what everyone else did. The key issue is that this Bill is a subversion of democracy and it follows on from the manner in which the Government has tried to browbeat the trade union movement-----

That is nothing to do with this section.

-----in this country and public sector workers into accepting a cruelly unjust, economically stupid and unsustainable attack on their pay and conditions.

This is Committee Stage.

It is disgraceful that a Labour Party Government, on the 100th anniversary of the 1913 Lock-out, would try to do this to the very people who voted for them in the belief that the Labour Party would protect them, when instead it has stabbed them in the back and is trying to force even more cuts in their pay and conditions on top of those they have already suffered over the past five years with disastrous consequences for those people, their families and the economy as a whole.

This is out of order.

Other speakers are waiting to make a point on the section. Deputy Boyd Barrett cannot make a Second Stage speech at this Stage.

We did not have a Second Stage.

Deputy Boyd Barrett cannot make a speech at this Stage.

The Technical Group did not even get a second round.

If the Deputy wishes to change Standing Orders, there is a way to do that, but currently the Standing Order states that he must speak to the section. Otherwise, he can allow his colleagues to make their points.

The Government is not interested in changing Standing Orders. It would not entertain a debate on the guillotine. It just rammed the Bill through.

The Deputy should continue, but he must speak to the section.

The Government has short-circuited debate deliberately because it wants to kill the debate. It is trying to pull the wool over people's eyes and trying to railroad the Bill through on top of people who have suffered cruelly in the past five years.

That is nonsense.

The people sought the protection of the Labour Party and it has betrayed them.

First, I wish to put on record my protest at the absolute affront to democracy that is being perpetrated in the House today and since last Thursday. The Bill is a very important one that attacks public sector workers and circumscribes the right to free association.

It does no such thing.

Members should not speak out of turn. Deputy Healy should keep to the section.

The Bill is unconstitutional and it is also in conflict with-----

The Deputy should take a challenge on the matter.

-----international human rights legislation. The Bill was published last Thursday and amendments had to be tabled within 24 hours. A total of 51 amendments have been ruled out of order, many of them for no good reason. The manner in which the Bill is being rammed through the House with a guillotine is an affront to democracy. Deputy Joe Higgins can speak for himself. He tabled an amendment seeking that the Bill be renamed as the "Reduction of Public Servants’ Pay, Pensions and Conditions Act 2013" and it is difficult to understand how it was ruled out of order. However, the Bill specifies that it is to provide for "the reduction of the remuneration of certain public servants ... (B) the reduction of the amount of the payment of pension ... and (C) the alteration of the operation of scales of pay for public servants (including the suspension of the awarding, for a certain period, of increments under those scales)". That is exactly what Deputy Higgins specified in his amendment. The amendment relates to what is in the Bill and has been ruled out of order for no good reason. That shows the anti-democratic manner in which the Bill is being pushed through this House today.

The wording in section 1 refers to "financial emergency measures" on a number of occasions. I would like to know whether the Minister believes there is a financial emergency.

We know there is.

If he believes that, and given this Bill is named in that manner, why in this Bill does the Minister attack ordinary middle and low-income public servants?

It affects those whose income is over €65,000.

Sorry Deputy, allow Deputy Healy to speak.

It also affects private sector workers, because 5,000 or more such workers will lose their jobs as a result of the money being extracted out of the economy under this Bill. As a Labour Party Minister, why does the Minister not target the 10,000 highest earners in the country? The Minister for Finance recently informed me they earn €5.9 billion per year or an average of €595,000 each. Why does the Minister not target the 20,000 highest earners who, according to the Minister for Finance-----

Is this on the section?

-----have €5.72 billion per annum or almost €300,000 each per year?

This is a Second Stage speech.

Why are such people not being targeted in this Bill?

Is this on section 1?

Why? It is because people who are absolutely wealthy and who have huge incomes-----

This is a Second Stage speech.

----- as well as those who have huge assets are being left off scot-free by the Government and a Labour Party Minister. The effect of this Bill-----

Will the Deputy keep to the section please?

I am keeping to it.

The Deputy is not near it.

The effect of this Bill and this section is that throughout the public service, ordinary workers' pay and conditions will be undermined. Moreover, as I indicated, private-sector workers also will lose their jobs. A recent report by the Nevin Economic Research Institute showed that taking €1 billion out of the economy through this measure will save at most €250 million but will put 10,000 people on the dole queues, including 5,000 private sector workers, as well as public sector workers. As a Labour Party Minister, surely Deputy Howlin agrees the very rich and wealthy, that is, those who earn huge salaries per annum or who have huge assets are those who should be made to pay. I remind the Minister that during the last general election, he and his Labour Party members and candidates went around the country telling everyone they would protect the vulnerable. This measure certainly does not constitute protecting the vulnerable. This is an attack on the grassroots Labour membership in this country. It is an attack on labour history and is an attack on the 1913 Lock-out strikers, who won freedom of association for people in this country.

