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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 289-306
 Header Item Leader's Allowance Issues
 Header Item Public Sector Management Remuneration
 Header Item Workplace Safety
 Header Item Enterprise Ireland Offices
 Header Item Employment Appeals Tribunal
 Header Item Departmental Agencies Board Appointments
 Header Item Employment Rights Issues
 Header Item IDA Site Visits
 Header Item Job Creation Targets
 Header Item Rent Supplement Scheme Applications
 Header Item Invalidity Pension Applications
 Header Item Carer's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item One-Parent Family Payment Appeals
 Header Item Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals
 Header Item Job Initiatives

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 814 No. 2

First Page Previous Page Page of 84 Next Page Last Page

Written Answers Nos. 289-306

Leader's Allowance Issues

 289. Deputy Patrick O'Donovan Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin when he expects to bring forward promised legislation to introduce changes to the leaders' allowance in respect of independent Deputies and Senators; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39383/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Party Leaders Allowance is provided for in the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) Act, 1938, as amended by the Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices (Amendment) Act, 2001.

In the context of the Expenditure Estimates for 2013, I announced that a 10% reduction will be applied to the Party Leaders Allowance rates payable to qualifying leaders of political parties and to qualifying independent Members.

I also announced my intention to amend the legislation to improve the transparency of the Allowance by providing for auditing provisions to apply to independent Members in receipt of such payments.

I have taken the opportunity to conduct a comprehensive review of the Allowance and a consultation process has been undertaken with leaders of qualifying parties, qualifying independent members and with the Standards in Public Office Commission. Legislation is currently being drafted for publication shortly.

Public Sector Management Remuneration

 290. Deputy Mary Lou McDonald Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the full year's savings to the Exchequer, both gross and net figures, if all public sector salaries excluding hospital consultants were capped at €100,000. [39806/13]

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Based on the salary data currently available to my Department, the estimated full year gross saving in the Exchequer and Local Government pay bill excluding hospital consultants arising from a cap of €100,000 is some €75m. The estimate takes account of the reductions in pay arising from the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2009 and the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Act, 2013, but does not take account of any offsetting reductions in taxes and levies.

As the combined effect of the estimated marginal tax rate and the pension related reduction at a pay level for a public servant of €100,000 p.a. or higher is at least 62.5%, the estimated net savings would be reduced to some €28m.

Workplace Safety

 291. Deputy Martin Ferris Information on Martin Ferris Zoom on Martin Ferris asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if the health and safety investigation into the recent tragedy at the Aughoose tunnel in County Mayo has been completed and the findings of same. [39679/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The Health and Safety Authority, an agency under the aegis of my Department, is the national statutory body with responsibility for enforcing occupational safety and health law, including the investigation of serious workplace accidents and fatalities.

On Sunday the 8th September last, the Authority was advised of a workplace accident at the Corrib gas pipeline work site in Aughoose, Co. Mayo, which tragically resulted in the death of a worker.

The Authority initiated its investigation on that day under the Safety Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 and I have been advised that the investigation is currently on-going. It would be inappropriate to pre-empt the findings of the investigation.

I would like to take this opportunity to extend my sympathy to the victim’s family, friends and colleagues for their loss.

Enterprise Ireland Offices

 292. Deputy Andrew Doyle Information on Andrew Doyle Zoom on Andrew Doyle asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the position regarding the opening of new Enterprise Ireland offices abroad to promote economic investment in Ireland; the date on which he expects each of these new offices to open; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39172/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton The opening of the Enterprise Ireland offices in Austin, Texas and Istanbul, Turkey forms part of the Action Plan for Jobs and its central strategy of building a powerful engine of Irish exporting businesses.

An executive has been appointed to the office in Austin, Texas and the office will commence operations in October 2013. A search has commenced for suitable office space in Istanbul and the appointed executive to Istanbul will also commence operations in October 2013.

Texas and Turkey are two markets which hold enormous potential for Irish companies. The opening of these two offices provides Irish companies access to Enterprise Ireland’s suite of supports, networks and contacts, and both will work with Irish companies to target export opportunities and ultimately to generate sales leading to the sustaining and growth of jobs in Ireland.

In 2012, Enterprise Ireland client companies achieved exports to USA and Canada amounting to €1.78bn, a 20% increase on the figure of €1.48bn for 2011. Exports by EI clients to Southern Europe, Middle East and Africa, which includes Turkey, amounted to €1.75bn in 2012, an increase of 3% over €1.703bn in 2011.

