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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 236-239
 Header Item Defence Forces Representative Organisations
 Header Item Defence Forces Personnel
 Header Item Defence Forces Representative Organisations
 Header Item EU Issues

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 915 No. 3

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Written Answers Nos. 236-239

Defence Forces Representative Organisations

 236. Deputy Lisa Chambers Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if Defence Forces management has engaged with the representative associations on the findings of the organisation climate survey; and if not, his views on whether such engagement is essential in light of the clear recommendation in the third report of the independent monitoring group that the representative associations were to be engaged in the design and the findings of such surveys. [18754/16]

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Enda Kenny): Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Independent Monitoring Group (IMG) was established in May 2002 to oversee the implementation of recommendations arising from a report on the interpersonal relationships within the Defence Forces. The first IMG report was published in 2004. The Third IMG report was published in September 2014. RACO and PDFORRA are represented on the IMG.

This survey was commissioned on foot of a recommendation from the Third IMG report (a similar survey was conducted in 2008). The purposes of the climate survey is to support the identification of the ongoing human resource and strategic needs of the Defence Forces. As with the 2008 survey, approximately 11% of the workforce was sampled.

This report was recently received in the Department and I am sure the Deputy will appreciate that given its importance and wide ranging subject matter, I would like to have the opportunity to discuss and consider the findings of the report in the first instance. I can confirm to the Deputy that the Department will engage with the Defence Forces’ Representative Associations in relation to the Defence Forces Climate Survey 2015 in the near future.

I have corresponded with the Defence Forces Representative Bodies offering to meet them to discuss concerns that they may wish to raise with me.

Defence Forces Personnel

 237. Deputy Lisa Chambers Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny if he is aware that the introduction of lifetime community rating in health insurance has meant that those over 34 years of age are now being forced to purchase indemnity health insurance plans they do not require for the sole purpose of negating the future impact of age levies imposed by these new regulations when they retire from the Defence Forces (details supplied); and the engagement he has had with the Department of Health to examine how this issue may be addressed. [18755/16]

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Enda Kenny): Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny Lifetime Community Rating (LCR) Regulations, S.I. No. 312 of 2014, became applicable with effect from 1 May 2015.  Under LCR, community rating is modified to reflect the age at which a person takes out private health insurance. Late entry loadings are applied to the premiums of those who join the health insurance market at age 35 or over. The LCR Regulations stipulate that no loading is applied to an insured person if, on 1st May 2015, the person had a continuous period of cover in an in-patient indemnity health insurance scheme prior to that date. The primary purpose of introducing LCR is to encourage people to purchase health insurance at a younger age.

The regulation governing the LCR loadings applies equally to all citizens of the State irrespective of the nature of any health care provided by their employer. Many employers provide a range of health benefits to employees and not necessarily as part of a regulated healthcare insurance product. It is a matter, therefore, for each citizen to decide whether they wish to take out private health insurance in order to avoid additional loadings for taking out insurance after the age of 34.

Commissioned Officers are currently provided with private health care by the State, i.e. they can be referred by the Defence Forces for private/semi-private treatment in civilian hospitals or private consultant’s rooms, where it is deemed necessary.

The position of members of the Defence Forces with regard to the LCR Regulations has been raised with the Department of Health, both at official and Ministerial level. Meetings have been held between officials from the Department of Defence and the Department of Health on 30th April 2015 and 8th January 2016 to discuss the issue.

The Department of Health stated that the Irish private health insurance regulatory system is based on the key principles of community rating, open enrolment, lifetime cover and minimum benefit. Community-rated insurance markets depend on a continuing entry of younger people to help keep premium prices down for everybody. The Department of Health considered that the arrangements in place for Defence Forces personnel do not comply with health insurance legislation or its key principles. It considered that there has been no impediment to member of the Defence Forces purchasing indemnity health insurance as a means to avoid loadings similar to any other citizen. It stated that no waiver provision exists in the regulations and that any fair and equitable consideration of a waiver for one group requires consideration of other groups whose employers provide similar health benefits separate to indemnity contract arrangements. Even if such an arrangement was deemed appropriate, a waiver provision would require to be enacted in primary legislation. The Department of Health cannot see any basis or mechanism for a waiver to be put in place such that officers could avoid loading when they come to purchase health insurance on retirement from the Defence Forces.

The Department of Health has undertaken to forward to the Health Insurance Authority the concerns of the Defence Forces regarding LCR for consideration as part of a planned independent review of the operation of the LCR Regulations scheduled for 2017.

Defence Forces Representative Organisations

 238. Deputy Lisa Chambers Information on Lisa Chambers Zoom on Lisa Chambers asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the engagement he has had with the Defence Forces representative bodies in an attempt to progress and deal with the concerns raised by them, particularly in respect of systemic failures of the current Defence Forces conciliation and arbitration scheme, internal organisation consultation practices and national level pay talks engagement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18763/16]

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Enda Kenny): Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny As the Deputy is aware the scheme of Conciliation and Arbitration for members of the Permanent Defence Force (PDF) provides a formal mechanism for the PDF Representative Associations, RACO and PDFORRA, to engage with the Official side. The purpose of the scheme is to provide a means for the determination of claims and proposals from the Associations relating to remuneration and conditions of service. Since 1993, there have been significant developments and improvements in the pay and conditions of military personnel. The Representative Associations have been to the fore in advancing the interests of their members in this regard, bringing them in line generally with the pay and conditions available in other public service employments. My Department does not accept that there are systemic failures in the current Conciliation and Arbitration Scheme.

The Deputy will be aware that the Financial Emergency Measures in the Public Interest Acts of 2009-2015 and the Public Service Stability Agreement 2013-2018 (Lansdowne Road Agreement) define current pay policy.

I have corresponded with the Defence Forces Representative Bodies offering to meet them to discuss concerns that they may wish to raise with me.

EU Issues

 239. Deputy Brendan Smith Information on Brendan Smith Zoom on Brendan Smith asked the Taoiseach and Minister for Defence Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny the implications for the implementation of Irish defence policy following the British decision to leave the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18767/16]

Taoiseach and Minister for Defence (Deputy Enda Kenny): Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Government has adopted a contingency framework to deal with all issues arising in respect of the UK vote to leave the EU, and any issues arising, including those within the Defence area, whether bilateral, or in respect of developments in CSDP or our wider international multilateral defence engagements will be addressed within that framework.

While the outcome of the vote in the UK will have implications across all aspects of the business of the European Union, our current analysis is that the vote does not give rise to fundamental strategic issues for Defence Forces operations, or Defence Policy in relation to the UK/IE defence relationship or for Ireland’s continuing engagement within the EU in CSDP. However, all consequences of the Vote are the subject of ongoing consideration in my Department.

Within the EU, Defence issues are a national competence and any decisions require unanimity. Ireland will continue to have a strong and equal voice on defence issues within the EU institutions. The treaties require that the EU respects the specific and different policies of Member States in the area of security and defence and that will not change.

We have many defence connections with the UK, not least in the area of personnel training and information exchanges on capability development, tactics and procedures. These are of a bilateral nature and are reflected in our Memorandum of Understanding with the UK on Defence and Security Cooperation and will thus be unaffected by the referendum.


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