I am happy to contribute to this section of the debate. While I will not make the point ad nauseam, I wish to put on record that the length of time given to debate such substantial legislation is profoundly inadequate. I often have heard the Minister, in his previous capacities, speak of the need for reform and for more open and transparent debate. While he may not admit it today, he must be aware the level of debate is not sufficient in the House today.

Deputy, can you keep to the section we are on?

I am, but simply wished-----

There is indeed a very poor standard of debate.

----- to put this on the record in the only opportunity available to me.

Section 1 of the actual Act refers to the context for the Bill, that is, of Ireland receiving financial support from the IMF and the European Union. It refers to targets in respect of Ireland's budget deficit agreed with the European Union and the troika. However, this does not in any way justify the need to take €300 million out of workers' pockets while clear alternatives are available. It is premature to bring the Bill into the House today. Trade unionists are being placed in an impossible and invidious position, many of whom will vote "Yes" to the agreement for understandable reasons, because this Bill, if passed, would make their conditions worse. A sword of Damocles is being placed over their heads but were they to vote "Yes" to the agreement, that somehow would be presented as agreement with the economic strategy. However, I do not believe this in any way accurately reflects their view. If Members wish to deal with the deficit, which I accept, and if they wish to bridge the gap between what is taken in and what is given out, which I believe must be done, then the way to do this is through progressive taxation measures.

Deputy, will you keep to the section? You have gone off topic.

I believe this pertains to the section of the Bill because section 1 relates to the context in which this Bill is being presented.

That is the preamble.

It refers to external finance from the European Union and other international agencies and this is the entire context behind the rationale for the introduction of this Bill. It is reasonable to make the point for other measures or other forms of legislation, rather than the contents of this Bill, which provides for pay cuts and an increment freeze, which have no justification and are in no way progressive. Moreover, no one should suggest in this debate that this legislation is socially progressive or that Ireland will be more and not less equal on foot of this Bill's passage. If Members are being honest with themselves, they must know it will not and that the solution is fair and balanced progressive taxation.

With respect, I ask the Minister to do one or two things and out of respect to the Chair, I will conclude on this point. First, the Minister should allow more time for the debate. He is aware that the Dáil is not even sitting next week. I ask him to justify the reason the Dáil is not sitting next week, while an entire raft of legislation is waiting to get through-----

-----and while this Bill requires debate? Second, I ask him to remove the Bill from the Order Paper and allow trade unionists -----

There is an order of the House regarding this Bill.

-----to make their decision in a calm and reasoned manner, rather than having a sword of Damocles placed over their heads by the Minister, his colleagues in Fine Gael and unfortunately, by some of my colleagues in the Labour Party?

Deputy - and this goes for all the Deputies - if one spends a lot of one's time speaking on stuff that is not in the Bill, that is one reason Members do not have enough time.

On a point of order-----

He is off again.

If it is an actual point of order, that is, a real point of order.

It is a real point of order. Section 1 refers to the public interest and the name of the Bill as being in-----

No, it is the interpretation section.

Sorry, section 1 refers several times to measures in the public interest. That is the title of the Bill. It is perfectly in order for Members to question whether that is an accurate definition of what is this Bill, because I and others on this side do not believe it is in the public interest. Consequently, it is in order-----

Sorry Deputy, that is not a point of order.

-----for them to question whether this is accurate.

Deputy, to be clear, that is not a point of order and that is the interpretation section.

It is a point of order on whether Members' points-----

I call on the Minister to respond.

Yes, but it is not a legitimate point of order. I call the Minister.

I thank the Cathaoirleach and will respond as best I can to that series of Second Stage contributions. Deputy Sean Fleming-----

Had the Minister allocated time for a Second Stage debate, it would have been all right.

Would the Deputy like to allow someone else to speak in this House and not dominate it all?

Members only got one twist and were denied the opportunity to speak.

The financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, legislation is required because a financial emergency still is in existence in this State. Deputy Fleming asked some pertinent questions about the necessity for it. The first FEMPI legislation was introduced by the Government of which he was a member in 2009 when the country was in free-fall. He is right to acknowledge now that some considerable advances have been made. He also is right to acknowledge that the Irish deficit this year will be 123% of GDP, which will be among the highest anywhere in the world this year.

That is the debt-to-GDP ratio.

We are borrowing €1 billion per month and the only people who are available to give us money at present have conditions attached to them.

Last week, the Minister of State, Deputy Costello, told Members that Ireland was the seventh richest country in the world.

