Header Item Prelude
 Header Item Business of Seanad
 Header Item Commencement Matters
 Header Item Medical Products
 Header Item School Accommodation
 Header Item Special Educational Needs Staff
 Header Item Closed-Circuit Television Systems Provision
 Header Item Message from Dáil
 Header Item Order of Business
 Header Item Asylum Migration and Integration Fund: Referral to Joint Committee
 Header Item Annual National Transition Statement on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development: Statements
 Header Item Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: Committee Stage

Tuesday, 4 December 2018

Seanad Éireann Debate
Vol. 261 No. 12

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Chuaigh an Cathaoirleach i gceannas ar 14:30:00

Machnamh agus Paidir.

Reflection and Prayer.


Business of Seanad

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I have received notice from Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor that, on the motion for the Commencement of the House today, she proposes to raise the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Health to outline the recommendations of the Chief Medical Officer on the clinical and technical issues associated with transvaginal mesh surgical procedures.

I have also received notice from Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to provide an update on the provision of a permanent building for Gaelscoil Cholmcille, Dublin 17.

I have also received notice from Senator Colm Burke of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Education and Skills to review Circular 22/2012 under which persons who take a leave of absence to undertake further studies are prevented from working part time.

 I have also received notice from Senator Robbie Gallagher of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Justice and Equality to provide an update on the role of the data controller in community closed circuit television, CCTV, schemes.

I have also received notice from Senator Brian Ó Domhnaill of the following matter:

The need for the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs to provide equitable remuneration to múinteoirí réamhscoile, pre-school teachers.

I have also received notice from Senator Martin Conway of the following matter: 

The need for the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection to provide an update on the reform of the State contributory pension.

Of the matters raised by the Senators suitable for discussion, I have selected Senators Murnane O'Connor, Ó Ríordáin, Colm Burke and Gallagher and they will be taken now. I regret I had to rule out of order the matter submitted by Senator Conway on the ground that it is anticipatory of the Second Stage of the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2018, which takes place in the Seanad on Thursday, 6 December 2018. Senator Ó Domhnaill has withdrawn his Commencement matter which I had originally selected.

Commencement Matters

Medical Products

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I thank the Minister of State for coming to the House at a very busy time. I appreciate the time he is giving me today for this important issue. I have been contacted by a number of my constituents regarding uro-gynaecological transvaginal mesh implants for the management of stress urinary incontinence or pelvic organ prolapse and the many and often severe complications following these procedures. My understanding was that the Chief Medical Officer was to prepare a report which was expected to make recommendations in respect of the clinical and technical issues involved. I am informed that this report had an anticipated publication time of the first two weeks in November, yet we are currently in December.

  While we awaited this report, a number of significant system actions on mesh implants were advanced on foot of priority recommendations identified during the course of the preparation of that report. I am aware of this and welcome the swift action in this matter. I understand all procedures in HSE-funded hospitals involving mesh implants for the management of stress urinary incontinence, a common condition in women following childbirth or at menopause, or of pelvic organ prolapse, where a pelvic organ moves out of place, have been suspended in cases where it is clinically appropriate and safe to do so.

  There was also a recommendation to ensure that in situations where expert clinical judgment was such that there was an urgency to carry out the procedure and no suitable alternative existed, surgery should have proceeded only if a delay would risk harm to the patient and should be based on multidisciplinary team decisions and fully informed consent.

  I would like clarification that the suspension of these procedures has actually taken place pending publication of the report, and that no woman is enduring this procedure unless there is an identified risk associated with not carrying it out. The pause in this procedure was to remain in place pending confirmation of implementation by the HSE, working in conjunction with the Institute of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists and the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland, of three urgent recommendations in respect of surgical training, informed consent and development of an agreed dataset of mesh procedures. The HSE has published information concerning the pause on its website for patients affected. This is no doubt due to pressure applied by the Department and must be welcomed. When this procedure was introduced in the early 2000s, clinical trials found efficacy and low complication rates for mesh implants used for incontinence. However, there soon grew to be a body of evidence indicating that efficacy was lower and complication rates higher in cases of pelvic organ prolapse. In 2012, the mesh was reclassified as high risk, and the United Kingdom has banned this procedure.

  I would like to know what we in Ireland are doing for these women. Their lives were changed utterly and they have felt forgotten and left in pain. The preliminary recommendations of the report identify as urgent the provision of appropriate aftercare for women suffering from mesh complications including appropriate diagnosis facilities. Can the Minister of State clarify whether these provisions have been put in place? A learning notice concerning mesh devices in uro-gynaecological procedures was circulated on 26 June 2018 to all maternity hospitals and acute hospitals with gynaecological services to highlight the importance of appropriate patient selection. Under adequate information and consent, it was also recommended to inform service providers that a response group has been arranged to propose remedies for and address the provision of aftercare for complications.  This is also available online. I am concerned, however, that this information has not been made widely available and without discrimination to all women who may be affected. The HSE advises that all patients who have experienced complications due to mesh devices should contact their consultant's clinic in the first instance. This advice is not getting to women. Women have contacted my office and I have sent them to their own doctors. Each hospital group was to have nominated an individual to co-ordinate a response to this group of patients. Can the Minister of State confirm if this has happened? Will there be greater awareness made of any recommendations made, and the steps being taken for aftercare and the future patients? This is such a serious issue. I have had women coming into my clinics, crying, who are in a very bad situation. I hope the Minister of State has good news for me on this. It is unacceptable.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Finian McGrath): Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. I am taking this Commencement matter on behalf of the Minister for Health, Deputy Simon Harris.

  The report to the Minister from Dr. Tony Holohan, Chief Medical Officer, CMO, on the use of urogynaecological mesh in the surgical treatment of stress urinary incontinence, SUI, and pelvic organ prolapse, POP, in women was published on the Department of Health website on 21 November 2018. Synthetic mesh devices have been widely used in the surgical treatment of SUI and POP in women over the past two decades. I accept the Senator's point but controversy about the safety of mesh devices has arisen in many countries because of concerns about the frequency and severity of complications associated with their use. In responding to these questions and in recognition of the complexity of the matters arising, the Minister requested the CMO to prepare a report for him on the clinical and technical issues involved in ensuring the safe and effective provision of mesh procedures in urogynaecology and an appropriate response to women who suffer complications as a result of undergoing such procedures.

  Preparation of the report has involved consultation and engagement with national and international bodies. The report has been informed by reviews of international reports and safety reviews of mesh surgeries that have been published in recent years. The report has also been informed by the personal experiences of women who have suffered complications following mesh surgery. The Minister acknowledges the bravery, commitment and dignity shown by the women he met and by those women who have written to him concerning this issue, in sharing their harrowing and deeply personal experiences.

  The report identifies that for many women, surgical procedures using synthetic mesh devices have provided a more effective and less invasive form of treatment than traditional SUI and POP procedures. Mesh devices, however, are associated with significant and severe complications in a minority of women. These are of concern given the difficulties of mesh implant removal. The report makes 19 recommendations, including the development of patient information and informed consent materials; surgical professional training and multidisciplinary expertise in units carrying out mesh procedures; the development of clinical guidance; the development of information systems to monitor the ongoing use of mesh devices; ensuring the reporting of mesh-related complications; and ensuring timely, appropriate and accessible care pathways for the management of women with such complications.

  At the CMO's request, a programme of work to advance some of the report's more important recommendations has commenced in the HSE in advance of completion of the report. The HSE was also asked by the CMO on 24 July to pause all mesh procedures where clinically safe to do so until a number of key recommendations are implemented. The HSE has published a dedicated web page about vaginal mesh implants, including contact information for women suffering complications, which I hope is a useful resource and for which we can make the link available.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor The Minister of State is aware of the seriousness of this issue. The people I have been dealing with have been trying to go England because the mesh itself cannot be taken out in full, once one has it. That is a concern. Evidently, part of the mesh can be taken out. This is a crucial issue and I ask the Minister of State to convey to the Minister for Health that this cannot happen to anybody else, in particular given the way people have been affected by this. Their whole lives have changed. This is an important issue. I have seen the 19 recommendations and I will return to this issue. I hope this can be sorted and that no one else will be left in the situation of some of the people I have dealt with over the last few months.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath I take the Senator's point. The Minister for Health is committed to ensuring the safe and effective use of mesh implants and an appropriate and timely response to women suffering mesh complications. Last week the Department wrote to the HSE again to request that it prepare a detailed implementation plan for the complete set of recommendations set out in the CMO's report, working in conjunction with other stakeholders. On another level, the Minister intends to meet with the Mesh Survivors Ireland group in the coming weeks to discuss the report. I will certainly convey the Senator's genuine concerns to the Minister, Deputy Harris.

School Accommodation

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Gabhaim buíochas leis an gCathaoirleach agus leis an Aire féin as a bheith anseo go pearsanta chun an t-ábhar seo a phlé liom. An tseachtain seo caite bhí mé istigh i nGaelscoil Cholmcille. Bhíodar ag ceiliúradh Bliain na Gaeilge agus bhí mé an-tógtha leis an méid a bhí ar siúl ann, idir cheol, drámaíocht agus amhránaíocht. Gach uair a bhím i láthair sa scoil ar Bhóthar Oscar Traynor cuireann an fhoireann ar fad ina luí orm go bhfuil sé thar am dóibh foirgneamh buan a bheith acu. Tá siad ag feitheamh anois níos mó ná 20 bliain. Cé go raibh an méid sin amhránaíochta agus drámaíochta agus ceol ar siúl ag na páistí, bhí sé soiléir do gach duine go raibh na háiseanna agus an halla atá acu i bhfad ró-bheag don scoil sin. Tá an scoil ag iarraidh fáis agus dul i méid agus tá an-chuid daoine ag iarraidh a bheith ag freastal ar an scoil ach tá an scoil ag fanacht níos mó ná 20 bliain ar fhoirgneamh nua.

  Gaelscoil Cholmcille is doing fantastic work. It is a very popular local primary school. Last week I visited the school again and it was impressed upon me once more the fact it is waiting more than 20 years for a permanent building. There is a site next door which Dublin City Council has plans to develop. The long-term solution is right there facing the school. The school is adamant that a process be put in place and that it would have a chance to maximise its potential as a primary school.

  I know the Minister will share with me his vision that every child will attend a school with a permanent building and can look to the future with a level of confidence. The confidence within the school has been ebbing away over the last number of years. When there are announcements of new schools being developed and recognised - nobody has an issue with this - this school seems to be on the end of the list when it comes to achieving what it wants to achieve.   I am interested in hearing the Minister's reply. While he is new to his post, the Irish language is of particular importance to him and he wants to do what is best for everyone. On behalf of the parents, staff and board of management of Gaelscoil Cholmcille, I note that a positive response would be greatly appreciated.

Minister for Education and Skills (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Gabhaim buíochas leis an Seanadóir as ucht an t-ábhar tábhachtach seo a ardú inniu. Is léir ón teachtaireacht inniu ón Seanadóir go bhfuil fuinneamh dearfach ag dul ar aghaidh sa scoil. Tá sé ceart go bhfuil sé tiománta agam an teanga a bheith ag bailiú nirt amach anseo fosta agus gabhaim mo aitheantas chuig an ceannaireacht thíos sna scoileanna fá choinne an tiomántas ar son na teanga. Mar atá a fhios ag an Seanadóir, tá Gaelscoil Cholmcille ag obair faoin ethos Catholic agus ag obair faoin fhoras patrúnacha agus tá suas le 277 duine óige sna mbunscoileanna ag foghlaim trí mheán na Gaeilge. Tá daoine obair sna scoileanna fosta agus tá 11 cloigeann duine ag obair agus 2.5 duine ag obair i dtacaíocht speisialta.

   In 2008, my Department provided a two-storey, semi-permanent school building consisting of 12 classrooms and ancillary accommodation for Gaelscoil Cholmcille. As this building has a life span of 25 to 30 years, my Department has no plans to replace it in the foreseeable future. However, I take on board what the Senator stated in the context of parents seeking a period of certainty. I understand that in March 2018 the school submitted an application under my Department's additional school accommodation scheme seeking the provision of additional temporary accommodation to provide for a further mainstream teaching post being appointed for 2018. Having engaged with the school to seek clarification on aspects of the application, my Department finalised the assessment of the application in September. I am pleased to confirm that my Department granted approval for the provision of two permanent mainstream classrooms with en suite toilets and a separate assisted user's toilet to address the deficit of accommodation in the Gaelscoil. The project was devolved for delivery to the Gaelscoil authority. This means that it is now a matter for the Gaelscoil authority to appoint a consultant and advance the project through the design and construction phases. Gabhaim buíochas arís leis an Seanadóir as ucht an t-ábhar tábhachtach seo a ardú inniu.

Senator Aodhán Ó Ríordáin: Information on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Zoom on Aodhán Ó Ríordáin Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Aire. Unfortunately, I find the answer disappointing. The Minister can appreciate how disappointing it is from the school's point of view, having waited so long for a permanent building only to get an indication from the Department that it does not foresee an opportunity to replace the building because it is a two-storey semi-permanent structure with a lifespan of 25 to 30 years. I accept what the Minister says about the two permanent classrooms but I note that there is a site beside the school which is to be developed by Dublin City Council. It is a major development with potential for 500 housing units. There is a perfect opportunity here for the Department to engage with Dublin City Council regarding the site in order to find a permanent answer for the needs of this school. I implore the Minister. To say that a temporary building has a 25 to 30-year lifespan, considering that it is already ten years old, does not provide much succour to the people who care about the school. I ask that the Department engages with Dublin City Council to find a long-term solution for this much-loved and needed school in this community. I ask the Minister to engage more imaginatively to find a permanent solution. This school and its current and future pupils deserve no less.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Chuala mé an teachtaireacht inniu. I hear the message. I place this in the context of the pressure the Department has been under over many decades.  Even going back to the late 1970s and the 1980s, many flat-roofed schools were built and they are still fit for purpose and being used today. The Department is looking at a type of retrofit project that will address environmental and sustainability issues for schools built before 2008. The accommodation in question was built prior to 2008 and I understand that parents and the community want a more permanent solution.

  In the context of options involving alternative sites - and the Senator has come forward with options - one thing I have to say about the officials, who I have only got to know in recent weeks, is that they are very flexible and adapt to new suggestions and ideas. Obviously, I am trying to get a figure for the budget that has been spent in the areas of Wicklow, Kildare, Meath and Dublin in the past ten years, given there has been phenomenal growth in population and we must add that to the pressures and constraints on new buildings. I understand that when parents hear of other announcements of new schools, they obviously ask what is the situation regarding this school. We have a ten-year capital plan and the Project Ireland 2040 plan, which points to the space we will be in by 2040. I know parents and others in the community are not living in a space where they believe this is to be realised by 2040, but that we start working in that capital space in terms of how we get there over that period.

  Cloisim an teachtaireacht ón Seanadóir. Ba mhaith liom mo aitheantas a ghabháil leis fá choinne seans a thabhairt dom labhairt ar Ghaelscoil Cholmcille - ainm deas agus ceangal le mo chontae féin, Tír Chonaill. Nuair a bhíonn tograí scoile ar intinn ag Seanadóirí, bíonn mo chluasa foscailte. Beidh mé ag labhairt le mo chomhghleacaithe chun níos mó sonraí a fháil i dtaobh stádas an togra atáthar ag iarraidh a bhaint amach ó bhí 2008 ann, agus i dtaobh an plean nó an bealach a bheidh de dhíth go dtí go mbeidh foirgneamh níos fearr ag an scoil sa todhchaí.

Special Educational Needs Staff

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke I welcome the Minister and thank him for coming before the House to deal with this issue. I know a number of special needs assistants who have gone back to further education who have advised me that departmental circular letter 22/2012 prevents them from taking on any employment. The circular states:

7.1 The taking up of regular paid employment of any kind elsewhere in the State while on career break would be contrary to the objectives of the scheme and shall lead to refusal of an application or withdrawal of approval already given.

7.2 A special needs assistant on a career break is precluded from taking up an appointment in any capacity in any school within the state.

This circular came into force in 2012 when jobs were scarce. I fully appreciate why these were the criteria set down in respect of special needs assistants who took career breaks. The people who contacted me are those who have gone back to further education. They are paying full college fees because they are mature students and they are technically precluded from taking on any type of employment while on career break.

  It is time to review circular 22/2012, taking into account that some schools are finding it difficult to get replacements, for example, where a special needs assistant goes out sick, and this is particularly the case in areas outside Dublin. I ask the Minister to review this matter.  I am talking specifically about people going back to further education and they should not be penalised in this way that prevents them from taking on employment. I ask for the matter to be reviewed.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh I thank the Senator for the opportunity to address the matter regarding the career break scheme for special needs assistants. In accordance with the Education Act, the terms and conditions of employment of special needs assistants employed in approved posts funded by moneys provided by the Oireachtas are determined by the Minister for Education and Skills, with the concurrence of the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform.

  Special needs assistants are recruited specifically to assist in the care of pupils with disabilities who have additional and significant care needs in an educational context. They may be appointed to a special school or a mainstream school to assist school authorities in making suitable provision for a pupil or pupils with special care needs. The first priority is that the care needs of the pupils are met on an ongoing basis during the school year. In June 2012, my Department, in conjunction with the school management bodies and the relevant trade unions, agreed a career break scheme for special needs assistants in recognised primary and post-primary schools, the provisions of which are contained in Circular 22/2012, which is available on my Department's website.

  Paragraph 1.2 of the circular states:

The main objectives of this scheme below, which are not exhaustive, are for employers, wherever possible to facilitate applicants in the areas of:

- Personal Development

- Education (including teacher training)

- Public Representation

- Childcare/Dependent care

- Self-employment

The career break scheme therefore is applicable to special needs assistants who wish to pursue courses such as teacher training where participants are required to spend significant periods of time on school observation or teaching practice during the school year. The taking up of regular paid employment while on career break would be contrary to the objectives of the career break scheme and such applications shall be refused by the employer.

  Paragraph 4.2 of the circular states, "A career break shall be a period of not less than one school year and may be extended on an annual basis provided the total period of the career break does not exceed five years at any one time.". Thus the priority of my Department is to ensure that the continuity of care and the welfare needs of pupils take precedence over all other considerations in the granting and duration of career breaks. I thank Senator Burke for affording me the opportunity to respond to the House on this matter.

Senator Colm Burke: Information on Colm Burke Zoom on Colm Burke The circumstances have changed since this regulation was introduced. The point being made to me by these special needs assistants is that they are trying to further their career. They have gone back to full-time education and are not in receipt of any income. Under regulations, they are prevented from getting any kind of income, and this policy should be reviewed. I fully accept the Minister's comments about facilitating special needs assistants who wish to pursue courses such as teacher training where participants are required to spend significant periods under school observation. They are prepared for that but the Minister knows the cost of rent and day-to-day living. It is not physically possible for them to take time out of a full-time job, go back to college where they pay fees, all the while being prevented under regulations from taking on any type of employment. I ask that the matter be carefully examined.

Deputy Joe McHugh: Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Senator is being quite reasonable in his representation today. He has spoken to a cohort of people doing tremendous work and who are very much part of the school "infrastructure", for want of a better word. It may not be a good word but it signifies the value that students, teachers and principals place on the role of special needs assistants so integral as they are to the running of a school. They are very much part of the ecosystem. We are looking at reviewing the role of the SNAs and this will provide an opportunity to feed in the sentiments and observations made by the Senator today. Maybe this matter can be considered in that context.

  I refer again to the contribution of SNAs. There will be an increase next year and upwards of almost 16,000 SNAs will be employed; we announced another 900 in the recent budget. This demonstrates the value of and demand for those SNAs. In 2011 there were approximately 455 special classes but that number has increased this year to almost 1,500.  That is the position in terms of the demand. Obviously, it also reflects the growing choices parents have as to whether they want their children to go to a special school or to special classes within mainstream schools, be they ASD units or other forms of provision.

  The most important point with regard to SNAs is the role they play. They provide one-to-one help and support but they also play an all-inclusive, all-school role. They play a fundamental role in education. I acknowledge the work they have done and continue to do and obviously they will have a future role in our education system. That is why we are going to carry out a comprehensive review of SNAs. I will keep the Senator and this House posted on developments.

Closed-Circuit Television Systems Provision

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I thank the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Flanagan, for taking time from his schedule to be here. I wish to discuss closed-circuit television, CCTV, schemes and the delays being experienced in that regard. The Minister will agree that CCTV is an invaluable tool in the context of deterring people from engaging in crime or public disorder. In addition, CCTV can greatly assist the Garda in respect of public order issues or crimes during the investigation process and for the purpose of identifying those involved. Most importantly, CCTV gives comfort and security to communities throughout the country where there is a CCTV scheme in operation.

  Last week, there was an incident in Monaghan town in which a young man was viciously assaulted late in the evening. Unfortunately, incidents of this nature are occurring too often. People are exhausted. They are sick and tired of public order offences and public disorder in the streets. The benefit of a properly running CCTV scheme cannot be underestimated with regard to such activity. Garda numbers are not what we would wish them to be and in situations where gardaí are not on the streets, the part CCTV can play is immeasurable. While CCTV will not replace the gardaí, it is important that we have CCTV schemes in operation.

  With that in mind it is disappointing that delays are being experienced with schemes that should have been up and running long ago. There is a responsibility on the Government to ensure the schemes are implemented without delay. I understand that part of the problem relates to a general data protection regulation, GDPR, issue and who the data controller is.  There is an ongoing dispute or impasse between the City and County Managers Association, CCMA, and the Department regarding the role of data controller. Meanwhile, as this impasse continues, assaults and other serious crimes are happening on a daily basis in many towns throughout the country. I heard recently that CCTV cameras were installed in Littleton, County Tipperary, more than 12 months ago but are not yet up and running. I am sure the Minister will agree that this is simply not good enough. Surely when it comes to matters of policing, responsibility lies with An Garda Síochána and not with the local authorities. I am hoping that the Minister will be able to shed some light on this issue in order that CCTV schemes that are at an impasse at the moment can progress and people will have the added security of knowing that the schemes are operational in their towns.

Minister for Justice and Equality (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I thank the Senator for raising this important issue. I hear about CCTV schemes from many groups all over the country and in my capacity as a rural Deputy, I am fully aware of the desire for CCTV in local areas. I appreciate the sense of security that CCTV brings to many communities. In responding to community demand, the Government has made significant funding available to assist groups who wish to establish community CCTV in their areas. The grant aid scheme administered by my Department is intended to run for three years, with the sum of €1 million available each year.

  The Senator will appreciate that there are a number of legal requirements in setting up of CCTV systems. Such systems are installed for the purpose of crime prevention and as aids to policing in areas to which the public routinely have access such as town centres. CCTV systems fall into two distinct but complementary categories, namely Garda CCTV systems and community-based CCTV systems. Neither type of system can be set up without an appropriate authorisation by the Garda Commissioner under section 38 of the Garda Síochána Act 2005. There are further requirements for community CCTV, which is governed by section 38(3)(c) of the Garda Síochána Act 2005 and the Garda Síochána CCTV order of 2006. The legal framework requires that any proposed community CCTV scheme must, in the first instance, be approved by the local joint policing committee, JPC, have the authorisation of the Garda Commissioner, often on foot of a recommendation from the local Garda crime prevention officer and must have the prior support of the relevant local authority. In this regard, it must be noted that the local authority must act as data controller. I must emphasise that this is the legal basis for all community CCTV schemes, regardless of whether grant funding is sought from my Department to assist in their setting up.

  In accordance with this legal framework, the large majority of local authorities have previously undertaken to act as data controllers in the context of specific community CCTV schemes. This has been the case either in the course of the current grant aid scheme administered by my Department, during previous grant aid schemes operated by Pobal on behalf of my Department or in connection with schemes funded independently by local authorities. I understand from my Department's engagement with the Local Government Management Agency, LGMA, that the total number of local authorities that have undertaken the role of data controller for these purposes amounts to 28 out of a total of 31 local authorities nationwide. I am also pleased to inform the Senator that the Data Protection Commission, DPC, issued guidance on data protection and community CCTV on 29 November. The guidance, which is available on the DPC website, confirms that there is a legal basis for community-based CCTV and that the general data protection regulation, GDPR, does not introduce any new barriers in that regard. In particular, the DPC confirms that data protection legislation does not stand in the way of the roll-out of community-based CCTV schemes that have been authorised by the Garda Commissioner.  It also states that once the local authority in the administrative area concerned is willing to take on and deliver on its responsibilities as the data controller for the schemes concerned, there is no legal impediment under data protection legislation to the scheme commencing.

The guidance covers a number of other issues also. For example, it confirms that local authorities are not required, as a result of their role as data controller, to monitor CCTV live feeds on a continuous basis. I am confident that this and other clarifications in the note will be of significant assistance to local authorities in terms of how they carry out their role under law in relation to community CCTV.

