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 Header Item Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Bill 2013 [Seanad]: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)
 Header Item Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Bill 2013 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 828 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] I will go through it in some detail in a moment. It is not allocated to individual Members. It is a system that decides the weight with which the activities of a political party are supported. While some funding is allocated to those elected as Independent candidates, that is solely because they were elected as Independent candidates and not because they became Independents after the decision of the people in a general election.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews We got a mandate.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It has been suggested by several Deputies that the provision in the legislation for the merger of two parties sets a precedent for the transfer of funds from a party to an individual. However, the legislation actually provides for the situation where two parties decide to merge and the parties decide to pool their resources. It is the party funding being welded together. That is provided for and is understood.

It is very different from an individual member of a party deciding he or she does not wish to be a member of or being expelled from a party and then either wanting to take the resources with him or him or quash those resources being provided to the party of which he or she was formerly a member.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews It benefits coalition parties.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The party decides what to do with funding, not one individual.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews What about coalition parties?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Mathews should stop shouting Members down.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I am not shouting the Minister down. I am asking a question.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Yes, he is.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Minister has possession of the floor.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I listened with respect to every Member so Deputy Mathews should afford me the same courtesy.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I will, but I am asking the question.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The party decides what to do with the funding, not one individual or one small group. As Deputy Ó Cuív put it, the money is our money collectively, not individually. We have been consistent in our interpretation in this regard. This is the reason the Ceann Comhairle is included in the calculations as the money is for the party, not for the use of the Ceann Comhairle. He was elected as a member of Fine Gael and, therefore, is included in the metric for the calculation of the allowance distributed between the parties. That is why if a Member dies, the money stays with the party until a by-election is held and the money is then decided in terms of the vote of the people subsequently. It is not for the individual Member. It is for the party grouping to which that person was elected by a vote of the people. People have strong views on this but we will have further discussion on this matter on Committee Stage.

The second point to which we responded is that raised by Deputy Donnelly who provided figures which he claimed showed that the funding provided to parties far outweighs that provided to Independent Members. Those figures provided by Deputy Donnelly were re-used by several other Members in their contributions. They are misleading and I want to explain why. Deputy Donnelly included all funding provided to parties and simply divided the totality of funding by the number of Deputies in order to compare the parliamentary activities allowance received by Independent Members of this House in a manner that suited the narrative he was presenting. Deputy Donnelly has gone even further in so far as he ignored Senators in his calculations, as did Deputy Catherine Murphy in respect of the figures she subsequently referred to. Deputy Donnelly has also included funding provided to parties under the Electoral Acts, which is calculated on the basis of first preference votes with no relationship to Deputies in a party. It is the votes cast by the people that determine that allocation so one cannot divide that up on a Deputy basis. Funding under that Act is also intended to fund a much broader range of activities by parties than simply parliamentary activities for which the allowance we are discussing here is intended, for example, improving female and youth participation in politics.

The reality is that when one takes the total current amount of the allowance paid to the parties based on the number of Deputies at the time of election and the allowance paid to Independent Deputies and divides the figure by the number of Deputies, the average amount paid out is €39,681. Independent Deputies such as Deputy Donnelly receive €41,152 so Independents actually get above the average.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I get nothing.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin As I have already stated, this allowance is designed to support a party political system.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews Nothing for the next two and a half years.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Minister, without interruption.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews Let us tell the truth.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt This is not Question Time.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Chair should protect me. The Deputy is incapable of listening to anybody but his own voice.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews The Minister does not listen to us.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It is unfair of the Deputy to suggest that I am not telling the truth. I have never been accused of that in 30 years in this House and will not stand idly by as the Deputy does it now.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I am getting nothing. That is the truth. When the Minister says he is getting nothing, I will believe him.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Minister must conclude. The Minister, without interruption.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I have explained ad nauseam but the Deputy understands it better than me that this is a party funding system. He does not agree with it but shouting me down does not help convince me of his argument. As I have already stated, the average per Member is €39,681. If one looks at the individual allocation, it proportionately gives an advantage to the smaller parties and a greater advantage to parties in opposition. So the average amount per Member of the People Before Profit Alliance is €71,520; the Socialist Party, which now has only one Member, gets €71,520; Sinn Féin gets €67,433; Fianna Fáil gets €64,743; the Independents get €41,152; the Labour Party gets €36,639, which is below the average; and Fine Gael gets €27,858, which is well below the average of €39,681. If we are going to argue facts, let us argue facts and be accurate and honest.

  By and large, I have covered the substantive issues that the Deputies have raised relating to the Bill. It is a short piece of legislation, as many Deputies have properly indicated. Its aim is to do a number of discrete and specific things about which I have spoken. I have not heard anybody disagree with the actual Bill. They only spoke about what they wanted to graft on to the Bill. I think there is agreement that the parliamentary activities allowance should be reduced by 10%, that there should be full accountability by all who receive it and that the current severance payment available to Ministers should be ended. I thank Deputies for thoughtful and passionately felt expressions of views that I respect. All I ask is that if I hold a contrary view on some of the matters, that would also be respected.

  Question put and agreed to.

Oireachtas (Ministerial and Parliamentary Offices) (Amendment) Bill 2013 [Seanad]: Referral to Select Committee

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I move:

That the Bill be referred to Select Sub-Committee on Public Expenditure and Reform pursuant to Standing Orders 82A(3)(a) and (6)(a) and 126(1) of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business.

  Question put and agreed to.

Sitting suspended at 6.45 p.m. and resumed at 7.30 p.m.


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