Public Services Card

Ceisteanna (35)

Willie O'Dea


35. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if she has received an enforcement notice from the Data Protection Commissioner in respect of the public services card, PSC; if the course of action she will take has been decided; if enforcement proceedings have been issued; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50497/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (7 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Employment)

I remind Deputies that there is six and a half minutes for each question: 30 seconds for the Deputy to introduce, two minutes for the Minister, a supplementary from the Deputy, a further minute for the Minister, a final supplementary, and a final reply from the Minister. I ask all Members to try and keep within these guidelines and I appreciate that some of the answers are long.

I will not take up my 30 seconds. We discussed this question on the previous occasion on which the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection took questions and it was discussed subsequently at the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection. I have put down the question to find out if there is any update or has she received an enforcement notice yet.

To date, the Data Protection Commission, DPC, has not issued an enforcement notice, although I understand that one is being prepared. On receipt of the notice, the Department will consider its scope and terms and will respond appropriately at that time.

I am advised that the findings in the Data Protection Commission's report do not have the force of law until such time as they are formalised in an enforcement notice subject to any appeals process being completed. On the basis of advice from the Office of the Attorney General, I and my officials are satisfied that the processing of personal data relating to the PSC has a strong legal basis, that the retention of data is lawful and that the information provided to users satisfies the requirements of transparency. Pending the receipt of any enforcement notice and any subsequent appeal that may be made, the Department will continue to conduct the SAFE 2 registration process and keep issuing issue PSCs to those citizens who require them.

In continuing to support the use of the PSC, I maintain the approach first legislated for in 1998, and subsequently maintained by successive Governments.

The position then is that nothing has changed since we last discussed this matter. Is the Minister aware that the Road Safety Authority specifically stated in February 2018 that the PSC would be a mandatory requirement for applications for driving licences and not just online applications? Is she also aware that it was mandatory for people applying for naturalisation to have PSCs up until 16 August last - the day after the Data Protection Commissioner's report was issued - when that requirement was withdrawn?

I cannot say that I am or I am not. What I will say for the record is that I, as Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, am not responsible for the roll-out or usage of the PSC in any other Department or offices or agencies under their auspices. It is up to each individual line Minister to engage with Government e-services and decide how they want to employ them.

I take the Minister's point that she is not personally responsible for what other Departments do. If what I am saying is correct, however - and I have evidence to support it - would she agree that the Data Protection Commissioner was right in the fear she expressed about mission creep.

As the Deputy is well aware, because he was in government when the card was brought into being, it is not my Department's card or scheme. This is a whole-of-Government scheme that was launched by his colleagues, the former Ministers for Finance and Social, Community and Family Affairs. It was also clearly defined from day one. I do not give compliments very easily to Opposition Members given the mess the country was in when we took over in 2011, but the foresight of the people who were in place in 1998 in the context of this project led to enhanced access - via the Internet - to all Government services for all citizens. It was never a case of mission creep taking place. I would say there was mission delivery.

Departmental Reports

Ceisteanna (36)

John Brady


36. Deputy John Brady asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the reason a report into the impact of reduced rates of jobseekers' payments for the young unemployed between 18 and 25 years of age, as committed to in Pathways to Work 2016-2020, has not been published; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50256/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (13 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Employment)

The staff and I have been given word that Deputy Quinlivan is taking this question. We find that acceptable.

The question is on the mystery report on the impact of reduced payments for jobseekers, which were introduced by Deputy O'Dea's party, Fianna Fáil, in 2009. The report is now three years overdue. Where is it?

I have received just recently a copy of the completed report on the impact of the age-related rates on young people from my officials. I am reviewing the report and intend to publish it and make it available to the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection.

On budget day, I announced the abolition of the age-related rates for 25 year olds and for those aged 18 to 24 who are living independently and receiving State housing supports. These targeted measures will benefit approximately 2,100 young people from January 2020 at a cost of just €5 million. People aged 25 will benefit by over €45 per week and those aged between 18 and 24 who meet the new conditions will benefit by €90. If a young person under age 25 engages in education or training, or employment activation, he or she can receive the higher weekly rate of €203, or €229.20 if he or she participates in the youth employment support scheme.

The policies implemented have been effective as the youth unemployment rate has dropped significantly from over 30% during the great recession period to 12.3% in October 2019, according to our latest reports. The rate is significantly below the EU average, which is 14.5%.