The Office of the Data Protection Commissioner is also currently conducting an audit of issues, including the practice, operation and governance of CCTV. Again, I expect the more detailed findings of that process to be of assistance to all concerned and, in particular, to local authorities. The Senator may also wish to be aware that my Department is also engaging on an ongoing basis with the Local Government Management Agency and the County and City Management Association, CCMA, to clarify any queries that might arise.

A Programme for a Partnership Government commits to supporting investment in CCTV systems and, as I have said, my Department is administering a grant aid scheme to assist groups in the establishment of community based CCTV systems in their local areas. Eligible groups can apply for grant aid of up to 60% of the total capital cost of the proposed system, up to a maximum total of €40,000. To date, there have been 27 applications to the scheme, of which 20 have been approved for grant aid, totalling more than €500,000. A further four applications to the scheme are currently being assessed and considered. The remaining three applications have been returned to the applicants concerned to enable them to supply the information necessary to qualify for grant aid.

I assure the Senator that all interested groups, in both rural and urban areas, can take advantage of the availability of this grant aid scheme. If the Senator is aware of community groups wishing to avail of the scheme, full details of the grant aid package are available to download from my Department's website www.justice.ieand support and guidance is available to help interested groups to apply for this funding through a dedicated email address, which is communitycctv@justice.ie.

Senator Robbie Gallagher: Information on Robbie Gallagher Zoom on Robbie Gallagher I thank the Minister for his comprehensive response on the important issue of CCTV that I have raised. I have spoken to a number of local authorities and as far as they are concerned, this impasse continues to exist so I am a bit confused in that regard. Can the Minister confirm that the difficulties the CCMA were having are now resolved? Another issue that came up for smaller local authorities, in particular, was the cost incurred by them in administering such a CCTV scheme.

Deputy Charles Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I am confident the guidance issued recently by the Office of the Data Protection Commissioner regarding data protection will be helpful to all those concerned and I put on the record my thanks to those local authorities which have already supported their communities in setting up such schemes. I assure them that my officials are doing all they can to further streamline and simplify the process.

Message from Dáil

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Dáil Éireann passed the Social Welfare, Pensions and Civil Registration Bill 2018 on 29 November 2018, to which the agreement of Seanad Éireann is desired.

  Sitting suspended at 3.20 p.m. and resumed at 3.30 p.m.

Order of Business

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Order of Business is No. 1, motion regarding opt-in under a protocol to a measure in the area of the Asylum Migration and Integration Fund, AMFI, referral to committee, to be taken without debate on the conclusion of the Order of Business; No. 2, annual national transition statements, Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, to be taken at 4.45 p.m. and to conclude at 6.15 p.m. The opening round shall comprise statements not exceeding five minutes from seven Ministers or Ministers of State. What am I reading? This is a mistake.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris That seems daft. How many Ministers of State will we have?

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The second round shall comprise statements not exceeding eight minutes by group spokespersons. A Minister of State shall make a concluding statement, which shall not exceed five minutes. No. 3 is the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017 - Committee Stage, to be taken at 6.15 p.m.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I wish to confirm that time can be shared on No. 2, in case Members are keen to do that.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone If that is agreed.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Yes.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Is it ending today?

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Yes, No. 2 is concluding today.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I wish to raise the issue of rough sleepers. A count last night showed 156 people were sleeping rough in Dublin, and that included 121 people in the Dublin City Council area. Anthony Flynn, the CEO of the Inner City Helping Homeless charity, alluded to the fact that if those rough sleeping in the suburbs were taken into account, the figure would be as high as 200. I heard him speak on the radio recently about a new phenomenon of people pitching tents on beaches in the Portmarnock and Killiney areas. A total of 9,724 people are living in emergency accommodation.  Many of the emergency hostels opened last year are closing because their leases are running out. I raised this issue last week but it will become critical in the coming days as the weather worsens. Rain, sleet and snow are forecast. What does the Government intend to do to tackle the problem of rough sleepers? It is a problem that is not getting better. It is getting worse, and people are finding themselves in very difficult circumstances.

  The second issue I want to raise concerns the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act. When will the Government commence the Act? I have been contacted by families in same-sex marriages and unions who are very much in a legal limbo in respect of the civil parentage of their children.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear. Well said.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh The Minister has alluded to technical difficulties but it is very unfair to leave parents, children and families in a position where they are unclear as to the civil parentage of their children and the way they will be treated by the State, especially in accident and emergency-type situations, which can be very upsetting.

  The third issue I want to raise is the backlog of cases at the Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman. There is a very large number of outstanding complaints yet to be dealt with by that office, which is a last port of call for consumers who are having difficulties getting anywhere with various financial institutions. There has been an increase of 40% in those numbers from the beginning of 2018 to the end of October. Many issues regarding unresolved tracker mortgage cases arose last year and have arisen again this year. The Office of the Financial Services and Pensions Ombudsman needs to be better resourced in order to ensure consumers are not waiting in limbo for their complaint about financial concerns or irregularities to be determined.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I would like to raise a number of matters that have come into the public domain internationally in the past week. In particular, the G20 summit in Buenos Aires featured Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Murderer.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----being feted by the other members of the leading economies internationally. We in this House are very much muted in expressing any views on international affairs. When we do express views, such as on the occupied territories legislation, which I hope will be debated and concluded in the House tomorrow, we come under a major push-back from the Department of Foreign Affairs for standing up for even the basic-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Human rights.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----human rights of people. I believe we should have a debate on Saudi Arabia-----

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Hear, hear.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell -----and the opportunity to express our disgust at the slaughter of Jamal Khashoggi in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul and our revulsion at the fact that the person responsible for that atrocity is still striding the world like a colossus and being greeted by international statespeople.

  We should also make time to debate what is happening to the Republic of Ukraine. It is wrong that the Russian Federation should use the fact that it built a bridge from Crimea to the mainland of Russia as a pretext to cut off access to the ports of Ukraine. Somebody in this Legislature should stand up and say those actions are wrong and inform Putin that those standards of behaviour are unacceptable. Unless those comments are made repeatedly, until there are resolutions of this House condemning these actions and until the timidity of Iveagh House disappears and voices are clearly expressed on these types of issues, these thugs internationally take acquiescence as approval. I ask the Deputy Leader to make time available for us to discuss these important issues.  We are not like The Skibbereen Eagle. This is a legislative Chamber in one of the member states of the European Union. As such, we should have the bravery and self-respect to speak our mind on these issues and collectively condemn what requires to be condemned, rather than remain mute and watch these matters as consumers of news and readers of newspapers.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan Senator Norris used a particular word to describe the Saudi Crown Prince. Nothing has been proven. The Senator should be a bit more temperate in his language.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I am sorry, but I did not hear what the Cathaoirleach said.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan You called somebody a murderer. That is most inappropriate for this Chamber.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris Well he is one.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Senator should reflect on that. I call Senator Conway-Walsh.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris You should reflect on it.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan He is not here to defend himself.

Senator Rose Conway-Walsh: Information on Rose Conway-Walsh Zoom on Rose Conway-Walsh As yesterday was International Day of Persons with Disabilities, I will focus on two separate issues relating to people with disabilities.

  On the provision of personal assistants, there was an excellent presentation in the AV room earlier hosted by Deputy Ó Caoláin, whom I commend on all of his work, as Chair of the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, for people with disabilities. I also commend the speakers who attended, particularly James Cawley and Shelly Gaynor. They talked about the importance of the personal assistance, PA, scheme that is in operation, how it must be implemented as part of the ratification of optional protocol, how important it is to differentiate between home care or home help hours and the PA system that needs to be in operation, and that we need 500,000 more hours to be able to do what needs to be done for the PA programme. They described the PA system as an extension of themselves and about the decision-making being left to them. I remembered Michael Corbett, who was a great advocate for the PA system, when he spoke about how the only true experts on disability are those people who have disabilities. The PA system allows people to live a full life and make their own decisions about where they want to go and what they want to do within society, which is important.

  James and Shelly also discussed the transition from education to employment and the importance of having a PA system or PA supports in place for that. We need to legislate and invest in standardisation of the PA system. It resonated with me when Ms Gaynor stated that the PA system has been eroded over the years and, instead of people being given full-time PAs to enable them to get the best out of their lives, make their own decisions and implement those decisions, they are given 42 or 45 minutes a day, which is of no use whatsoever. Shelly asked what it is possible to do in 42 minutes and answered the question by saying, "Feck all". I have to agree with her on that. It is important to get that system up in place and provide the extra hours. It is also important that the Disability (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill is put in place because it will deal with some of the issues I have raised.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris I strongly support Senator Ardagh in what she said about gay parents and their rights. The Bill is not yet fully implemented. I have received a large number of inquiries about this from distressed parents and I wrote to the Minister about it earlier. I strongly support the Senator and I thank her for raising the matter.

  A regime was recently adopted for visitors entering Leinster House. It is a nonsense. Computer terminals and machines have been erected and people must enter all of their information, etc. It is not secure. In the old days, we used to sign people in personally, but this is a lack of security. It takes forever, it creates bad-tempered crowds, the staff agrees it is a complete and utter nonsense, and it is all part of the growing bureaucracy under which Leinster House is being strangled.

  Unfortunately, I will be unable to attend the forthcoming debate on the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill.  I have been given a brief by IALPA and I am sure my colleagues, whom I see nodding, have been given the same. I hope they will take up the issues raised by the airline pilots, in particular the crucial element of bogus self-employment used by employers to do employees out of their rights.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell God bless Ryanair.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The security matter the Senator has raised is more a matter for the commission than for the Acting Leader. Perhaps he should send a note to the commission asking it to consider the method being adopted at the moment.

Senator David Norris: Information on David P.B. Norris Zoom on David P.B. Norris The commission loves bureaucracy.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan The Acting Leader is probably not in a position to answer that, but I will leave her deal with it.

Senator Anthony Lawlor: Information on Anthony Lawlor Zoom on Anthony Lawlor I wish to raise an issue that arose yesterday and has arisen on several occasions in recent years, which is the closure of English language schools. I lay the blame firmly at the door of the Departments of Justice and Equality, and Education and Skills. Both Departments have failed to regulate English language schools resulting in a number of such schools becoming visa factories. When I heard yesterday that one of the students paid €1,000 for his course in an English language school, it confirmed that this school simply distributes visas. It also suggests that the school was bound to fail because the fees being charged would not allow it to survive.

  There is a failure to inspect these schools and a failure to verify the type of education going on there. There is a failure in proper regulation, particularly on the part of the Department of Justice and Equality, which issues visas to students coming to Ireland based on the fact that schools are registered with it. They may have no qualified teachers or anyone competent enough to run the school, yet they allow students to come in, provide them with visas and allow them to work at low cost. It is driving the industry down in that it is allowing teachers to be paid low salaries as a result of these visa factories.

  There are a number of good English language schools. This country has a good reputation for education but this situation is ruining that reputation. Some schools want to be regulated so that they can partake in the proper education of students coming to Ireland and not these visa factory schools.

Senator Jennifer Murnane O'Connor: Information on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor Zoom on Jennifer Murnane O'Connor I wish to raise an issue with the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government. Something is very broken in the system when between 15,000 and 20,000 protesters lined the streets last weekend to protest the Government's policies on housing. We are all working hard but there is no joined-up thinking. People are overspending on rent and the State is not building the houses that are needed with the kind of living spaces people want and in places they want to live and work affordably.

  We have a beautiful accessible island but everything is concentrated in Dublin. Irrespective of what the Acting Leader says in reply, this is borne out by last week's Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland, SCSI, report. We cannot become an island that stands on one city alone. We would topple, not only because we would be off balance but because it goes against who we are and what and where we come from. The Government has led a sustained destruction of rural Ireland. It has closed post offices, stalled broadband provision, allowed large companies to see the benefits of Dublin and, but for a few, hold on to those benefits while the rest of the country suffers. We rarely get visits in rural Ireland from IDA Ireland.

  The older person without a smartphone and a monthly commuter ticket is the one who loses. They are alone and isolated. When I visit them - I visit as many of them as I can - they tell me they feel forgotten. For an older person to go collect his or her pension, he or she needs a car to get to the nearest large town because the local post office is closed. He or she needs a bank account to lodge it because nobody carries that amount around but he or she has to be there before a certain time otherwise the counter will be closed. He or she will have to find the nearest supermarket because the post office is closed and so is the corner shop attached to it. If we do this to one older person, what are we doing to our younger people? We are an island for all of us. This is a serious issue and I am looking for Ministers to come to the House and address it.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I join Senators Ardagh and Murnane O'Connor in expressing serious concern at the ever-increasing numbers of people sleeping rough in Dublin. While recent press coverage talks about the city, people are sleeping rough throughout the county.  I believe that the Dublin Regional Homeless Executive showed that recently. I note from the Taoiseach's commentary earlier that he was disappointed with the latest figures. When one couples this with the thousands of people who protested last weekend about housing - they are not all wrong - we have to sit up and listen. If we have to change direction, then so be it. At this stage we have to take on board that people are genuinely concerned. People are priced out of homes, be they to purchase or to rent; it is a crisis situation. The Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government can exercise special powers under special circumstances. If a national emergency on housing is declared, I am advised that he could use some of these powers. We have a crisis situation in every local authority, but especially in the four Dublin local authorities. They are at breaking point with staff totally frustrated at having to turn people away day after day. We should have another discussion on what direction the Government is going.

  On more positive news, as a result of our Planning and Development (Amendment) Bill, which is now the Planning and Development (Amendment) Act 2018, I am happy to say that the regulations to scrap planning fees for elected members of councils were signed by the Minister on Friday. I have a copy in front of me. The Minister also authorised councillors to seek a report on a variation to a proposed county development plan change by the elected members. Some 900 councillors lobbied strongly on those two issues. They are welcome changes and are now embedded. These are two issues that some Senators got over the line, despite significant opposition from the Government of the day and other Senators. I am glad that local authority members are delighted with that.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden A lot done and a lot to do.

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I welcome the good news that "Nightflyers", a series made in Troy Studios in Limerick, was released yesterday in the US. The Irish embassy in the US tweeted and congratulated the film-makers on the premiere, which was shown on 2 December. It is a series of ten films made in Limerick. It is important to acknowledge the number of people involved in the apprenticeship and training scheme during the making of the series. Troy Studios said that if the series was a success the producers might come back to make the next production there as well. The important aspect is that people have been trained and have gone through the apprenticeships and skills side of the process. They now have the skills so if the producers come back to Troy Studios, they will be available for employment. The series is to be released on Netflix and I encourage people to watch it because it is not too often we have a science fiction series made in a local film studio. I wish to congratulate all involved.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield The Seanad reform implementation group first met on 9 May. On Tuesday next, I hope, the group will sign off on a report and a Bill. During Taoiseach's questions earlier in the Dáil, the long running saga in Irish politics that is Seanad reform was discussed by all of the group leaders. Some suggested that there are Members in this House who do not believe that we will ever see reform in this regard. However, there are many people who never wish to see Seanad reform. The Taoiseach suggested that some people may be confused by registering to vote on a number of panels. I believe that he should give the people more credit. He also raised cost as an issue and that he is interested in seeing the cost of any election. We had that conversation when Fine Gael told the people that we could save money. He also alluded to a third constituency to be retained in the form of the University of Dublin, Trinity College. He also said that the Leader keeps him abreast of these issues in private. I ask the Leader to explain what is the plan following the presentation of this report to An Taoiseach and when will we see the legislation before this House.

Senator Michelle Mulherin: Information on Michelle Mulherin Zoom on Michelle Mulherin I wish to raise my concern about the state of health of Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology, GMIT, headquarters and campus in Galway. Ordinarily and over the past years I have received calls to raise issues about the GMIT campus in Castlebar, but I recently received disturbing information from a solid source that there are serious financial, management and governance problems there.  Some of this is manifested in the decline of certain programmes in which it should be a national leader, such as in hotel and catering management. Furthermore, the problems GMIT headquarters is grappling with will present a significant impediment to the delivery of a technological university for the west. The GMIT Galway campus, and GMIT in general, represents a weak link in the Connacht-Ulster alliance for the delivery of such a technological university. This is terrible because if we cannot deliver a technological university in a timely fashion it means rural areas will be lagging behind on a much-needed and valuable third level institute.

  Myself and Senators Paddy Burke and O'Mahony fought very hard for a recovery and sustainable plan for the GMIT Castlebar campus. We secured €3.75 million in ring-fenced funding to be spent over five years. I want to welcome the appointment of a new vice president of GMIT, Professor Neville McClenaghan, who will be based in and will look after Castlebar's interests and who will take up his post in the spring. It has a good academic plan for recovery.

  We do not want all this to go down the tubes. The future is bright but for this and we all understand the umbrella organisation in Galway can bring the whole ship down. I ask that the Minister be invited in to discuss progress on the delivery of technological universities, to outline the state of health and of play in relation to GMIT headquarters in Galway and to address all the significant and serious issues I have raised today. It is an urgent matter. We cannot afford to be left behind in this regard.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Before I raise an issue, I want the Members to join with me in welcoming two members of Galway City Council, Councillor Ollie Crowe, a member for the city centre area, and Councillor Peter Keane, a member for Galway city west. Both were nominated last night to contest the council elections next May. The convention was chaired by Deputy Scanlon. I wish both of them every success in the election. Galway is very lucky to have such councillors. All the members of the city council, including the mayor, are excellent and I really hope that council will be retained. The work it is doing for the west, Galway city and the year of culture is second to none. I wish the councillors every success for the future and thank them, on behalf of Fianna Fáil, for their commitment and their work for their constituents in Galway.

  I refer to No. 45 on the Order Paper, the Registration of Wills Bill 2016, which was promoted by myself and Senators Ardagh and Clifford-Lee. This Bill is on Committee Stage and over the years, I have been attempting to get it passed but without much help from the Law Society of Ireland. I discussed this matter with Mr. Peter Keane, a prominent solicitor who is in the Visitors Gallery, before the Order of Business. This arises from an article by Mr. Charlie Weston in the Sunday Independent  of 2 December 2018. Mr. Weston outlined the exact plan of the Bill I proposed, which is now being sought throughout Europe. I think Malta and Ireland are the two countries in Europe that do not have such a scheme. In the article, which is worth reading, he pinned down exactly what is happening in this regard. The Royal London insurance company asked the Minister and the Government to bring this Bill forward. The article stated that while probate delays are a product of a complex process with insufficient resources, the lack of a centralised wills register is compounding the issue.

  This Bill could be passed by the House quickly and I will seek Government time in this regard. I will not go through the detail of the Bill again because Second Stage was passed with the co-operation of all the parties.  For some reason, Deputy Joan Burton, came in as Minister and turned it down completely. She gave it no consideration and the great and progressive Labour Party turned out not to be so progressive as far as that issue was concerned. It is causing great distress to solicitors and those who are deprived of their inheritance where a will cannot be found. Unfortunately, there are many situations now where will books in the offices of solicitors who go out of business for one reason or another, including retirements, are lost forever. The House would do a good day's work if the Deputy Leader looked into the matter. It is now the responsibility of the Department of Health rather than of the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection and I ask the Deputy Leader to contact the Minister. I will also contact him to see if we can progress the Bill to Final Stage and pass it on to the Dáil.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Denis O'Donovan Zoom on Denis O'Donovan I welcome Councillors Ollie Crowe and Peter Keane to the Gallery. Given my position, I must refrain from the political analysis provided by my good colleague, Senator Leyden. I hope the councillors have an enjoyable day in Leinster House. I call Senator Craughwell.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I call for a debate in the House on the gross abuse of public money to defend indefensible cases. PDFORRA, the Defence Forces' representative body, has taken seven cases to date on the Working Time Directive and won each of them. The latest case cost the State €200,000 in legal fees and there was a five figure settlement for the claimant. This is nonsense. If the State is fully aware of its obligations under the directive, why is it spending money to defend indefensible litigation? Is it because the Department has such deep pockets into which it never has to put its own money that it can take on these cases to create some kind of delay? This is an outrageous abuse of public money. Earlier, Members were talking about people sleeping rough yet €200,000 was spent here. There are 35 more cases laid before the High Court relating to the directive and the Defence Forces and there will be another 35 in a week or two. I am sure there will be 35 more the week after that. Will the Government keep throwing money at this rather than fix the problem? As such, I would like a debate in the House on the abuse of public money.

  I also raise the need for protections for teachers working for fly-by-night language schools, which my colleague, Senator Lawlor, referred to earlier. These teachers have been abused and treated in the most appalling way. Thankfully, they have some representation now through the trades unions, but they had none in the past. Any school setting up now should have to put aside a bond to ensure the final payment of the teachers working for them. At least two months' wages for each teacher should be provided for. It is not a lot to ask. I agree with Senator Lawlor that many of these smaller schools have become visa factories. There was a case some time ago where the box room of a three-bedroom house was registered as a language school with 1,000 students. It is just outrageous.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I follow the previous speaker's remarks on Grafton College, Portobello, where I attended the protest last night. It is disturbing to see language specialists who teach English as a foreign language being discarded so close to Christmas. They have been put in a position in which they do not know where the next euro will come from. Many of them are owed at least four weeks' salary and some are owed up to eight weeks' salary. I ask the Deputy Leader to support our request for the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty, to fast-track in some way any moneys due to employees through the insolvency scheme. It is a practical measure which could be taken. On previous occasions, the Department of Social Protection held special clinics to inform employees in cases like this of their rights and entitlements under its schemes. This practical step could be taken immediately. We did it in the case of Clerys when we met the workers at SIPTU's offices and I am sure Unite would make its building available for the teachers in this case to meet departmental officials to find out exactly what is available to them so close to Christmas.  There is legislation coming forward in the House this week in regard to schools. We may have to amend that Bill to reflect this issue and give some sort of guarantee in regard to earned salary, so it is protected as outlined by the previous speaker. There are two practical elements the Minister could address. First, action could be taken immediately with regard to the insolvency fund. Second, a clinic could be set up by the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection for those unfortunate people who find themselves in this situation in order to inform them of exactly what their entitlements are. Above all, we need to regulate this sector, whether that is through a bond or a fund that has to be put in place to guarantee that workers get the salaries to which they are entitled and for which they have worked so hard.

  I have raised several times with the Minister of State, Deputy English, the issue of the 3,500 housing units that could be provided on the Poolbeg west peninsula. This project has run into constant problems. The last time he was in the House, the Minister of State promised me a note on the progress on the negotiations on the 900 social and affordable units, and I would be grateful if this could be followed up. I have approached the Minister of State about it but, unfortunately, it has not been forthcoming yet.

Senator Aidan Davitt: Information on Aidan Davitt Zoom on Aidan Davitt I ask the Deputy Leader if she has had any report back on the review of councillors' pay and conditions. As the House knows, this report, which is headed by Ms Moorhead, SC, was to be with us before the end of November. I am curious to know if anything has been heard from the Minister. If not, it might be an ideal time to invite the Minister to the House to discuss the report. I am sure he has received it at this stage.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Senators who raised a variety of issues on the Order of Business. Senator Ardagh raised the issue of rough sleepers, which is obviously a very difficult issue, especially with the weather disimproving. I am certainly feeling the cold more today than I have in recent weeks so I cannot imagine how somebody would feel who does not have a roof over his or her head. The rough sleeper census from last Tuesday found there were 156 individuals sleeping rough on that night. Believe it or not, that is a reduction on this time last year. Budget 2019 provided €60 million for the provision of emergency accommodation which will support the development of facilities for rough sleepers, as well as family hubs. The Minister, Deputy Murphy, has been working closely with the Dublin Region Homeless Executive and the Dublin local authorities on the delivery of additional emergency accommodation. The Dublin Region Homeless Executive is co-ordinating the delivery of 203 permanent beds and 130 contingency beds. On the night of the count, 51 of these beds had been put in place and a further 152 permanent beds will be open before Christmas. That is the up-to-date position on the issue.

  On the Children and Family Relationships (Amendment) Act, I have also been contacted by a number of people on this issue. I do not have an answer for the Senator but, even while I have been sitting here today, we have communicated with the Department and I am awaiting a response. If the Senator does not see any sign of that in the near future, she could ask the Leader again, perhaps next week. I will ask for her to be informed of when that will be commenced. I would also like to see that happen.

  Senator Ardagh also raised the issue of the ombudsman for consumers. There might be a necessity for further funding if what the Senator says is true. It would perhaps be a good matter for a Commencement debate but, failing that, a debate with the Minister for Finance would be very useful.

