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 Header Item National Lottery Regulator (Continued)
 Header Item Public Sector Pensions Legislation
 Header Item Flood Relief Schemes Funding

Tuesday, 5 March 2019

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 980 No. 4

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  5 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Joan Burton: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton] We have heard about the gambling regulator and gambling regulation legislation over a very long time. Despite all the talk, nothing has happened. The Minister may wish to see it introduced. However, the threat to the national lottery exists in the here and now. We will welcome whatever the Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, is going to do in due course. However, this particular problem needs to be addressed in the here and now. It would be foolish to think we can leave it to one side until we bring in the gambling regulator's office. Maybe that will happen but maybe it will not. It has been very slow to materialise. I would appreciate any advice from it but I do not know when it is going to come.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The Minister of State, Deputy Stanton, will be providing us with the report of the interdepartmental working group on gambling very soon. It appears to me that the only way in which we can deal with this issue is to look at how we can review and maybe change the 2013 general scheme of the gambling control Bill. The facts and figures indicate that the current contribution made by the national lottery to good causes has not yet been materially affected by other developments within the lotteries here in terms of online or electronic lotteries. The contribution that the Exchequer has received from the national lottery attests to that. I acknowledge that although currently the competition is small, it can grow quickly. Were it to grow quickly, it could in turn affect the contribution the national lottery can make to good causes. We have to look at all this from a regulatory perspective. The best and most effective way this can be done is through the review that is being undertaken of the 2013 scheme.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher We have received apologies from Deputy Gino Kenny, who cannot be here to take Question No. 45.

  Question No. 45 replied to with Written Answers.

Public Sector Pensions Legislation

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Pat the Cope Gallagher Zoom on Pat the Cope Gallagher Deputy Michael McGrath will be taking the question on behalf of Deputy Cowen.

 46. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe if the report under section 3 of the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 will be published in March 2019; if the report will deal with potential proposals to remedy the position for those who were forced to take the interim measure due to reaching 65 years of age; the associated costs for each remedy; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10565/19]

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath This question concerns the Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018, specifically the interim measure that was agreed for those public servants who reached the age of 65 before the Act came into being. They had to retire as per their contract of employment. A commitment was given, on a request from Deputy Cowen, that within three months there would be a report to see what could be done for those people. I am looking for confirmation from the Minister that the report is being completed and will be published on time.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan I acknowledge the support of Deputy Cowen in the passage of the Bill. The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 provides for an increase to age 70 in the compulsory retirement age of most public servants recruited before 1 April 2004.

As Deputy Michael McGrath will be aware, public servants who reached the compulsory retirement age of 65 before the new legislation was enacted were required to retire in accordance with the statutory compulsory retirement age in effect at the time. Those who availed of the interim arrangements did so in the knowledge that the contract was for one year only, until they reached the age of 66. The Public Service Superannuation (Age of Retirement) Act 2018 has no effect on those public servants who availed of the interim arrangements. The terms of their fixed-term contracts continue to apply and they will cease working at age 66 as previously provided for.

Section 3A(6) of the Act provides that the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform shall, within three months of the passing of the Act, prepare and lay before the Oireachtas a report on the public servants obliged to retire between 6 December 2017 and the commencement of the Act, due to reaching the age of 65 years, and on potential remedies to assist this cohort of worker.

Work on the report is under way in accordance with the terms of section 3A(6). Under that provision, publication of the report is required within three months of the passing of the Act on 26 December and the Minister intends to comply with that timeline.

It would not be appropriate for me to comment on the content of a report which is under preparation and not completed, and which I am statutorily obliged to lay before the Oireachtas.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Minister of State has said that those who availed of the interim measure and had to retire at the age of 65, because that is what their contract provided for, understood that they would be rehired on a temporary basis for a period of one year, and that they would then have to retire permanently and would be gone. Is the Minister of State saying that the report will not set out potential remedies, including the possibility of people in that category being retained and being able to benefit from the principal measure of the Bill, namely, that people would be able to stay on until the age of 70? Is the Minister of State saying definitively that the people who were captured by that interim measure will not under any circumstances be allowed to remain on until the age of 70? Is it the case that this potential remedy will not be on the table as part of the report?

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Deputy Cowen, during the passage of the Bill, suggested a number of measures, as did Deputy Darragh O'Brien. I accepted the amendment in good faith to see if there was a remedy that could address that cohort. However, I put it on the record of the House and made it very clear that the spelling out of the legislation meant that those who entered into the interim arrangements when the Government decision was made did so in the full knowledge that it was for a year. We also have to be very cognisant of those who did not enter into the interim arrangement who were civil and public servants as well. If we were to unwind that commitment, where would we start? Would we start at the Government's decision, the publication of the Bill or the passage of the Act? To be fair to those civil and public servants who did not enter into the interim arrangements when they reached 65, they took the Government's word in good faith as well and accepted the bona fides of the Government that this was an interim arrangement for one year. I did accept the amendment providing that we would have a report that would be brought before the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, laid before the House and published. I said that if there were remedies there, they could be legislative in nature. I also said that there might not be remedies to the issue at hand, given what we were trying to achieve, namely, to introduce a new age of retirement on 1 January.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Maybe the Minister of State could clarify what the report is examining. What does he expect it to address? Obviously he does not know what the content is but what are the issues that the report is examining? When does he expect it to be made available? We all understand what the legal position was prior to the enactment of this legislation. People had contracts of employment and were required to retire. As a concession, they were rehired for a period of one year. Deputies Cowen and Darragh O'Brien would know more about the amendment than me because they were directly involved. The spirit of the amendment was to see if there would be any way that those who wished to remain on beyond a year might possibly be accommodated and if they could avail of the principal benefit of the Bill. I am not getting the sense that there is any likelihood of that.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan I should not and do not want to pre-empt the content of the report. That is not my job. The provision of section 3A(6) requires that the report covers public servants who were forced to retire between the dates of 6 December 2017 and the commencement of the Act. It is also very clear that the report is to cover all public servants who reached the compulsory retirement age in that prescribed period. It will also have to take into account those who did not avail of the interim arrangements. We have to be fair to everybody.

I am being as honest as I can and the Deputy can take me at face value in this. This was not a simple issue to resolve. Everybody in the House regretted the fact that it had gone on for so long. Everybody regretted that it took so long for the Bill to be brought before the Dáil and the Seanad. The Deputy knows that we do not control the business of the House. Every day that passed before the Bill was brought in here, another person entered the interim arrangements. Unfortunately for a lot of people, they entered the interim arrangements while the Bill was waiting to get a time slot in the House. That was beyond my control. I accepted a suggestion from Deputy Cowen that it be looked at. If there is a solution, it will certainly be considered but that has to be done in the context of what the Bill set out to achieve, namely, a new age of retirement on 1 January 2019 to allow people to work until they are 70.

Flood Relief Schemes Funding

 47. Deputy Robert Troy Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the flood defence measures which will be reprofiled. [10611/19]

 51. Deputy Barry Cowen Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe the specific impact of the reprofiling of the €3 million from the flood risk management programme in the Office of Public Works, OPW, to pay for the national children’s hospital; the projects that will be affected by the reprofiling; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10564/19]

Deputy Robert Troy: Information on Robert Troy Zoom on Robert Troy As a result of the vast overruns in the cost of building the children's hospital, the Minister himself confirmed at an Oireachtas committee last month that he would be cutting €3 million from his departmental budget in respect of flood defences.


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