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 Header Item Electric Vehicles (Continued)
 Header Item Business of Dáil
 Header Item Topical Issue Debate
 Header Item Pensions Legislation

Tuesday, 21 November 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 961 No. 7

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten] We are now examining a broader approach to that than has been taken to date.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley I support everything that my colleague, Deputy Stanley, said about home parking. We do not need pilot projects for a couple of aspects, only common sense. People need to be able to charge at home and where they go ultimately. The majority of trips are to work or shopping centres. People park in the environs of their workplaces or public or private car parks.

The Department and the Government need to develop incentives for workplace and private car parks to put the infrastructure in place. We have a Mickey Mouse operation at the moment, with a couple of high-visibility points around St. Stephen's Green and other places like it that few people will ever get to use. As the Minister stated, the ratio of points to cars is adequate at 1:4, but we should not even be thinking like that. If we want a seismic shift in behavioural change, doubters of this technology need to see a free space everywhere they park. In addition to financial incentives, they would then know that they could charge in a public car park, at a filling station or in their work environs. That requires State incentives.

Roads used to be ass-and-cart dirt tracks but, with the advent of Henry Ford's invention, people had the foresight to start building infrastructure that could carry that type of vehicle in current volumes. The Government needs to get into that kind of mindset and put key infrastructure in place. If the Minister can make the shift and begin that process, he can dispense with some of his pilot projects and little groupings that are operating in the background. He knows where this needs to go. Make the big move and incentivise workplaces, car park owners and others to get there.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten To address an issue raised by Deputies Dooley and Stanley, next year we will support the public sector and commercial fleet trials of electric vehicles and car sharing.

Turning to Deputy Dooley's point, technology has moved on. For the majority of people, the daily commute is far shorter than the car's charge. Among Nordic countries, for example, Nissan is discussing using excess electricity in car batteries. When people drive to their workplaces, electricity will go from their batteries and rejoin the network when it is in high demand. We are examining that idea.

Deputy Timmy Dooley: Information on Timmy Dooley Zoom on Timmy Dooley Grid access is needed for that.

Deputy Denis Naughten: Information on Denis Naughten Zoom on Denis Naughten While we need to roll out infrastructure, we also need to upgrade existing infrastructure. This is all part of the process started by budget 2018. Range anxiety is beginning to disappear. For many people, a 200 km range is adequate to meet their daily commuting needs. Any household that has two cars should, on the purchase of a new car, convert one of them into an electric vehicle. We are installing charge points at home for people who are purchasing second-hand cars. We are also considering issues of technology, range anxiety and putting infrastructure in place for those travelling longer distances.

  Written Answers are published on the Oireachtas website.

Business of Dáil

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Before we move on to the Topical Issue debate, I call the Minister of State, Deputy McHugh, who has an announcement to make.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Bhí cruinniú dhearfach ag an Choiste Gnó ag 4.04 p.m. agus fuaireamar comhaontú ag an deireadh. Gabhaim m'aitheantas le mo chuid chomhghleacaithe ar an choiste agus, go háirithe, na daoine a bhí ag fanacht leathuair anseo.

  It is proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that business shall be interrupted at 8 p.m. to take No. 33a, statement by An Tánaiste re justice issues. The statement by An Tánaiste shall not exceed ten minutes, following which each party or group in opposition shall have six minutes, which shall consist of alternating questions and answers, each of which shall not exceed one minute. An Tánaiste shall have five minutes for a statement on conclusion, and the opening statement, questions and answers and the concluding statement shall not exceed 57 minutes in total. Private Members' business shall take place following An Tánaiste's concluding reply for two hours and the Dáil shall adjourn on the conclusion of that business.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Is that agreed? Agreed. This is a recommendation from the Business Committee. I thank the committee and its Chair.

Topical Issue Debate

Pensions Legislation

Deputy Clare Daly: Information on Clare Daly Zoom on Clare Daly I welcome the opportunity to discuss this important issue. The Minister will agree that what we are dealing with is an injustice - where a defined benefit pension scheme is wound up and, as a result of the manner in which our pension and taxation laws are levied, its existing pensioners are given no option but to purchase an expensive annuity that does not do them or their families any good and just makes the insurance companies a great deal of money. The purpose of this debate is to examine the source of the problem and determine what we can do to rectify it.

The situation was aptly summed up by the situation of the supplementary Aer Lingus pension scheme that the House discussed previously. The trustees wrote to existing pensioners and made the point that, in order to protect those people's funds, the trustees would approach insurance companies in the market and get an annuity. No other option would be entertained, just an annuity. In one instance that brings the point home, a woman was told that the cost of that annuity for one person would be €300,000. That money was being taken from the wound-up scheme to buy her annuity.

We inquired of an Irish insurance company this morning and received a quote for a joint life annuity that allowed for annual inflation of 1.4%. The quote was €5,000 per year. If this person lived for 40 years and got €5,000 per year, which would not happen in a pension scenario, the insurance company would benefit to the tune of €100,000 for nothing. On top of that, the company would get €6,000, or 2% of the purchase annuity price, in fees. If a recipient died, his or her spouse would get nothing, which is unlike the case with an approved retirement fund, ARF, but that option is not available to the people in question. It would have allowed them to get a greater yield in their retirement years and their families, spouses or children to benefit from some of that income later on.

A product that is bad value for money is being imposed on members of pension schemes under the excuse that this is just the way the legislation is. This legislation might not be within the remit of just the Minister's Department, but also the Department of Finance. Frankly, though, I do not care. It is every Deputy's responsibility to address the situation immediately.

I put it to the Minister that, interestingly, the then Minister for Finance altered the rules in 2011 to allow pre-retirement bonds to invest in ARFs because of the outrageous cost of annuities at the time. However, he did not extend that option to defined benefit schemes. Last year, the rules were again altered to allow defined benefit scheme members access to ARFs. Guess what? This could only be done in cases where the members were classified as directors of a company. Rich people can benefit from this arrangement but the pensioners who pay into a defined benefit scheme for all of their working lives cannot. They are frogmarched into an annuity where the pension industry takes the excess cash and charges a large price for the privilege. Only really wealthy people would benefit.

I appeal to the Minister. We need to address the weaknesses in the legislation urgently because this issue is affecting people's livelihoods in their retirement years.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I will ask the Deputy to humour me because I must read this bit out before I can get to the part for which she is waiting. I thank her for raising this matter. I know why she has done so. Scheme trustees have duties and responsibilities under trust law, other relevant legislation and the Pensions Act 1990, as amended. The duties of a pension scheme trustee include administering a scheme in trust in accordance with the law and the terms of the trust deed and rules.

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