These new office openings in Istanbul and Texas were delivered followed extensive research and the completion of successful trade missions and increased client demand.

Employment Appeals Tribunal

 293. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason the Unfair Dismissals Acts 1977 to 2007 were of no benefit in the case of a person (details supplied) in Dublin 7. [39218/13]

 295. Deputy Finian McGrath Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton the reason no action was taken in relation to the case of a person (details supplied). [39445/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I propose to take Questions Nos. 293 and 295 together.

An Award of €50,000 was made in the above case by the Employment Appeals Tribunal in the complainants favour against the latter company. On the 17 January 2012 a request to have the award enforced by me as Minister was forwarded to the National Employment Rights Authority (NERA) for enforcement. This request was accompanied by evidence of earlier attempts at enforcement, a copy of a Court Order dated 4 May 2011 from the Dublin Circuit Court and an Execution Order dated 7 June 2011. The Execution Order contained a certificate dated 11 July 2011 from the Sheriff of the City of Dublin indicating that the business named on the Execution Order had ceased trading.

The matter was referred to the NERA solicitor and a final demand letter was issued by them by registered post. This letter was returned on 25 April 2012 marked ‘not called for’.

NERA were informed by a solicitor acting for the company that the company was no longer trading and had ceased any operations in or about September 2010. The only remaining assets were secured by a debenture in favour of its bankers.

A NERA inspector called to a company connected to one of the directors on 29 May 2012 and spoke to the manager who in turn made contact with the director in question. The director advised the inspector that neither he nor his company had the funds to pay the award. He also indicated that the company would be put into liquidation.

The claimant and her representative were advised of this on 3 July 2012 by NERA and the file was closed on that basis.

The Company was struck-off the CRO register of companies in May 2013 and dissolved. In view of the legal costs involved, the fact that the company was no longer trading and that there were no realisable assets remaining from which to pay the award, NERA were of the view that no purpose could have been served through initiating further legal proceedings and accruing further costs.

I understand that this matter has also been referred to the Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement (ODCE). It is not the practice of the ODCE to comment on individual cases or to give any indication of what action may or may not be taken with individual matters reported to it.

Departmental Agencies Board Appointments

 294. Deputy Clare Daly Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he will explain the conflict of interest between the Government's chief scientific adviser and head of Science Foundation Ireland (details supplied).  [39389/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton As I have previously outlined to this House Professor Mark Ferguson was appointed Director General of Science Foundation Ireland in January 2012. Professor Ferguson has an extensive track record over the past three decades in both the academic and commercial spheres. Upon joining SFI, Professor Ferguson, as required of all employees, signed the Code of Business Conduct for Employees which sets out in written form the agreed standards of principle and practice which inform the conduct of staff members of SFI. Incorporated within this Code is an obligation upon the individual to disclose to the Board Secretary any matters that could give rise to a conflict of interest as soon as that conflict becomes apparent. Professor Ferguson resigned as Non-executive Chairman of Renovo Group plc. and Consultant to Renovo on 15th January 2012 before taking up the Director General position at SFI.

Question No. 295 answered with Question No. 293.

Employment Rights Issues

 296. Deputy Dara Murphy Information on Dara Murphy Zoom on Dara Murphy asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton his plans to legislate to allow people to work past the age of 65 should they wish to do so in order to reduce the gap between the time when a person retires and when they are eligible for a State pension; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39448/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I would clarify that statutory law already permits private sector workers to work past the age of 65, as there is no statutory retirement age for such employees in Ireland. However, a contract of employment may contain a retirement age. The existence of a clause in the employment contract setting out a maximum retirement age is a matter of contract between the employer and employee and they may agree to alter such a clause.

As matters currently stand for those employees who are obliged by their contract of employment to retire at 65 years but will not receive the State pension until 66 years, the Department of Social Protection has indicated that, in terms of financial supports, social welfare benefits will continue to be available to the age of 66 for those who are contractually obliged to leave employment. Also, existing legislation provides that jobseekers whose benefit expires in their 65th year will continue to be paid benefit up until the age of 66, subject to the person having paid 156 or more qualifying contributions and satisfying the general scheme conditions.

The Department of Social Protection, which has lead responsibility for the State pension and pension age policy, is chairing an inter-Departmental Group on Working and Retirement issues, on which my Department is represented. That Department organised and chaired a Working and Retirement Forum in Croke Park last December, at which a range of stakeholder groups discussed, amongst other matters, issues related to the alignment of mandatory retirement age practices with the new State pension age. The Group is currently considering the issues highlighted at the Croke Park Forum and is preparing preliminary proposals in this regard.

