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Budget Statement 2018 (Continued)

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 960 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] Accordingly, I am introducing a tax at a rate of 30 cent per litre on drinks with over 8 g of sugar per 100 ml and a reduced rate of 20 cent per litre on drinks with between 5 and 8 g of sugar per 100 ml. These levels of tax are consistent with the rates being introduced in the United Kingdom in April of next year and our sugar tax will commence at the same time subject to state aid approval.

  In line with the Government’s national cancer strategy, I also propose to increase the VAT rate on sunbed services from the reduced rate of 13.5% to the standard rate of 23%. This is in recognition of the clear evidence of a link between sunbeds and skin cancer, the most common form of cancer in Ireland.

Improving Education for All

  Education, at all levels, is the bedrock of Irish society. It delivers benefits for the individual and for all. It is also vital to keeping our economy competitive and attracting investment in a post-Brexit world. Continuing investment in education remains a priority for this Government – from supporting junior infants on their first day in school right through to providing them with the skills they need to fulfil their ambitions.

  Today, I announce education spending for 2018 of over €10 billion, a new peak for the sector, and 16.6% of total expenditure. This budget will deliver almost 1,300 additional posts in schools in 2018, and as part of this the pupil-teacher ratio at primary level will be reduced to 26:1. This is the lowest level it has ever been. An estimated €46 million is being provided to meet demographic and demand-driven growth, the reduction in primary pupil-teacher ratio and enhanced career guidance counsellor provision.

  This Government is also committed to ensuring that children with special educational needs are given the opportunity they deserve to live independent lives and reach their potential. That is why the Government is investing over €1.7 billion for special education needs in the coming year.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe This means that over 1,000 additional special needs assistants, SNAs, can be recruited in time for September 2018, bringing the total number of SNAs to over 15,000.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe The quality of the Irish education system, our students, research and graduates has been a cornerstone of our economic success. It attracts investment, nurtures local business and fosters innovation but we cannot live on past glories and achievements, so I am increasing the national training fund, NTF, levy in 2018 from 0.7% to 0.8% to provide a further €47.5 million of additional investment in the higher and further education sectors next year. To provide clarity, I am also announcing that the levy will rise to 0.9% in 2019 and to 1.0% in 2020. The measures stem from the independent review of the NTF announced by the Minister for Education and Skills and the Minister of State for higher education in July. They will ensure that employers have a central role in determining priorities for this crucial sector in 2018 and beyond. Therefore, the final two increases will be subject to the implementation of necessary reforms.

  Continued State investment in reforming the higher and further education sectors in the years to come will help to further develop our human capital and further safeguard our economic growth in this changing world but the Exchequer is also playing its role and this year, on foot of the mid-term capital review, it is investing an additional €310 million out to 2021 to address the infrastructure needs of higher and further education. Separately, the Ministers for Education will also announce in the coming weeks details of an additional €200 million public private partnership, PPP, investment in the sector to support regional development.   Building on the significant funding in higher education provided last year, this increased investment announced today will help improve our competitive advantage, provide for our ongoing economic success, give opportunities to all, and mitigate the risks and uncertainty of Brexit.

Tackling Crime

  Upon coming into office, this Government also signalled increased investment in An Garda Síochána, and today I will provide for resources to allow for the recruitment of an additional 800 gardaí during 2018.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher Are they all going to Stepaside?

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe Another 500 civilians will also be hired. The additional allocation for the justice sector in 2018 is €63 million. The rationale for this investment is to continue to invest and develop a modern police force that delivers an exemplary level of service to communities. The Minister for Justice and Equality and I are in agreement that increased spending on gardaí and police staffing will continue to go hand in hand with a commitment to drive reform throughout the organisation. We all have a shared interest in getting to a better place.

Preparing for Brexit

  As the impact of Brexit unfolds over the coming years, it is clear there are likely to be permanent changes in our trade patterns. Small and medium businesses will need to innovate and increasingly look to new European and international markets other than the UK. In order to assist small and medium enterprises, SMEs, with this, I am announcing a Brexit loan scheme. Together with my colleagues, the Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, I am making a loan scheme of up to €300 million available at competitive rates to SMEs, including food businesses given their unique exposure to the UK market, to help them with their short-term working capital needs. This scheme is supported by the European Investment Bank, the European Commission and the Strategic Banking Corporation of Ireland. It will give SMEs time to put in place the necessary changes to help their businesses grow into the future. The Tánaiste and Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation and the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine will be providing details of this scheme.

  Furthermore, the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation will have a total budget next year of almost €871 million. This will, among much else, enable the recruitment of over 40 staff across the Department and enterprise agencies to bolster our ability to proactively respond to the challenges and opportunities arising from Brexit.

Supporting Tourism and Enhancing our Transport Network

  While there is still a great deal of uncertainty about the outcome of the Brexit process, tourism continues to be a national success story. That said, one clear impact of the UK’s decision has been the continuing weakness in the value of sterling. While I note that prices in Dublin continue to rise, I have said before that VAT policy cannot be decided on the basis of one location only, no matter how big, but in the context of the broader national interest. Accordingly, I have decided not to change the VAT rate on the tourism and services sector in budget 2018.

  I am announcing a total allocation of over €2 billion in total funding for the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport. This includes €112 million for funding to further enhance our tourism offering and market our country abroad. In addition to tourism, there will be an increase of €9.6 million in transport funding that will support increased public transport services and improvements to our road network that will see total current funding in this area rise to €414 million. The capital allocation for this Department will total €7.5 billion for the four year period to 2021 and will allow continued progress on many areas such as the national indoor arena, the Sallins bypass, the Oberstown interchange project and many other projects across the country that will begin construction, assisting commuters, enhancing development and improving our national competitiveness. BusConnects is also a programme of priority investment for public transport, which plans to fundamentally transform our bus system so that journeys by bus will be fast, reliable, punctual, convenient and affordable.

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