  Senator McDowell raised the issue of foreign affairs in the House. I do not know if there is a new sentiment but I have always found this to be a Chamber, certainly during the last Seanad, where foreign affairs issues were discussed very regularly. In fact, much of the time an issue on a particular country is tabled and only two or three Members turn up in the House to discuss it.  That is the other side of it and there is a balance to be achieved. I agree with the Senator and I am fully in favour of a debate in the House on the events surrounding the death of Mr. Khashoggi and the involvement of Saudi Arabia. As for Ukraine and the Russian influence there, the current events are frightening. The current leader has a popularity rating of under 10% now but he was still able to introduce martial law. Issues involving Russia, Ukraine or Georgia are frightening and it could be very useful to discuss them in the House.

  We should never be seen as a House only here to rubber-stamp what happens in the Dáil. As Members of the Oireachtas and a European Union legislative Chamber, as the Senator pointed out, we have the opportunity to make our opinions known on matters like this. We have disagreements with the Department on occasion but this is not a reason for us to be deterred in raising matters of serious importance internationally in the House. I fully support the Senator in raising the prospect of those two debates. Perhaps they will happen in the new year. The other side of the matter is that people must turn up for these debates. We ask for them but people do not necessarily attend the House when the debates materialise.

  Senator Conway-Walsh mentioned yesterday being International Day of Persons with Disabilities and the presentation in the AV room. I agree with the comments on personal assistance, as the system provides some liberty and independence to disabled people. It is certainly something that could be useful if discussed in this House. Perhaps the relevant Minister of State, Deputy Finian McGrath, would be willing to come here in the new year to discuss the matter.

  Senator Norris also raised the family relationships Bill, as well as other matters, but as he is not here I do not see why we should expend time responding to his contribution. Senator Lawlor raised the very important matter of the language school. We all really feel for those individuals and teachers who have been affected by this. As Deputy Humphreys mentioned, there is a Bill coming to the House tomorrow - the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018 - and four Senators have tabled amendments that specifically deal with this matter. It is very timely, although the events are unfortunate. Perhaps the Senator will contribute to the debate on the Bill tomorrow.

  Senator Murnane O'Connor raised the matter of housing and rural Ireland. She is not here but I will briefly respond in saying that the Government has made unprecedented investment in rural Ireland. We must acknowledge that some of the indicators show improvements with respect to people locating in towns. However, if we managed to reverse urbanisation as a phenomenon, we would be the first country in the world to do so. We are trying very hard but it is very challenging. A week ago, the first recipients of the Government's ten-year €1 billion rural regeneration and development scheme were announced. These were towns and villages with fewer than 10,000 people. There has been a significant increase in Government investment in towns and villages, especially in the past three years. It is starting to bear fruit. That is as far as I will go to respond as the Senator who raised the matter is not here.

  Senator Boyhan spoke about rough sleepers and I have addressed that matter. Senator Maria Byrne mentioned a positive story-----

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell She is not here either.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Okay, although neither was Senator Murnane O'Connor and I spent a few minutes responding to her contribution. As a rule, I will not respond to Member's contributions if they are not present to hear the response. It is not the proper use of time in the House and sometimes Ministers are waiting outside. Members often just raise the matter but are obviously not that interested in the response. I was very interested to hear about the "Nightflyers" science fiction series and I must watch it.

  I do not have a direct answer to Senator Warfield's question but I will come back to him. I know the report is due and it will go to the Taoiseach. I imagine he will act fairly swiftly but I cannot provide precise dates. Senator Mulherin is not here but she raised some matters of concern about Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology.   Senator Leyden referred to the legislation on the registration of wills. That is a Private Members' Bill so his party can use its Private Members' time for that. It is also something that could be raised as a Commencement matter in order that further details might be obtained. However, the Senator can definitely use Fianna Fáil's Private Members' time.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I appreciate that but I was asking for Government time. Our Private Members' time might not be available for a considerable period. The time must be shared among other Members.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone It is a Private Members' Bill.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden Yes, but it could be adopted by the Government.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone The Senator can also talk to his colleagues about using their time for it.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I will. I have no difficulty appealing to my colleagues on all sides of the House to accommodate us.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I have no objection to it coming before the House. I am trying to assist the Senator.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden The Senator has been extraordinarily helpful.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone He can table it for his party's Private Members' time or come to an agreement with the Leader as to another time for which it could be scheduled.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden The Senator has given me the very good idea to talk to my Independent colleagues.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone It is in the Senator's hands.

  Senator Craughwell referred to how public moneys are being spent. I will not comment on the particular case involved. However, this would be suitable for a Commencement debate in order to obtain a specific answer. Failing such a move being successful in the context of gleaning the relevant information, the working time directive could be discussed with the Minister. However, the Senator could get information directly from the Minister. The Senator also referred to language schools, an important issue which I have addressed.

  Senator Humphreys is not present. Senator Davitt raised councillors' pay and conditions. The new year would be a good time to invite the Minister back to the House. I am not sure of the status of that report but it is due, at least, so it would be timely to have a discussion on it in January or February, at the latest.

  Order of Business agreed to.

Asylum Migration and Integration Fund: Referral to Joint Committee

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I move:

That the proposal that Seanad Éireann approves the exercise by the State of the option or discretion under Protocol No. 21 on the position of the United Kingdom and Ireland in respect of the area of freedom, security and justice annexed to the Treaty on European Union and to the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union, to take part in the adoption and application of the following proposed measure:
Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council amending Regulation (EU) No. 516/2014 of the European Parliament and the Council, as regards the re-commitment of the remaining amounts committed to support the implementation of the Council Decisions (EU) 2015/1523 and (EU) 2015/1601 or the allocation thereof to other actions under the national programmes,
a copy of which was laid before Seanad Éireann on 20th November, 2018, be referred to the Joint Committee on Justice and Equality, in accordance with Standing Order 71(3)(k), which, not later than 6th December, 2018, shall send a message to the Seanad in the manner prescribed in Standing Order 75, and Standing Order 77(2) shall accordingly apply.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Sitting suspended at 4.20 p.m. and resumed at 4.45 p.m.

Annual National Transition Statement on Climate Action and Low Carbon Development: Statements

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone No. 2 is the annual national transition statement on the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. This is quite unusual because there will be seven Ministers or Ministers of State, each of whom will have five minutes, while group spokespersons will have five minutes for their contributions. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, will be called on to reply at 6.10 p.m., and statements will conclude at 6.15 p.m.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan To clarify, may we respond to each Minister or Minister of State separately or will we allow all the Ministers and Ministers of State speak before we ask questions?

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I should have clarified that and I thank the Senator. Each Minister or Minister of State will speak in sequence, after which Senators will have an opportunity to respond.

  I call the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton.

Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment (Deputy Richard Bruton): Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton Five minutes is a short time and, therefore, I will try to be concise.

  I attended the UN climate conference in Poland yesterday and the message was stark for anyone who was not already aware. It was made clear that the window for the world to respond to the massive challenge we face is closing fast, and that the consequences of failing to respond are truly catastrophic, not only in the impact on individuals and countries but also on migration, the natural environment and civilisation, as David Attenborough said. It was also stark that, in general, the technology to achieve the set targets is already available. People are not, therefore, being asked to do something impossible or original. We have the technology. The clear message was that if we fail to respond to a challenge of this scale, it will have such an impact on the prospects of future generations that we will have utterly betrayed the people who will come after us.

  It was a stark message and it puts our transition statement in perspective. During the crash, we seemed to conform to many of our climate obligations but once the recovery resumed it was clear we had failed to break the link between growth in emissions and growth in the economy. As of today, by 2020, for which we had a target to reduce emissions by 20%, we will have reduced emissions by only 1%. No sector other than the power sector is on track or has even reduced its targets by a significant degree. Some areas such as services, which are generally good, are better than others such as the transport and agriculture industries, which are quite bad. No sector, however, is on track to reduce emissions at the scale that was intended.

  The UN also maps the measures that are in place and how they will have an impact. It has calculated the impact of the published national development plan, with which the Senators will be familiar. It is encouraging to see that the plan will have a significant impact. It is calculated that its impact will be 2,200 million tonnes cumulatively over the period to 2030, which will be just short of half of what we need to do by then. It shows the measures we are introducing are important and will have an impact but also that we need to step up our ambition considerably. The Taoiseach admitted we are a laggard in this area but it is my intention that we seek to be a leader in it, and the mandate that I have received supports that intention.  We have the opportunity and the seriousness of this has been underlined by not just the UN conference, but by our Citizens' Assembly and by the Oireachtas which has set up an all-party committee to report by the end of January. I intend to work in parallel to the work of the Oireachtas committee. I intend to produce an all-of-government plan by the end of February. I am working on a similar schedule to try to bring together the measures that can make an impact.

  I plan to look at this under six headings. One is the regulatory framework.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Excuse me, Minister. Could we have some quiet at the back of the Chamber? I ask the usher to ensure that the door is closed because it is very distracting.

Deputy Richard Bruton: Information on Richard Bruton Zoom on Richard Bruton I will outline the six headings under which I hope to develop a whole-of-government policy working with my Government colleagues in all Departments as this cannot be confined to a single Department. One is the regulatory framework. The second is how we spur the adoption of known technologies throughout the community. The third is how we address market failure. As many Senators will know we have clearly signalled that we need to set a trajectory for carbon price. The fourth is how we will drive change in business models. As well as posing a challenge to business there are great opportunities for business in moving to a low-carbon environment. We need to ensure businesses anticipate and become leaders not followers in that sphere. The fifth is how the public sector can lead by example. The public sector owns a very substantial stock of housing and buildings. It purchases many vehicles and has other procurement. Much of that can impact and lead the way to a low-carbon environment.

  The last heading, which in some ways is the most important one, is how we will engage with citizens and communities so that everyone plays their part. This cannot be funded by the State. For example, the cost of upgrading our housing to the standards we need to achieve by 2030 would be about €50 billion. Over the next ten years the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, has allocated about €4 billion to my Department in supporting that. The vast majority of the funding has to be achieved by people making investments on their own. While they will pay back, the payback periods will be long. We will need to consider how we can support the funding of these changes that people will need to make.

  The same is true as we go through each sector. While it is very important that we accommodate a just transition, which was very much a theme yesterday, Senators must bear in mind that the State cannot fund all the change that must be made. A just transition cannot mean the State picking up the cost because that is simply not possible. We must make major behavioural change as a community, including in enterprises, in homes and in the way we travel, live and eat. It goes across every segment. I am delighted to have the opportunity to say a few words on the transition statement today.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Minister and I apologise for the tight timescale. The next speaker is the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Deputy Creed. He is also against the clock. We do not normally put Ministers against the clock in the Seanad. He has five minutes.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Is it correct that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment comes back in at the end? I thought that was the original-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone No. The Minister of State, Deputy D'Arcy, will come in at the end.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I knew there was a concluding Minister. I just wanted to confirm that.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone There is a concluding Minister. I laid that out at the outset.

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Michael Creed): Information on Michael Creed Zoom on Michael Creed I am pleased to appear before the Seanad to present the annual transition statement for the agriculture, forest and land-use sector. As one of the key sectors involved in the country's national mitigation plan, it only right to restate the vision for the sector which is an approach to carbon neutrality in the agriculture and land-use sector, including forestry, that does not compromise capacity for sustainable food production. This is consistent with the principles of both the Paris Agreement and the European Union Council conclusions of October 2014, which recognised the role of agriculture and land use in tackling climate change and their contribution to achieving climate ambitions.

  One of the first actions we committed to in the national mitigation plan was to engage with research to further elaborate on the concept of carbon neutrality.  We expect that project to commence shortly. In the meantime we are continuing to take a three-strand approach to emissions reduction by reducing emissions where we can, increasing carbon sequestration and displacing fossil fuel and energy-intensive materials with renewable sources. The sector has been engaging in many positive environmental actions but I will focus on some of the actions we have been taking since I presented last year's transition statement.

  In the context of the rural development plan, we continue to invest in our mitigation measures. Approximately 49,000 farmers are active in the green low-carbon agri-environment scheme, GLAS, and almost 25,000 farmers are participating in the beef data and genomics programme, with over 1 million animals genotyped to date. Building on the success of the latter programme, we will introduce a new pilot scheme in 2019 targeted at suckler farmers, namely the beef environmental efficiency pilot, BEEP. This new scheme will aim to further improve the carbon efficiency of beef production.

  Given the importance of afforestation to the achievement of our sequestration ambitions, one of the new mitigation measures we have identified and introduced this year is a knowledge transfer group scheme for forestry. Other forestry measures taken this year include increasing the rate of financial support across all categories, with larger increases for broadleaf planting. A change in supports for road building was also made. We have also seen the introduction of the woodland environmental fund which will help to further expand Ireland's native woodland resource.

  On the energy efficiency side, farmers are availing of investment options such as biomass boilers and air source heat pumps under the targeted agricultural modernisation scheme, TAMS, II, pig and poultry and young farmers capital investment schemes. This year also saw the launch of a new collaborative initiative between Government and industry, the agricultural sustainability support and advisory programme. The Department, Bord Bia, and Teagasc are working together to progress further positive changes at farm level through research, advisory services and carbon audits.

  My Department is also busy preparing its first statutory adaptation plan for the three areas identified in the national adaptation framework for which my Department has responsibility, namely, seafood, agriculture and forestry. We published an adaptation planning document for the agriculture and forest sectors last year and advanced work on the seafood element which will set the groundwork for future adaptation planning.

  Increased environmental ambition is a key element of the new CAP proposals and I see this as an opportunity. However, having a well-funded CAP is more important than ever if we want to see this ambition become a reality. Our farmers are custodians of the land and supporting them in good environmental practices and enabling them to respond to climate challenges and opportunities is not only an investment in our agriculture sector but also in our wider rural communities.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Minister for his opening statement and in particular, for his brevity. I now invite the Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran to make his presentation.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Kevin Boxer Moran): Information on Kevin Boxer Moran Zoom on Kevin Boxer Moran I am delighted to present to the Senate the annual adaptation transition statement on the policy measures adopted by the Office of Public Works, OPW, during the past year to help adapt to the effects of climate change on flood risk management. In the past year, the OPW launched the flood risk management plans that detail the risk and feasible measures to address flooding from rivers and the sea, the primary sources of our flood risk. We not only looked at flood risk and its impact for today but also studied the flood risk and impact for two potential climate change scenarios in the future.

  The catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM programme which delivered these plans was the largest national study ever undertaken of our risk from significant flood events or one-in-100-year floods and it followed best practice. In 2012, 300 communities were selected for this study as they were most likely to be impacted by future flooding. These included 90 coastal communities. These communities represent 80% of the national potential risk and they are home to almost two thirds of our population. While CFRAM assessed flood risk in all our large urban areas, approximately one quarter of these communities had populations of less than 500 people and half had less than 2,000 people. On 3 May 2018, accompanied by the Taoiseach, I launched the flood maps for these communities and the plans that set out how we can manage flood risk both for these communities and nationally. I also announced a €1 billion investment in a further 118 flood relief schemes over the coming decade which, together with the 42 schemes completed and 33 under way, means the Government can protect 95% of properties assessed to be at risk from a 100-year flood event. I also launched a new website, floodinfo.ie, where people can view the maps and plans by location.

  At the start of this ten-year programme of investment, I announced that the OPW, working with local authorities, would be commencing work on the detailed designs for 50 of these 118 new flood relief schemes. I am delighted to report that there has since been proactive engagement between the OPW and the local authorities on the arrangements and structures to be put in place to advance the implementation of these first tranche projects. Project inception meetings have focused on the establishment of project steering groups, governance structures and the resource and procurement requirements. The OPW has already put in place panels of engineering design consultants and environmental consultants, which is helping to expedite the delivery process. In the past year, the OPW has either completed or begun work on flood relief schemes to protect 80% of those properties assessed to be at risk of significant flooding. All schemes are designed and built in line with international best practice, including making sure they can be adapted in the future for potential climate change.

  It is also important to refer to the measures we have put in place for those at-risk properties where investment in a flood relief scheme is not feasible. The minor flood mitigation works and coastal protection scheme continues to be a valuable measure to address localised flood risk. In the past year, the OPW has committed a total of €5.6 million for 65 localised schemes by local authorities.

  The work of the interdepartmental flood policy co-ordination group, of which I am chairman, is also focused on climate change adaptation measure for flood risk management. Significant progress this year has been achieved by Met Éireann and the OPW in establishing the flood forecasting service, including the appointment of a chief hydrometerologist who is leading the delivery of this service. The publication by the OPW in the past year of the flood risk maps developed by the CFRAM programme, including maps reflecting the impact from future climate change, are a valuable resource to inform local authorities in their preparation of their local and sectoral adaptation plans in 2019, for planning decisions as well as for planning emergency responses. The work by the OPW in the past 12 months on adopting measures to adapt for climate change has been significant. In particular, the launch of the flood risk management plans demonstrates our proactive approach to addressing the possible impact from climate change, both in our planning to manage our flood risk and in the delivery of flood relief schemes. I am confident that our focus on climate change in flood risk management will allow our investment today to be easily adapted to deal with the impact from climate change in the future.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Minister of State and invite the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to address the House.

Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport (Deputy Shane Ross): Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross As we have already heard this afternoon, Ireland faces an enormous challenge in its transition to a low-carbon society. It is a challenge which must be met by all sectors in Government in a collective effort if we are to begin to achieve our long-term climate goals. I understand the significant role the transport sector plays in this effort, and we are delivering a range of measures to reduce transport emissions and improve our transport sector’s resilience to the effects of climate change. While we have made progress, we still have a mountain to climb.

  From the outset, we should recognise that the transport journeys of today are lower emitting than ever before and the substantial gains we have seen in the energy efficiency of vehicles are expected to continue. In fact, some projections suggest that CO2 emissions from cars alone will decrease by an additional 40% by 2050. However, there is a real danger that this significant progress in efficiency and emission reductions will be largely offset by strong global growth in transport demand. Ireland is no different in this regard and there has been strong growth in travel demand in recent years. We only need to look at our roads or any of our public transport services to see the increasing volume of people on the move.  It is positive to see greater movement of people and goods as it is a sign of an active economy. Nevertheless, we must continue the decoupling of the growing economy from climate emissions and we must achieve that without negatively affecting national progress. In transport, we are working to reduce emissions on four main fronts. The first is through increasing capacity and improving the attractiveness of public transport and the active travel modes to cater for the growing demand and to provide a meaningful alternative to the car. During the reporting period of 2017 alone, an additional 16 million public transport passenger journeys were made in Ireland and the number of walking and cycling trips also increased, particularly within the Dublin area. We are working to ensure that this trend continues. I have prioritised investment in this area with €8.6 billion allocated to sustainable mobility under the national development plan. This investment will allow for the development of MetroLink, the roll-out of BusConnects in all major cities, which will include significantly enhanced cycling facilities in those cities, the DART expansion programme in the greater Dublin area and increased funding generally for cycling and walking infrastructure across the State.

  Our second key line of attack on transport emissions is supporting the transition of vehicles away from fossil fuels. Even with an expanded and enhanced public transport system, some people will not be in a position to move away from the car. In those cases, we need to limit the impact of car use by encouraging a move towards alternative low or zero-emission fuels and technologies. In 2017, my Department published the National Policy Framework on Alternative Fuels Infrastructure for Transport in Ireland 2017 to 2030. It is in this framework that we set out our ambition that by 2030 all new cars and vans sold in Ireland will be zero emissions capable. To support this ambition, a low-emissions vehicle task force was established to support and accelerate the deployment of low-carbon transport technologies. Phase 1 of the task force focused solely on incentivising electric vehicles and a number of its recommendations were adopted in budgets 2018 and 2019, expanding the suite of supports available for electric vehicles. Today, we are reaping the rewards of those incentives with a marked increase in the number of electric vehicles on our roads.

  The third pillar in reducing transport emissions relates to the biofuels obligation scheme. It is arguably the most important mitigation measure we have in our arsenal at the moment, as it reduces emissions from conventionally fuelled vehicles essentially disturbance free. The scheme ensures that a percentage of conventional fossil fuel is replaced with sustainable biofuel and added to the fuel mix. Currently, 8% of our transport fuel is biofuel and a welcome incremental increase in this rate for 2019 has been announced. Biofuels have played a significant role in reducing transport emissions. In 2017, it accounted for 450,000 tonnes of reduced CO2 emissions, a 3.4% saving.

  The final front on which we are tackling emissions is through vehicle production standards. We are pushing strongly at a European level to ensure that more efficient production standards for cars, vans and heavy good vehicles are introduced. That will mean the Irish consumer will be presented with cleaner vehicles, making the greener choice an easier option. In parallel with reducing emissions we must also equip the transport sector to prepare for and react to the ill effects of climate change.

  In 2017, my Department published our first sectoral adaptation plan, Developing Resilience to Climate Change in the Irish Transport Sector, in which the risks facing the sector were identified, such as damage to infrastructure and disruptions to public transport services from high winds, storms and flooding. We are building our capacity for climate adaptation within key transport organisations. I was pleased to see proactive engagement from the sector, notably Transport Infrastructure Ireland's publication of its Strategy for Adapting to Climate Change on Ireland's Light Rail and National Road Network and Irish Rail's ongoing work developing its coastal railway vulnerability index. My Department will build upon the adaptation plan in the coming years by working to quantify the cost of climate change, raising awareness of vulnerabilities within the sector and ensuring that our investments are future-proofed, especially in light of the increasingly severe weather events we are experiencing.

  To conclude, we face a significant challenge to decarbonise Irish society. Achieving the necessary emissions reductions will require continuing and strengthening mitigation measures already in place as well as introducing an array of new ones. That requires continued close co-operation between all Departments and support for the whole-of-Government, least-cost approach we are deploying. I will ensure it remains a priority in the transport sector.

Acting Chairman (Senator Catherine Noone): Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone I thank the Minister, Deputy Ross, and I invite the Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Madigan, to make her presentation to the House. I apologise for putting her on the clock. She has approximately five minutes.

Minister for Culture, Heritage and the Gaeltacht (Deputy Josepha Madigan): Information on Josepha Madigan Zoom on Josepha Madigan My Department is preparing two sectoral adaptation plans, one addressing biodiversity and the other on the built and archaeological heritage. A draft climate change adaptation plan for biodiversity has been drawn up by scientific staff in the National Parks and Wildlife Service, NPWS, of my Department. That has been circulated to staff within the NPWS, external biodiversity and climate change experts, members of the interdepartmental biodiversity working group, and the biodiversity forum, which is represented by NGOs, academics and other relevant stakeholders. The draft plan also formed the basis of a stakeholder workshop, held on the 16 October. There were 40 participants at the workshop, representing various sectors, and included the regional climate change offices and NPWS staff. The workshop sought feedback and inputs on various matters, including climate impacts and consequences for the biodiversity sector, adaptation actions and cross-sectoral linkages. The draft plan is now being redrafted and reformatted to reflect the sectoral guidelines published in May 2018 and the feedback and inputs received from other sectors and actors.

  We endeavour to ensure that this revised draft biodiversity sectoral climate change adaptation plan will go to public consultation in January 2019. The following climate change risks to biodiversity have been identified to date. The first is changes in species abundance. The second is changes in species distribution. The third is disruption of species interactions. The fourth is loss of species. The fifth is the arrival and spread of non-native species. The sixth is changes in the composition of communities. The seventh is the loss of habitat area. The eight is changes in the functionality of habitats. As well as the direct impact to biodiversity there may be consequences for the delivery of ecosystem services required for human well-being. As an example, changes in the functionality of habitats may reduce the capacity for water retention or the control of non-native species, which may be very costly to the Exchequer.

  In terms of the built and archaeological heritage, expertise has been appointed in October to assist in the preparation of a sectoral adaptation plan. This will build on a background research study commissioned by my Department and completed in 2017. Stakeholder advisory meetings were held in February and October 2018 with discussion feeding into the preparation of a tender for the delivery of a climate change sectoral adaptation plan for built and archaeological heritage. Stakeholders include representatives from the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Office of Public Works, OPW, the City and County Management Association, CCMA, the National Museum of Ireland, the Heritage Council, the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland, the Irish Landscape Institute, the Royal Irish Academy, the Discovery Programme, the Irish chapter of the International Council on Monuments and Sites, ICOMOS Ireland, and the Federation of Local History Societies. Contact continues with counterparts in the UK - Scotland, England and Northern Ireland - and further afield who are working on climate change adaptation of heritage sites with a view to exchanging information and ideas that will inform the sectoral adaptation plan.