Supporting and improving the capacity of young people to take up employment, education and training opportunities can and do reduce welfare dependency and definitely enhance their employment prospects over time, as well as their ability to earn an adequate income to support themselves. I will continue to focus on youth unemployment and developing initiatives to help young people back to work.

Section 7 of the Social Welfare Bill (No. 2) Bill 2019 provides for the presentation of a poverty impact assessment on the age-related rates to the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection within three months of the Bill's enactment. I intend to live up to that.

I thank the Minister. I am delighted to hear the report is finally finished. The Minister will probably understand why we are sceptical in that we have not been given any date as to when we will get the report. I will go through the list of occasions on which the report was asked for. My colleague, Deputy Brady, has consistently asked the Minister when the report, committed to in Pathways to Work, will be printed. He asked about it every single time he had a session of questions, and he asked the Minister's predecessor in 2016. The report was due to be published in mid-2016. The Minister says she has it now. I urge her to pass it on to Deputies as soon as possible. She needs to commit to a time and date in this regard.

In June 2016, the then Minister, the Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, said a report would be published later in the year. In May 2017, it was said it would be published that year. In February, April, September and October of this year, the Minister told my colleagues it would be completed shortly. Last year, she told the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection that the report was practically ready. Where is it? When will it be published? I understand it is now ready so I would like a publication date.

In budget 2020, the Minister deliberately introduced a new condition for those between 18 and 24, allowing the full rate to be payable only when they are living independently and in receipt of State support. The Minister did this purposely to exclude the majority of young jobseekers. It benefits only around 300 individuals between 18 and 24.

Under the Pathways to Work 2016-2020 review, my Department committed to reviewing and reporting on the impact of the reduced rates on young jobseekers. The review involved a very comprehensive and detailed analysis of the data. The National University of Ireland, Maynooth, undertook research that examined the effectiveness of the reduced rates in encouraging young jobseekers to avail of education, training and employment. The Department was keen to have the university research used to inform its own report. It would not make sense for the Department to prepare a report in addition to the detailed, independent research. My Department received a copy of the final report from the university late last year. The officials met the research team in February this year to discuss the results of the research and learn from the findings. The detailed analysis of the findings was examined and used to inform my Department's own review. As I said, I have just received the report in the last day or so. I intend to read, review and discuss it with my team next week so as to make any decisions arising from the research, if we need to.

I have purpose in all the decisions I make. The decisions I made for the budget this year were informed by my gut feeling as to how the money we had, which was limited this year, could achieve the best results. I remain steadfast in my view that the live register is no place for a young person under 25. What we need to have is ambition for our young people to make sure that we train them, re-educate them, reskill them or just give them the confidence to show up to avail of the jobs that are on offer.

I am acutely aware that the live register is no place for anyone, particularly those under 26. I come from the city of Limerick, which has unemployment black spots. Eight of the top ten black spots are in the city. There has been no targeted intervention that I have seen to reduce the number. The numbers do not change. The areas might change slightly but the number of black spots in Limerick does not.

The Minister has still not said when she will publish the report. She said she will look at it. She has told the Dáil on a number of occasions that the report is coming immediately. This has occurred since 2016, when the current Taoiseach, Deputy Leo Varadkar, was Minister. Who was in charge of compiling the report? How many people have been responsible for producing it? What contact has the Minister had with them? There seems to have been no sense of urgency. Has the issuing of the report been deliberately delayed? I encourage the Minister to give us the date on which she intends to publish the report. When doing so, she might as well send it on to us.

To reconfirm, I received the report yesterday. I will read it between now and the weekend. I have the Social Welfare Bill to contend with this week, among other matters, as part of my schedule. I will read the report. I will meet my officials next week to discuss any of the actions that may arise from the findings in it. As soon as I have that done, I will issue it, publish it and give it to the joint committee.

We will proceed to Question No. 37.

I wish to make a brief reference to a snide reference made by the previous speaker about something my party did. Maybe we have changed our minds. After all, people do change their minds. The IRA changed its mind when it decided to stop killing people. Sinn Féin changed its mind and its members decided to take seats in this House. I wish they would do it in Westminster in return for the salaries and expenses.

