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Social Welfare Bill 2012: Committee Stage

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 2

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Social Welfare Bill 2012: Committee Stage


An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Amendments Nos. 1, 23 and 24 are related and may be discussed together.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh I move amendment No. 1:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 11, after “Welfare” to insert “, Pensions and Miscellaneous Provisions”.

The amendment might look simple but ultimately it would capture something of the purpose of the Bill, which is not simply to amend the Social Welfare Acts. In the definitions the Redundancy Payments Act is referred to and several other issues have been thrown into the pot with this Bill, including other provisions not specifically in the Social Welfare Bill but which should have been included. These include changes or cuts announced by the Minister in the budget which do not require primary legislation.

  I have tabled several amendments, some of which, regrettably, have been ruled out of order. Some were definitions to set down the back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance and the back to education allowance in the legislation to ensure that in future years or even this time around the Minister would have to introduce a specific change that could be debated in the Parliament.

  For the information and benefit of Deputies, I will list the amendments that the Ceann Comhairle has ruled out of order. Amendments Nos. 2, 4 and 5, 7 to 10, inclusive, and 15 and 16 have all been ruled out of order.

  I am suggesting that this be called a miscellaneous provisions Bill because I had intended to insert a social welfare amnesty provision. The Minister referred to this in her closing comments on Second Stage. Regrettably, the Ceann Comhairle has ruled it out of order and as a result a discussion on the specific proposal cannot take place, but it is a cost saving measure which we have costed and which, I believe, should have been included and would have ensured that at least one of the cuts the Minister is proposing need not go ahead within the confines of her arithmetic, although not within the confines of the arithmetic we have put forward.

  Other changes need to be brought to people's attention, including what the Minister has indicated in her list of amendments. There are usually technical amendments when a Bill is rushed and one misses a comma here or a full stop there. However this time in her haste to publish the Bill and rush it through the House the Minister has forgotten one or two things. She has decided to implement a major change with one Committee Stage amendment, that is, to get rid of one of the key victories of the working classes held for many years, the fact that Sunday has been recognised as a day of rest. It is no longer recognised as such in terms of jobseeker's benefit. This is one of the changes the Minister proposes to insert in the legislation. We will come back to it at a later stage if time allows but the debate will be truncated given that it is expected to be guillotined tomorrow at 2 p.m.

  Before I am misrepresented, I do not intend to labour on this amendment. I want to get to some of the amendments which are severely odious and I wish to debate them properly across the floor of the House, back and forth as Committee Stage allows. One amendment relates to the one-parent family payment for which there has been some small but welcome respite. I have no problem welcoming it when I see a progressive measure. The problem is that it is only a short respite: it is not as long as it should be. A third amendment relates to household budget, by nature a miscellaneous matter, and this should be included in the description I have to capture it. This might seem like a progressive measure but there are major dangers relating to deducting any payments from social welfare. Given the dangers I would have preferred a longer debate to tease it out in a proper committee but I do not believe we will have the time.

  These are not the only changes. The Minister has also suggested a change in terms of deducting the overpayments at a higher rate. Let us suppose a person has received overpayments and has not paid back that payment and this is coupled with rent payments. This would leave such a person limited. Such a person is likely to be limited anyway but he would be even more limited in terms of the choice of what to do with his money on a weekly basis rather than a monthly basis. We will have that argument at a later stage.

  This is the reason I have proposed the amendment. It is a miscellaneous provisions Bill although if the Ceann Comhairle or the rules of debate in the House had allowed me, I would not have used the term "miscellaneous provisions" - I would have suggested something more akin to "draconian provisions". Anyway, in the past when I have made such suggestions they have been ruled out of order for being mischievous or whatever. I am within the rules in using the term "miscellaneous provisions". Within the Bill there is a range of measures that are miscellaneous rather than specific to the social welfare code. I hope the Minister is listening.

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