  Discussions with the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, ensured that built and archaeological heritage impacts were built into the climate pillar call for achieving resilience in the marine and coastal environment.  My Department made a presentation to the national adaptation steering committee on 4 July of this year on the potential impacts of climate change on the built and archaeological heritage. There are some climate change risks to the built and archaeological heritage which have been identified to date. These arise from the potential for warmer and wetter winters, increased intensity of storms, sea level rise and coastal erosion and, of course, increased flooding. The effects may include: structural damage to monuments and historic properties; coastal erosion undermining structures or leading to loss of ground adjacent to the structure; the exposure and erosion of archaeological sites; the collapse of unstable masonry elements, such as chimneys and roofs; the loss of historic landscape features, such as trees; and the impact on building fabric, including increased saturation, mould and fungal growth to interiors and contents, as well as increased corrosion of metal elements.

  It is the intention to have a plan launched and produced by summer 2019, including a period of public consultation. My Department very much welcomes the close ongoing working relationship with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment in regard to the development of both plans by autumn 2019.

Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government (Deputy Eoghan Murphy): Information on Eoghan Murphy Zoom on Eoghan Murphy I am delighted to be here today, with my Government colleagues, to address the Seanad on this very important issue. I want to first talk about the context for my own Department as we address these issues, which is very much set out in Project Ireland 2040, which the Government launched earlier this year. It is the overarching planning and investment framework for the social, economic and cultural development of Ireland. As the House knows, it includes a detailed capital investment plan for the period 2018-27, which is the national development plan, NDP, in support of a long-term transformational spatial strategy for the country, detailed in the national planning framework, NPF, element of Project Ireland 2040.

  The aligned and shared vision of the NPF, in tandem with the NDP, represents a joined-up planning and investment strategy for Ireland’s future growth and development, focused on a series of ten shared national outcomes. Foremost among these is climate action and the national objective to transition to a low carbon and climate resilient society by 2050. Policy that will assist in making that transition and meeting our climate obligations is woven throughout the NPF and the NDP. When we talk about shared outcomes reflected in both documents that are fundamentally supportive of climate action, we are talking about compact growth, sustainable mobility and sustainable management of water, waste and other environmental resources. All include significant elements of policy that provide a strong platform for the development of measures and actions in response to climate change. The overall NPF strategy seeks to achieve a better balance of development between the regions, a greater focus on Ireland's cities, supporting Ireland’s rural fabric and targeting more compact growth in the development of settlements of all sizes, from the largest city to the smallest village.

  The Department is currently undertaking a review of the 2006 wind energy development guidelines. This review is addressing a number of key aspects, including sound or noise, visual amenity setback distances, shadow flicker, community obligation, community dividend and grid connections. We will shortly commence a public consultation on the revised draft guidelines, together with the comprehensive environmental report under the strategic environmental assessment, SEA, process, with the aim of issuing the finalised guidelines, following detailed analysis and consideration of the submissions and views received during the consultation phase, in the early part of next year. When finalised, the revised guidelines will be issued under section 28 of the Planning and Development Act 2000, as amended.

  My Department, in collaboration with the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment, which leads on renewable energy policy, is exploring the potential for enhancing national planning guidance on solar energy, taking account of solar energy projects being assessed by planning authorities, and the scope for future development of the sector, in the context of the ongoing development of renewable energy policy. Further to this ongoing engagement between the two Departments, should the need for specific planning guidance for solar farms be identified, this work will be further scoped and progressed.

  I will now turn to measures related to the built environment. In Ireland approximately 40% of total energy produced is used in the building sector. The energy performance of buildings directive sets ambitious goals for energy efficiency and renewables in buildings by requiring nearly zero energy building, NZEB, performance for new buildings from 31 December 2020. In addition, the directive also requires that major renovations to existing buildings are completed to a cost-optimal level, where it is feasible. The implementation of NZEB is a key action for the built environment in contributing to Ireland’s national low carbon transition and mitigation plan. This has been completed for buildings other than dwellings and will take effect from 1 January of next year. It is planned to be in place for dwellings from mid-2019. This will contribute to emissions reductions from 1 January 2021.

  A new element of the revised energy performance of buildings directive is the provision of infrastructure for charging of electric vehicles. Lack of recharging infrastructure is seen as a barrier to the take-up of electric vehicles in the EU and the revised energy performance of buildings directive has new provisions which aim to accelerate deployment. We are in the process of drafting these regulations and will be publishing them for public consultation in 2019, and we will have the regulations in place by March 2020.

  Local authorities are currently undertaking an ambitious programme of insulation retrofitting, with the support of the Department, on the least energy efficient social homes. The programme has two phases. Phase 1 focused on the lower cost improvements, such as cavity wall and attic insulation. Phase 2 is now targeting higher-cost, deeper retrofit measures, for example, fabric upgrades and glazing. Since 2013 funding of some €120 million has been provided to improve energy efficiency and comfort levels in over 65,000 local authority homes, benefiting those at risk of fuel poverty and making a significant contribution to Ireland’s carbon emissions reduction targets and energy reduction targets for 2020.

  In regard to climate adaptation, our water services policy statement 2018-28 sets out the key policy objectives which must be pursued by Irish Water when planning capital investment and framing current spending plans. This includes adapting water services to withstand the impact of climate change and weather-related events, consistent with the national adaptation framework.

  All of the above measures are key actions in the contribution of the built environment to Ireland’s national low carbon transition and mitigation plan to address climate change. We will continue to work hard on all of them, notwithstanding the other challenges we face in terms of building up our national housing stock. Furthermore, I will work to identify additional measures with the Minister, Deputy Bruton, in the development of the national energy and climate plan 2021-30. I am confident the measures outlined will contribute significantly to mitigating against and adapting to climate change.

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Deputy Catherine Byrne): Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne I am grateful to have the opportunity to update the House on this important matter on behalf of the Minister, Deputy Harris. Climate change adaptation planning within the health sector is crucial. It involves two key areas, first, the protection of the health and well-being of our population and, second, ensuring the resilience of our health service so it can continue to operate during severe weather events.

  The Department of Health continues to work with key stakeholders within the wider health sector and other key sectors to identify the priority actions associated with climate change adaptation for the health sector. The Department is represented on the national adaptation steering committee since 2014 and, more recently, on the Government’s high-level climate action steering group, chaired by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment. The health sector has also been represented by a specialist in public health medicine in the HSE at the national adaptation steering committee and a variety of other relevant fora, including the Climate Change Advisory Council adaptation committee.

  Vulnerability assessment of the health infrastructure and services is a key component of our planning. Some of this is already occurring through severe weather planning and emergency management structure in the HSE. It provides for vulnerability assessment for all services provided by the HSE and will form the basis for the bulk of vulnerability assessment across the sector. The planning is service and geographically based, and overlaps with business continuity planning in many cases. There has been preparation and activation of emergency plans followed by “lessons learned” during the weather events of 2017-18, such as Storm Ophelia, Storm Emma and the heatwave experienced during summer 2018, which will be incorporated in future planning scenarios. Current weather and climate-related risks continue to be assessed. For example, during severe weather events, there have been dynamic public health risk assessments and public health medical advice developed to protect the public. Future risk assessment may largely depend on the results of the vulnerability assessment but also on the adaptation actions of other sectors, as health impact is mainly an end point of the effects of climate change on other sectors. Adaptation options that are already required to manage current risks are being implemented and will continue to be mainstreamed, monitored and reviewed.  Ongoing business continuity planning will meet some of the requirements.

  Another important action involves assessing current information systems in order to develop appropriate data capable of identifying changing patterns of illness and disease related to climate change, and to measure and monitor them through health surveillance and investigation. Work has commenced with the EPA to agree a research agenda for the sector relating to climate change adaptation and health.

  In addition to the work relating to climate-change adaptation within our sector, the health sector is providing expert public health expertise to other sectors on the health impacts that need to be addressed in their plans. The delivery of a climate-change adaptation plan for the health sector will require a high level of collaboration across sectors on an ongoing basis to create evidence-based solutions that are collectively aligned with our pursuit of a transition to a low-carbon, climate-resilient and environmentally-sustainable economy together with the achievement of a healthy Ireland.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys On a point of order, I ask the Chair to clarify if the statements that have been made on environment and climate change are under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015. If the statements are being made to be compliant with that Act, the Act is not being honoured in the statements that have been made here. If it is to fulfil the 2015 Act-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That is a point for debate and not a point of order.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I believe the statements have been made to fulfil the statutory requirements of the legislation, but they do not.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell It is not a point of order in this case.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Is it not being done under the Act?

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The statements are under Standing Orders so it is not a point of order. Can we proceed because we are really tight on time.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Does that mean we will have statements under the Act at a later stage?

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Does the Senator see where we are coming from? It is up to the Ministers to comply with legislation.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys They are either compliant with the Act or they are not. The speech-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell These statements are being made under Standing Orders and not made under the Act.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys So we will have statements compliant with the Act.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell These are being made under Standing Orders.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys That is grand. The clarity is that there will be further statements that will comply with the 2015 Act.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell That is a matter for the Leader and the Senator might bring it up on the Order of Business tomorrow morning.

  We are really tight on time and we must proceed with the debate. While eight minutes have been allocated to speakers, I ask them not to use the eight minutes or otherwise people will not get in. I call Senator Leyden who has eight minutes, but I ask him not to use them.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I welcome the Ministers, Deputies Bruton, Creed, Ross, Madigan and Eoghan Murphy, and the Ministers of State, Deputies Moran and Catherine Byrne, to the House. It is impressive to have practically half the Cabinet here for the statements in the House, which is very appropriate. I will not take all the time because the Christmas tree lights are being turned on on the lawn at 5.30 p.m. It might not be appropriate with climate change-----

(Interruptions).

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden -----to be cutting trees down-----

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine That is okay.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden ----- but I will not be Scrooge about it. Other trees will be planted to replace it.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine Yes.

Senator Terry Leyden: Information on Terry Leyden Zoom on Terry Leyden I welcome the Minister focusing on this issue. Yesterday we got a stark warning from David Attenborough on climate change when he said that civilisation is now nearing collapse. It was one of the starkest statements I have heard from anybody. He has outlined exactly how serious the situation is.

  Ireland can only contribute so much to the whole issue, but bigger countries such as the United States, China and India must come up and do their bit as well. It is most regrettable that the President of America, Donald Trump, would decide to pull out of the Paris Accord. I notice that a former Governor of California has criticised the President and said that most of the other 50 states of the United States are doing their bit. They said that Washington would not control what they do in each state. I was very encouraged that the individual states of the United States are active in climate change and very conscious of the situation.

  I compliment the work of Oisín Coughlan of Stop Climate Chaos. He has made very good submissions to the Minister, including a letter he wrote the other day outlining his current concerns. It concerns people when the Taoiseach, with respect, said we were laggards. If the Taoiseach is not very happy with the situation, he could actually do something about it and grasp the nettle.

  We in Fianna Fáil are very conscious of the situation and we are fully committed to tackling climate change and to ensure that Ireland meets its obligations. We fully accept the findings of the intergovernmental panel on climate change. Its report finds that limiting global warming to 1.5°C would require a rapid and far-reaching transition in land, energy, industry, building, transport and cities. This action needs to be taken within 12 months. Despite this the Government is failing to meet its targets. We will not meet our 2020 targets, nor are we on target to hit 2030 or even 2050 commitments.

  The failure to meet these targets will have consequences. Short-term compliance costs to try to close the gap are now likely to be in excess of €100 million. Ireland will also be exposed to significant penalties post 2020. The Government has failed to introduce an increased carbon tax in this year's budget. This will require more drastic increases in coming years. A number of actions should be taken next year in order to put Ireland on the correct course.

  Instead of committing to completing a plan as announced by the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, the Government should set about implementing the recommendations of the cross-party committee first. The Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 should be amended to include setting specific targets for the reduction of emissions. Fianna Fáil has tabled a Bill to achieve this. Carbon tax should be increased with the funds raised used to protect communities in which the impact of such attacks would be worst felt. The tax should also be invested in meeting targets.

  I will not go through each Ministry. Regarding agriculture the whole course of environmental work is very important. The more trees we grow the better. Every farmer should be encouraged to grow a number of trees. We have an organic farm and my wife has been pushing the idea of growing more trees, particularly broadleaf trees, on the land. If everyone did that, it would be a move in the right direction. These are simple steps that can mean a lot.

  I was very encouraged when in recent days a major restaurant chain in London decided not to import avocados from Australia because of the transport cost of bringing that fruit from Australia, even though it is a beautiful fruit. We have to get real in this case and we must reduce the costs. We should provide more horticultural products in this country. It is a shame and a scandal that we import potatoes from Italy and Cyprus, and import cabbages from different parts of the world. All those products can and should be produced here. North Dublin, Wexford and other areas are pretty good at that. The Minister needs to provide more incentives and encouragement. The major supermarkets, Aldi, Lidl, Dunnes Stores, Tesco and SuperValu, should be lobbied to ensure they source their foods in this country where possible.

  One implication of Brexit is that when the United Kingdom leaves and then decides to have negotiations with Argentina and Brazil, it will bring in steers from America into the United Kingdom when they can be sourced here, next door in the Republic of Ireland.  On renewable energy, more action is needed to provide offshore wind turbines. These are operational in Denmark and many other parts of the world but for some reason, even though significant wind is generated off our shores, that option is not being pushed. I ask the Minister to respond to that. Furthermore, proposals to cover vast areas of land with solar panels are questionable at best. Will the Department provide grant aid and subsidies to developers of solar farms or would it be better to use that land to grow trees or other renewable combustible materials?

  Whether we like it, a large power plant is in operation in Moneypoint, County Clare, which is burning fuel imported from Columbia. We have to live with that and while I acknowledge that jobs are involved here, an alternative fuel must be found for that plant. I would like the plant to continue in operation but I would like the material burnt there to be produced in Ireland or at least as close as possible.

  I congratulate the Minister on his appointment and wish him well with his new responsibilities. I know that he has read into the brief and am confident, on the basis of his ministerial record to date, that he will give this his very best. He is an experienced Minister and I am sure he will give this issue the attention it deserves.

Senator Catherine Noone: Information on Catherine Noone Zoom on Catherine Noone Notwithstanding anything in today's Order of Business, I propose that the annual national transition statements conclude no later than 6.30 p.m.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Is that agreed? Agreed. I invite Senator Victor Boyhan, who is sharing time with Senator McDowell, to contribute to the debate.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I welcome the Minister to the House. I also thank the various Ministers and Ministers of State for coming to the House and making statements, although I am somewhat disappointed that they are not here now to listen to what Senators have to say on the matter. That is not too much to ask of them. Some might think it was a sign of Seanad reform that seven Ministers or Ministers of State have been in the House for the debate. However, while they came in relatively slowly, they got out quickly and did not stay to listen to Members. That is disappointing and it says something about the importance of this issue to them.

  We are here because in accordance with the framework provided by the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015, the Government must prepare and submit to the Oireachtas an annual transition statement. In support of this written statement, relevant Ministers must provide oral reports to each House of the Oireachtas. The aim of this process is to ensure that the responsible Ministers are directly accountable to the Oireachtas and to assess their progress in reducing emissions in their respective ministries. Will the Minister confirm that this is the context for the appearance of various Ministers and Ministers of State in the House today?

  The former President, Mrs. Mary Robinson, spoke on radio this morning about the importance of this matter. I liked her tone on "Morning Ireland" when she talked about a just transition, to which the Minister also referred. What is meant by a just transition? It is a principle, a process and a practice to build economic and political power to progress sustainable development. A just transition is a vision-led, unifying set of principles, processes and practices, which mean approaching the production and consumption cycle in a holistic and waste-free way and in an environmentally friendly and sustainable manner. We want to gradually decarbonise society but the transition must be just and equitable. It must redress past harms and create new relationships to allow for sustainable development. If the process of transition is not just, then neither will the outcome be just.

  I wish to focus on a number of areas, including Irish peat in the midlands and the workers there and carbon taxes in the context of what happened in Paris last weekend. Parts of that city were nearly burned down because of objections to taxes on diesel. That is the reality of it. We have to move and while I do not want to slow this process down, we must be pragmatic and realistic. We must recognise that we live in an economy as well as a society and we must be particularly mindful of jobs. This is a sensitive area and the transition must be managed carefully to ensure it is both fair and equitable. We must focus on agriculture and I am glad that talks on a reformed CAP refer to ambitious targets to reduce emissions from agriculture. We also need to focus more on sustainable forestry and other issues.

  In an effort to be as effective as possible in the short time allowed to me, I wish to read something into the record of this House. On Saturday 1 December 2018, The Irish Times published the following:

An Oireachtas committee's efforts to tackle rising carbon emissions will amount to "a flash in the pan" if it is dissolved in January, according to an environmental policy expert. A strong, resourced climate action committee in parliament was critical and one of the key of ensuring stronger governance in responding to climate change, Dr. Diarmuid Torney of Dublin City University told a conference in Dublin on Thursday.

The Oireachtas committee on Climate Action which was established in July is due to be disbanded in January after considering how to implement radical recommendations of the Citizen’s Assembly and reporting on what should be in the National Energy and Climate Plan.

I call on the Minister to use his good offices to ensure that the aforementioned committee is not disbanded in January but is given a new and renewed focus to address these key issues. I would appreciate a response to that call when he replies.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell I welcome the Minister to the House. While I wish to indicate some degree of disquiet on my part, I am not going to go into point scoring mode. This annual transition statement was apparently published at lunchtime and we are supposed to respond to it now and oral statements were supposed to be made on it within four or five hours. That is not satisfactory. I do not blame the Minister who has barely warmed his seat in the Department but it is wrong that we are being treated in this way.

  I am a member of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, which marks the Minister's Department. I hope that his tenure will be marked by a new approach in the Department to its relationship with the Oireachtas. I have sat at various meetings of that committee and the constant impression I get is that we are being fed out of date information and obscurantist language. What has been so clear to everyone who has attended the meetings is that Ireland is nowhere near meeting any of its targets, has no real capacity to do so and it will breach all of its targets. This fact has constantly been kept hidden from us until it is too late to conceal it.

  I will give one example to the Minister, of which I have some knowledge, namely the data centres which are being established in Ireland. As I understand it, four or five data centres will be established in Ireland with the active encouragement of the Government because it is part of their alliance with the IT sector and the social media sector, in particular. While I can see the commercial justification for it, each of those data centres will increase the demand for electricity in Ireland by between 6% and 8%. If four or five of them are constructed, as is current Government policy, the overall demand for energy in Ireland on that account alone, will increase by between 30% and 35% over the next few years. At the same time, the Sustainable Energy Authority of Ireland, SEAI, is saying to the committee of which I am a member that we must reduce electricity consumption in Ireland by 2030 by approximately one third. These targets do not coincide. The Department was bending over backwards to avoid admitting that the targets in the areas for which it has responsibility will not be met and that other Departments were pursuing radically different policies, which will increase the demand for electricity in Ireland by an order of one third at a time the SEAI is seeking a reduction of 25% to 30%.  We cannot have it every way and we have to have a degree of honesty in all of this. I know that this evening's session has been prepared in haste and we have a list of bullet points from a series of Ministers and Ministers of State with no response or input and that was not what the Act was about or what was envisaged. It was envisaged that members of the Government would come into both Houses of the Oireachtas and orally present and defend what they were going to do, but coming in here with little wish lists of bullet points and aspirations is not the way to achieve that. I do not want to sound mean minded or conclude on a mean-minded note but this is approaching farce this afternoon.

Senator Tim Lombard: Information on Tim Lombard Zoom on Tim Lombard I welcome the Minister to the House. It is the first time that he has been present since he changed portfolio. Six different line Ministers have given presentations. It has been informative and positive but it also brings into question where we are with this dilemma of a just transition and how to move forward. The just transition is an issue if society and the economy is growing, be that an agricultural economy, in the context of us going from a 1% reduction in our targets today to a 20% reduction and where we need to be by 2050, which will be a challenge with an increasing population.

  I refer to agriculture. Food Wise 2025 provides for significant growth in our dairy industry in particular but we must examine how all sectors of the agricultural industry tie in with the carbon issue and how we can deliver. Therein lies the challenge. We have an expanding economy but we need to reduce our carbon footprint. Senator McDowell mentioned issues in this regard and that is the challenge for us as a Government and a society.

  The House has put a special committee in place on this issue and I am a member of same along with six other Members, including Senator Grace O'Sullivan. Several Secretaries General have appeared before us over the past two and a half months to give presentations. From our point of view, they lacked that dynamism and vision and the committee will consider that issue going forward because we need to have ambition, drive and a stake in how we can proactively reduce these emissions. It is not about what we did in the past but what we need to do in the future and that will be a change of ethos for the entire Government. That is why the Minister brings something different. This whole-of-government approach is something that we lacked previously and that will be the key if we are to reach those targets and that is what we need to drive forward.

  It also has to be community-led. As much as Government will do what Government does around changing policy, the tie in with the community, how communities change what they do and change their approach will be a major issue. We need to start talking about initiatives such as plastic-free Kinsale, which is a powerful, community-based initiative that is driving businesses to change how they operate for the sake of the environment. We need to talk about how we can engage those communities, get down to the grassroots itself and change the ethos of how people live their lives. That will be a challenge for us.

  In many ways, the younger generation are probably there. The middle to senior generations will take the most convincing that this is how we need to change our approach. Whether it is diesel cars or single-use plastics, there are a multitude of issues involving behavioural changes that will be important for us. That is why this debate is important. It is televised live and it gives an insight into what the Government is doing. It also gives an insight into what we need to do as a community and a society and that will be the core hardline issue.

  There was a significant announcement last week on a new fund for climate change and it related to public lighting, for example, but one of the initiatives that I found interesting, which I have been promoting all along, is the increase the number of charging points for electric cars. That is the space we need to start talking about and that is the investment that is required because if we can give the consumer who buys the electric car confidence in the network and the charging points, then there will be change in modes of transport, which is something that needs to happen.

  We experienced a major change previously from petrol to diesel, which in hindsight, was a disaster and that has to be acknowledged. Now we need to see that new change and the new ethos of moving towards the electric car. We have seen a positive start in the past week or two but now we need to get the message out that this needs to be the approach going forward. There are a multitude of initiatives out there, be it the €5,000 exemption for the vehicle registration tax, VRT, or taxi drivers getting an extra €7,000 of a grant and they are positive initiatives but we do not talk about them. As far as I can see, there should be no taxis in the cities that are not electric because the advantage of going electric is positive for taxi drivers, for the environment and for society itself.

  We have a lot to do to bring the just transition into communities to bring the communities with us. The action plan that the Minister mentioned is positive and that is the roadmap we need as a society. It will bring change but the challenges are great. In an expanding society with an increasing population and increasing economic activity, lowering the carbon base will probably be the greatest challenge we face.

  We are unlike other societies such as Germany or France where population is not increasing like it is here. They are fixed on a mode of public transport which can be provided to some degree with our cities but which is a challenge in our rural hinterlands. We have the largest school transport system in Europe by population but we have no rural transport system per se. We need to talk about that and try to tie everything together because if we do, there will be changes in our carbon footprint.

  The statement was published this afternoon and six Ministers and Ministers of State came to the House. I have never seen that before so that is a great step and a great sign and we now hope to move forward to get real action on the ground.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine I thank all the Ministers and Ministers of State who attended. Hopefully, it is an acknowledgement of the gravity of what the planet faces and the need to work together and speed up what we need to do to change fundamentally.

  I have two observations. I reiterate to the Minister of State, Deputy Catherine Byrne, that 7 million people die annually from air pollution alone, according to figures released by the World Health Organization, WHO. The significant increase in respiratory diseases has an impact but that has not been accounted for within the health portfolio. We also do not account for famines and starvation because of failed crops, food insecurity and toxic land, nor do we account for new and emerging contagious diseases. We need only look at the dreadful state that Yemen is in with 17 million people at risk of starvation there.

  As a member of the Joint Committee on Communications, Climate Action and the Environment, I am looking over the Citizens' Assembly recommendations and our report will be due in the next two months. Hopefully, there will be another debate on that in this Chamber but when we speak of climate change globally, we must first speak about the effect it is having on the third world. Indigenous peoples living ancient ways of life from the Arctic Circle to the nomadic peoples of the African continent are suffering the most from the actions of the so-called luxurious western world because of our emissions and the effects they are having on the poorest countries.  We all listened to his eminence, David Attenborough, yesterday. He was a special guest at the climate summit and he stated that the collapse of our civilisation is on the horizon. I do not believe it can be put more starkly than that and I do not know if we can take that in.

  When we speak about climate action in this State, unfortunately, we have come late to it and it has been a failure so far. Although we are a small State, we are an island that can lead by example. We must see climate change not as something on which to blame people but on which to encourage people. We need to see climate change not as a burden but as an opportunity to improve our environment, create long-term jobs and create security of supply of energy on this island.