We do not take the salary and expenses-----

George Bernard Shaw said changing one's mind means one is wiser today than yesterday.

This is not about George Bernard Shaw.

I just had to respond to that.

Fuel Poverty

Ceisteanna (37)

Willie O'Dea


37. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection the way in which she plans to compensate social welfare recipients who are not in receipt of fuel allowance for the increase in carbon tax; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50498/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Employment)

The question is on fuel poverty. It is self-explanatory so the Minister might respond to it.

I just have to say for the record that, as a woman, it is my prerogative to change my mind frequently, and I certainly do so.

In budget 2020, the Minister for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, announced an increase in the carbon tax rate. He has committed that all of the funds raised by increases in the carbon tax will be ring-fenced to protect those most exposed to higher fuel and energy costs, to support a just transition for displaced workers and to invest in new climate action measures. On 9 October 2019, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform published the document, The Carbon Tax Increase - What it will be spent on, which sets out specific details on the allocation of these ring-fenced moneys for next year.

The fuel allowance scheme is a targeted measure to protect those who are most vulnerable from energy poverty. For this reason, the largest single allocation, of almost one quarter of the funds that will be raised next year owing to the increased carbon tax, will be devoted to ensuring that the least well-off in society are protected through increases in the fuel allowance payment and also through energy efficiency upgrades targeted at those in energy poverty. It is estimated that over 370,000 recipients will benefit from the increases and new activities in 2020. My Department also pays an electricity or gas allowance under the household benefits scheme, at an estimated cost of €188 million in 2019. In budget 2020, I extended the household benefits package to people under 70 who have another adult living with them. I also announced a €5 increase in the living alone allowance, which I hope will benefit approximately 216,000 recipients in 2020.

Under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme, a special heating supplement may be paid to assist people in certain circumstances with special heating needs. An exceptional needs payment may also be made under the supplementary welfare allowance scheme. This payment can be made to help meet an essential, once-off cost that customers are unable to meet out of their own resources. This may, and sometimes does, include exceptional heating costs.

My colleague, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, has the role of reducing energy poverty by implementing measures, administered by the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, to improve the energy efficiency of homes.

The Minister will be aware that studies have shown that fuel poverty is rampant in this country. The latest study showed that approximately 400,000 families are affected by fuel poverty. I acknowledge the changes the Minister made in the budget but does she not agree that a number of people do not qualify for any of the improvements she mentioned? I can give examples. How are people on social welfare to be compensated for the increase in carbon tax?

The Minister will also be aware that more than 100,000 people working in low-paid employment are defined as living below the poverty line. How are they to be compensated for the increase in carbon tax? The Joint Committee on Climate Action recommended that a study be done on the extent of fuel poverty before the budgetary measure was introduced. The Minister can correct me if I am wrong but I understand that has not been done.

The specific cost to households of the increase in carbon tax would vary depending on a number of factors, notably, the energy efficiency of the homes of the fuel allowance recipients and the amount and type of fuel they use, among other factors.

Last year, the ESRI published its report on the economic and environmental impacts of increasing the Irish carbon tax. The report indicated that the additional cost of the carbon tax would be less than the weekly net value of the fuel allowance increases for those households living in the four lowest percentiles. The reason for the increase we chose was to protect the very people who are on the fuel allowance. The ESRI report stated that households in the lowest four percentiles will have an expected increase in fuel costs of €45 per annum in 2020. The increase in the fuel allowance by €2 per week amounts to approximately €56, which means there is some headroom should anything happen in the coming year. However, that is not the totality of what the Government is doing. Although one quarter of the €90 million that is expected to be ring-fenced from the carbon tax increases next year will go directly to supplement the people in the lowest four percentiles, many other initiatives such as the better energy warmer homes scheme will be rolled out across the country.

The problem is that all those initiatives announced by the Minister will come through other Departments and will benefit everybody equally. In the meantime, some people are being compensated for the increase in carbon tax while others are not being directly compensated. Does the Minister intend to continue to rely on increasing the fuel allowance as the mechanism for dealing with carbon tax? In doing so, is she aware of the problems of people who do not qualify for the fuel allowance?

