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 Header Item Questions on Promised Legislation (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 925 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar] That is a principle we cannot depart from because it does not just relate to reducing the cost of child care and early education for parents, it is also about ensuring that we have quality child care and quality early education for children. I know the Deputy will share that objective.

Deputy Aindrias Moynihan: Information on Aindrias Moynihan Zoom on Aindrias Moynihan I want to ask the Minister about the commitment in the programme for Government to improve pensions. I refer specifically to those who are on partial pensions or reduced contributory pensions because they were outside the PRSI network, often caring for children or the elderly at home. What is the position or what plan has the Minister for correcting that imbalance? These people are falling behind every day because they took on the role of caring for their children or the elderly at home.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The programme for Government contains a commitment to increase the State pension, both contributory and non-contributory, by more than the rate of inflation. We have done much more than that in this budget in view of the fact that inflation is minimal. No matter how modest the increase may be, it more than fulfils the commitment made in the programme for Government with regard to increasing pensions.

On the more substantive question the Deputy raises, as he will be aware, this is a complex area. My officials are now going through individual pension records of hundreds of thousands of people, trying to work out the impact of any change we might make because any change to the pension regime could result in significant costs for the Exchequer which we might not be able to bear, and also could create winners and losers. One needs to know, if one intends to make a change, how many winners and losers there will be and the extent to which they will either gain or lose. The move will be towards a total contributions approach. It will be not when one made contributions but how many one made. It will also have to take account of the fact that many, particular women, have to take time out of the workforce to look after children or relatives. We will need a major reform in this regard and a transition period, and new legislation, and that is unlikely to happen in the coming year.

Deputy Charlie McConalogue: Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue In the context of the long-overdue and welcome changes to the farm assist scheme in the budget, the disregard of 70% in respect of income and the child disregard are being restored. Will the Minister indicate how this will be done? Will a desktop exercise be conducted in respect of all existing farm assist recipients to ensure that they can benefit from those disregards immediately or will they be forced to wait until their next review before they can do so? As the Minister will be aware, the relevant cuts caused much hardship to many farmers and farm families across the country. There are almost 10,000 individuals involved. It is crucial that this be applied to them and that they are not forced to wait.

Deputy Leo Varadkar: Information on Leo Varadkar Zoom on Leo Varadkar The social welfare Bill will be published either on Friday of next week or the week after that and all the relevant details will be contained therein. We will totally reverse the cuts made to farm assist by the previous Government - of which I was a member - for the obvious reason that farm incomes are down. We want to be able to support farm families who are on the margins and also give other farmers the reassurance that should they fall on hard times, there is a stronger safety net to pick them up.

It is intended that the normal procedures will remain in place and that somebody's circumstances will be reviewed as part of his or her annual review. However, we will allow farmers to request an early annual review should they have a particular change in circumstances. That option will be available.

Business of Dáil

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl I call the Government Chief Whip and Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach, Deputy Regina Doherty, to make proposals regarding the arrangements for statements on Syria this afternoon.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty It is proposed, notwithstanding the order of the Dáil of 18 October 2016, that the Dáil shall sit later than 5.48 p.m. and shall adjourn on the conclusion of No. 18a, statements on the conflict in Syria, with particular reference to the ongoing crisis in Aleppo, which shall be taken immediately following Topical Issues, and to which the following arrangements shall apply: the statements shall, if not previously concluded, be brought to a conclusion after two hours and five minutes; and the statements of a Minister or Minister of State and of the main spokespersons for the parties or groups, or a Member nominated in their stead, shall not exceed 15 minutes in each case, Members may share time and a Minister or Minister of State shall be called upon to make a statement in reply which shall not exceed five minutes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is that agreed? Agreed.

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