The Employment Equality Acts 1998 to 2011, which aim to protect against discrimination in relation to access to employment on a number of grounds including age and give effect in national law to the EU Directive 2000/78/EC, come within the remit of my colleague the Minister for Justice, Mr Alan Shatter T.D. The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) has made rulings in a series of age-discrimination cases concerning Directive 2000/78/EC which prohibit discrimination in employment and occupation on various grounds, including age. The CJEU has clarified that, under Directive 2000/78/EC, mandatory retirement ages may be set down if, within the context of national law, they are objectively and reasonably justified by a legitimate social policy aim.

With regard to the maximum retirement age for the public service, rules on retirement age vary, but are generally set down in legislation. Responsibility for these rules falls within the remit of my colleague, Mr Brendan Howlin T.D., Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

IDA Site Visits

 297. Deputy Tony McLoughlin Information on Tony McLoughlin Zoom on Tony McLoughlin asked the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton if he has discussed with the Industrial Development Agency the fact that Leitrim has only had one visit from the IDA in the past three and a half years and was among nine countries that have received four or less visits from the IDA in the past three and a half years; and if he has received any assurances that these counties including County Leitrim will receive closer attention from this State agency in future months. [39475/13]

Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I am determined to ensure that Ireland can continue to compete globally for foreign direct investment. In winning such investments, I am, however, mindful of the need to address the concerns that have been expressed to me by Deputies on all sides of the House about the relatively low level of site visits to certain regional locations. I have, accordingly, requested IDA Ireland and Enterprise Ireland to work with my Department so that we can explore what further initiatives we can take to ensure we have a better approach to enterprise development in regional locations. This exercise will complement the in-depth analysis of our FDI strategy which is currently being undertaken. This analysis will take account of factors such as key trends emerging in FDI best practice internationally, Ireland’s strengths in attracting FDI, the changes to the EU’s State Aid rules that will be introduced in 2014 and our approach to regional development and will inform the formulation of an appropriate FDI strategy for the period post 2014.

Meanwhile we should not lose sight of the fact that there are 4 IDA client companies in County Leitrim employing approximately 700 people.

Job Creation Targets

 298. Deputy Colm Keaveney Information on Colm Keaveney Zoom on Colm Keaveney asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton further to the announcement of a three point plan to take 75,000 persons off the unemployment register by 2015 referred to in a publication (details supplied), her specific actions being taken to achieve this target; if she will indicate the Minister that will have specific responsibility for the delivery of the target; the way the target will be measured; the way employment creation from other initiatives or resulting from any economic recovery will be differentiated from the employment being created as a result of his plan; the key dates for the achievement of each part of the plan; if the Minister responsible will report to Dáil Éireann on progress being made against the plan's schedule; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39109/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The target referred was first set out in the Government’s policy document Pathways to Work, launched on 23rd February 2012. It relates to the 180,800 people who were on the Live Register and fully unemployed for over a year at the beginning of 2012; the objective set was that 75,000 of these would move into employment by the end of 2015. This target has been maintained in the updated Pathways to Work 2013, published on 18 July 2013. I am the Minister primarily responsible for the achievement of this and other targets set out in Pathways to Work.

Pathways to Work details a range of measures aimed at increasing active job search by the registered unemployed and ensuring that they share in the economic and employment recovery. The flow of 75,000 people from long-term unemployment into employment is one anticipated result of the taking of this range of measures rather than relating to any specific measure among them.

Movement towards this target is being monitored by tracking the subsequent experience of the 180,800 people who were in the target group as the beginning of 2012.

By the end of June 2013, 30,600 of this group were known to have moved into employment. Of these, 21,900 had entered full-time employment and left the Live Register, and 8,800 had entered part-time employment. As there can be some time lag in the reporting of new entries to employment by the relevant employers, it is likely that these figures will increase retrospectively as further records become available.

Quarterly reports on performance against the targets set in Pathways to Work are published on the Department of Social Protection’s website. The report for quarter 1 (To end March 2013) is currently available on the website. The report for quarter 2 will be uploaded on the website on Monday next 30 September, commencing with a report on performance in the third quarter of 2013.

Rent Supplement Scheme Applications

 299. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when rent allowance will be approved in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39162/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The person concerned was in receipt of Rent Supplement from October 2011. In March 2013, the Department received notification that a change of circumstance had occurred. The Department having contacted the person concerned on two occasions, has temporarily suspended the claim pending requested information being made available to the Department, which will allow reassessment of entitlement.