I am not sure I agree with the statement Deputy O'Dea just made that the other schemes are open to everybody. The ambition in the plan is to address the houses that are most energy deficient before we get to people who live in more energy efficient homes. We have a plan to reach every household between now and 2030. We are all aware that the world is changing. The way we use energy will change to become more efficient. The way we travel and engage with the world of work will change. It is incumbent on us to have a whole-of-Government approach to ensure that from an income support perspective, which is what my Department is primarily responsible for, we look after those people who are most at risk of poverty. The survey on income and living conditions, SILC, numbers released last week show that we are, thankfully, making progress. It is up to all Departments, including the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport, and Communications, Climate Action and Environment, to ensure we reach the hardest hit citizens first and then work backwards between now and 2030.

State Pensions Reform

Ceisteanna (38)

Willie Penrose


38. Deputy Willie Penrose asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection her plans to review the qualification age for the contributory and non-contributory State pension; the number of persons who will be impacted by the increase in the qualification age for the State pension in 2021; the number who have 20 or more years of PRSI contributions; the transition measures she plans to put in place; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50651/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (8 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Employment)

In 50 years' time, Ireland will have the lowest proportion of older people in the European Union. The figure here will have be nearly 20% below the EU average, as we currently have the youngest population and the third highest fertility rate. Consequently, contrary to the scaremongering about a demographic time bomb in which everybody, including the Taoiseach, is engaging, the percentage of national income spent on public pensions will only rise by three percentage points in the next half century. Despite these facts, the Government intends to push ahead with its plan to increase the pension age to 67 by 2021 and 68 by 2028. The Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection has recommended that we stop this plan to increase the age of qualification for pensions and I support it.

To provide for sustainable pensions and facilitate a longer working life, successive Governments have considered the sustainability challenges faced by the pensions system as a result of changing demographics in Ireland. As far back as 2007, the then Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Martin Cullen, launched the Green Paper on Pensions, which proposed raising the pension age. That was followed by a major public consultation exercise. Three years later, following the public consultation, the then Minister for Social and Family Affairs, Mary Hanafin, launched the national pensions framework. Following a Government decision, it set out the agenda of changes in the State pension age to be enacted in 2014, 2021 and 2028. This strategy was enacted via legislation introduced by the then Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, and passed in 2011. It provided for an increase in the State pension age in three separate stages. In 2014, the State pension age was standardised at 66. This will be increased to 67 in 2021 and 68 in 2028.

The Roadmap for Pensions Reform 2018-2023, which I launched last year, stated that future changes in the State pension age after 2035 will be based on research into life expectancy. We are all well aware that, thankfully, we are living longer and happier lives. That is in keeping with similar measures introduced by most EU and OECD countries.

The reason for the changes was to make the State pension system more sustainable as life expectancy increases. That is essential, as people who are working now and whose PRSI contributions fund State pension payments will need a State pension when the time comes for them to retire. The demographic change has significant implications for the future costs of the State's pension provision, which are increasing by approximately €1 billion every four to five years. This figure does not take account of any rate increases we may want for pensioners. The number of recipients of contributory and non-contributory State pensions is estimated to increase by an average of 21,300 per year up to 2024. It is also estimated that 88% will have entered insurable employment at least 20 years before reaching the State pension age.

I must contradict what the Minister said about the European trend and the average age of retirement. The average EU pension age will only rise to 66 years of age by the middle of this century. Why is it necessary for Ireland to be in the vanguard and to do more than every other European country is doing? It is not fair on those who have worked and paid taxes all their lives.

I know the Minister is not responsible for all the changes but let us put a stop to it. Let us halt this horse. The way things are going, someone who starts work at 17 years of age will continue working until 68 years of age, which is 51 years of work. That person will spend three quarters of his or her life before retirement working and one quarter up to the age of 17. Let us stop this runaway train. Thankfully, we have money. I will not be around but I hope if we are ever in government again we will stop this. We will continue to work towards that aim. My estimate is that 30,000 - the Minister said 21,300 - additional people per year will be in receipt of a pension up to 2024 so the story is even better. My estimate is that 30,000 additional people would reach 66 years of age in 2021. The Minister's estimate is lower than that. The Minister can stop the runaway train, which is a bureaucratic one as well.

I think we are all suffering from a bout of changing our minds.

I have no problem changing my mind.

