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Financial Provisions (Covid-19) (No. 2) Bill 2020: Second Stage (Resumed) (Continued)

Wednesday, 29 July 2020

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 996 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Jim O'Callaghan: Information on Jim O'Callaghan Zoom on Jim O'Callaghan] It reveals that people are prepared to spend money in certain sectors but we have to recognise that other sectors, which involve the close congregation of people, are going to be very affected by it.

The response of the Government to the pandemic has been very positive. Opposition Members can be critical but when one considers the response in general it has been positive and large. First and foremost, we have had the PUP, which was very beneficial to people who lost their jobs immediately. I welcome the fact that we are not eradicating the payment and that there is a recognition that it has to stay. Second, the TWSS has provided huge support to businesses and we need to continue with that scheme. Third, many grants are available for businesses to restart. I welcome the fact that commercial rates are going to be waived and individuals are going to be given that recognition. We need to recognise that we need to provide further supports for businesses into the future.

The State's objective should be to cushion the blow to businesses from this extraordinary recession and economic event. In short, the State can provide to businesses a parachute to help their descent and to ensure they can land safely when this pandemic passes through and dies out, as it presumably will. If we did not do that and had followed the approach taken around the world to the 2007 to 2009 recession we would find ourselves in a very appalling situation. That recession was dealt with by the Government deciding that debts had to be dealt with immediately. Around the world it was decided that the state would not intervene to try to help people get over very turbulent waters. If we had tried that this time, all of the businesses in the centre of this city and around the country would have gone to the wall in March and April. They would not have survived. The State, therefore, can commend itself on the fact that measures were put in place to ensure those businesses survived. They will hopefully survive into the future. We need to ensure we provide safe passage for those businesses from now through to the other side of the pandemic, where we will, hopefully, have a much safer economy.

However, we should not allow this pandemic to control and dominate our lives. It is a disease, and every generation produces diseases. It is a dangerous disease for vulnerable and elderly people and seems to affect different people in different ways but we need to recognise that we cannot allow it to control our lives. The best economic development that has occurred in recent times is the announcement that our children will fully return to school at the end of August. That is an enormous enhancement to our economy as well as being absolutely essential for our children's development. We also need to recognise that there is a lot of sense in what Deputy McNamara said recently. We are sending out the wrong message by being stuck in this enormous mausoleum. We need to get out of here. We need to get back to Leinster House, where we can work together which we are readily able to do. We should not give the impression to the public at large who are looking in that politicians are in some way a special species deserving of special protection.

The State has made a significant investment in businesses and it is the correct thing to do. We have made this big investment in businesses because we recognise the societal benefit of businesses and the employment they provide and the fact that there is more to an economy than the generation of profits. At some stage after this, those businesses will be able to walk fully on their own but they need to recognise that they also have a societal responsibility, just as the State does. For too long, many businesses have seen their exclusive role as being the generation of profits for shareholders. The people managing the businesses try to maximise profits for shareholders, which they do very effectively, and as a result, they receive large rewards. Businesses need to recognise that they have greater societal responsibilities than simply maximising profits for their shareholders and that they have a responsibility to the economy and to society in the same way as the State recognises its responsibilities. That role is not fulfilled by businesses simply assuming and presenting their corporate responsibility duties and giving out small amounts to charities and local projects. They need to recognise that they need to get away from their devotion to the accumulation of profits for shareholders. That is not a Marxist sentiment; it simply recognises the greater responsibility that businesses have above and beyond the generation of their own profits.

The legislation will be beneficial. It is a continuation of the proposals that were put in place initially. I welcome that section 2 will replace the TWSS with the EWSS. It is a very good scheme and we need to keep it going.

Sections 3 to 5, inclusive, deal with debt warehousing measures announced by the Revenue Commissioners back in March. I welcome them. Revenue needs to adopt a more conciliatory approach to people in business, and indeed outside of it, who have found it very difficult to make tax payments due to the pandemic and economic collapse.

Section 6 amends the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 and reduces the 3% interest rate Revenue can charge. Then there is the stay and spend tax credit, which will be beneficial. People have asked why we do not bring that in immediately so that people can go off on holidays in August and avail of it then. Most Members and most people in Ireland are going to spend their holidays in Ireland. We are going to have a good August and part of September holiday season here. It is a good idea to hold off on this scheme until October. I welcome also the €10,000 increase in the help-to-buy scheme tax rebate to €30,000.

Section 9 deals with the cycle-to-work scheme. One beneficial thing we have learned during the course of the lockdown is that lots of people should be cycling around this city. It is probably one of the best cities in Europe for cycling. It is flat, one can move quickly around it and there have been improvements in the cycling infrastructure. I hope those improvements will continue and we get a better cycling infrastructure but more people should be cycling. I am pleased that bicycle shops are sold out. We need to start encouraging more people in the cities to use bicycles as it is the most efficient way of getting around.

Deputy Matt Carthy: Information on Matt Carthy Zoom on Matt Carthy I am sharing time with three of my colleagues.

Cuirim fáilte roimh an Aire. Any Government spending in our economy is welcome and necessary right now. The only questions we need to ask about the package that has been announced by Government is who benefits and where benefits. The question of who benefits is really concerning because many ordinary workers and families will not benefit sufficiently from this package. Our carers, people who are providing crucial facilities, those who lost their jobs and family farmers will not benefit sufficiently. Where benefits from the package? I tell the Minister that my own constituency of Cavan-Monaghan will not benefit as much as it should from such a package.

I instance the tax rebate, in particular, relating to the Government's so-called stay and spend initiative. What it has essentially done is take what was a really positive and potentially hugely significant proposal for a voucher scheme brought forward by Sinn Féin and made it as regressive as possible. It does not invest in the businesses that desperately need support right now. Contrary to what Deputy O'Callaghan said, not everybody has the luxury of taking holidays in August, as Members do. Many people simply do not have the money to do so.

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