Sorry Deputy, let the Minister speak.

The Deputy should let someone else speak. He should not shout people down.

There is no point in having one story tonight when the Government had a different story last week

Through the Chair, in a democracy, one needs people to be allowed to have different views. It is not fascism, the manner in which the Deputy shouts people down in a Parliament. We have been there.

Is it fascism when a Government does not allow people time to speak?

Can I say that-----

Sorry, to Deputies in general-----

How can the Minister lecture us about not giving people enough time to speak when he is using the guillotine?

In terms of the-----

That is an outrageous accusation.

Deputy Donnelly, it is my decision and I ask all Deputies to be quiet when a Member is speaking; it does not matter which side of the House they are on.

There is neither respect for the Chair nor the House from some people.

Deputy Fleming posed a valid question. He wanted me to define whether there is still an emergency in order to justify the Bill. In the Bill I amalgamate the requirements - this will be the fifth financial emergency measures in the public interest, FEMPI, item of legislation - to bring a report to the House to identify that the conditions that justify the maintenance of what are extraordinary measures still exist, that is, that we need these measures to contribute to the recovery path of our economy, to put our fiscal base in order and to ensure we have sustainable finances. That will be done on an annual basis, as is normal. Instead of individual ones for each Bill, if this legislation is enacted there will be one comprehensive report, and it will be a matter for the House to debate, if that is what Members want, in terms of whether the emergency continues. I deliberately chose to put these measures in FEMPI legislation rather than in an ordinary piece of legislation because I recognise that FEMPI Acts are not normal, they are required to contribute to the financial emergency we are experiencing, and they are not permanent for that reason. They need to be unwound at some time when the economic circumstances of the State allow it.

Deputy McDonald spoke about pay inequality. There is one pay cut in this Bill, and that is for people earning in excess of €65,000. That is 13% of the public service. Some 87% of the public service earn less than that, and there is no cut to their core pay in this set of proposals. That is the reality.

I have debated this many times with Deputy McDonald and her general contention is that we should have a flat ceiling of €100,000 in the public sector, and that nobody should be paid more than that. She never explains whether that should scale down or whether there should be any differentials at the top - the old trade union principles of differentials. However, even that principle has been breached in the amendments she has tabled to this Bill because she is determined that, uniquely, hospital consultants should be paid €150,000, not €100,000. We are now moving into a different realm because it has finally dawned on Deputy McDonald that the flat blanket ceiling of €100,000 would destroy our health services for a start, as I explained several times. I am not sure that it would not have the same impact on the Judiciary and everything else.

Deputy McDonald spoke about crafting the legislation. That is a good word because this legislation is crafted to reflect what is a brokered deal that we now call the Haddington Road agreement. That has taken place after five months of engagement with all trade unions that came to the table, and all eventually did.

What about the pensioners?

Five months of discussions-----

What has that got to do with the section?

The Minister should deal with the section.

Does the Chair want me to respond to the point she allowed be made by everybody else? I am responding to the points I took from everybody else's contribution. It would be extraordinary if I was prevented from responding to the points made.

That is fine as long as it does not go into the general issue.

The truth is that this is reflecting what has been brokered by the Labour Relations Commission to deal with an emergency. The genesis of this is simple. One of the parting gifts this Government was left when we came in to a broken economy by the outgoing Fianna Fáil-Green Party Administration was a profile of expenditure, including many expenditure reductions, but even on top of all the outlined expenditure reductions was a further hole of what they called unallocated savings. We have to address those unallocated savings and in order to get to the 3% deficit by 2015, which we are obliged to do, we must make further adjustments of €3 billion, and 36% of expenditure comes from pay and pensions. I recommended to Government, and the Government was of the view, that it was reasonable to ask for a proportionate contribution rather than go back to front-line expenditure on welfare, health care, the disability sector or education again. That is what we set out to broker on an agreed basis as far as was possible with the trade union movement and, by and large, the movement understood that because all of us, public and private sector, have a vested interest in the recovery of our country so that we can have a way forward that is sustainable and public services of which we can all be proud.

The Deputy makes a point about increments. The point would have been stronger, if she will forgive me saying it, if she had said that some increments should be protected. She did not do that. The negotiated settlement under the Haddington Road agreement will protect increments for all workers who engage in the process.

On Deputy McDonald's point about the protection of collective agreements, collective agreements are vindicated by that. The engagement of trade unions on behalf of their members is fully vindicated, not only in this legislation but by the Haddington Road agreement.

Deputy Boyd Barrett and Deputy Healy both made strong presentations on amendments that are ruled out, and I thank the Chair for making the position crystal clear. The Minister and the Department has no hand, act or part in determining what is and is not in order. That is entirely an administrative decision made by the officials of this House and, ultimately, by the Ceann Comhaire and the Ceann Comhairle's office. I thank the Acting Chairman for making that abundantly clear.

