Social Welfare Bill 2019 [Seanad]: Committee and Remaining Stages

Amendments Nos. 2, 3, 5 and 6 have been ruled out of order.

Were all amendments ruled out of order?

Sections 1 to 4, inclusive, agreed to.

I move amendment No. 1:

In page 5, line 2, to delete “For the purposes of this Chapter, the Minister” and substitute “The Minister”.

I will not take up a lot of time. We want to make some fairly straightforward points. The Minister referred to another recession. It is also worth noting that in the best of times businesses face challenges, products and services change and evolve and parts of a town become more or less popular. This safety net will always be necessary, irrespective of whether there is a recession.

Deleting the chapter would mean that the following provisions would apply equally whether those who were to receive jobseeker's benefit were employed or self-employed. In other words, there would be continuity and people would be treated equally whether they got jobseeker's benefit having come from an employed or self-employed background.

Unfortunately, I cannot accept the amendment. The conditionality is not the same. The reason the section states "For the purposes of this Chapter" is because the conditionality to access jobseeker's benefit for the self-employed is slightly different from that for the employed. We tried to mirror it as closely as possible. The number of contributions are different.

I am going to get to that.

That is why the line is in the section not once but 18 times. It is to emphasise that for the purposes of the new chapter 12A, the conditions are different from the preceding chapters that govern jobseeker's benefit for the employed. It seems like they are only words, but there are different conditions.

I will press the amendment.

Amendment put and declared lost.
Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 not moved.

I move amendment No. 4:

In page 5, line 29, to delete “52 contribution weeks” and substitute “39 contribution weeks”.

This is similar to amendment No. 3. I am surprised it was ruled out of order because the principle is more or less the same. I will not have a long debate about this, but the argument is that the qualifying contributions for a self-employed person are more onerous than for an employed person. I know the Minister will tell me the qualifying conditions are different, but perhaps she will explain to me why that is the case. All of the amendments we have tabled propose that there be equality in terms of access to the pension regardless of whether a person is employed or unemployed. I know the Minister will say the qualifying criteria are different, but perhaps she will explain why.

I genuinely appreciate the divergence between the requirements for employed contributions paid at 39 class A contributions in the governing year, while we propose that there are 52 class S contributions for the same type of access to the scheme. The divergence simply reflects how self-employed people pay their PRSI contributions. We will never find anybody with a PRSI contribution of 39 weeks in a year. People either have 52 or they have none. Self-employed people pay their contributions in one go. They either have no contributions for the entire year, at which stage they can buy their contributions for the full year at a later date, or they will always have 52. Having 39 contributions is irrelevant, because it would never be the case. On that basis, the prescription in the legislation reflects the actual payments of social insurance contributions by those who are self-employed.

Is the amendment being pressed?

I want to make a brief reply. I will not delay the House. I accept that point. It is unfortunate that amendment No. 3 was ruled out of order because it nails the point on having 104 contributions rather than 156. It is a question of two years or three years. The principle of amendment No. 4 is the same as amendment No. 3, namely, that the qualification criterion for the self-employed is more onerous. I know we cannot discuss amendment No. 3. The qualifying criterion for the self-employed is three rather than two years.

I appreciate what the Deputy is saying, but they are not the same. We would be having a different conversation if amendment No. 3 had not been ruled out of order. This is not more onerous, given that the self-employed can only make zero or 52 contributions. I hear what the Deputy is saying.

I accept that.

Is the amendment being pressed?

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Section 5 agreed to.
Sections 6 to 11, inclusive, agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 5 and 6 not moved.
Schedule agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment, received for final consideration and passed.

A message will be sent to the Seanad acquainting it accordingly.

The Dáil adjourned at 7.50 p.m. until 9.30 a.m. on Thursday, 17 October 2019.