  The shocking reality, unfortunately, is that all our targets to address climate change are failing. Emissions are rising and not decreasing. We will not reach targets of renewable electricity and we will be well off-target when it comes to renewable transport and heat. Many key players in energy and climate change, operating the electricity grid, regulating the industry, suppliers and the Government directing this policy have failed. We have all failed. We have failed by our inaction and not doing enough to prevent further deterioration in our climate and environment. The energy types of our very near future will be very different. The power system of the future will be very different. We need to take more than the baby steps that are being taken now.

  On energy sources, for instance, microgeneration, it will play a part in building a wide portfolio of energy sources and we wish speedy passage of Bills that are sitting in the Dáil or Seanad, because we cannot delay them. The Minister needs to be pro-active and get those Bills, from whatever party they come, passed and he should not put obstacles in their way.

  The development of a wide portfolio of renewable energy sources needs to displace fossil fuels. Some provision is made in the new renewable electricity support scheme, RESS, on offshore wind, but there is no movement on the streamlining of the arduous planning reform needed for offshore development. We need vision and ideas to be able to see the opportunities. We have one of the best resources in Europe for offshore wind and we have barely anything in place. Scotland is a country with a similar population and its level of offshore wind is phenomenal.

  Our peat plants are converting to biomass, but we are not establishing a native biomass industry. Instead we will be importing fuel from across the globe for this industry which is a contradiction in terms. We have one of the best resources in the EU for biogas and we barely have any developed. Developing this energy will help on emissions from agriculture and is a renewable gas that may also be used as transport fuel.

  On the transition statement and some of the actions, which we are trying to take on board as this was just published today. It needs more in-depth consideration than the quick scan of it we could do today. In respect of this transition statement and some of the actions, we can look at transitioning the Moneypoint plant away from coal by the middle of the next decade. No decision has yet been made on this and from what has been said, the State would seem to wish to convert the plant to natural gas, at a cost of €1 billion. This is a limited vision.

  We are to have at least 500,000 electric vehicles on the road by 2030, with additional charging infrastructure to cater for planned growth. The current figure for this charging infrastructure is tiny. I do not know how we are going to cater for half a million vehicles over the next ten or 11 years.

   The climate action fund of at least €500 million was announced. I think that was announced previously and it equates to €50 million a year, which is welcome. It will see development of areas where we are way behind, but the amount is minimal compared to what people already contribute to renewable energy on their electricity bill through the PSO levy.

  Addressing climate change crosses many different areas. We had seven Ministers in here today. It is about changing planning legislation, developing new crops, changing housing regulations, and transforming our transport infrastructure. It will need changes to training, new apprenticeship schemes and new industries like biomass and biogas. These cannot be plans for the distant future because we need them now, with joined-up thinking between different Government Departments.

  Climate change has often been described as thinking globally and acting locally. We need to stop being short-sighted in our approach. We need to think globally, which we are not doing, and we need to act locally. We need action now.

  Will the Minister of State support now the Just Transition Declaration made in Poland this week to implement such a transition here for the protection of workers while we shift to a sustainable environment?

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Senator is out of time.

Senator Máire Devine: Information on Máire Devine Zoom on Máire Devine What is the use of developing the science well enough to make predictions if, in the end, all we are willing to do is stand around and wait for them to come true?

Senator Grace O'Sullivan: Information on Grace O'Sullivan Zoom on Grace O'Sullivan The Minister of State was in Katowice yesterday to hear scientists and communicators, such as David Attenborough, warn global leaders of the gravity and scale of the climate crisis we face. I was here in Ireland and I felt like crying when I heard the words of Sir David Attenborough. Global warming is happening, and has been happening for the last number of decades and action is required now.

  The Joint Committee on Climate Action has been holding hearings with officials from the Minister's Department and other Departments over the last few weeks. It is hard to believe that we are talking about the same global climate crisis. The subtext from the Departments is one of "business as usual". No big changes are being put on the agenda. Details and figures are missing. David Attenborough warned us, including the Minister, that humanity faces the greatest threat it has faced in thousands of years. If we do not take action, the collapse of our civilisations and the extinction of much of our natural world are on the horizon. That includes us.

  That is the message the Government is failing to hear. I do not care that seven Ministers were here. Overall, this Government is failing to hear the cry of nations on the plight of climate change. At our committee, the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform acknowledged that the national development plan was adopted without assessing its impact on the climate. Project Ireland 2040 has no climate consideration added whatsoever. We have a project that has not taken cognisance of the plight and impact of climate change. The Secretary General of the Department of Finance told us that no one had asked him to design a €100 carbon tax. This was six months after the citizens of the Citizens' Assembly expressed its willingness to pay increased carbon tax.

  David Attenborough also spoke about what citizens are saying globally. The world's people have spoken. Their message is clear. Time is running out. They want the Government, the decision-makers to act now. They are supporting the Government in making tough decisions. They are also willing to make sacrifices in their daily life. I and my family are prepared to do it. The people at a public meeting in the Midleton Park Hotel last night are prepared to do it.

  I received the Minister's annual transition statement this morning and I will be studying it over the coming days. A quick look at it has told me that despite acknowledging how badly we are doing, climate change is still very low in the Government's priorities. In the update report I read, throughout 2017 and 2018, Departments and agencies were to deliver 41 actions under the national mitigation plan. Of those 41 actions, 21 were completed. The remaining 20 actions are under way but have been delayed, giving a completion rate of 51%.  The Minister of State and his predecessor have both acknowledged that the national mitigation plan is not sufficient to meet our targets. The Minister of State has now admitted that half of the actions that were supposed to have been completed at this point are still outstanding. Tomorrow, we will hear from the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, as to how we are doing in the context of reducing our greenhouse gas emissions. Unfortunately, there is very little prospect of good news. Ireland continues to be a climate laggard and there is no doubt that our 2017 emissions are part of an upward trend. I hope we will see the Minister of State at the meeting of the joint committee tomorrow at which we will discuss this. I take this opportunity to inform him that people are sick and tired of the lack of real action on the part of the Government.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, spoke of his return from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, IPCC, summit in Poland. When I attended an IPCC summit ten years ago, we spoke about matters being urgent. A decade later, they are past being urgent. That is clear to every child in the street. We hear that generation speaking very passionately about their concerns regarding climate change. In many parts of the world, concern has been replaced by grief for animals, birds, land and lives that have already been lost, and the further losses people will see in their immediate lifetimes.

  Something that often happens at climate conferences, in this House, and in politics generally is that people speak about general urgency before referring to many particular and complicated stories. There are always stories about who is a worse polluter than ourselves, why we cannot be as good as somebody else, what special exemptions are necessary and why matters are more complicated for our country, our Departments or certain sectors. The position is complicated for every country, every Department and every sector and they must all grapple with this issue.

  Irish people are particularly adept at telling stories and using words - as evidenced by what has already been stated during this debate - but that is not sufficient. We must look to take action. It is a basic narrative logic. Watching a disaster movie where there are 12 minutes left, where the characters have not started to run or where they have not begun to change direction, one must consider that things may not be turned around in time. In reality, each of these minutes represents one year. The impacts are very real and there will be no sequel. It is urgent at this point. We have 12 years, and in that context, we cannot afford to waste a year.

  The point of these statements was supposed to be for the Government to speak to Senators directly about what will happen in 2019 and what had happened this year. That has not proven to be the case. I agree with Senators who stated that it would probably be necessary for the various Ministers to return in January in order to address the specific actions during the year, as they are required to do under legislation.

  Next year is particularly crucial because it precedes the 2020 threshold. The EPA has indicated that Ireland is likely to achieve only 1% of its 20% target for reductions. That is seriously inadequate. We heard about the climate action fund. Should that not be tripled in size? Should we not put €200 million into climate action next year rather than lose similar amounts in fines that we will be obliged to pay in 2020? It is very difficult to justify inaction in the next year, which is one of the 12 crucial years and the year prior to 2020 targets.

  I was very concerned that so many contributions, with few exceptions, focused very heavily on adaptation. I worked on adaptation for four years. It is a very serious issue but where are the references to mitigation? Are we simply accepting that we will just increase our targets, that we are ploughing ahead with business as usual but that Ireland will be okay because we will put a few things in place to deal with the bad weather if it comes? That is not sufficient. We have a global responsibility, we are visiting devastation upon other countries and we must say what our mitigation plan is because if it is only delivering a 1% reduction by the end of 2019, then it is a massive failure.

  The subject of these statements is transition. Is it a transition to a devastated future or are we transitioning our model? I want to acknowledge the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and the Environment who was one of the only Ministers to contribute this evening who referred to transition in the sense of changing our model of business. Right now, the Minister of State currently representing the Government in the Chamber is from the Department of Finance. His Department must take that to which I have just referred on board.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Senator should conclude.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Six things to which the Minister for Communication, Climate Action and the Environment referred relate to finance. These include issues such as public sector spending and really climate-proofing public procurement in the context of every penny devoted to the national development plan and every project listed in Project Ireland 2040.

  The final point I will make-----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I must stop the Senator. If I do not, other Members will not speak at all.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Okay, wait -----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I should have allowed Senator Joe Reilly earlier. He is sharing time with Senator Lombard. He only has one minute. I am sorry.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins If we are making an exception. I will speak one final sentence, which is very -----

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell There are two other Senators waiting.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I have one final sentence. I would have been done by now.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I cannot allow it. I am sorry.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins If one is to challenge ------

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I cannot allow it.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I appeal for people to take up the challenge in the context of hedge cutting, the storage of oils, importation and all these other areas because we cannot have it every way.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Other people are due to speak. I call Senator O'Reilly.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The Acting Chairman is changing the Order of Business.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly I welcome the Minister of State. I take the science as a given - there are no climate deniers left - so I will simply mention a few practical issues. We should have community-based local microgeneration in order that, as was the case with the co-ops of old, small communities would have small wind turbines which serve them and which provide them with free electricity. The excess could then be supplied to the grid. We need to work on education and create a consciousness of what is happening among people. There should also be clusters of solar panels in small communities.

  In agriculture, it is important that GLAS should continue. I welcome the position regarding beef genomics and the new development in the context of suckler cows. With incentivisation, there are probably areas on most farms where there could be a small bit of planting that would work. It is important that we remember that the purpose of the common agricultural policy is to ensure an adequate supply of food at an accessible price and of a particular quality. That must continue and we can do it by supporting green energy.

  The IFA has put forward an interesting proposition to the effect that we should re-examine the climate metrics applied when calculating methane emissions, particularly in view of its short life in the atmosphere. I ask that the Minister of State might undertake that re-examination and challenge the existing position if it is found to be wrong.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Senator is over time.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly Reducing CO2 emissions through natural carbon sinks such as forests and permanent pastures should be included in the measurement. Not enough is being done to incentivise small businesses to retrofit their premises to become energy efficient.

Acting Chairman (Senator Gerard P. Craughwell): Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I thank the Senator.

Senator Joe O'Reilly: Information on Joe O'Reilly Zoom on Joe O'Reilly There is much more that could be done to make schemes more accessible.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys When I hear Senator Buttimer state that there are no climate change deniers, I wonder that he does not look more closely at his party and its record over the past three budgets. Senator Lombard stated that he welcomed the seven line Ministers to the House. They have to come here because they are obliged to do so under the relevant legislation. The Government has not honoured the Climate Action Low Carbon Development Act 2015. I do not see a plan. I do not see the Government being accountable for its actions in the past year in the context of climate change. Not one Minister stated whether he or she had set himself or herself a target last year or, if targets were set, whether they had been clearly measured or met. The Government is not honouring the plan.

  In 2014, many NGOs and environmental groups spent endless hours drafting the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act. Deputies and Senators put in great amounts of time to develop the legislation. There was an expectation that the Act would be honoured. However, that is not happening today. We have not seen one clear plan or target and we have not seen the Government being accountable for its actions over the past three years. The Government has failed and failed again and that is unacceptable. Ministers who are responsible for ripping out hedgerows have come to the House today and stated that everything is wonderful.  It is quite the opposite. I feel extremely angry because I was one of the Deputies who spent hours and hours developing the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 at that time. The principal gain in that Act - over which I fought tooth and nail with Phil Hogan - was that Ministers would be answerable to both Houses. The Ministers have failed. They are not giving a plan or details and they are not taking responsibility for their lack of action. That is despicable.

  The only possible gain I now see is the Climate Change Advisory Council. That had to be battled for and fought for. It was not easily won. I am thankful that it was won, because Fine Gael is now ignoring the rest of the Act. It is extremely disappointing to hear Minister after Minister say that everything is wonderful, that they are going to do better, and that although they did not increase carbon taxes they are going to do something else. I am sorry; it is just not good enough. It is not just me who says that it is not good enough. We should be thankful that the Climate Change Advisory Council is independent as the then Minister, Phil Hogan, would have much preferred to appoint his cronies to it, but we stopped him. That council has said that the Government has failed over and over again. It told the Government what needed to be done and explained the reason the carbon tax had to be increased, which is that we need the carrot and the stick.

  People in this House are not proposing increased carbon taxes because we want to tax everybody. We want to see a carbon tax put in place so that we can see our housing stock being deeply retrofitted, as is needed. We heard the Minister of State say that we need €50 billion to upgrade our housing stock but his Government will not even introduce a lousy carbon tax to put some money in place to start such retrofitting so that houses can be warm, comfortable and use a reduced amount of energy. It is a total and utter failure.

  I do not believe this Government. I have absolutely no faith in it because what was supposed to happen here today was clearly laid out in the Act and the Government has dishonoured that legislation in word and in deed. It is just not good enough. We listen to the experts in the world explain what we need to do. What does Fine Gael say? It says that we might get around to it next year or the year after.

  The Minister of State, Deputy Moran, was in the House talking about the catchment flood risk assessment and management, CFRAM, studies. Maybe he should go back and look at them. Let him go and have a look at what the raise in ocean levels will mean because part of the CFRAM studies explain how water might possibly flow in the back gate of Leinster House, up onto the lawn, and into the House. That is part of the CFRAM studies. That is the risk. The Minister of State should think of the thousands of families that will be made homeless by the flooding. Can we fix everything? No, we cannot. However, we can give leadership. We have so far failed to give that leadership. I include myself in that. Above all, however, I blame the Taoiseach and the Ministers who were in this House today because they have shown no leadership in this regard. There is no leadership with regard to planning or tightening building specifications in respect of energy efficiency. There is no leadership in respect of retrofitting our housing stock.

  One Minister talked about the growth of mould cultures in houses. I can bring him to local authority houses in which there is mould growth at the moment. That is occurring as a result of climate change. A Minister boasted in here about MetroLink and BusConnects and yet he is making submissions to himself about BusConnects and why parts of the plan should not be carried out. Is the Government really serious about doing anything? The Taoiseach gets up and says we are lagging behind on climate. He is the Taoiseach; he should show leadership.

  I have eight minutes. I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach would prefer if my contribution was shorter, but I will only use my eight minutes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan In accordance with the Order of Business for today, I am advised that I must call on the Minister of State to conclude. He has five minutes from 6.25 p.m. to 6.30 p.m.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan He will not be able to do it in five minutes.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is what is laid down in the Order of Business.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I know the Leas-Chathaoirleach is in a difficult position-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan He does not have five minutes.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys -----and that he needs to protect the Government so I will sit down at this stage.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I cannot do anything about the Order of Business for the day.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys However, I very clearly state our disappointment at the coach and four this Government is driving through what I thought was decent legislation enacted in 2015. It is totally despicable.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan On a point of order, to be fair to the Minister of State, he was not here when the questions were put to the lead Minister and therefore cannot answer them.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am afraid that is not a point of order. I am caught by the Order of Business.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan The Minister of State cannot answer the questions because he did not hear them.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan In accordance with the Order of Business for today the Minister of State has five minutes to reply. The next debate, on the-----

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan We will have to have the Ministers back this week.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan ------Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017, is ordered for 6.30 p.m.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I propose a suspension of Standing Orders tomorrow.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator is wasting the Minister of State's time. I call the Minister of State, who has five minutes to conclude.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan He cannot answer. He does not know what the questions were. It is a farce.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Minister of State has a typescript to reply to a debate to which he did not listen.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senators can do something about it on tomorrow's Order of Business.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I would like the support of the Leas-Chathaoirleach.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator will have it tomorrow on the Order of Business.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan I thank the Leas-Chathaoirleach for that commitment.

Senator Michael McDowell: Information on Michael McDowell Zoom on Michael McDowell The Minister has come in here with a typescript to answer a debate which he did not attend.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan It is a joke.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I respect the Senators' point of view, but I have to call on the Minister of State to respond.

Minister of State at the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Michael D'Arcy): Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy I will respond on the sections which I heard Senators raise. I did not hear all of the debate. I do not think anybody heard it all, so the criticism-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I have. I have been here.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan We are going to hear the Minister with respect.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy I do not believe any Minister heard it all.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan We need to have all seven of them back.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy That is a matter for the House. From the perspective of the Department of Finance, last month Ireland launched its first sovereign green bond. That was a really welcome development. It was a €4 billion bond, which was oversubscribed, raised by the National Treasury Management Agency, NTMA, to put into projects that will be sustainable and green energy-led. These will be the future. That is something we cannot ignore.

  I also want to take up the point on hedgerows. The people in charge of the countryside are landowners, of which I am one. Nobody looks after the land and the environment better than the farming sector. We cannot ignore the amount of hedgerows being planted through GLAS and the number of trees being planted by the farming sector. I know people just want to ignore that and the perception is-----

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys We are talking about Government action, not about the actions of farmers. They are custodians of the environment. I accept that.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy The GLAS policy is-----

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan The Senator was heard without interruption. We are now going to hear the Minister of State.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy The GLAS policy is a governmental policy which has been implemented by the farming sector. I thank all the Senators for their contributions this evening. The annual transition statement forms a key part of the accountability arrangements between the Government and the Oireachtas in terms of the Government's action on climate change. This year is the first year in which a number of other Ministers designated under the Climate Action and Low Carbon Development Act 2015 addressed the House in respect of climate adaption policy. That represents an important milestone in extending to the whole-of-Government accountability for action on climate change. The annual transition statement sets out the progress that has been made by Government over the last 12 months on our transition objectives. It is an important record of efforts being made to tackle climate change. For the first time we have published, alongside the annual transition statement, progress reports on the implementation of the national mitigation plans actions and measures and an update report on sectoral adaption plans. This provides further transparency to the implementation of national climate policy and demonstrates where we are making progress and also where further efforts are required.

  Another important accountability mechanism introduced by the 2015 Act is the independent Climate Change Advisory Council. The council is a key source of expert advice to the Government in the performance of our functions. The Government will carefully consider the council's advice as we continue to work on climate change.

  I take the opportunity to thank Senators and to invite them to examine some of the current policy drivers such as that national mitigation plan and the national adaption framework in order to further engage with the basis of our policy approach on climate change, where we are now in terms of the range of measures already under way, and areas where we are working on taking further action in 2018 and beyond.

  One of the key challenges we face is that the causes of climate change are deeply embedded in our way of life. From heating our homes to food and transport, the choices we make have implications for us as a society. Understanding these choices is the first step. It is clear that we require transformational change in all these aspects of our daily lives over the coming years.

  The Citizens' Assembly and national dialogue on climate change point the way forward towards models of participatory engagement that can help to address these challenges by engaging with the wider public to create awareness, engagement, and motivation to act. It is a moral imperative that Ireland tackles climate change not just because we have promised to do so as part of international agreements to achieve outcomes, but more importantly because it helps to safeguard our future.  The Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Bruton, has already said he wants to make Ireland a leader in responding to climate change, not a follower. That will require a further step change throughout Government. Being a leader means acting now, stretching ourselves and seizing the enterprise opportunities in a low carbon economy, including new circular and bioeconomies. Being a follower means the final costs of adjustment are much higher and opportunities are much lower or completely lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Does the Minister of State have much more to say?

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys We can adjourn the debate.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan No.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy This requires a clear mandate to integrate the demands of climate action in the decision-making process of all our regulatory systems and programme evaluation throughout Government. Project 2040 and the ten year national development plan, which underpins it, is the first time an Irish Government has ever attempted to ensure that the future goal is compact and connected, reasonably balanced and sustainable. Implementing this vision and ensuring that the capital investment which will deliver that integrated vision will be a crucial challenge we must crack, in particular how we roll out our €116 billion investment under the national development plan. The €30 billion ring-fenced for climate action and sustainable transport can create a profound shift in behavioural patterns. This investment will enable us to deliver a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions in the period to 2030 and help to build the resilience of our infrastructure to climate change impacts. I thank the Senators for their contributions.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I gave the Minister of State an extra minute because he suffered interruptions at the start.

Deputy Michael D'Arcy: Information on Michael D'Arcy Zoom on Michael D'Arcy The Leas-Chathaoirleach is very kind.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That concludes the debate. I look forward to seeing all the Senators tomorrow for the Order of Business.

Senator Victor Boyhan: Information on Victor Boyhan Zoom on Victor Boyhan We look forward to the Leas-Chathaoirleach's support.

Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2017: Committee Stage

SECTION 1

  Government amendment No. 1:

In page 5, to delete lines 20 to 24 and substitute the following:
“(2) Subject to subsection (3), this Act shall come into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision, and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or different provisions.

(3) This Act, except insofar as it is already in operation pursuant to an order or orders under subsection (2), shall come into operation no later than 6 months after the date of its passing.”.

Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection (Deputy Regina Doherty): Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty This was an Opposition amendment carried in the Dáil. There was a small deviation from the standard commencement provisions and on the Second Stage debate here, most of the Members of this House expressed their hope that the legislation we are talking about today would be put on the Statute Book as soon as possible, and I want that too. I had no objection to accepting the amendment but there is a slight change needed in drafting to make it different or better – I do not know what the proper word is.

  Senator Nash knows a Bill does not become an Act until a President signs it and the issue I had with the amendment in the Dáil was that it did not acknowledge the President's role. This amendment is being brought in to acknowledge the President's role, and subsection (3) states it "shall come into operation no later than 6 months after the date of its passing". That acknowledges that there is more than the Seanad and Dáil involved in the passing of legislation and that the President has a role. We must respect it instead of trying to write him out of the legislation. The principle of the amendment passed in the Dáil states that we will pass it in six months. It will happen more quickly but I do not want to be disrespectful to the President who has a role in the passing of legislation.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash If we say for argument's sake that no amendments are made here and the Bill does not have to be returned to the Dáil but is sent to the President to be signed, there is then six months to commence it. How is that materially different from the original proposition? Can it not be the case that the Bill would be enacted at the earliest opportunity, say in January? If, hypothetically, the President signs the Bill before Christmas can it not be commenced on 1 January?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty It differs from the amendment in the Dáil in that it states no later than six months from the passing of the Bill by Dáil and Seanad Éireann. Dáil and Seanad Éireann and the Members of both Houses are not the only people who have a responsibility in the passage of legislation. I have removed it and that is why it states "no later than 6 months after the date of its passing". That acknowledges that there are processes. It does not specifically state the Dáil, the Seanad and the President but because it removes Dáil and Seanad Éireann it acknowledges that the President very much has a role and he determines within days what he has to do, whether he has to refer it and all that kind of good stuff. However, taking out Dáil and Seanad Éireann acknowledges his very important role. I did not put down the amendment stating six months. This will be passed as quickly as it can, when the Dáil, the Seanad and the President have done their jobs.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I respect what the Minister is saying but I am anxious, as is everyone in the House and the Minister, to have this legislation commenced as quickly as possible. It may not take six months, it could take a month or two days for the President to sign it. If it was the case that we decided not to support that amendment, would it be the case that the President could sign it and then it would be commenced straightaway?

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I understand and think it appropriate to acknowledge all stages of legislation and the periods for each stage are set out very clearly but six months is perhaps longer than needs to be allowed in that certainly it is closer to a week or two weeks to allow for further legislative action to be taken. The six-month provision is much wider than is required for the completion of the legislative process as the Minister has set out. I can see on the one hand that we want to get it in place and move it along but on the other I do not think it would be fair or accurate to suggest that six months is needed for the final stage of the legislation, if that was the misapprehension that the House might be under, because I think it is five to seven days and other periods for the final signing. I just want to be clear on that.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The slight is not on anybody in the legislative process. I did not put the six months in. This is the first time and it sets a precedent, which is remarkable in one way. There is no commencement order in any other Bill on our Statute Book. There is a legislative process that is denoted by legislation and the Senator is fundamentally right, there are times the Dáil, the Seanad and the President of the day have an obligation to adhere to but there has never been a commencement order in legislation before. I did not put it into this Bill. It was an amendment that came from the Dáil. The amendment from the Dáil was flawed because it did not acknowledge the role of the President and that is all I am trying to do here. I am not trying to fundamentally change the Fianna Fáil amendment and keep the six months which it wanted. We all know it will be passed before the six months but that is neither here nor there. We cannot, however, have an amendment to a Bill that disrespects the third institution's role in the passage of legislation.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I appreciate the clarification.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I am sure the Senator will appreciate that.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I am assuming this may be passed this evening but I want to consider this in more detail and I may consider tabling an amendment on Report Stage.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Section 1, as amended, agreed to.