The Minister can-----

The issue is about amendments. For as long as I have been here it is the rule of the House that amendments that cause a charge on the State are not in order to be tabled by the Opposition.

Deputy Healy also spoke about low paid and average paid workers. I do not know what he thinks is average pay but as I said, those on €65,000 make up 13% of the workforce.

I know that €195,000 is very well paid.

The threshold is €65,000 above which we are making a pay cut. That is well above anybody's average working pay in this State.

Deputy Nulty makes valid points about open debate.

A total of 32,500 pensioners are having their pension cut under this measure.

I ask the Deputy to allow the Minister conclude.

He is only interested in shouting people down.


One either listens to Deputy Healy-----

It is not true, Minister. We need to hear the truth. It is not true that only people-----

-----or he will shout one down.

Tell the truth.

I want to deal with Deputy Nulty's comment, which is an important one in terms of open debate. It is important to have as much debate as we can but we have not engaged with any of the meat in this Bill so far because we have been talking in generalities. We had the second lecture in one day that I am very used to from Deputy Boyd Barrett, as if he is on the back of a lorry. However, it does not help.

We would get more sense from the back of a lorry.

We should be dealing with the meat of the Bill.

I am sorry that the offer made by the Taoiseach this morning on the Order of Business to give an additional two and a half hours to debate this Bill was not accepted. I also regret the time we have lost in terms of suspensions so far.

I have given the justification for the Bill. It is necessary on the path to recovery. Deputies are right when they say it is not something we would wish to have to do. Bringing the public finances into balance has been an extraordinarily difficult journey for the Irish people generally but I agree with Deputy Fleming. We can see the finishing line now. We have 85% of the journey done and I hope that these measures can be unwound in the not too distant future so that we can engage in discussions with the trade union movement based on increases in pay and an improvement in working conditions rather than the opposite that was necessitated by the calamity this Government is trying to clean up.

Question put and agreed to.

Amendment No. 5 in the name of Deputy Donnelly has been ruled out of order in that it involves a potential charge on the Exchequer.

Yet another one.

Amendment No. 5 not moved.

I move amendment No. 6:

In page 5, line 5, after “salary,” to insert “excluding overtime payments”.

This is very straightforward. There are a number of amendments to the section but this amendment is not grouped for discussion. It deals with the reference to annual remuneration. I have asked for it to be included so there is no doubt that overtime payments will in no way be included in any future definition of the annual remuneration of a public servant. At the moment in the Bill annual remuneration deals with basic salary together with fixed periodic allowances that are reckonable for pension. It is possible in some situations, particularly with reduced staff numbers, that overtime will be fixed and periodic, with a set pattern in many jobs. Prison officers often tell me they have no choice about working overtime, that it is fundamental to their fixed period of work and their periodic allowances, is paid periodically and included as part of their annual remuneration. I envisage with the changes in numbers in the public service, and the redeployment and changes that will happen, it could easily arise in many situations that overtime is compulsory and necessary for the proper management of front line and other services. Those who work overtime want to be sure this definition of annual remuneration, which will be cut depending on the level of income, and we will discuss the details of that in subsequent amendments, will not include overtime payments under the section for any pay cuts that might be introduced in future.

Deputy Fleming's amendment seeks to explicitly exclude overtime payments from the definition of remuneration being used for pay reductions being introduced in this legislation. I am happy to confirm a reference to remuneration for the purposes of the pay reduction being applied here is a reference to basic salary and fixed periodic allowances only. Overtime is neither basic salary nor a fixed periodic allowance and therefore already excluded from the definition of remuneration.

I should have explained what a fixed periodic allowance is. It is an allowance which is of a fixed amount, taxable and pensionable, and not reliant on the type of work of the amount of work performed, such as at weekends. For example, a principal's allowance or a Minister's allowance on top of a Deputy's pay, which most of us would regard as core pay, are included but those are all that is included, no overtime rates will be or are included in this definition.

I understand the Minister's remarks and I hope everyone is listening. If this ever goes for adjudication, the remarks on the record of the House will be used to buttress the point and the concern I was raising. My main concern is that because of the changes in the public service and the nature of pay, overtime could become fixed in some circumstances down the road. I will take the Minister's assurance based on the FEMPI legislation here today and based on the fact that emergency will not last forever and that it might not be too long.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendments Nos. 7 to 19, inclusive, not moved.

Amendment No. 23 is an alternative to amendment No. 22 and amendments Nos. 21 and 24 form part of composite proposal. Amendments Nos. 20 to 24, inclusive, are related and may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 20:

In page 6, line 24, column 2, to delete “9 per cent” and substitute “15 per cent”.

