Turf war breaks out between Oireachtas committees over bogus self-employment

The 'Irish Examiner' has seen a letter to PAC questioning its remit to examine the employment rights issue
Turf war breaks out between Oireachtas committees over bogus self-employment

Denis Naughten wrote that the joint social protection committee was already prioritising the issue of bogus self-employment, and that PAC's engagement in the issue was 'less than helpful'. Picture: Gareth Chaney

A turf war has broken out between two Oireachtas committees over which one should investigate bogus self-employment.

The public accounts committee (PAC) recently discussed the issue of bogus self-employment and has heard from officials in Revenue and campaigner Martin McMahon who told members of the committee that the issue could be “solved overnight” for couriers and construction workers if the State was to stop using test cases to determine a worker’s status.

However, the chair of a rival committee has now written to the PAC chair Brian Stanley demanding that his committee stop investigating the matter.

PAC rebuffed by social protection committee

In a letter seen by the Irish Examiner, the chair of the joint committee on social protection, Denis Naughten, said the issue is already being looked at by his committee and is deemed a priority item on their work programme for this year.

"The Committee is of the view that the Public Accounts Committee's current parallel engagement on this policy issue is less than helpful and the Joint Committee also questions your Committee’s remit to do so, particularly at the same time when this Committee is considering it," Mr Naughten said in his letter to Mr Stanley. He continued: 

This is a matter which is correctly within the remit of this Committee, and we expect to complete our consideration of the issue later this month when we will publish our report. 

Mr Naughten added that this had been communicated to the PAC clerk in advance of their meeting on this matter.

Mr Naughten went on to say that during his PAC appearance, Mr McMahon had publicly referred to, and criticised, a draft and confidential report, which was sent to him by the social protection committee for observations: 

This draft report has yet to be completed and agreed by our Committee, and we are of the view that such public utterances on the work of this Committee at a hearing of another Oireachtas Committee are completely unacceptable.

"In the circumstances here outlined, the Joint Committee has asked me to write to you and request that the Public Accounts Committee desists from any further consideration of this, or any other matter, that is properly within the remit of this Joint Committee," Mr Naughten wrote.

'System rigged against workers', PAC hears 

However, PAC has already stated its intention to make bogus self-employment one of its chief topics of interrogation.

During a hearing on March 30, PAC heard that all couriers and 23% of construction workers are deemed to be self-employed. Mr McMahon told the committee that those industries represent the “low hanging fruit” in terms of the issue.

Asked how the situation could be amended, he said that he would “support legislation that stops workers from facing a system that is rigged against them”.

Regarding a draft report of the social protection committee into the practice, he said that he had “no confidence, absolutely none” regarding the findings of same.

“I will not be allowing my name to be attached to that report. I am not satisfied with it at all, it is like I was never there,” he said.

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