With respect to Deputy Penrose, I was a lowly backbencher in 2011 when Labour Party Ministers were sitting at the Cabinet table that made this decision. Nothing has changed since, other than that there are more people working. We have thankfully a jobs led recovery and the Social Insurance Fund is now in a small surplus. When the Labour Party entered government in 2011, the fund was in a small surplus that rapidly went into a deficit in a matter of years. I cannot ignore that, no more than Deputy Penrose could in 2011, the former Minister, Mary Hanafin, could in 2010 or her predecessor, Martin Cullen, could before that. We have an ageing demographic and the number of workers versus the number of pensioners is flipping. While it would be lovely, populist, warm and fuzzy to tell people at home that we will bring the retirement age back to 65, the simple fact is that for every year it is delayed, I or whoever is lucky enough to be in this position after me, has to find €250 million just to stand still. That is €250 million in every year that we delay.

We are looking at calculating pensions in a fairer way to address anomalies in the system that allow people get more out of the Social Insurance Fund, SIF, than others who may have put more into the fund. When I bring the memo for total contributions in a few weeks, we will be able to see the new approach. Regardless of how much we want to be warm and fuzzy to people who will be retiring in the coming years, nobody can escape the fact that we will have many more people drawing a pension and fewer workers supporting those pension payments.

Many people are being forced to retire at 65 based on contracts. They can already spend a year on jobseeker's benefit. The Minister has already created an extension to the jobseeker's benefit rules to allow them to go to 66. What will happen to continue it to 67 and to 68 if the Government extends it? How many will be affected by this change? If we are to continue to pay jobseeker's benefit rather than a pension to a single person, there is only €45 a week in the difference. It will not bring down the citadel. Let us not try to portray it as something that will cause serious trouble. Let us not deceive anybody. The people still need to be paid and it is only a meagre saving for the Government, but €45 is a considerable amount of money for an ordinary person. It comes to €2,400 per annum. We are not robbing Peter to pay Paul. We are robbing everybody.

I know what it was like there. I was not at the Cabinet table when the Government approved this. I was only there for nine months. The Minister's erstwhile colleague, Mr. Shatter, was the cause of me leaving. I do not want to say too much about him. If we want to go into history, I can give the Minister plenty of it.

The net cost is not small beans. It is €215 million a year every year. In no context could €215 million a year be called small beans. The purpose of successive governments in doing this was to recognise that we are living longer and many people want to work longer. I agree we need to change the practices and mindsets of some of our employers not to be pigeonholed to a retirement age of 65. We have done so in the public sector to allow people to work until they are 70 if that is what they want to do. That mindset needs to be brought to all of our private enterprises.

We are reaching full employment and I meet employers every week who find it difficult to get staff, which is why we are working on a returners programme and looking at people who are furthest to reach and reskilling and retraining them. We have large untapped talent pools, including a large number of people aged over 55. People need to change their mindsets as well as recognising that the SIF is under pressure. The demographic changes are decreasing the pensioner support rate. Nobody can ignore that regardless of how popular we want to be in keeping the pension age at 65.

Automatic Enrolment Retirement Savings System

Ceisteanna (39)

Willie O'Dea


39. Deputy Willie O'Dea asked the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection if the person or body to operate the auto-enrolment pension system has been decided; her plans to address concerns regarding the operation of this system and the lack of a drawdown option for a mortgage deposit for first-time buyers; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [50499/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 píosaí cainte) (Ceist ar Employment)

The exchange between the Minister and Deputy Penrose highlights the importance of the matter I am now raising, that of auto-enrolment. The Minister will be aware that the system in the United Kingdom was originally announced in 2008 and the legislation did not appear until 2012. Where do we stand on auto-enrolment? Is the last proposal we saw, which came as a result of the consultation, the final product? Will there be early access for people trying to buy a house or for people suffering from permanent ill health?

I am pleased that the Government recently approved significant elements of the design for our proposed automatic enrolment retirement savings scheme. These include key decisions on the target membership, the contribution rates, the policies on opting-out and re-enrolment, the administrative arrangements and organisational approach, and the investment options.

As stated in A Roadmap for Pensions Reform, the Government proposes to begin implementation of this system, which we know affectionately as automatic enrolment, by 2022. This will see a transition from the current purely voluntary system to one which will, subject to certain parameters, automatically enrol employees into a quality-assured retirement savings system. The saver will maintain the freedom of choice to opt in or opt out.