The point of the amendment is shift the burden of cuts and adjustment onto those on higher salaries of over €100,000 per year. It was linked to amendments that sought to remove the Minister's intention to further cut the salaries of those under €100,000 per year. It was part of a package where instead of attacking those who earn less than €100,000 per year, the Minister would impose whatever cuts he is seeking on those earning over €100,000 because they can afford it. That is a principle many have articulated inside and outside of this House because they believe a Government that is interested in the welfare of ordinary working people, low and middle income families, should uphold that principle. It should protect those on low and middle incomes and impose the burden of adjustment on those who can afford it. I do not see why this Government resists such a way to deal with the adjustment it claims is necessary.

The advantage of this is that it means low and middle income workers, who have already been hammered with the universal social charge, cuts in their pay and levies, and who are at the edge of being able to manage, would not have to suffer further. It would also benefit the wider economy. As many on this side of the House have said to the Government, as the trade union movement has said time and again, and as many mainstream economists have said, if we take money out of the pockets of low and middle income earners, we adversely affect the wider economy. If we take it off those on higher earnings, because they can afford it, it will not have such a damaging effect on spending and, therefore, on the economy.

The Minister always resists that logic. I can understand Fine Gael doing that because traditionally it is a party that protects the well off and the super wealthy but it is astonishing that a Labour Minister and the Labour Party component of this Government resist this sort of alternative approach to dealing with the country's financial crisis. I do not see why the Minister would oppose such amendments or the principle that lies behind them.

Amendment No. 23 operates on the same principle, shifting the burden from those earning less than €100,000 to those earning more than €100,000.

It is connected to a wider set of alternative policies that have been articulated, not only by those in People Before Profit and United Left, but by the trade union movement itself. The trade union movement has stated we need to move in this alternative direction, and well the Minister knows it. If the Minister were on the other side of the House, as he was a few years ago, this is precisely the argument he would have been making and, indeed, Labour Deputies made it.

It is astonishing that sections of the trade union movement have signed up to what the Minister is proposing in this Bill because it runs counter to everything they have said for the past number of years when criticising austerity and talking about the economic damage that austerity is doing, both to the economy and to ordinary low and middle-income workers. They say that and then they recommend that their members accept what is clearly cruelly unjust and economically counterproductive.

These amendments point to the alternative. The Minister knows the alternative and I do not understand why the Labour Party is not supporting that alternative.

There is a group of amendments here and I am in the unusual position where the amendment I drafted is close enough, but not identical, to that of Deputy Boyd Barrett. It is the same principle. Essentially, I want to amend the table on page 6 of the Bill along the general lines about which Deputy Boyd Barrett spoke and my amendment reflects that. My amendments, amendments Nos. 21 and 24, are part of this group for discussion purposes. The principle is the same, that those at higher levels should pay more. I mentioned it on Second Stage. On the specifics of my amendment, the table to which I refer proposes a reduction in remuneration of public servants earning more than €65,000 stating there should be a 9% reduction for those earning any amount over €150,000 but not over €185,000, and I suggest that the latter figure be increased to €200,000.

My next amendment deals with the next line in that table. It, essentially, states that any amount over €200,000 should have a 20% reduction. That is the essence of where my amendment is coming from on that last line of the table.

The Minister has capped the reduction for those on €185,000 at 10%. I picked the figure of €200,000 for a higher cap, based approximately on the Taoiseach's salary. With the passage of this legislation, perhaps his salary will be closer to €185,000 but it is in the order of €200,000. I believe that anybody in the public service who earns over €200,000 and is paid more than the Taoiseach should have a larger deduction than what is proposed. There is a 10% deduction proposed and I propose an additional 10% reduction. It is modest for those affected and I would urge the Minister to implement this.

In the case of a hospital consultant on €250,000, for instance, on the €50,000 of earnings between the €200,000 and €250,000 bracket I propose an extra 10% over and above what the Minister proposes. That 10% of that additional €50,000 would only be €5,000 gross and less than €2,500 net, which is not a great deal. It is only €200 a month. I am sure some of the consultants would not even get a night out on that.

My amendments relate to anybody being paid more than the Taoiseach in the public service. I have not stated there should be a pay ceiling, at €200,000, at the Taoiseach's rate. I recognise that many consultants earn over €200,000. For those on figures of up to €250,000, on the amount more than the Taoiseach's salary they should pay an extra 20% as opposed to the extra 10% being proposed by the Minister. The Taoiseach, as the head of the country, is a reasonable benchmark to take.