  Sections 2 to 9, inclusive, agreed to.

SECTION 10

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 are related and may be discussed together by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I move amendment No. 2:

In page 8, lines 17 to 20, to delete all words from and including “(1) An” in line 17 down to and including line 20.

 The rationale for proposing to delete section 6B(1) and the second part of section 6B(3) of the 1994 Act stems from the fact that Fianna Fáil believes these stipulations put significant onus on small companies that may not have a HR section. Many one-man companies are overburdened by employment legislation.

  We do not intend to make any amendment to section 6B(2), which provides that an employer who deliberately provides false or misleading to an employee or who is reckless as to whether false or misleading information is provided as part of the statement required by section 3(1A) shall be guilty of an offence. However, in respect of section 6B(1), we believe there is a comfort to employees in that if they are not provided with a contract of employment within a six-week period, they have recourse to the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC. The legislation reduces that timeframe but criminal sanctions for small businesses are a step too far. The provisions are putting a significant onus on the small, one-man band type company. The provisions as they stand would have unforeseen consequences for small companies. They are unfair and unreasonable.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield Sinn Féin considers the provision in writing of the core terms of employment before employment commences to be sufficiently important to merit the provision of a criminal sanction as a possible enforcement mechanism. We would only consider dropping the offence and the sanction of imprisonment if they were to be replaced by a direct route to compensation for workers, in line with other workers' rights legislation. Otherwise it is not a level playing field. This has not been proposed in the Fianna Fáil amendment and, therefore, we will not support it.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh It is in the law, though.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield We do not support the amendment proposing to remove section 6B(1) and part of section 6B(3), which currently uphold an offence and penalisation of imprisonment, if I read it right, for failure to comply with workers' rights legislation.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The section does not specify a small employer. The section clearly applies to all employers and if the provisions are removed, the obligation on all employers to provide employees with a statement will be removed. In that case, any employer could simply fail, refuse or decline to provide an employee with a statement. We would gut the effective function of the Act. I recognise Senator Ardagh's concerns. Perhaps she might consider a different amendment to the section. The phrase "without reasonable cause" in the section means there is a provision that where there is reasonable cause, for example, a business facing exceptional circumstances such as a threat of liquidation, a case could be made. The courts have been generous in the interpretation of reasonable cause in the past. There is some provision that could cover extenuating circumstances for a small employer. The proposed amendment would completely remove the obligation and a large corporation with 200 employees could simply fail to provide them with a statement. I cannot support it or the proposed amendment to delete the sanction. If we delete that sanction, it will be a toothless Bill. The bad practices which the Bill is endeavouring to stamp out have real impacts. We need to take that change seriously.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I will not support the amendment either for the reasons outlined by Senator Higgins. This issue has been kicked around for several years. It is central to the Bill and to the effectiveness of any legislation we might bring in. The sanction is important and has been scrutinised to within an inch of its life over the past three or four years. I am comfortable with it and anybody who has any interest in vindicating the rights of working people should support it.

  We will return to this later as there is another amendment in respect of section 20 relating to bogus self-employment. It was introduced by Deputy Willie O'Dea of Fianna Fáil and states that a person guilty of an offence under the section "shall be liable on summary conviction to a class A fine or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both". One Fianna Fáil Member is saying that an employer who miscategorises employment status in terms of bogus self-employment should face criminal sanction, while another Fianna Fáil Member is arguing that it is fine for someone to put their two fingers up to a worker in a precarious situation who turns up for work without being sure what the hours or contractual arrangements are. I do not accept that. We should retain the provision in the legislation and perhaps Fianna Fáil should get its house in order.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh Do I have an opportunity to come back in?

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan Yes, in a few minutes, but I am going to call Senator Craughwell now.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I will also oppose the amendment. This is a good, strong section. Small employers are no different from anybody else. They should have systems in place and when they take on employees, it should be standard from the one-man operation right up to the large multinationals.

  Senator Higgins adverted to the fact that some companies have large numbers of employees and many of them are designated as being employed by X or Y outside the organisation and as being temporarily hired in. We have seen this in Ryanair and Senator Nash referred to section 20, which we will come to. Many of the IT companies during the 1990s had hundreds working for them, none of whom worked directly for the company. They were all working for recruitment agencies or accountancy firms. We get down to a situation where a small employer has two or three people contracting into a multinational. At the end of the day, they have their responsibilities. We had a situation in my own office which we brought to the attention of the Minister's office. The speed at which her office operates in tracking down these people is to be commended. I believe the Minister should have the strength she is seeking in the Bill.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh There is still an onus on employers to provide a contract of employment and there is redress currently within the Unfair Dismissals Act 1977 such that if a contract of employment is not provided to an employee, he or she can bring a claim within six weeks and will be compensated accordingly. This section as it stands places an undue burden on small businesses. I do not agree with my colleagues. Small businesses are the backbone of this country. There are more small businesses than large businesses and this will put a massive burden on them. They do not have the luxury of huge human resources, HR, departments. Most businesses act in good faith, especially small businesses. It takes them a little while - more than five days - to get around to putting a contract of employment in place.  Many businesses take on staff at really busy periods when they want to get the work done and people can get their contract in place at this time but this provision penalises small businesses. I am asking the Minister to remove it so that small businesses are not penalised. There is already redress for an employee who is not given a contract of employment. This provision is ridiculous and it goes completely overboard.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Senator's opinion is not shared by her Dáil colleagues. They argued for exactly the opposite of what she is calling for with this amendment. The offence provision has made both employers and employees sit up and take notice of this Bill. Every single one of us has been lobbied by one or both sides so we have got their attention. We did this because of the sanctions in the Bill. The legislation to which the Senator referred, and which she said addressed the issues, has been there for years and it has obviously not addressed them. Now we have people's attention we are certainly not going to dilute the impression we have given.

  The purpose of creating the offence provision was to promote better work practices so that employers can know what their responsibilities are to their employees. It is not that a contract of employment needs to be provided in five days. The requirement is for five simple pieces of information which one can write on the back of one's hand. Every person is entitled to know who they are working for, where they are working and how many hours they will be expected to work. It can be given on a piece of paper or an email or even imparted verbally.

  If anybody who has difficult circumstances, such as a single employer with no HR department, can make a reasonable defence for not managing to provide the information within five days they have a month to do it. If the Senator had read the legislation she would know that the criminal offences do not kick in for months and months after we have given people the opportunity to fix what they had failed to do in five days.

  We have got people's attention in the past couple of years since the legislation was mooted because of how seriously we take the disrespect some employers show their employees. On that basis I cannot support the Senator's amendment.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I move amendment No. 3:

In page 8, lines 26 and 27, to delete “or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both”.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I move amendment No. 4:

In page 9, between lines 10 and 11, to insert the following:
“(9) The Minister shall lay a report before both Houses of the Oireachtas within 12 months of the commencement of this Act on the operation of section 6B of the Act of 1994, as inserted by this section, and the offences and penalties contained therein.”.

This relates to a report on how section 10, and the related section 6B of the 1994 Act, is working. The amendment calls for the Minister to lay a report before both Houses of the Oireachtas within 12 months of the commencement of this Act on the operation of section 6B of the Act of 1994, as inserted by this section, and the offences and penalties contained therein. It would go into the diary for 18 months, at which point we could see how the criminal sanctions have worked in practice.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The WRC has a year to initiate any prosecutions against an employer and that is what section 6B of the Terms of Employment (Information) Act 1994, as inserted by section 10 of this Bill, is going to provide for. It is to match the other offences that are already in existence in employment law. If the report on offences and penalties was to be laid before both Houses of the Oireachtas a year after enactment it would probably be meaningless or consist of a blank page. Most of us know that it takes a number of years for a new piece of legislation to settle and to bed in. Primary legislation, especially if it is not amended every year, is not the appropriate place for seeking progress reports because there is an opportunity cost for officials and Members of both Houses. Amendments would be brought in to delete provisions when they are no longer provided for.

  I do not have a problem, in principle, with what the Senator is trying to do, which is to make sure the provisions in the Act will do what we hope they will do. It may be more appropriate and useful to meet the concerns of the Senator, and other Members, for the Oireachtas committee to invite the parties involved in the legislation to a meeting after 18 months, or whatever its members feel is an appropriate period of time. It would allow a more meaningful assessment of the provision without having to have a review and an amendment of primary legislation to render what would be a fruitless report. On that basis, I will not be accepting the amendment.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I support the Minister on this. The way forward is to let the committee deal with it. I cannot see anything coming out of a report after the first 12 months and quite a lot of time and effort would need to be expended on providing nothing. The legislation will take two years to bed in so I agree with allowing the committee to discuss it, maybe after two years.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield I do not agree with the Minister's suggestion that the report will be fruitless and I support Senator Ardagh's amendment to section 10, calling for a review to be carried out within 12 months. I am not aware of any need to amend the Bill after 12 months have passed, and I see a lot of ancient detail in many pieces of legislation.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I acknowledge what Senator Ardagh and others are saying but I side with the Minister on this. We would only get a big blank page on how the section was operating because it will take a little while for the legislation to bed down and for everybody to understand what their responsibilities and obligations are. The appropriate latitude should be given to the relevant Oireachtas committee to reflect on it on a regular basis. I would be more minded to support an amendment of this nature if it included provision for annual reviews but one report after 12 months does not get my support. It should be open to the Oireachtas committee to do this as part of its routine work.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I was not saying the report would be frivolous in any way, just that I do not see how a report after 12 months would work, something on which I agree with Senator Nash. The committee is the place to establish whether this legislation is working. Any of the representative bodies can make contact with the Chair of the relevant committee and seek a hearing if they feel the Act is not working.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I respect where Senator Ardagh is coming from on this point but the WRC will generally reflect on this type of thing in its annual reports. The WRC will manage the legislation and hear any complaints, if and when they arise. I have every faith in the WRC being able to collate the information and give us its professional expert view on the operation of this section of the Act.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Hear, hear.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I think it is strange that on the one hand, the Minister has said that the employers are taking notice of us because we have put in these criminal sanctions and that it is fantastic they are finally listening to us, while on the other, the Minister is afraid to commission a report to see if the measures are actually working. I believe that 12 months is a long time but it will not just be 12 months; it will take 18 months because the Minister is giving herself six months to enact the legislation. I stand by the amendment and I will proceed with it.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am not sure where I gave the Senator the impression that I was afraid. I am absolutely not. I was trying to explain to the Senator that in primary legislation, and especially with regard to the 12 months that has been proposed in the amendment, any such report would be a blank page and would have very little information. It takes a while for new legislation to bed in and come into practice. The reason I got to my feet was to say what Senator Nash has said earlier, which is that the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, provides an annual report on every single item of legislation over which it adjudicates. When this legislation is enacted, hopefully early in the new year, it will form part of the WRC's annual reports for 2019, 2020 and 2021. I do not, therefore, feel the need to include that provision in primary legislation. It is the only reason I was not proposing to accept the Senator's amendment.

  Amendment put and declared lost.

  Section 10 agreed to.

SECTION 11

  Question proposed: "That section 11 stand part of the Bill."

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I wish to speak briefly on section 11. I wish to indicate that an area of concern is the protection against penalisation. I welcome it being there but I am looking at one issue in that regard. I may come in with thoughts on section 11 and the issue of penalisation on Report Stage. I simply want to note this for Report Stage.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Section 12 agreed to.

SECTION 13

  Government amendment No. 5:

In page 11, to delete lines 3 to 8 and substitute the following:
“ ‘collective bargaining’ shall be construed in accordance with the Industrial Relations Acts 1946 to 2015.”.”.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Section 13 of the Bill as passed by Dáil Éireann contained a definition of "employment regulation order" for the purposes of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. Employment regulation order, however, is already defined in section 16(2) of the Industrial Relations (Amendment) Act 2012. Consequently there is no need for two definitions of the term "employment regulation order". We propose to delete this one in the Bill, which is only a technical amendment. It just makes sure that we are all kosher. It makes no substantive amendment to the Bill in any way.

  Amendment agreed to.

  Section 13, as amended, agreed to.

  Section 14 agreed to.

SECTION 15

  Question proposed: "That section 15 stand part of the Bill."

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I again reserve the right to address the issue of zero hours and work practices on Report Stage for section 15.

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne I fully support the sentiment of the Minister with regard to zero hours. The Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018 will be before the Seanad tomorrow and I am aware that all of the Senators who are members of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Education and Skills have been contacted by teachers and different people who have not been given contracts. They have been suffering because of the consequences of zero-hour contracts. I believe that it is more appropriate that it be addressed in this Bill than in the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018 Bill. Perhaps this is something the Minister could consider.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell One of the aspects specific to language schools is that so many people working in language schools have been badly hurt by the sharp practices that are operated by these cowboys. Perhaps it does not come under this legislation but I ask the Minister to look at how we might bond workers through any of these companies in order that if such a company decides to close overnight - as happened with Grafton College - there is at least one or two month's pay for each of the staff. The colleges have taken the money from the students and brought staff in on outrageous working hours. It is simply not good enough. We might not be able to do anything in this legislation but I would say that it is very much on the Minister's table at the moment.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash If it is appropriate and timely, I support what Senator Byrne and others have said regarding the protection of those who work in the English language schools sector. The sector is very exposed and has had its problems in recent years. Much of what is reflected in this legislation will actually protect some of those who are working in that sector. There are, however, other ways in which that sector is organised that will not be affected by this Bill. Unfortunately, in recent years a lot of these companies have chosen the route of tactical insolvencies. They simply shut up shop.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan I hesitate to interrupt the Senator but the section relates to zero hours.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash It is all related with regard to employment conditions, the way in which companies are managed and the way in which company law interacts with employment law. We have seen this in the context of Clery's, in the context of a recent failure of a company in Dundalk that left almost 200 people out on the road without any rights or entitlements. While they have rights and entitlements they are finding it very difficult to get them vindicated. They are being supported by the union and by the Department in their bid to have their social welfare payments paid to them. In the case of these types of companies, we need the relevant provisions of company law to be enforced.

  We also need other aspects of company law to be changed and to ensure that the directors of such companies are tackled when tactical insolvencies are arranged and people head off into the sunset, while leaving their staff and other creditors in desperate hock. It is not the first time this issue has been raised in the House, and unfortunately it will not be the last. We cannot allow this to happen. We have seen the problems with Grafton College and we will, inevitably, see it happening again. It is not just about employment law. It is also about enforcement of company law and addressing the issues around tactical insolvencies that are reflected in the proposals made, for example, in the Duffy Cahill report and the later report by the company law review group. It is not just about employment law; it is also about the enforcement of company law.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I was very brief in my initial intervention but since others have expanded, I will give the Minister an indication of the areas of my concern on this section and perhaps a couple of actions that may need to be taken, but which may not need to be legislative.

  As other Senators have described, this is an area where we are discovering more and more sections that are affected; areas that people might not have expected to be affected by zero-hour or uncertain hours contracts, such as with bogus self-employment. Ryanair pilots have also spoken up to say they are affected. There is a constant expansion in our knowledge of the sectors affected. On Second Stage I spoke of the University of Limerick's research and how it changed our understanding of what was happening around zero-hour contracts versus if-and-when contracts.

  At that time I indicated my concern that one of the provisions under this Bill is for at least 25% of the hours in which work had been done in a week. I recognise that this band is not new and is from the previous legislation but one can imagine that many working weeks could be 40-hour working weeks and we may be looking at ten or 15 hours in this regard, whichever is less. In the context of this section, will provision be made to know how many workers fall within that 15, ten or eight-hour window that comprises 25% of the normal working hours? This is in order that we establish what is actually happening for those people on the ground. For many years we were told that Ireland does not have zero-hour contracts and that everybody gets 15 hours at least. When I examined the legislation, however, it became clear that many people may in fact be getting a ten-hour or an eight-hour payment, depending on what their normal working week might be. Can a provision be made to monitor what is actually happening for people and to see how many persons whose payments are being made under this section are being paid for four, eight, ten, 12 or the ceiling of 15 hours? It is very important to monitor what happens. There was a misperception for a long time, and I have even heard senior journalists talking about Ireland not having zero-hour contracts, to the effect that everybody gets at least 15 hours. That is not the case. I know this is not the case in the legislation.  I recognise this is not a new issue, but because it previously took a long time to be addressed, what provision will the Minister make for effectively tracking what is happening in that regard?

  My colleague has tabled amendments to the Qualifications and Quality Assurance (Education and Training) (Amendment) Bill 2018, which will come before us.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paul Coghlan Zoom on Paul Coghlan That is relevant to section 16.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Yes, but the section before us also relates to the issue of English language teachers. This may be an opportunity for the Minister to engage with the Minister for Education and Skills, Deputy McHugh, because I imagine if we raise those issues with her now, she will tell us to talk to him. I ask her to ensure that the English language teacher issue is considered by her Department also. Will she comment on that matter?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I apologise for looking like I did not know what the Senators were talking about, but I did not know until the end.

  The banded hours will change the situation and, therefore, we do not have the data. I am not sure where the anecdotal evidence came from to say that everybody is on 15 hours a week because not everybody is. It is our intention that the banded hours will resolve the issue because once the legislation is enacted, anybody who is on what we classify as a low-paid, precarious contract can ask to be put on the band of hours that is reflective of the look-back period, which is specified as 12 months in the legislation. One will, therefore, be put on a contract that reflects the actual work that was done in the previous 12 months. This will mean that contracts will reflect the actual working week as opposed to what the employer merely noted, which could be anything but which could chop and change whenever it suited the employer. Before the legislation, one might get two hours one week, 27 hours another week and three the following week, but there will now be consistency and when someone asks to be placed on a band of hours that reflects the look-back period of the previous 12 months, he or she will also have the certainty that when put on that band of hours, he or she will be kept within that band of hours for at least the following 12-month period, which will level out the anomalies that existed in the past number of years. It will, at the least, give people certainty, which is what we are trying to do with the section.

  On the language school in jeopardy, it is not the first and I doubt it will be the last unless we do something. The legislation will give all of those people, who in the main are bogusly self-employed, the security of the employment legislation we are debating. Senator Craughwell may not be aware there is a scheme within our Department that looks after people from a statutory redundancy perspective where companies cannot afford to, as is the case for this company although no application has yet been made to the Department. I invite people and the company to come forward, however.

  We have too often found ourselves in a situation where, as the Senator aptly described, someone has taken thousands of euro from unsuspecting students, who do not get a refund and are left high and dry, but suddenly does not have any money to pay anybody anything, which is not a fair practice of any kind of employment law or, as Senator Nash said, company legislation. We need some further consideration of those issues. I agree that the quality and qualifications legislation is probably not the best place to do it but we need to have a conversation about that in the next couple of weeks to look after the staff and students, if we can, and ensure we put something in place in order that nobody can ever exploit this loophole of malpractice again.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I concur with Senator Nash and the Minister. The Office of the Director of Corporate Enforcement, ODCE, does not have adequate resources and cases have fallen apart on the basis of not being properly presented to the court. If the office is to be able to pursue employers like Grafton College, it must be properly resourced. The Minister should convey this matter to her colleagues to address not just this case but others that have fallen asunder because the ODCE was not able to present a case properly and the evidence was askew. The resourcing of that office is a significant part of the debate.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash In this case, it is not a matter of resourcing the ODCE. There are at least two key provisions of company law that have been in place for some time in different iterations and have been used and tested. For example, a company's assets can be pursued to reclaim moneys owed to the State through statutory redundancy and so on, but that has not happened. The law is there but it needs to be enforced and its robustness may need to be tested. It is open to any creditor to do that, and in many cases the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection or the Revenue Commissioners is the key creditor and is owed the most money.

  It is also open to the State to take cases to test how robust those provisions are, but that is yet to happen. I was disappointed that the Government, which I supported, did not take a case after what happened at Clerys, and I would have liked the State to test the various sections of company law because considerable resources are made available from the taxpayer through the Social Insurance Fund to meet the statutory redundancy payments. Too often, however, bad employers ride off into the sunset with impunity and the taxpayer is left holding the bill.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys I thank the Minister for her comments on the situation at Grafton College. I attended the protest yesterday evening and many of the teachers had never had any direct involvement with the social protection services. Will the Department provide an official to give them solid advice over the coming days to ensure they get their entitlements? It is a short period between now and Christmas. Some of them are married, while some have never drawn social protection money and would not know where to start. I would appreciate if that was facilitated soon.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I fully support Senator Humphrey's remarks. A similar issue arose with the Clerys group during the previous Government, and the Government acted quickly in that case. I acknowledge my two colleagues from the Labour Party, who were quick on the ball that time. As Senator Humphreys said, tomorrow morning those teachers need to see somebody from the Department who will be present and will take a note of their names. There are some horrific stories, such as people waiting for their salary for two months. If an appearance by an official could be arranged, it would be great although I appreciate the Minister is doing what she can.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins On a technical question, I appreciate the Minister's understanding of the provision for 25% of the contract hours. When we consider a banded contract with a window, perhaps it is a question of where the 25% will apply. Will it be at the beginning of the band or the end? The section provides for an entitlement to 25% of the hours one would have expected to work under one's contract where there is a cancellation. I may be misconstruing the matter and, therefore, I propose to follow it up with the Minister after the debate.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I ask the Senator to discuss it with me after the debate. I do not understand the question and I do not want to make presumptions.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins Yes, I will. It relates to the hours of compensation when one's working week has been cancelled, and the measures in respect of how that will play out in the new scenario and how it will be tracked. I will, however, discuss the matter with the Minister after the debate.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I understand and I thank the Senator.

  On the Senators' gentle inquiries, the Department contacted staff from the school earlier. I cannot take credit for it because I did not make personal contact, but the Department is good and mindful of these issues.

  Senator Ardagh may not have heard because the decision was made at Cabinet only this morning, but the Cabinet approved changes that will see the ODCE established today as an independent agency which is entirely separate to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation. The Minister said the organisation will become the corporate enforcement authority and will be given new powers of independence in regulations. It will also be given a raft of resources to ensure what happened in the high-profile case that we have discussed will not happen again. I hope that will put the Senator's mind at rest because these matters should not happen.

  Question put and agreed to.

SECTION 16

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I move amendment No. 6:

In page 15, between lines 8 and 9, to insert the following:
“(15) In the event of hours becoming available an employer shall be required to offer any surplus hours appropriate to their qualifications to existing part-time employees first.”.

I thank the Minister for appearing before the Seanad and I welcome the Bill. It is strong legislation which, among other provisions, will eliminate the use of zero-hour contracts and offer protections to some of the most vulnerable and precarious workers in the State. I recognise the work of all who brought it to this Stage, including Senator Nash, who was Minister of State when it was first mooted, and the Minister, Deputy Regina Doherty. It is an important law and it recognises that in regulating employment and the conditions of that employment, the State has a responsibility to intervene, regulate and act as a guarantor of the rights of the people to safe, stable and secure employment.   My amendment is in the spirit of the rest of the provisions of the Bill. It seeks to provide greater security and protection for part-time workers. It builds on the work done by Deputies Clare Daly and Joan Collins on Committee Stage in the Dáil. I thank them for their help in drafting my amendment. This simple and straightforward amendment would place a requirement on employers to offer additional part-time hours to existing part-time employees before the employer may hire another person to work the same hours. It has a twofold benefit. First, part-time workers would be given more security, more choice and the option to work more hours if they so wish. Second, it would prevent additional workers from being employed in very precarious conditions to do work that could feasibly be done by existing employees, raising employment standards overall.

  A similar amendment to the Bill was accepted on Committee Stage in the Dáil after being supported by all parties except Fine Gael, before being deleted on Report Stage because the provision on work being "appropriate to their qualifications" was not in place. We have included that wording in our amendment today and hope to achieve cross-party support as a result.

  The policy behind the amendment is based on EU Directive 97/81/EC on part-time work. It seeks to address issues relating to underemployment and low-quality employment, with this amendment seeking to improve the quality of work available to part-time workers. The directive states that employers should consider requests to transfer from full-time work to any part-time work that becomes available and requests to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase working time when the opportunity arises, providing timely information on the availability of part-time or full-time jobs.

  Our amendment would simply put this on a statutory footing because at the moment there is no legal right for a part-time worker to avail of more hours at work. The amendment would address the insecurity arising from underemployment and casualisation. It benefits individual workers and the economy overall, as employee satisfaction would rise due to increased flexibility and options the statutory rights give, and very much fits into the overall intention of the Bill.