The Government has decided that a new central processing authority will be established by the State to administer the automatic enrolment system. Proposals are being finalised by my officials on the appropriate scope and role of this central processing authority, which I hope to bring to Cabinet very early in January. The proposal will include an assessment as to the extent to which existing public infrastructure could be used to carry out some or all of the functions that will be needed to operate the automatic enrolment system.

While an approach allowing for an early drawdown for a mortgage deposit, for example, may appear reasonable and improve the attractiveness of saving for some people, the core policy objective of introducing automatic enrolment, including the employer and Government subsidies, is to ensure people have adequate savings when they reach 66, 67 or thereafter. Allowing people to access their pension savings early for non-pension purposes would inevitably reduce the value of the future fund available to them, and given that the combined value of employer and Government contributions to the pensions savings scheme will exceed those of the workers, it could distort the housing market. That is the view of some of our advisers. However, the Government has decided that a limited number of savings suspension periods will be facilitated for members who wish to cease making their contributions temporarily for exactly the reason the Deputy described, namely, that they may be saving for their house. These savings suspension periods could be used for people with children going to college or for whatever reason, but they are limited in their scope.

I thank the Minister for her response and I welcome that improvement on the original proposal. Will she comment on the situation of a person who is suffering from permanent ill health. A holiday period does not seem to be appropriate to that. What does the Minister envisage for people who are already covered by a pension scheme where the terms are more generous than the auto-enrolment scheme, where a larger pension payment may arise and the contributions might be higher etc.? In that case, will the employer be forced to abandon that in favour of the lower auto-enrolment scheme? Will the Minister give an assurance that those schemes will be kept under constant review to ensure there will be no levelling down?

If people who are ill are not making a contribution to their pension scheme because they are not working, obviously the State and the employer will not be making the pension scheme contributions either. We might need to look at that in the future. We always have the State non-contributory pension for people who do not have a full contribution history to get a State pension as a kind of a base level to ensure that nobody has to live below a certain level. The Deputy makes an interesting point and I might make further inquiries as to how we propose to deal with long-term periods for people.

Some 585,000 people in the private sector do not have a pension scheme at all. They are the people we were going to enrol on a phased basis originally. Anybody outside those 585,000 people can opt in to the scheme. As the Deputy suggested, if somebody with a current pension finds this pension scheme more attractive to him or her, there is nothing stopping them taking their current pension and moving it into the automatic enrolment system. The most important thing for me and, it is hoped, for everybody else when they see the final document is that people have complete ownership of their pension pot. They also have choices. They have the choice to go with the private sector or a public offering. We know people have different views on both of those.

People need to have full respect for whatever the central processing agency is. I know some people have suggested that it should be the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, or Revenue. However, if we have to establish a new agency, that agency should command the same respect and authority in the legislation we pass. For me it is all about the people owning their pension pot and having choice.

When will the final proposal be ready? The proposed central processing agency seems to be a very large bureaucratic and expensive operation. The Irish Congress of Trade Unions and the employers are ad idem in proposing that the Revenue Commissioners should be allowed to collect the pension payments because they are already collecting social insurance etc. Many employers' payroll systems are set up to accommodate the Revenue Commissioners. It has been suggested by people who know more about this than I do that that would be a more sensible way to proceed.

It cannot be very big and expensive. It will be just a governance agency, responsible for the regulations and ensuring the fiduciary responsibilities are being met by the providers of the pension pot.

I am not sure whether the Deputy is aware from the memorandum I brought forward but there is a cap of 0.5% on all administrative costs. That includes the running of the central processing authority and all the fees that can be charged by the public or private offerings that will be on the carousel.

The Revenue is an authoritative and well-respected agency of the country and it collects tax, but this is not a tax. This is a savings scheme that is being incentivised by employers and the State. It is not the same thing. What we certainly do not want is to have people of the perception that the Government or the State is taking more money out of their wages in some form of tax. This is something that we hope people will want to do. We hope people will see the value of their investment and of their investment being matched by their employer's investment and the top-up of the savings scheme by the State. This is a really good thing. It will cost a significant amount of money. It will be a large investment pot of money which it is hoped will remain in Ireland. However, it has to have the feel-good factor of people putting in their money and seeing it matched by the employer with a top-up by the State. All of this is with a view to having extra money in their back pockets when they reach retirement age.