I repeat that there is no prospect of any of these consultants heading over the Border, or to England or Germany, for the figures I propose. For the extra €50,000, it will only amount to an extra €5,000 gross, which is less than €2,500 net. Nobody who is on a salary of €250,000 will leave the country because of a net reduction of 1% of gross salary. They will only lose €2,500. It is a modest proposal, but the Minister would be sending out a good signal that those earning more than the Taoiseach's salary should take a higher cut than what is being proposed. My point is straightforward.

I do not know whether the Minister is of a mind to accept any of the proposals here. It would be good for a debate such as this in the House if, somewhere along the line, a Minister was willing to accept an amendment. There is nothing wrong with this amendment. Nobody, if on the salary of €250,000 to start with, will leave the country for the loss of €2,500.

The thrust of these amendments is to shift the burden of the adjustments onto those who are very wealthy and who can afford to pay. It is important that we nail the lie that the only persons being cut in this legislation are those on over €65,000. The facts are that pensioners on income as low as €32,500 and survivors of pensioners on half that, approximately €16,000, are being cut.

Deputy Healy is wrong. He should read the Bill.

The fact of the matter is that the Government had a choice. It could have chosen to get this €1 billion from very wealthy persons.

He should read the Bill.

As I have stated previously, the 20,000 highest earners in this country have an income of €7.42 billion, that is, €370,000 per annum each. The wealthiest 5% in this country have personal assets of €239 billion. The richest 300 persons in this country have increased their wealth significantly, by €5 billion over the past two years. What I have stated about the very wealthy persons of this country was borne out in this Chamber last week by the Minister's colleague, the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Costello, who told us that Ireland is the seventh richest country in the world. I rest my case.

I noted the Minister's commentary about the increments, where he corrected me and stated it would be better put if I had said that some increments should be protected. Would he care to enlighten us as to which of those increments should be rightly protected? In that remark, he seemed to concede the point.

All of my amendments in this section were ruled out of order because they would constitute a charge on the Exchequer. The thrust of them was, as others have said, to bring the primary focus for efficiencies and savings where I believe they rightly belong, that is, among the cohort of those who earn in excess of €100,000. The Minister is correct in stating that we have argued the idea of an emergency pay cap across the public and civil service. He was not really in favour of that. It seemed not to appeal to him. He seemed to be more comfortable going after clerical grades than those further up the chain. Given that he will not entertain the notion of an emergency pay cap, he might have availed of this emergency legislation as a mechanism to deal with those 6,000 persons in the public and civil service who earn in excess of €100,000. What I proposed in my amendments would not constitute an emergency pay cap which the Minister has set his face against but would propose a mechanism by which, finally and clearly, he could address the issue of the glaring pay inequity among those 6,000 workers within the system who earn far in excess of the €65,000, which, the Minister states, is a handsome salary and represents only 13% in the system. Those who are in a far more privileged position represent a smaller proportion of the service. Some of them are not only paid handsome; they are overpaid. By any international benchmarks, they are simply overpaid just as staff at the lower echelons of the civil and public service are in many instances underpaid.

That is a reality of the system inherited by the Minister, and he should avail of the opportunity of legislation like this to address the matter.
There is a later amendment we may not see until later this evening. Apparently, €100,000 is not enough for a medical consultant but maybe €150,000 is enough. Perhaps that is still not enough and they will still flee to Kuala Lumpur-----

One would have thought the Deputy would know, seeing as her party made the proposal.

-----because they simply cannot bear the indignity of such a salary. The Government has a very low opinion of hospital consultants-----

One might need a flight to America to be treated.

-----and medics if that is its view of them. I hope we can debate that amendment later.

I hope to make a point in a robust but respectful way, as I support the amendments. Section 2 is the crux of the disagreement with the legislation. The argument is that only salaries over €65,000 are being touched, as they are on the higher end of the salary scale. That may be so but there is a principle of equality and this only has an impact on workers in the public sector. The fairer approach would use our pay as you earn, PAYE, tax system to tax people based on earnings, regardless of who is the employer. That would generate the savings required, as answers to parliamentary questions provided by the Minister's colleague, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, indicated last week. A tax increase on incomes over €80,000 up to €125,000 and from a €125,000 upwards would provide those savings. That is why I disagree with the Minister and this legislation. The PAYE tax system, instead of pay cuts, is the way to make those on higher incomes contribute more. As a result, I support the amendments and ask the Minister to engage with the point constructively. Progressive PAYE taxation is the way to go instead of pay cuts that will only have an impact of one section of the employment group in our country.

I thank the Deputies opposite for their range of views. In essence, this set of amendments seeks to alter the threshold and accompanying rates of the pay reduction to be impose on higher paid public servants. I know there is an anomaly as amendments seeking decreases were ruled out of order because they would be a charge on the State but the amendments seeking increases are in order. That is what we are debating and we will consider it in the round. Deputy Boyd Barrett spoke about the impact on low and middle income public servants. I repeat again that the pay cut will have an impact on those earning in excess of €65,000.

