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 Header Item Lobbying Regulation (Continued)
 Header Item Croke Park Agreement Implementation

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 804 No. 3

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Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Everyone is entitled to lobby. The issue about the lobbyist register is that everyone is entitled to know who is lobbying. It is also important lobbying is done in an open and transparent way.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming Will the Minister put the Standards in Public Office Commission, SIPO, on notice to put arrangements in this regard in place? Before, when we have passed legislation, it has taken six to 12 months to have new systems put in place so the legislation’s provisions could become operational. SIPO should be put on notice on the general scheme of this proposed legislation to ensure it does not commence putting the systems in place after the legislation is enacted but beforehand.

With another budget coming up in several months’ time, the motor industry could be lobbying on motor tax, the pharmaceutical industry on the costs of medicine or the drinks industry on the sponsorship of sports. Will the Minister put a voluntary registration in place so the public can see who is lobbying which Minister about what in the months ahead?

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Yesterday, at a Dáil committee hearing on the IFSC Clearing House Group, I had the most educational day since I was elected-----

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Good man, but do not tell us about it. Just ask a question.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley I realised where the centre of the power is.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputy, we have three minutes left and there is another Deputy with a question coming up.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley Will the Minister include the IFSC Clearing House Group in the lobbying legislation?

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace The Minister claims the legislation will prevent former members of a Government from lobbying for a year. Transparency Ireland has pointed out this is too short a time. Does the Minister believe five years would make more sense?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I will have to think about putting the IFSC in the lobbying legislation. I will come back to Deputy Stanley on the matter.

  On the cooling-off period, people are entitled to make a living, as Deputy Wallace knows full well, and people have constitutional rights in this regard. On the notion that one could be disbarred, for example, say the Minister for Justice and Equality wants to become a solicitor again----


Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I wish he would.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Should he be debarred? Maybe I am asking the wrong person that question. Let me make it easier - should the Minister for Health be allowed to be a doctor again? The embargo on lobbying will not only apply to officeholders, but also to senior public servants. What grates with people is that senior public servants dealing with an industry or an issue can seamlessly move within a month of leaving office to the other side of the fence, well-armed with information. A year is a reasonable time for cooling off because matters move on without unnecessarily impacting on a citizen’s right to earn a living. Otherwise, we may have to pay people for that period given.

Croke Park Agreement Implementation

 10. Deputy Joe Higgins Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin the position regarding the negotiations between the Labour Relations Commission and the public service unions that have taken place since the rejection of the Croke Park II proposals. [24670/13]

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Government is committed to finding the necessary pay bill savings of €300 million for 2013 and €1 billion by end 2015. We have always maintained that the preferred option was to deliver the necessary savings by agreement.

As the Deputy will now be aware, on foot of the rejection by the public services committee of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, ICTU, of the Labour Relations Commission, LRC, proposals negotiated in February of this year, the Government had asked the commission's chief executive, Mr. Kieran Mulvey, to initiate discussions with various public sector unions and representative associations on whether there was a basis for a negotiated agreement for achieving the necessary savings.

We have always indicated we were prepared to show the necessary flexibility around how savings could be achieved. That flexibility was availed of by some unions during the first set of discussions which took place earlier this year and again during the most recent LRC process.

Mr. Mulvey and his team have been engaged in intensive discussions with the parties over recent weeks and he has kept me fully informed of developments. Those discussions concluded on Monday last and unions now have draft proposals for agreement for consideration under their own rules and procedures.

The Government is pleased with the outcome of the LRC process. I thank all those involved in the talks, particularly the LRC which facilitated the discussions. It provides us with an opportunity to achieve the necessary savings, to afford the protection of a collective agreement to public servants and to provide industrial peace in the public service at a crucial time for our economy.

As I have stated, if these proposals are accepted, it will be possible to achieve the required savings and achieve major increases in public service productivity to secure the necessary reduction in the public service pay and pension bill. The essential elements and protections of the existing public service agreement will also remain in place and industrial peace in the public service can be secured at a critical time on our path to economic recovery.

Also today, I published legislation to give effect to the pay reduction for those earning over €65,000, the parallel reduction in public service pensions and other contingent measures to enable the Government achieve its savings requirements in the event of non-ratification of collective agreements. Obviously, unions can opt out of the collective agreement if they so wish.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The financial emergency measures in the public interest will enshrine these pay cut proposals from the Government. Can I put it to the Minister that it is misnamed legislation? The public interest suggests the majority interest of ordinary people but this is in the interest of continuing the bailout of bankers and bondholders at the expense of public sector workers and continuing the flow of money to the former. Has the Minister reflected on the bullying and the badgering he has engaged in over the past two months? He has threatened public sector workers that, unless they swallow these cuts, they would be savagely implemented anyway. Following the clear rejection of these proposals, he continued with this, suffering from what I call the Lisbon treaty syndrome where the Government does not accept a democratic outcome but threatens awful repercussions.

Will the Minister agree there is an alternative of putting a progressive tax on the 5% of top earners, introducing a financial transaction tax and a wealth tax? From these, he could get far more than the €1 billion he is now trying to rob from low and middle-income workers in various ways.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett Setting aside the politics of it and focusing on the process, will the Minister not pre-empt and subvert the ballot of workers which is likely to take place in the next week by demanding that amendments for this Bill are submitted by tomorrow at 11 a.m? The workers have not looked at it and neither have Members.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Sorry, Deputy, but that is not for the Minister to decide but for the House.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The process of legislation is a matter for the House, not for me.

  Deputy Higgins is in a poor position to demand people accept a democratic decision since there are various charges, taxes and levies decided by the elected representatives of the people against which he himself campaigns.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment.

  The Dáil adjourned at 5.50 p.m. until 2 p.m. on Tuesday, 28 May 2013.

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