  It is not just unemployment that pushes people into poverty; it is low-paid poor-quality work that leaves people so far behind that they cannot afford to keep up payments of mortgage, rent, childcare costs and other basic needs. There is a direct correlation between the increase in the use of food banks and the prevalence of food poverty, and worsening employment conditions and increased precarious work. Employers should be obliged to offer hours to current workers before hiring someone else. It rewards loyal staff and gives them more hours, making it more likely that they will earn a living wage and be able to avail of credit and other financial options. We need to halt the continual deterioration of precarious work and give these vulnerable workers some legal standing.

  I hope the Minister can accept the amendment which is intended to work in a constructive spirit with the existing provisions of the Bill, which would be stronger for it.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I support my colleague's amendment, which is tabled in good faith. It takes on board the debate in the Dáil and on Second Stage here, where the Minister expressed the concern that hours should not be offered to persons which are not appropriate for their qualifications or to their work. There is a really good State engagement on those issues. If further concerns emerge, I reserve the right to table an amendment on Report Stage to try to ensure we can find something agreeable to the House to address this very real issue.

  As we know, underemployment levels are extremely high particularly among women. This is effectively a measure to tackle underemployment. As a member of the Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection I recognise we must ensure that people do not need to supplement their family income.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I support the amendment. From my time being involved in the Teachers Union of Ireland, I know it was an issue that caused significant distress to teachers who were employed in professional posts for four or five hours a week. Since they only taught a specific subject they could be kept on that for years.

  It always amazed me that employers, particularly education and training boards, would have five, six, seven or maybe more schools under their control, but would be unwilling to share, for example, a physics teacher across three or four schools in order to build up the full 22 hours. There was no excuse for it given that it was the same employer even though the teacher would have been teaching in different schools.

  I recently came across a special needs assistant, SNA, working for an organisation that looks after disabled children. The SNA had 15 hours a week and a job came up for another seven hours a week. She was told she had to apply for it. She had already been employed by the company for a number of years. She applied, but did not get the extra seven hours. She asked her manager what went wrong. Her manager, who apparently was a fairly decent person, said, "Look the other person who applied is coming in on a lower rate of pay than the hourly rate we're paying you." The bottom line is that it was easier to give the additional part-time hours to the new person. The problem here was that this person was not a member of a trade union. Anyone working today needs to be represented by a trade union and needs to have good strong representation. A trade union would not allow something like that to happen easily.

  In the education area, the Lansdowne Road agreement introduced what is covered under Senator Ruane's amendment. It has taken time in the education sector, but it is beginning to have an impact. We now find that employers cannot advertise hours if they have teachers already on short hours. From that point of view that is good.

  It is also happening in the medical world. Strangely one of the worst employers for these breaches is the State. Unless those managers employed in State organisations step up to the plate and recognise the value of looking after workers well, this will continue. My advice, of course, is that every worker in the State or private sector should be a member of a trade union. We would not have these issues if they engaged with their trade union.

  Certain institutes of technology, which will be technological universities in the not too distant future, still have lecturers who are not be on full hours for one reason or another. The same applies to secondary schools and education and training board centres. Part of the problem is that college and university degrees have become very specific which tends to limit or put people into a funnel from which there is no way out because the number of subjects they have available is quite small. When I started teaching in 1995, I got a full 22 hours on day one. By 1996 that had changed and by 2000 teachers were being offered five or ten hours a week, which is outrageous for people trying to take care of families.

  I remember wanting to write to the Minister for Social Protection, looking for supplementary welfare for those on short hours, but because they were working one hour a day they did not qualify for it. The amendment is really worthwhile and I ask the Minister to accept it.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I support Senator Ruane's amendment, which will benefit many employees across many sectors of society. As Senator Higgins said, it will also disproportionately affect women in a positive way. Many women will benefit from the amendment because, as we know, the majority of those in part-time work are women and much of that work is low-paid work.

  I have a concern about who will determine the employment qualification, but that can be ironed out at a later stage. At this point I am happy to support the amendment.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I will be cheeky and respond to Senator Higgins on the previous amendment because now I actually know what I am talking about. The 25% of the hours or the 15 hours provision she mentioned is already contained in section 18 of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. It is in the compensation section. It has acted as a deterrent against zero-hour contracts in the past. We are simply putting a provision in the existing compensation section to ensure that a worker who is called in gets a minimum of three hours.  The 15 hours and that provision are not going to change. If a worker who is subject to that provision is called in and does not get the work, he or she will get the three hours' compensation. That it what it is intended to provide.

  I thank Senator Ruane and totally get what she is trying to do, as I did when Deputy Clare Daly proposed the amendment in the Dáil. I could not accept the amendment then. I was on my own on the day it was passed on Committee Stage. I brought the amendment back on Report Stage because by then I had had time to get advice from the Workplace Relations Commission and the Labour Court on what it would mean in practice. Under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act of 2001, an employer cannot treat a part-time worker any differently from a full-time worker. There is also a statutory code of practice stating that an employer should give consideration to requests by workers to transfer from a full-time to a part-time position or from a part-time to a full-time position. That code of practice was not designed by politicians but by the former Labour Relations Commission, following extensive consultations with the social partners, unions and employers' organisations.

  The code is admissible in evidence in any legal proceedings that anybody might want to take who feels their rights may have been infringed under those provisions. The code sets out best practice and the detailed arrangements that apply to requests by employees to transfer from part-time to full-time work or to increase their working time should the opportunity arise, as well as those arrangements that apply to requests to transfer from full-time to part-time work, which is equally important to people at certain stages in life. Mostly it is women because we have babies and want to be at home with them, which can mean going from a five-day week to a three or four-day week. That cannot legally be refused because of this legislation. By exactly the same token, if someone is working a three-day week and an opportunity comes up to work a five-day week, he or she has to be treated equally under the law with someone who was newly applying for the same full-time job.

  There are really strong anti-penalisation provisions in the 2001 Act. We all know who we are talking about so I would also be mindful that if the amendment is passed here as it was in the Dáil, it will not just affect the small group of workers we are talking about. It is going to affect every single employer and employee in the country. Under the provisions of the 2001 Act, part-time workers who feel they are being maligned by practices or actions of employers have the opportunity to take a case without victimisation to the Workplace Relations Commission.

  Here is my problem, before I get to all the unintended consequences and the advice from the WRC. When Deputy Clare Daly brought this issue to me, although I totally get what she and Senator Ruane are trying to achieve, I had to say that if this was as big an issue and was as prevalent as was being portrayed to us, there would have to have been cases taken, even a test case or somebody genuinely trying to earn a full-time living and being prevented from doing so. In the history of this Act since 2001, there has never, ever been even a complaint made to the WRC about this instance. Because of all the unintended consequences of the amendment, not least that before the legislation is enacted I will have no choice but to put it out to public consultation to all the social partners, unions and employers' organisations, which will only delay the passage of the Bill - I am not trying to be smart - I sincerely ask the Senator to withdraw the amendment. I ask her instead to bring me some employees so I can actually work with them and take a test case to the WRC, with them or on their behalf, so I can challenge the current employer the Senator is talking about. I will take a test case with them to the WRC and support them all the way.

  Even though this amendment is more nuanced than the one that was presented in the Dáil, it is still unworkable as far as the WRC is concerned. Looking at the language of the amendment, apart from the matter of who is going to denote what the appropriate qualifications are, how are the hours to be offered? Do we stick a notice up on the notice board or in the loo? How do I offer the ten employees who are only part time the five hours' extra work that I have next week? If I am to stick a notice on the board - the amendment does not say so because we are not prescribing how they are to make an offer - and ten people apply, on what basis do I then decide that the third person gets it or my favourite, Mary, gets it? What happens when the nine others do not get it and want to take a case of discrimination?

  There is so much in what the Senators are trying to achieve that is not in the amendment. It is genuinely unworkable and I would not be able to continue with the legislation before going out for consultation. In order to do exactly what the Senator wants to achieve today, I am asking her to withdraw the amendment and send me the people. We can do it privately and anonymously. I will take the test case to the WRC to get the people who are working for this organisation to be treated with respect and, when there are more hours on offer, for those who are currently part-time workers to get them.

  Finally, we always refer to women. The latest CSO labour force survey figures show that 76% of current part-time workers say they are working part time because they want to, not because anybody is making them. Senator Higgins talked about under-employment but the figures are not as bad as the Senator might think. The number of those whom we might classify as under-employed is dropping. Some 25% of those who are working part time are doing so because they do not have a choice. The proposed amendment will only address a particular issue in a particular industry and in respect of one employer. There are other ways for us to crack that nut. I will do everything I can to make sure that if there is a prevalence of what the Senators are talking about, it is addressed. I will support those workers if the amendment is withdrawn.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell The Minister mentioned the working time directive. The State is one of the worst culprits in that regard. The Defence Forces have 35 cases before the High Court and the most recent case cost the State €200,000 in legal fees and a five-figure sum to settle the case, which was the seventh. There are 35 more cases in train and there will be further multiples of 35 coming after them. What a waste of money defending the indefensible.

  On Senator Ruane's amendment, the historical evidence is not there because those in precarious employment simply will not go through the process. I worked for 25 years as a representative in a teachers' union. I have seen the most appalling things done to teachers. I heard one principal saying in his retirement speech that he was proud of the fact that during his tenure, he had made nobody permanent and, as such, had left a flexible staff behind.

  If, as the Minister suggested, there are five employees in a company, the employer could operate a list or panel system whereby casual extra hours could be dished out if they were available. Senator Ruane can correct me but I think she is looking at the type of people I am talking about - teachers, nurses and lecturers in colleges and universities who are watching hours that they could take being allocated to others in order to keep them in precarious employment. Those in precarious employment simply will not go to the Workplace Relations Commission because they are afraid.

  I understand why people are afraid. Generally the most vulnerable are afraid but once that ethos starts in an organisation, nobody will take a case. Once they succeed with the first person, everybody else will fall into line. I really understand the point the Minister is making but I still fully support Senator Ruane. If we fail to get this through, I am likely to take the Minister up on her offer of taking a case to the WRC because I really want this sorted. It is just wrong; it is abuse of workers. It is almost worse than a zero-hours contract because although the person knows he or she has ten hours a week, that is not enough to put bread on the table. I saw one particular school in which there were ten teachers on short hours and the principal made them sit in the staff room every day in case substitution hours might come up.  If a person was not in the staff room, he or she could not get the substitution hours. That was an outright abuse of people. Thankfully a lot has been done through the Lansdowne Road and Croke Park agreements. What I have outlined are two of the most horrible things that have happened in my time but in some way we managed to change the terms and conditions of employment of those in short-term work. I see what Senator Ruane is doing here and I still support her. I hope the Minister will take it on board.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I do not mean what I or the Minister might define as "underemployed" when I use that term. It is very positive that we have part-time work. We should probably embrace the concept more. We need to look to quality part-time work. In terms of underemployment, I am speaking to the figures. These figures are from last year so it would be interesting to see how they stack up. The previous figures show that a majority of those who are involuntarily underemployed are women. That is the point I was making. That is the case in terms of those who are underemployed involuntarily and who would like to work more hours.

  How hours might be offered is not such a mystery. I am indicating a direction I may go with the amendment I will table in respect of this matter on Report Stage. During my time as a shop steward in Trócaire, where I represented 180 staff members, one of the issues we had was the question of the internal offering of positions. There was a requirement that positions would be offered internally prior to being advertised externally. That was in respect of positions but perhaps there could be a similar mechanism regarding any extra hours that might emerge. Provision could be made for such hours to be advertised internally and to give due opportunity for people to seek to avail of them before their being advertised externally. That mechanism worked very well in quite a large organisation that had a sizeable staff complement. Again, it was something that was won rather than granted, but it worked effectively for many years.

  How what is proposed here would work is not such a mystery. We have many good templates. It is something I may look to. The offer should certainly be made internally first but we can look at the mechanism by which that would be done.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane The figures show that more than 100,000 people are underemployed. That is 30,000 more than in 2008, so it is obviously a very large number. On my amendment and with due respect to the Minister, there is nothing in this which is not workable. Many people throughout the unions have been lobbying for and seeking this change since 2013. Many of these people may have been part of those original consultations on putting together the regulations and codes but are saying that this is required. How we do that is one thing.

  We are not only talking about nurses and teachers, for whom this is a massive problem, but about some of the most vulnerable people who are in low-skilled and low-paid jobs in local shops. If one goes into the Square in Tallaght, one will find people in the pound shops and other shops who are in the position of trying to get hours or extra hours and of never knowing how many hours they are going to work. It is very hard to envisage them having access to, or recognising their own rights in terms of, employment law. I know I would not have been able to take a case or have been aware of case law. These are some of the most vulnerable groups.

  We should also take a special look at lone parents. When people are in situations of disadvantage, they sometimes become almost grateful for the few hours their employers will give them and are petrified to rock the boat. I do not understand how a positive measure whereby an employer has to offer any extra hours to employees would have any negative impact. In terms of qualifications, nearly everybody working in a shop would have the same qualifications, unless a manager's job has come up. My amendment takes into account the concern raised when the provision was taken out on Report Stage, which was that hours might not be appropriate to the employee's qualifications.

  On the basis of this changing further and it being stated that it is unworkable, I have come to the view that the Minister will, for reasons that are none too clear, be slow to accept this amendment no matter what form it takes and even if we manage to address all of the concerns raised in the advice she is getting. At this point, I am willing to look at everything she has outlined. I have support across the House for this amendment. I am willing to take into account everything the Minister mentioned regarding the advice of the Workplace Relations Commissions, WRC, and the issues it has raised. I have no problem coming back with a further amended version of this amendment which takes those considerations into account. If we are clearly identifying X, Y or Z as the problem, we can make this amendment even stronger and make it workable. I will go back over the Official Report to identify everything that was highlighted as being an issue. I will improve on the amendment further at that point.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I thank the Senators. I do not know why Senator Ruane thinks that was the only issue we had in the Dáil. Not only was the provision discussed at length on Committee Stage in the Lower House, it was also discussed at length on Report Stage when I happened to convince enough people that it should not be accepted. That is why we reversed it. I was on my own during the Committee Stage debate in the Dáil and I lost the vote. Recommendations have come back from the Labour Court and the WRC as to why the provision is unworkable. There certainly was not only one condition, namely, that of qualifications. That was one matter which was highlighted with regard to a porter or a nurse in a hospital. That was the example given. There are many others and the Senator listed them. We could operate a panel, we could operate a list system or we could work out the mechanics in the future. This amendment is nowhere close. We are at the final gates in the context of passing this legislation. This amendment has not undergone any public scrutiny. No interaction has been had with the employers' organisations, the employee organisations or any of our social partners. That would have to be done to consider all of the examples the Senator has given including the list system and sticking hours up on a noticeboard. We would also have to consider how to account for discrimination in cases where hours were given to someone who was tall but not someone who was small. I am not saying what the Senator is trying to do is wrong; I actually agree with her. We have the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 and the code of practice, which is actually on a statutory footing.

  To reply to Senator Craughwell, the pronouncements and deliberations of the WRC are anonymous so, if people are afraid, we have a body of work to do to tell them that they have absolutely no need to be afraid to take their issues or cases to the WRC. The penalisation measures are there.

  I beg Senator Ruane, if she pushes this amendment and it passes - and I have no problem losing - I will have to undertake public consultation and that will delay this Bill by months. None of us want that. I can find another way to do what the Senator wants to do. If taking a test case to the Labour Court does not work the Senator can draft legislation and I will support her. Let us, however, make sure that we get all the t's crossed and the i's dotted so that when it does come it will be legislation with which the WRC can work and which the Labour Court can enforce so that people who are brave enough to take on their employers will receive the justification and reward they are looking for, which is just more hours when they come available. That is the best way I can put it.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I know we are saying that we can look at other measures and that we can look at the codes and regulations put in place under previous Acts but 33% of Tesco workers want more hours and cannot get them, and that is with the agreements that have come before. Right now, 33% of Tesco workers want more hours and, despite having an agreement to get them, the company will not give them. That is because there is no legislative footing to enforce the existing agreement.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty There is. None of those Tesco workers, Dunnes Stores workers or any of the other people we are talking about - because in fairness we are not talking about teachers or the Defence Forces-----

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Could we address our remarks through the Chair please?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Let us take a case. Let us get a band of 20 of them together and take a case under the current legislation and test it.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane The Minister has said that the concept of this amendment has not been scrutinised. It has been six months since it was debated in the Dáil. The Bill went through Committee Stage in the Lower House. There has been-----

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty There has not.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane -----a considerable amount of time on Committee Stage for things to be scrutinised and put in place. If this House was always to state that amendments cannot be included because there would be administrative burdens involved in how they would work, we would never be able to introduce amendments. It is not up to the law-makers to hold consultations on how something would work in practice. The Department will take that on. If this amendment passes, the Department will take on the task of seeing how it would work out in practice.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty How?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Does the Minister know what I mean?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty No. I am sorry, I actually do not.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane It happens with all legislation.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony We will let the Senator make her points and then the Minister and others will be allowed back in.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane The same situation arose last year in respect of an amendment to the Adoption (Amendment) Act 2017. We were told that an amendment would be completely unworkable in practice and that it would give rise to too much of an administrative burden. Lo and behold, when it passed, everything necessary fell into place in order for it to work.  It is not about a notice hour. That is administrative stuff. It is not about who gets it. It is about making hours available. Perhaps one can apply for those hours. It is not just that a person is picked and is given those hours. Employers will put processes in place where people apply for, and access, those hours. In most cases, it is not going to be just five hours. Someone could leave, and it could be ten hours. These are small groups of people in employment in shops, in shopping centres and in hairdressers. They are cleaners getting minimal amounts of work. If the problem is that this is too wide, where it takes in everyone's employment and all levels of work, then an amendment can be included here that can look at the types of contracts people are on, and where this is made available to them.

  It is not fair to say this would be delayed. No legislation would ever pass in this House if that were the case because we introduce amendments to legislation all the time that create new systems which have to be put in place for them to work and for that law to be workable. It is not fair to say this Bill will not be able to move forward because an amendment has been included in it. It is just about finding out how that amendment can work best in practice so that it suits everyone.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Does the Minister wish to respond to those points?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Bill was amended on Committee Stage. This was untested, not scrutinised and not discussed with any of our unions, social partners or employer organisations. The amendment was brought in by Deputy Clare Daly on Committee Stage. It was passed and I lost. The reason it was removed, when I brought an amendment back, was not because I said it would not work and did a little dance and said please do not do that to me. It was because the Labour Relations Commission, LRC, and the Workplace Relations Commission, WRC, came back with advice to say that, as it is currently constituted, it does not mean anything. It means that one can put a sign on the wall that says five hours are available next week. Some 15 people could apply for it and not one of them might get them. Not one of those 15 people could find out why they did not get them. It is meaningless. The only way it becomes meaningful is if one is prescriptive, and in order for it to be prescriptive, one has to tell the employer exactly what one wants, expects, and the desired outcome. That does not do this.

  I sound like I am threatening but I am not. However, to do what the Senator wants to do - this is the only reason I am saying it will delay the Bill - in a meaningful way, I will have to engage in public consultation with the social partners, the unions and the employers to ask them what they would accept in legislation, so that we will have a practice that is fruitful and meaningful. The WRC and the Labour Court came back and said that, as it stood, it was unenforceable. How would they deal with the five people who did not get the extra hours on the week it was advertised versus the person who did? By not being prescriptive, they have no way of making sure that they can enforce it.

  Right now we are at a crossroads where we are putting an amendment into the legislation that is unenforceable as far as the Labour Court and the WRC are concerned, and not me, as Minister. What I am saying is that if the Senator wants to do this, it needs to be far more prescriptive, and the only way I can be assured that happens is if we engage in consultation with all the people it will affect, from either an employee's or employer's perspective. We need to get it as detailed and as meaningful as it needs to be before we can progress with the legislation.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins The Minister is expressing concern about the issue at hand. Nonetheless, we face a dilemma here and I see her argument in relation to time. We know how long it takes to get legislation through all Stages but is there scope, since she will be going back to the Dáil in any event, for a Government amendment to be brought in on Report Stage in which she can reserve the right to introduce by statutory instrument or otherwise, measures on the particular problem at issue, allowing a period of time for what consultation she sees as necessary? Many issues in many policy areas move forward without extensive periods of consultation. This is one where there has been a flagged concern.

  There is also a jeopardy within the Bill. It is a very positive Bill but we do not want a situation where we end up with companies with large numbers of people on the very low bands. We do not want that but that is a jeopardy in the Bill. This potentially, although perhaps not implemented as it is set out here, could have a provision, or a similar provision, as a mechanism to ensure that where more hours are permitted, we have people moving up the bands, as would be appropriate. It is an important factor.

  Could the Minister include a provision that within six months, or whatever, that she reserves the power to introduce a statutory instrument, in consultation with the WRC, the LRC, or whoever else she deems fit, measures or regulations in respect of the offering of hours to employees, subject to X, Y or Z. The issue needs to be tackled and it is not really satisfactory given that we have had these rules for so long. The WRC and the LRC have not tackled or addressed it.

  Cases have not been taken but the very fact of that shows that these measures are inadequate. We need to reserve an extra stick on this issue. Can the Minister find a way to ensure that power, and that we do not have to wait for a new Bill or a three-year review of this Bill, to address this issue?

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I want to address the point the Minister made on the anonymity of cases. Senators Craughwell and Ruane made the point that many people do not like taking employment rights cases as they are too afraid that it may jeopardise their employment. Cases in the WRC are, in the first instance, held in private. From a practitioner's point of view, that causes a lot of issues, and we are hearing anecdotally of many cases being appealed to the Labour Court. We know that employment rights cases in the Labour Court are held in public. There is a big chance that if someone brings a case to the WRC it will end up in the Labour Court and the person will not have that anonymity. It will be held in public. It is a bit of a misnomer to say it is completely private and anonymous. It is not anonymous if it ends up in the Labour Court.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The point I was trying to make was that nobody has ever brought a case, so it does not matter whether it is in private or not.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh The Minister's point was that people should be able to bring a case because it is held in private and that they should not be afraid. They could be afraid because it could end up in the Labour Court and the majority of LRC or WRC cases are ending up in the Labour Court these days.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I know what Senator Ruane is trying to achieve and I support that in principle. I remember reading the advice of the WRC around the time the discussion was taking place on Committee Stage in the Dáil and I was quite taken aback by the strength of that. In my experience in these Houses I do not think I have ever seen the WRC provide that kind of advice in advance of an amendment being considered. It was very detailed and it set out its concerns about the operability of legislation, notwithstanding the fact that the principles here are all very sound. We all want to see those who are underemployed having access to hours they should have access to. It makes business, economic and social sense.

  I am scared witless that we would delay the enactment of this crucial legislation any longer than we have to. Everyone in this House wants to see this legislation enacted as quickly as possible. Senator Ruane has genuine concerns about this element, or about this cohort of workers who should be better supported through our legislative or regulatory framework. I am not certain how to do that with this amendment. It may require some work. Could agreement be reached in this House this evening to try to come up with a solution between now and Report Stage, where the position could be finessed in a better way to address the concerns I know the Minister and her officials may have and the advice they may have been given, which would be the same as that which the WRC gave on the operability of this? There is no point in us making laws that are extremely well-intentioned but may fall at the first hurdle. We know, and I am aware from my experience, that there are employers with very deep pockets who are only too prepared to go to the courts and throw as much money as they possibly can at demolishing some very significant protections we have in this State for workers.  I am concerned that if one or two elements of this legislation were a little unsound or perhaps not properly finessed, then the whole edifice could be toppled. I am not stating that is the case or that it will happen. However, I have some experience in these matters and I know that it often does happen. We run a risk of it happening, although I am not saying that it will happen. I ask that over the next few days we could reflect on this and not divide at this point. I would certainly make whatever contribution I can to trying to resolve this, understanding, as I think I do, where the problems lie. Perhaps we could come up with some sort of a solution that would work for everybody. I am not sure if that is possible but perhaps it would be and we could address this matter on Report Stage.

  I do not know if my proposal would be acceptable to Senator Ruane. Let us see. If the House needs to divide, then it will do so and we can deal with that eventuality. In this Legislature, people are entitled to hold their views and press their amendments.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am sure that, as a solicitor, Senator Ardagh knows that all of the hearings of the WRC are held in private.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh Not in the Labour Court.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty Only about 20% of the cases that go to the WRC are brought to the Labour Court. I acknowledge what the Senator is saying. As I said to Senator Craughwell earlier, if we have a body of work to do in order to convince people who may be afraid, I assure them that they have absolutely nothing to fear. All of the WRC cases are taken in private and only 20% of the cases are taken or appealed to the Labour Court.