That is the long and the short of it.

It might be useful to put on record figures from the Central Statistics Office, CSO, that were published yesterday. They indicate that the average private sector wage in the State is €32,670. The threshold for the pay cut I propose is hence double the average private sector wage. As I have stated privately to Deputy Boyd Barrett, it is getting harder to get into the working class under his definition.

The €100,000 threshold proposed by those opposite would obviously yield very little money. We priced Deputy Boyd Barrett's group of amendments and they would reduce the quantum of money we would get by 60%, so they would not make the savings we require to bridge the gap. They would fall very onerously on some groups of public servants, and Deputy McDonald is correct in mentioning hospital consultants in that regard, as well as the Judiciary.

I have given very careful consideration to Deputy Fleming's amendment because there may be an idea that there is merit in going higher on the very highest earners. It does not get much money, as the Deputy recognises. The Government has indicated its intention to reduce the pay of higher-paid public servants as part of the measures we have set out to get €300 million in reductions in pay and pensions this year. I know Fianna Fáil sought €350 million in reductions in its pre-budget submission. These reductions form part of the measures needed to meet our requirements in all our international agreements to reduce the deficit to 3% of GDP, as we cannot keep borrowing and piling up debt for the next generation. The reductions in pay set out were formulated to protect the basic pay of not only lower but middle income public servants, as acknowledged in the discussions we had. We are looking to employ a progressive reduction based on earning bands greater than €65,000.

The reductions proposed in the Bill are also in line with the set of proposals brokered by the Labour Relations Commission and set out in the Haddington Road agreement. With regard to the imposition of a significant increase in the reduction in pay to be applied to those earning in excess of €200,000 - Deputy Fleming calls for the rate to be increased from 10% to 20% - I do not consider it proportionate or equitable to target that narrow group in the architecture of this legislation. I have given very careful consideration to the matter. I have taken legal advice on these matters.

This is a judgment call and the reality is that the enactment of the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Bill and retirement of a number of senior public officeholders has already resulted in a significant reduction in the public servant pay. People speak about gross terms and they may not be aware of the following figures. I will put on the record the impact of what we have done as a Government with regard to officeholders. People had to think long and hard about this. In 2009, the previous Taoiseach, former Deputy Cowen, earned €285,583.

It could have been reduced.

After the reduction set out in this Bill, the Taoiseach will earn €185,350.

My heart breaks for him.

That is €100,000 in reductions. Taking in the pension-related deduction, his income before tax will be €167,938.

That is desperate.

How will he pay his bills?

I do not know. He will not be able to fly to America for hospital treatment as he would have to pay his own way. The reduction for the Taoiseach is 41%.

That is from an obscene level.

With regard to Ministers, the talented crew in office in 2009 had a salary-----

Tell us about the reductions for clerical officers and real people.

Does the Deputy wish to hear me? She keeps harping on about high pay so we should hear what are the reductions. At the height of the last Administration in 2009, a Minister earned €245,325, but after these reductions a Minister will be paid €171,000, or €155,000 before tax and after the pension-related deduction. That percentage decrease for Ministers is 36% and other than the unfortunate people who lost their jobs, there are very few people who have suffered such a decrease. That should be acknowledged.

I know there are some people who believe we should not pay anybody but I was reared in a trade union household and I believe in differentials. A Cabinet Minister should be paid more than somebody who does not have such responsibility, such as an ordinary Deputy, and a principal officer should be paid more than a junior administrator.

Likewise, a hospital consultant should be paid more than a junior hospital doctor. These differentials must be preserved in some manner. I say this so the record will be clear.

Deputy McDonald raised the issue of higher pay and I have dealt with this. It is a movable feast. We have move to a threshold for one unique group of hospital consultants whom Deputy McDonald believes should perhaps earn €150,000. Perhaps she thinks the same about judges, I do not know. Perhaps all that judges should earn is €100,000.

What does the Minister think?

I have given my view. Deputy McDonald has stated there should be a ceiling for everybody but she has not figured out the consequences for the hospital service or the judicial service.

It is the Minister who wants to make savings in the public interest.

Nor does she speak about the impact of ratcheting down to preserve differentials, which would mean everybody would melodeon down unless, of course, everyone should be paid the same wage. I believe they tried this in Albania. These are matters we should honestly debate but we should do so in a way which is realistic.

