4. Deputy Michael Collins asked the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform his plans to reinstate the pension bands to their pre 2012 levels; his further plans to correct the pension anomalies that affected approximately 35,000 women; and if he will make a statement on the matter. (Question 47440/17 asked on 09 Nov 2017)
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: This is a matter for which I have no statutory function. Responsibility for this area sits with my colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection, Deputy Regina Doherty. In this context, I understand the Minister comprehensively addressed the substance of the question the Deputy has raised in the House on Tuesday, 7 November. In her reply to Deputy Willie O’Dea, she outlined her intention to introduce a total contributions approach to calculating the contributory State pension from 2020 onwards. In the meantime she has asked her officials to examine this matter, but she wants to ensure that any changes or measures which might be taken will not cause any further anomalies or disadvantages. This is matter for which the Minister, Deputy Doherty, has responsibility. I will, of course, work with her on the matter in the House, but I know that she is currently focused on the social welfare Bill for next year.
Deputy Michael Collins: I have examined this matter and it has been going on for a number of years. It is shockingly unfair that the Minister will only seek to address it in the year 2020. It is totally unfair. These women are being penalised by these anomalies. Deputy Joan Burton and the then Government made serious changes which disadvantaged many of these workers who stayed at home caring for children, for their mothers and fathers and, in some cases, for their in-laws, thereby saving the State thousands of millions of euros. They are now being penalised every week in their pension payments. They are hurt by this. I would appreciate it if the Minister could look at this more urgently.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I acknowledge the Deputy’s point. When dealing with this matter in the Dáil last week, the Minister, Deputy Doherty, made the point that while she also acknowledges the issue, it estimated that the annual cost of reverting to the pre-2012 bands would be well over €70 million for next year and that the annual cost of giving this extra money to people would increase by between €10 million and €12 million per year. In putting together the budget for 2018, we put in place a number of measures to raise revenue to allow us to pay for a social welfare package which would make a difference in a number of areas, but we did have to make choices about where to put that money. In the run-up to the budget I was never in a position to indicate that it would be possible to resolve this issue in a single budget or in budget 2018. As I have said, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection is looking at the matter very carefully. If there are any developments, she will update the House. I will obviously work with her in that regard.
Deputy Michael Collins: As I have pointed out, this is a violation of thousands of women’s rights. We fight for women’s rights every day. This is a complete violation of the rights of the women who worked hard in their homes. Many Deputies took extra money for themselves in pay reform and €5 million has been made available for a PR budget, so money can be found if there is a need, and there is a desperate need to address this issue and to address it properly. We cannot put it out to 2020. It must be addressed in the next budget. I plead with the Minister and the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. There is no point in telling me that they are looking into this matter. It has been going on for several years and is well known to Government and to all parties in the House. I ask for this issue to be dealt with immediately and for the Minister to set a date today as to when this issue will be resolved. That date should be very soon as people are suffering.
Deputy Paschal Donohoe: I am not in a position to do that here today. Of course, I am well aware of the very strong and understandable feelings which citizens have in respect of this matter. I have met a number of them on this issue and I can understand why they feel as strongly as they do. It is an area which the Minister, the Taoiseach and I are well aware of. We want to see if we can make progress on it, but it is a challenge to make progress in the way some would want for next year. The cost of reinstatement for next year alone would be €70 million. The cost of the overall social welfare package for budget 2018 was well below €300 million. This illustrates the challenge we have in terms of making progress on this matter. I know that the Deputy wants to see us making progress on this matter. As I have said, it is a matter which Government is well aware of, but at this point I need to outline the challenges which prevent us making quick progress on it.