  I shall now issue a direct response to Senators Ruane and Higgins in the context of what was said of me. First, we did not have any public consultation or scrutiny. The amendment was tabled on Committee Stage in the Dáil and it was only at that point that I had a small window of opportunity - approximately one week - to obtain the advice from the WRC and the Labour Court. It was powerful advice and it convinced everybody in the Dáil, with the exception of Deputy Clare Daly, to undo the effect of the amendment.

  Senator Higgins stated there was jeopardy in the Bill in the context of the bands. The section dealing with bands is probably the most powerful aspect of the Bill.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins To be very clear, I am seeking, in the context of the bands, to ensure that we can be ahead of what might come next.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The bands are so effective because not only is there a look-back at the previous 21 months, there is also the security of the position being set for the following 12 months. Once a person has been placed on a band of hours, he or she can never be given fewer hours. He or she can always be given more hours, which would have to be reflected in the next look-back in order to bring the person up to the next band. A person can never be given fewer hours. If one is placed on a band of 15 hours this year, one cannot be given fewer than 15 hours a week. This means that when there is a look-back the following year, a person's employer cannot reduce his or her hours to five. Of all the measures in the Bill, this is the most powerful.

  I shall now turn to what the Senators are trying to do. It was brought to my attention this afternoon, and I say this reservedly, that apparently there was some rumour going around earlier that I was not to accept any amendments in the Seanad because the Bill would not go back to the Dáil, or some rubbish like that. This House is as important as the Lower House and provides as much advice, scrutiny, maturity, respect and additions to legislation as any other organ of the legislative process. I do not know where that rumour started but it is completely unfounded. It certainly did not come from me.

  I cannot accept the amendment because it will delay the Bill. It is not the case that I can say that we would accept it and I will fix it by next week. I am back in this House next Tuesday to take Report Stage with a view, hopefully, to getting the Bill into the Dáil for the final hour on 19 December, having it passed and then getting it enacted in January. I am not trying to be funny or smart but I will not pass legislation having been informed by the WRC and the Labour Court that it is unworkable and then just shunting it off to them to say "Off with you now and fix it". I put it to Senator Ruane that it is not the case that the Department comes along, takes an amendment and says "Actually, it has to be done with a blue hat or with green flowers." That is not what we do. The legislation would reflect exactly what is written in this amendment, which is not enforceable. It would not fix or make anything better for those people the Senators are trying to help.

  Senator Higgins asked if I could provide guarantees that we would change by regulations. If we were to try to do what the Senator wants to do, it would not be via this Bill. We would be obliged to amend the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001 in order to make the additions - with the prescription of what the Senators are trying to do - and effect the proposed change for the people in the particular industries to which the Senators have referred. In order to do that, I need evidence. I do not have such evidence. Again, I am not trying to be smart but for donkey's years we have been listening to one particular union telling us that this is a problem. That union has never taken a test case to the WRC or the Labour Court. I ask the Senators, genuinely, to trust me. I do not think I have ever steered them wrong during the year in which I have been doing this job. We will start a public consultation on this matter after Christmas and the Senators will get me two people - that is all I will need - and I will take the case to the WRC to test it. We will see exactly what needs to be amended to the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act to ensure those people, who are mainly women, get treated fairly under the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act. These are people who are involuntarily working part-time and who would give their left arms to be working more. If the current legislation is not fit for purpose and if we were to take a case to the WRC and it does not stand up, we would have the public consultation with evidence behind us to actually draft an amendment to the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act. The Senator can do it in her name next year and I would fully support her.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane It is important to say that it was not only Deputy Clare Daly who was not convinced. The result of vote was in the region of 38 to 35, with the support in Independents 4 Change, the Labour Party, and Sinn Féin. Fianna Fáil abstained and Fine Gael opposed it. When the amendment was before the Dáil, it was definitely not just Deputy Clare Daly who voted to keep it in. The numbers were pretty close, with just one or two votes in it and Fianna Fáil abstaining. Not everyone was convinced.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I would say that was a minority but that is just my opinion.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane At this point, I am willing to take a breather to think about everything that has been said. I will return with this amendment, or a variation of it, on Report Stage. Perhaps the Minister could come back on Report Stage not necessarily with an amendment to address all of this but with an amendment to the legislation that commits to a public consultation and a review of the section. Regardless of whether this amendment passes, if the Minister were to give a commitment about legislation, it might mean nothing to me in January or February because she might not be here. I am sorry about that but the Minister knows what I mean.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Senator is grand. I might not be here.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane I am just being ironic, but one never knows. If we are to take this section seriously and if we are to really address it we must look for a public consultation on it. The WRC has codes of practice on various matters such as grievances and disciplinary procedures. This is another matter that the WRC could examine and on which it could draw up codes of practice so that we can implement some sort of structure to protect those vulnerable workers. If we can make a commitment within the legislation that this would be carried out, at least then I would know that it is going to happen and that we are going to take it seriously.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Would the Minister like to respond?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I do not know how to respond. I want to say "Yes" to the Senator but I cannot do so yet because I have to check. This shows that one would clearly know I am not in charge. I cannot put a report into legislation. I cannot do it. This is primary legislation. I am not trying to be smart but I will not stand here and make a promise to the Senator that I am going to put something into the legislation next week. I cannot do that. To bring back what Senator Ruane expects me to be able to bring back next week as meaningful and prescriptive would actually take months. I want to be here next week so I cannot tell the Senator that I can come back with a detailed amendment. I also cannot just come back and state that I will stick a report in the legislation. Maybe my word is not good enough for the Senator. Other than giving her my word, all I can do is ask the WRC to look at the current statutory code of practice in respect of the Protection of Employees (Part-Time Work) Act 2001. It is already in place but it has just not been tested. I do not know how I could ask the WRC to change that when it does not have a case to test it with or change it against. While the Senator suggests that I might not be here, I will be here for a while - we have Fianna Fáil's letter to keep us going until March so we will be grand - and I will give a commitment that I will write to the WRC to tell it of our conversation today and that I will be bringing a test case. Perhaps that will result in the WRC having a look at the statutory code of practice. I cannot, however, put that into legislation so the Senator will have to take my word for it. I hope that my word means something.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Is the Senator pressing the amendment?

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane It is not about mistrusting the Minister's word.  As I said, we never know the landscape and how things will change. Of course I trust the Minister's word but I just do not know what will come after that if the Minister is not there. It is not about trusting the Minister; it is just how things are.

  We often have in-built reviews and reports in legislation. It is not something new or unusual. Just as the Minister cannot promise us that she will come back next week with the amendment, she also cannot say that she will write to the Workplace Relations Commission and have a test case because she does not know if such a case will come forward for various reasons. It is all very vague and based on the hope that we can find someone to take a test case. However, that will not be necessary if we put in the legislation that there will be a review process, as there is in many other items of legislation. I do not ask the Minister to agree to the amendment now. She can look at other legislation with a similar provision built into it in order that she can see it is not unusual for such a measure to be in primary legislation.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins I wish to back up what Senator Ruane said. Reports and reviews are often specified depending on which one is more appropriate to prove the effective operation of a measure. We are dealing with the Employment (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and a review is appropriate and would fit with the purpose of the Bill. We know the social welfare Bill, for example, regularly has reports attached to it. I accept it may not be pretty and it may affect the framing of the Bill but it is appropriately legal, there is nothing wrong with it and it is very doable. It is a very reasonable proposal. We just want to be sure regarding this issue. We know the Minister has made a commitment in this area. She has driven the issue forward, building on the work of the previous Minister of State, now Senator Nash. The amendment would ensure consistency regardless of who is in the Minister's role.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty That does not make it a good practice.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins If we have an election the Minister might get a promotion, yet we would be reassured that the review has been legally put on the agenda and that it will continue regardless of the formation of the Government. That is what is being sought and it is a reasonable request. I accept the Minister has to make a change in terms of how it is done and I urge her to consider it strongly.

Senator Kevin Humphreys: Information on Kevin Humphreys Zoom on Kevin Humphreys Everybody knows what Senator Ruane wants to do and we are all supportive of that, including the Minister. I accept the Minister's commitment in that regard, which I believe she will honour if at all possible. I understand that she cannot put it into legislation but could she give a commitment on Report Stage that, for example, the WRC would be commissioned to carry out a review on it within a certain timeframe? What Senator Nash proposed when he was Minister of State was that one of the universities would be commissioned to do a report. A timeframe was to be given for the report and, when it came back to the Minister, its recommendations would be debated in the House. I fully accept the Minister's word but I understand that Senator Ruane wants something more substantial. I would not like to divide the House and I would be happy for the Minister to commit to coming back on Report Stage to give such a commitment, whether it is the WRC or another independent body to carry out such a review. Such a proposal would be acceptable.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty We have gone all around the world. I hope we will end up with an agreement. I will not come back on Report Stage. I will write to the WRC in the morning asking it to review the statutory code of practice of the Organisation of Working Time Act 1997. I will give Members copies of the letter. I will not do what Members normally insist on in the course of the social welfare Bill, which is to put a three-month timeframe on the review. I will ask the WRC how quickly it thinks the review could be done and I will come back to Members and be honest with them. It should not take any longer than four or five months. The social welfare Bill is amended every year so the worst case scenario we are talking about is next October. The amendment should be to the legislation affecting part-time workers, so if there is a requirement to change the code of practice that is on a statutory footing and we can do that with a statutory instrument. If we need to change the legislation we can draft an amendment to it. I will write to the WRC, which does not have a head at the moment - I hope that will not matter - and we will see how quickly it can carry out a review.

Senator Lynn Ruane: Information on Lynn Ruane Zoom on Lynn Ruane Instead of a review it should be a consultation process whereby the WRC would take submissions.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I think the WRC will not have any choice because it does not have anything to review given that no case has been taken. It would involve the WRC talking to the social partners, including employers. I will write that letter in the morning.

  Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Government amendment No. 7:

In page 15, to delete lines 11 to 19 and substitute the following:

"

Band
From
To
A
3 hours
6 hours
B
6 hours
11 hours
C
11 hours
16 hours
D
16 hours
21 hours
E
21 hours
26 hours
F
26 hours
31 hours
G
31 hours
36 hours
H
36 hours and over
 
<

"

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am bringing forward this amendment to slightly change the drafting of the table of bands in section 16. This will sound really Irish: we are slightly changing it but we are not altering it. Senators might not be aware that the table currently in the Bill resulted from a Sinn Féin amendment on Committee Stage in the Dáil. While I had concerns at the time I have been won over to the view that the bands are not as narrow as I originally thought. There was broad agreement for the original amendment. However, the Office of the Attorney General is of the view that the way the bands were drafted in the Opposition amendment will cause uncertainty to both employers and employees and none of us want that. The office has advised that using the terms "or more" or "less than" in the table will cause difficulties. The purpose of the amendment is to remove them but it keeps the bands exactly as they were proposed by Sinn Féin on Committee Stage in the Dáil.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield I accept that the numbers are the same but if one was in band B originally, which is from six hours or more to less than 11 hours, the achievement of the bands as they are currently drafted is that they are quite narrow and they provide workers with certainty of hours within whichever band they are given.

  The proposed change to section 16 seeks to remove the wording "or more" and "less than" and there is a possible consequence of such an amendment. Could, for example, a worker who was given an 11-hour contract be pushed into either the six-hour to 11-hour band rather than the 11 to 16-hour band? Could the Minister comment on whether the amendment would broaden the bands so that workers are opened up to two bands at a time? That would only apply to the hours in the "To" column. I am unclear at present as to whether the amendment would change the position and potentially open up a loophole for unscrupulous employers to exploit.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I appreciate what the Minister is trying to do but if she takes a worker who is on 26 hours, the question arises as to whether he or she is in band E or band F. It reminds me of when I did some computer programming, I was quite amused to find that there are two values of zero. There is a minus zero and a plus zero from the point of view of computer programming. An employer could reasonably argue that somebody was in band E rather than band F. The situation is slightly confusing for me.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I am pleased to have an opportunity to respond to the question. First, it is unusual that when we average out the hours for where somebody would fall that it would be exactly on, for argument's sake, six hours, it is more likely when one averages out hours that somebody would have five and a half hours or six and a half hours so it would be clear and unambiguous. However, if it did fall on exactly six hours or 26 hours, as Senator Craughwell outlined, the way the legislation is drafted it is open to the employee to pick which band he or she wants to be in. For someone on six hours an employee could pick whether he or she would be in band A or band B. It is his or her choice. Someone on 26 hours can go in either band E or band F. The proposed legislation positively discriminates in favour of the employee as opposed to the employer.

  I did not read out the full explanation of what the Attorney General said, but as Senator McDowell said on Second Stage, the way the Bill is currently drafted gave rise to the fact that as an employee one might need to seek legal advice because of the risk that one's employer could hoodwink one or try to confuse the issue. This might sound frivolous but he gave us some unintended consequences of the way it was written. For argument's sake, with the "or more" or "less than" if someone was on four hours on average one could conceivably argue that it is less than a 30-hour contract or ten hours is more than however many hours, but one would not argue the case in the other direction. It leaves the interpretation open to question. More often than not, my experience is that when legislation leaves something open to question it is usually the employee who suffers rather than the employer.  Removing the "or more" and "less than" only means that in the event of a worker finding himself or herself on the exact number between two bands, he or she may pick the band that he or she prefers. Some people will choose the "more" band and some will choose the "less" band, but it is their choice.

   Amendment agreed to.

  Section 16, as amended, agreed to.

  Sections 17 to 19, inclusive, agreed to.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Amendment No. 8 is out of order.

Senator Gerald Nash: Information on Gerald Nash Zoom on Gerald Nash I received notice earlier today from the Cathaoirleach's office that the amendment is out of order. It relates to if-and-when contracts and a difference of opinion between myself and the Minister on that whole issue. It was ruled out of order on the basis that it could impose a potential charge on the Exchequer. I do not believe that it would. It is bizarre, but this practice is all-too frequent these days. Any legislation passed by these Houses may impose a charge of some description on the Exchequer but that does not mean we should not be in a position to legislate. We are legislating on employment rights, land law, justice issues, and so on, all the time. They all impose a charge. I will reserve the right to resubmit the amendment, or something similar, and I will take up the question of precisely why this was ruled out of order directly with the Cathaoirleach under Standing Order 41.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony Does the Minister wish to respond?

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty No, I can only thank God that it was not me who ruled the amendment out of order.

  Amendment No. 8 not moved.

SECTION 20

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony  Question proposed: "That section 20 be deleted."

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I propose the deletion of section 20. On Report Stage, I noted that while I am in full agreement with Deputy O'Dea's wish to tackle bogus self-employment, from a policy perspective the Bill is not the place to do that. We need proper hearings at the joint committee or public consultation. In the meantime, we have beefed-up and changed how we do our inspections in the scope division. I have undertaken to produce a report under the social welfare Bill this year that will look specifically at all the issues Deputy O'Dea has brought up. There is genuinely broad agreement, which this House will share, that while false employment deprives the State of revenue, that is probably the least of our concerns, as it also makes people's situations unstable and prevents them having access to most Department of Employment and Social Protection schemes. We are moving to change that, although the rate at which we are doing this is not fast enough, as we cannot afford that. It deprives people of myriad employment rights and self esteem and it should not be allowed to continue. I will look at this matter and hope to address it in separate legislation this year, however, this will only be after public consultation and hearings at the joint committee. The report that we publish will determine what we will do.

Senator Catherine Ardagh: Information on Catherine Ardagh Zoom on Catherine Ardagh I am ad idem with Deputy O'Dea on this matter and most of the provisions in this Bill. Bogus self-employment is not unique to the private sector, but is also an issue in the public sector. Many State organisations also have employees in bogus-employment situations. We welcome that the Minister will undertake a report on this matter. If this goes to a vote, we will abstain.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell Ryanair is probably one of the best examples of people being allegedly self-employed, even though they are on very good salaries. It denies revenue to the State and so on. It works its way down through the system. One computer manufacturer in this country had about 6,000 employees, with not one working for the company. Most recently I have heard of builders' labourers being told after four weeks that they are not employees, but are self-employed subcontractors. This was telling a fellow going around with a wheelbarrow that he was self-employed. I know that the Minister's Department and Revenue are very good at following up on complaints about this type of thing but the truth is that they should not have to.

   When the likes of Ryanair and computer manufacturers or software testing companies are all at it, it suggests the legal and accountancy professions spend a great deal of time trying to find ways around legislation. I have no doubt that as we are discussing this legislation tonight there are others who have been charged with the job of going through it to find the holes that we have not found and to find ways of circumventing it. Bogus self-employment must be tackled. It is as much a plague on employment as zero-hour contracts. I know the Minister is concerned and that she has acted on any occasion she has been asked, so I am sure we are at one in this instance.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield There is no doubt that bogus self-employment is a major issue across many sectors. An estimated 50% of Ryanair pilots are in bogus self-employment situations-----

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell And cabin crew.

Senator Fintan Warfield: Information on Fintan Warfield Zoom on Fintan Warfield As a result, Ryanair does not have to pay PRSI contributions for those pilots, the pilots do not have employment rights such as maternity or paternity leave and they have no rights to collective bargaining or industrial action.

  Senator Ardagh mentioned the work undertaken by Deputy O'Dea. His amendment is well intended. Sinn Féin has acknowledged this issue must be dealt with and done so through primary legislation. We believe all parties should work together to do this. We want to see a rigorous investigation of bogus self-employment with the relevant stakeholders. The Joint Committee on Employment Affairs and Social Protection has prioritised that work on its agenda. We do not feel that this legislation is the appropriate place to deal with this really important matter. Therefore, we are prepared to support the deletion of section 20.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty I was remiss in not mentioning something and thank Senator Warfield for reminding me. The joint committee has already started its hearings. Officials from my Department were the first group to be invited in, although I do not believe they were too pleased about that. Nevertheless, there was a robust set of hearings. We need to sit down collectively and discuss areas such as unannounced inspections. We need particular targeted plans for particular industries. The construction industry is an obvious one, but there are loads, from places where one gets one's nails and hair done up to the pharmaceutical and IT industry. The slight difference between the cases cited by Senator Craughwell - I will not use the names of employers - is that in the larger companies, it is not always the case that the self-employment is bogus because both parties co-operatively decide that it is beneficial for both for different reasons that the workers classify themselves as contractors or self-employed. We need another plan of action to deal with the people who are knowingly declaring as self-employed rather than being forced to declare as self-employed. We should deal with the people who are unhappy with their situation first and then we can get to the others, hopefully, by the middle of next year. I expect that by the end of the first quarter or the beginning of the second next year the body of work will be sufficient to decide how to move forward.

Senator Gerard P. Craughwell: Information on Gerard P. Craughwell Zoom on Gerard P. Craughwell I am happy to say that I am unlikely to meet anyone in the hair business who is bogus self-employed.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The Senator will know what I mean.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins It is counter-intuitive for me to vote against this section. I like that it is there, and that steps have been taken. If it is pushed, I will support it but I understand that the prevailing wind in the House is for its removal. I would not want the fact that we in the joint committee are undertaking hearings to be a reason for not including it. I regret that we were not able to debate the amendment tabled by the Labour Party for an alternative way of addressing the matter.  It would be easier to support the removal of the section if there had been due consideration of the proposal it put forward. We are having hearings on it and the concerns are serious even in the early stages of those, as the Minister will be well aware. There are extraordinarily few cases which are followed up or in respect of which prosecutions take place. At the last hearing, there was an indication that there was a preference not to prosecute in this area.

  There are also very serious questions about how the determination of self-employment is being made and that, even when it is made by the scope unit, it may be overturned by the Department itself. It is a serious concern when one has a measure that barely functions being undermined. The system is not functioning as we already know from just one hearing. This is a very dangerous issue. It is physically dangerous for persons who operate as supposedly self-employed persons with none of the protections and who are often in extremely vulnerable positions. We have looked, for example, at couriers and food delivery persons. There is a huge area. No issue is more serious than that of airline pilots. The idea that the person flying one's plane may be a self-employed person who has happened to be picked to fly the aircraft today is outrageous in respect of any normal level of safety, responsibility and culpability. It is wrong. I have a concern. It feels counterintuitive to take what appears to be a step backwards by removing this section. While there is a commitment to take two steps forward, I have been disheartened by the initial part of our hearings in the committee.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty The reason the scope section is included is that it must mirror every other section in the organisation. We have deciding officers. This is what our scope inspectors do. One brings forward one's complaint and a deciding officer determines whether one is on the right classification. The reason we do not prosecute is that all we are concerned about is ensuring someone is on the right classification and that the backdated payments for the term of that employment are paid to ensure the person meets all the qualifying criteria historically to access the proper social insurance schemes should that prove necessary in future. We are more concerned about righting the wrong than putting people on the blocks for it. Perhaps that needs to change; I do not know. The reason there is a section providing for an appeal from a deciding officer's decision is exactly the same as the reason appeals are provided in respect of carer's allowance and so on. From the judicial review perspective of our Department, it provides a person with the opportunity to get a second opinion. When we have conversations like this in the Dáil, Seanad or at committees, people are often under the impression that it is the employers who appeal decisions to change an employee's designation from "S" to "A". Nine times out of ten, it is the other way around and it is a positive decision for the employee not the employer. Either way, there is also the option to take the appeal to the High Court. That is just the way it is structured. It does not mean it is right or suitable but we must look at it in the next couple of months to determine what we want to do for the people who are being maligned and forced into self-employment against their will and what we want to do with people who are doing it with their will in co-operation and conjunction with their employees.

Senator Alice-Mary Higgins: Information on Alice-Mary Higgins Zoom on Alice-Mary Higgins We do not know what nine out of ten of those cases are about because we were not provided with information on the appeals. Information on the number of cases appealed and their outcomes has not been provided to us yet and that is a concern. The Minister talked about the individual taking the case. There is a huge onus then on the individual to go through the High Court in some cases or the Labour Court. I can tell the Minister about cases where there are concerns about that. Prosecution is an issue where there are patterns of abuse and it is simply not a matter of one employee. Usually, this happens as part of a pattern and it is costing money. It is a significant cost not simply for the individual but for the Department in respect of the unpaid PRSI payments which should have been provided to support our social protection budget. That is why there is an onus to seek a higher level of prosecutions of employers in respect of which there is a systemic problem. There is an onus under fiscal responsibility for the Department to take much more serious action. It should be borne in mind that there is no time limit on the recouping of unpaid PRSI payments. If we discover a case involving two or three employees over a period of ten years, we should automatically ask whether there are 100 other such employees. It may be that money from ten or 20 years ago can be recouped by the State. Where that money is owed to the State, it is not simply about a better situation going forward. There are huge financial implications in this issue. While we will get to unpack them in the committee as we go forward, I urge a movement away from simply thinking about this in terms of single cases and individual High Court proceedings. We should look at our very serious responsibility to prevent the hollowing out of our social protection system. These practices threaten to do that.

Deputy Regina Doherty: Information on Regina Doherty Zoom on Regina Doherty If I gave the Senator the wrong impression, I apologise. All our prosecutions are a matter of the best interest of the person who brings the complaint to us. That is the employee who feels he or she is being categorised incorrectly. There is no determination or length of time we will not go back. If I am working for Kellogg's Corn Flakes - and I hope that is not a proper company - for ten or 20 years, that is how far back we will recoup the money, for as long as the employee was misclassified. We will reclassify the person and the company will have no choice but to pay us. The only thing that has changed significantly this year is that we are now doing proactive inspections with the Revenue Commissioners. In August alone, we carried out 1,000 inspections on construction sites nationally. While it seems obvious that there must be many bogus self-employed on those sites, the 1,000 inspections did not achieve a whopping change in classifications. We keep talking about these issues and magnify them as if they are enormous but there is never any evidence about the size of the problem. Let us fix the issues based on fact and actual evidence. Regarding tailored legislation to ensure part-time people get more work or people being maligned and not getting the right social protection and employment rights because of misclassification, let us find out the exact size of the problem so that we do not use a sledgehammer to crack a nut. If we need a sledgehammer, that is fine, but if we do not, let us know what we are talking about and put the right legislation on the books.

  Question put and agreed to.

  Title agreed to.

  Bill reported with amendment.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony When is it proposed to take Report Stage?

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne Next Tuesday.

  Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 11 December 2018.

Acting Chairman (Senator John O'Mahony): Information on John O'Mahony Zoom on John O'Mahony When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Maria Byrne: Information on Maria Byrne Zoom on Maria Byrne Tomorrow at 10.30 a.m.

  The Seanad adjourned at 8.40 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Wednesday, 5 December 2018.


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