Reform of State pension still stuck in Cabinet logjam

Q&A: Dominic Coyle answers your personal finance questions

My husband was supposed to retire next year (2020) but his retirement age has been increased by two years now, to 2022.

I have been following the Dáil avidly all year and have never been able to establish any decision regarding the number of years for a full (State) pension, it was always said no decision had been made as to whether it would be 30 years plus 10 years credits, or 20 years plus 20 years credits.

There were many objections to the last, by the Irish Trade Unions, and many others, as people who have worked hard for between 30/40 years would be penalised.

Can you confirm a Government site that lays out the final decision on this matter please, and when the final decision was made.

Ms A.G., email

I would if I could. Unfortunately it appears that no decision has yet been taken. This is obviously a concern as the Government has stated consistently that it plans to have the new State pension arrangements in place in 2020. More recently, they have indicated the third quarter of 2020 but that is now less than a year away.

New legislation has to be put in place to make this possible and there has been no sign of that as yet.

And, of course, on the horizon, we now have a general election with Taoiseach Leo Varadkar expressing a preference for May and some of his party suggesting an even earlier date to capitalise on the "success" of the Brexit accord in avoiding a hard border in Ireland – though, as we all know, Brexit has yet to be finally agreed.

An election runs the risk of totally derailing any (very limited) progress on this issue since a 2018 consultation on the issue.

In early April this year, Minister for Employment and Social Affairs Regina Doherty told Fianna Fáil's social affairs spokesman Willie O'Dea that she was bringing a proposal to Cabinet "shortly" and "once the Government has agreed the approach to be taken", she would start the work on wording of a Bill which "will be brought to the House and I intend to do it later this year".

Just eight weeks later, she was much less confident. During Minister's questions, she told Fianna Fáil's John Curran that "when and if the Government approves the approach" she was bringing to Cabinet, she would publish the legislation.

Debate

This was the first time, an “if” had entered the debate. And, tellingly, she no longer committed to bringing the Bill to the Oireachtas “later this year”.

“The difficulty is deputy Curran is asking me to give deputies the policy before the Government has decided to give me the green light to proceed with the policy,” the Minister concluded.

With the Government still not certain what, if anything, it is going to do despite all the published plans and consultations, you can understand why there is no website available with the details you seek. No final decision has been made.

You are correct that the issue of the number of years required for full pension (30 or 40) has been an issue as has the minimum number of contributions required to qualify at all (260 or 520).

My suspicion is that it will the higher number in both cases and the State looks to contain costs but that’s hardly a case they are going to want to make too close to an election.

Please send your queries to Dominic Coyle, Q&A, The Irish Times, 24-28 Tara Street, Dublin 2, or email dcoyle@irishtimes.com. This column is a reader service and is not intended to replace professional advice.