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Leaders' Questions (Continued)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte That is the real respite Deputy McGrath is concerned about.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Answer Deputy McDonald's question, please.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan What does the Labour Party do with its leader's allowance?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett This is impossible and I am getting fed up with it. Minister, please answer the question and let us get on with the business. Deputies, please stay quiet.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte With regard to women, families and social welfare, the budget has protected core social welfare rates. It has maintained in existence the qualified child allowance and family income supplement. It has maintained child benefit as a universal payment.

Deputy Jonathan O'Brien: Information on Jonathan O'Brien Zoom on Jonathan O'Brien Answer the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Stay quiet.

Deputy Luke 'Ming' Flanagan: Information on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan Zoom on Luke 'Ming' Flanagan He is paying millionaires children's allowance.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte It has protected lower and middle income families from tax increases. Contributions from the better off in our society have contributed more than half a billion euro.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín He cannot answer it.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The difference between the task confronting the Government and that confronting Sinn Féin is that we have to bring in a budget that is workable, and 40% of current spending goes towards the social welfare budget. It is not possible to make the savings we are mandatorily required to make and not impact on social welfare. The question was how to do it best. The decisions that have been made-----

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis Is the Minister saying it is fair?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Compare the rates to those that apply up the road in Newry-----

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Minister was not elected in Newry.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte -----and that have been approved by Deputy Ellis's party.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The Minister should read up on the range of provisions available in Newry.

Deputy Dinny McGinley: Information on Dinny McGinley Zoom on Dinny McGinley That is another country entirely.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Compare the fact that property tax is between £800 and £1,100 in Newry.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín Does the Minister know the difference between the parliaments on both sides of the Border?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Sinn Féin seems to have no difficulty with that, but it has a partitionist mentality when it comes to dealing with the budget down here.

  We have gone out of our way to ensure those who can pay most have done so in this budget-----

Deputies: Carers?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte -----and that those who need to be protected are protected.

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald I am not interested in Minister's outpourings and attacks on Sinn Féin. That is par for the course. I asked a direct question about respite care. He should not try to worm his way out of this. He knows this cut is wrong. He has to know. He cannot talk about protecting the vulnerable and then launch an attack on carers, who care, in many instances, for people with profound disabilities.

Does Pat Rabbitte get that? I heard his colleague, Joan Burton, saying to parents who rely on the back-to-school allowance to shop around. How out of touch is she? She clearly does not know how much it costs to get a child back to school these days. Is he now telling carers to shop around? Is he actually that cheap and that glib?

This is not a moment for comedy. This cut of €325 is wrong, indefensible, unfair and indecent. If he has any decency left in him, he should revise this matter and tell the carers he will roll back on it. He must do that. If he does not, there will be sufficient public outcry to force him to reverse it. Do the decent thing, Pat Rabbitte.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett There is a tradition in the House that we address Members by their title. I ask people to do that.

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen You should tell Deputy Rabbitte to do so, given the reference he made earlier.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I have been reminded that it is, in fact, a Standing Order.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte A very serious objective of the Government was to ensure the caring profession was protected. Confronted with the situation that faced us, we had a choice of protecting the carer's allowance or the half carer's allowance and dealing with a modest cut in the respite allowance.

Deputies: Modest?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte The people who do the caring will get exactly the same allowance as before the budget. The people who are entitled to claim the half carer's allowance will get it, just like the day before the budget. We have gone to great care to ensure those people's payments are ring-fenced.

  In terms of throwing in rhetorical flourishes about the back-to-school allowance and various other things-----

Deputy Mary Lou McDonald: Information on Mary Lou McDonald Zoom on Mary Lou McDonald It was not a rhetorical flourish. It is a statement of reality and is shocking.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte -----the Ministers for Social Protection and Education and Skills will bring forward proposals later showing, for example, additional investment in the provision of hot meals for children in certain socioeconomc areas where that has been especially successful up to now.

We have protected the core rates of social welfare and maintained the benefits for the people who are doing the caring. This is a respite grant. Do we take a modest decrease in that-----

Deputies: It is not modest.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte -----or do we cut the provision for caring? It was not possible to bring in a budget, which is the sixth in a row of budgets that have made cut upon cut because of the crisis in which the country finds itself, unless savings were made across the board.

Deputy Peadar Tóibín: Information on Peadar Tóibín Zoom on Peadar Tóibín You could have raised tax on higher incomes.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett You could have taxed the rich.

Deputy Sandra McLellan: Information on Sandra McLellan Zoom on Sandra McLellan A wealth tax.

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte Everyone had to contribute something. Otherwise it would not have been possible to comply with the targets imposed on us.

Deputy Dessie Ellis: Information on Dessie Ellis Zoom on Dessie Ellis The Minister still did not answer the question.

Deputy Thomas Pringle: Information on Thomas Pringle Zoom on Thomas Pringle In the run-up to the budget, we were constantly told it would be fair and equal and that those who can pay would do so. Yesterday, we saw where the truth lies. Low earners are left to bear the brunt of the cuts and they have the Fine Gael-Labour coalition to thank for it.

Yesterday, we were told we are near the end of the austerity budgets. Again this morning, the Minister said 85% of the heavy lifting has been done. He fails to understand that many people just cannot take any more. This is yet another budget that fails to hit the highest earners in society and targets the vulnerable in a brutal way. The Government has clearly lost sight of what people are experiencing.

Removing the €127 PRSI exemption threshold will cost every worker earning more than the minimum wage €264 per annum. A person earning €18,000 a year will pay the same PRSI increase as we Deputies, who earn €92,000. How can a Labour Party Minister justify that? Fine Gael guaranteed there would be no increases in income tax, but for low income workers PRSI is a tax on income. To say they have not increased income tax is misleading, at best.

The Minister for Finance said PRSI is good value, especially for those on the lower end of the income distribution scale and those who have shorter contribution histories. If these people's voices were heard they would say good value is when the money is in their pockets and not being taken from them with this cut.

Labour made much of wanting to increase the universal social charge for those earning more than €100,000 per year, but they lost that battle to their masters in the coalition. Nevertheless, they are happy to take away the PRSI threshold. Labour does not protect the vulnerable. It is targeting them further. How can the Minister and his Labour Party colleagues stand over the cutting of the PRSI allowance threshold? Is that what he calls a fair budget?

Deputy Pat Rabbitte: Information on Pat Rabbitte Zoom on Pat Rabbitte I agree with Deputy Pringle that no one in their right mind would want to find themselves where we are. We have to deal with the world as we find it, however, and not as we would like it. The countries we are trading with are in recession. The eurozone is back in recession. Growth expectations have not been realised. Savings have to be made. We have only one lender and we will not be able to pay carer's allowance, teachers, firemen and gardaí unless we can raise the money. Only one lender is prepared to give us the money and that lender established certain conditions with which we must comply. That is what we are seeking to do.


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