Invalidity Pension Applications

 300. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the reason invalidity pension payment has been withdrawn in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39163/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton Invalidity pension is a payment for people who are permanently incapable of work because of illness or incapacity and who satisfy the contribution conditions.

In common with all social welfare schemes, invalidity pension claimants are subject to periodic review to ensure that the conditions for receipt continue to be met. Claimants are invited to submit evidence and provide comment when their claims are being reviewed and all available evidence is taken into account by the deciding officer in making his/her decision.

For the invalidity pension scheme, a programme of control reviews is carried out to determine continuing entitlement to the scheme.

The person concerned was awarded an invalidity pension from 15 September 2011.

A medical form issued to the person concerned on 10 May 2013 to be completed by his doctor / GP he is attending. A reminder medical form issued again, on 31 May 2013.

The completed and returned medical form was assessed by a medical assessor of the department who expressed the opinion, based on the information provided that the person concerned does not satisfy the medical criteria for invalidity pension. A letter issued to the person concerned on 14 August 2013 which advised him of the medical assessor’s opinion and invited him to submit further /supporting medical documentation. The additional medical documentation submitted by the person concerned has been forwarded to a different medical assessor for review. Arrangements are being made for an in-person medical assessment, details of which will issue to the claimant shortly. Payment of invalidity pension for the person concerned will continue pending the outcome of the review.

Question No. 301 withdrawn.

Carer's Allowance Appeals

 302. Deputy Seán Ó Fearghaíl Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if she will review a decision to refuse an application for carer's allowance in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39188/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton This application for carer's allowance was disallowed on the 2nd of July 2013. The person in question appealed this decision. All the necessary papers have been submitted to the Social Welfare Appeals Office for determination. The Social Welfare Appeals Office will be in touch with the person directly regarding the progress of the appeal.

Question No. 303 withdrawn.

One-Parent Family Payment Appeals

 304. Deputy Pat Breen Information on Pat Breen Zoom on Pat Breen asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton when a decision on one parent family payment will issue in respect of a person (details supplied) in County Clare; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39303/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I am advised by the Social Welfare Appeals Office that an Appeals Officer, having fully considered all the evidence has allowed the appeal of the person concerned. The person concerned has been notified of the decision.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Jobseeker's Allowance Appeals

 305. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton if an oral hearing in respect of a jobseeker's allowance appeal will be rescheduled in the case of a person (details supplied) in County Kildare who did not receive notification of same; if supplementary welfare will be reinstated in the interim; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [39306/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton The Social Welfare Appeals Office has advised that two oral hearings were scheduled in this case on 24 June 2013 and 9 September 2013 respectively. The person concerned was notified in advance of both oral hearings by post to the address supplied by both himself and the Deputy, but failed to attend on both dates.

In light of the failure of the person concerned to attend the oral hearings, the Appeals Officer decided the appeal on a summary basis taking account of the documentary evidence before him. In the circumstances, the Social Welfare Appeals Office does not propose to reschedule a third oral hearing in this case.

Any new application for supplementary welfare allowance from the person concerned should be made to the office of his local Community Welfare Service.

The Social Welfare Appeals Office functions independently of the Minister for Social Protection and of the Department and is responsible for determining appeals against decisions on social welfare entitlements.

Job Initiatives

 306. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Social Protection Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton the yearly cost of JobBridge. [39312/13]

Minister for Social Protection (Deputy Joan Burton): Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton On 18 September, I announced that more than 20,000 JobBridge internship placements had been made, a significant milestone for an activation scheme with exceptional rates of progression into employment. At 19 September, there had been 20,912 placements since the Scheme commenced, 5,446 individuals were actually on internships and 3,061 internship opportunities were advertised on the JobBridge website.

Interns continue to receive their basic Social Welfare payment for the duration of their internship. The cost of the additional top-up up payment of €50 per week to individuals while they are on their internship for 2013 is estimated to be €14.3 million based upon a weekly average of 5,500 interns.

The recent independent evaluation of JobBridge found that JobBridge would achieve a positive net benefit to the exchequer if participants secure employment and remain off the Live Register for a minimum period of about 5 ½ months or, adjusting to take into account variations in the overall exit rate from the Live Register among JobBridge participants versus non-participants, the estimated minimum period required to achieve a positive return to the Exchequer would fall to 4.8 months.

JobBridge is not only a positive activation measure for interns, 61% of whom progress into employment within 5 months of completing an internship, but also good value for money for the Exchequer.


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