I want to be honest about Deputy Fleming's proposal. I am concerned about the impact it would have. I have given the reductions in pay which have already been taken by the Administration, that is not only by senior politicians but also by senior public administrators such as Secretaries General. They all now earn well below €200,000. The only people other than consultants about whom we have spoken are the members of the Judiciary. Deputy Fleming is aware we had a referendum to allow us reduce the pay of judges. It is very difficult, given the separation of powers, to ensure judges are completely independent, and we made it crystal clear in the debate on the amendment to the Constitution that pay cuts had to be proportionate. Article 35.5.3° allows for reductions in judicial salary only in set circumstances. It must be a proportionate, and not an exemplary, reduction. This is the issue which crystallised my view not to accept the amendment tabled by Deputy Fleming. I understand and, as the Deputy might be aware, am not averse to the principle of it, but I genuinely believe it would be unwise, unfair and unwelcome to apply this marginal rate to a discrete cohort of people with regard to whom we sought the people's permission to alter the Constitution to be able to give them a proportionate reduction and not a disproportionate one. This would be a very dangerous place to walk into. I hope Deputies understand therefore that I will not accept the amendments.

I had hoped the Minister could have dealt with the question Deputy Healy raised with regard to pensioners. While he made the point that low and middle-income public servants are exempt-----

We will get to it.

Only an hour remains in the debate and we will not get to the section given the progress we have made. Will the Minister put it on the record? The pensioners were not represented in the Haddington Road agreement and have not had an opportunity to be involved. With regard to the €32,500 threshold, is it with regard to individual pensions or an accumulation of pensions, such as a Deputy's pension and a Minister's pension going over the €32,500 threshold? What happens with regard to a superannuation pension where a spouse also has a superannuation pension and would be entitled to a widow's pension? What happens if one has a superannuation pension and a State contributory pension which puts one over the threshold? These questions need clarity and I do not believe we will get to the relevant section to deal with it. I hope the Minister will put the answers on the record.

I must repeat it is not relevant to the section.

I will come back to it.

The Minister made an important admission in his response to the amendments I and others have tabled on the section. He stated he costed our amendments and I thank him very much for doing so because we certainly did not have time as we had less than 24 hours between seeing the Bill and the deadline for amendments.

It was a shot in the dark so.

Of course. What else could we do given the time available? It is interesting that it was not a bad shot in the dark considering, because the Minister stated if he agreed to these amendments they would gather €400 million, that is 40% of the adjustment, and shift the adjustment from those earning less than €100,000 to those earning more than €100,000. It would still leave those earning more than €100,000 very well off. I do not think they will have trouble paying their bills, but it would do a great deal to alleviate the burden the Minister is imposing on people earning less than €100,000.

To respond to the Minister's suggestion and quip that our definition of the working class makes it very hard to be in the working class, let me point out, although I am sure the Minister knows, that many people who earn between €65,000 and €100,000 are in single income large families with nobody else working. They incur many costs such as mortgages. If one happens to be in a single income family earning between €65,000 and €100,000 it does not make one wealthy. Many people in this bracket are having extreme trouble paying their mortgages and bills and educating their children. This is not to say that if we had believed adjustments over recent years were necessary people earning more than €65,000 should not have had to bear some of them, but this group has already taken a hammering with the universal social charge and the levies. The reason we strike a ceiling at €100,000 in these amendments, and seek to shift the burden to people earning more than €100,000, is because we can be absolutely certain people earning more than €100,000 can afford it. This is the point. If we want to then parse a little more the people earning less than this we can examine it, but the point is once people earn more than €100,000 we know they can afford it.

As has been pointed out by Deputy Nulty and many of us on this side of the House, we see this attempt to shift the burden as part of a wider package of putting forward an alternative to unfair, unjust and, we believe, economically counter-productive austerity. It would also involve the tax system which, as has been stated, is a fair and progressive way to deal with collecting revenue for the State which does not discriminate. There should not be discrimination between the public and private sectors. The Minister's quoting of the CSO figures, if he does not mind me saying so, plays a little bit into demonising the public sector and setting it against the private sector by stating private sector wages averages only €32,000 but public sector wages are higher. This is not the definition or the line which should be drawn. The line which should be drawn is between low and middle income people who are genuinely struggling to pay their mortgages and bills and those who can afford to do so.

As Deputy Healy and others stated, these proposals form a suite of alternative and more progressive ways to gather revenue for the State which would also include wealth taxes and increased corporation taxes. Even in the narrow remit of this legislation why would the Minister not accept an amendment? If he could even bother to listen perhaps he would explain to us why it would not be fair to shift €400 million of the adjustment he wants to impose on people earning less than €100,000? He stated it was 40%.

I will give an explanation.

The Minister will change his mind now.

On a point of clarification, it is 40% of the wage saving, not 40% of €300 million

All right, but am I supposed to be able to read the Minister's mind?

Debate adjourned.