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Financial Resolution No. 15: General (Resumed) (Continued)

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea] As the Minister has set the yardstick, Members should consider how he measures up to it. When the Government took office, the unemployment rate was 14.1% and it now stands at 14.8%. However, that does not even begin to tell the story. It does not relate how almost two out of three of those who are unemployed have been unemployed for at least 12 months and more than one in three of them have been so for at least two years.

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee Zoom on Shane McEntee Thanks to Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea It does not reveal that many people are leaving the workforce. As Dan O'Brien noted in an article in The Irish Times last Monday, one measures the participation rate, which is the true measure of unemployment. Moreover, it does not take into account the fact that people are hiding out in the education system and in all the training schemes and nor does it take into account that, if my arithmetic is correct, 200 people per day are emigrating from this country. They are not doing so from a desire to view the Seven Wonders of the World, as the Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, once suggested, but simply because they have no job and they wish to get one. Moreover, many of them are taking with them skills expensively acquired at the expense of the Irish taxpayer, that is, those very skills needed to get the country going again.

  If one measures this in another way, the Government published a stability programme update in April 2011, which is fair enough. It projected that the numbers at work would grow by 102,000 over the period from 2011 to 2015. However, if one fast-forwards to April 2012, when the famous jobs initiative was published, that figure of 102,000 had fallen to 67,000. Moreover, if one fast-forwards a further six months to last month when the Government published its medium-term fiscal statement, the number by which employment will grow in the period from 2011 to 2015 had now fallen to 18,000. In its projections last year, the Government expected employment to grow for the past 12 months but instead, it has fallen by 24,000. Consequently, the net result of all these bamboozling figures is that at present, 1.81 million people are at work and the Government expects that figure to be 1.828 million, or 18,000 more, by 2015. What does this make of the Taoiseach's promise that he will take 100,000 long-term unemployed people from the live register during the lifetime of the present Government? There is as much chance of this happening as the man had of finding El Dorado or the people had of finding the Holy Grail, when they all became lost, suffered from disease and illness or were destroyed. That objective has disappeared and the Government's own policies have helped to create this situation.

  I refer to lack of investment, regressive taxation and cuts in capital expenditure etc., as well as an excessive and almost exclusive concentration on the supply side of the economy when a large part of the problem is on the demand side. How much time have I left?

Acting Chairman (Deputy Seán Kenny): Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny You have one minute and 30 seconds left.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea In that case, I will not dwell on social welfare because I will have plenty of time to talk about it next week while debating the Social Welfare Bill, on which I will have much to say.

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee Zoom on Shane McEntee The Deputy should put it into a Sunday Independent article. No one will be reading it anyway.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea In conclusion, as a result of these savage social welfare cuts and as a result of another regressive budget on top of the one which preceded it-----

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee Zoom on Shane McEntee The Deputy does not know what he is talking about. He does not have a clue.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea -----Ireland now is a tale of two countries. On the one hand, there are the rich and the exempted, whose privileges are protected and preserved intact, while on the other hand, 750,000 people are living below the internationally-recognised poverty line in a population of slightly more than 4 million. In other words, 750,000 people are living below what is regarded as the international threshold of decency, of whom 250,000 are children. As Deputy Halligan who preceded me remarked, for the first time in perhaps half a century, children, the unemployed, those with special needs and, increasingly, those on the margin are going without. Members will deal with the issue of social welfare next week and I have recorded carefully everything all those Labour Party Members who have been wrestling with their consciences have said and I will hold them to account next week.

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee Zoom on Shane McEntee Deputy O'Dea need not worry, as we have recorded everything he has said for the past five years.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, has an intellectual giant beside him.

Deputy Shane McEntee: Information on Shane McEntee Zoom on Shane McEntee It is Fianna Fáil that has us in this position.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Seán Kenny): Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny The next speaker will be the Minister of State, Deputy McEntee, followed by the Ministers of State, Deputies Brian Hayes and O'Dowd.

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Deputy Shane McEntee): Information on Shane McEntee Zoom on Shane McEntee From the outset of this budgetary process, the Government was determined to build on the progress achieved in recent years in developing the agrifood sector and in particular to further contribute to the future growth and prosperity the sector can achieve for Ireland in expanding its revenue base through growth in export earnings. The Exchequer contribution to the Vote of my Department in 2013 will amount to approximately €1.25 billion. Although constrained by tight budgetary disciplines imposed right across the economy, which originally demanded a reduction of €114 million for next year, the Government was determined to minimise the impact of the scale of the reduction in order that the most important schemes and programmes upon which the sector relies most were protected to the greatest extent possible. I am pleased to state that through re-orientating and re-scheduling payments, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine has managed to fund new schemes and programmes, while also reducing the scale of savings to a lower amount of €89 million compared with 2012, while protecting farm incomes.

The 2013 budget reflects a significant Exchequer commitment of support for the agrifood sector and is recognition of the contribution the sector can make to economic recovery and future growth. The voted expenditure for 2013 of €1.25 billion is comprised of approximately €1.057 billion in current expenditure and €193 million in capital expenditure. The downward budgetary movement between 2012 and 2013 of €89 million reflects lower budget requirements for a number of measures. The Department was particularly pleased to secure an increased capital allocation in 2013 of approximately €25 million from the Department of Finance in a period of very scarce resources. This enables a meaningful capital programme to be undertaken, including funding for approximately 7,000 ha of new forest planting.

As for the key priorities, this year’s budget is consistent with that of last year with regard to the Government’s priorities for the agrifood, marine and forestry sectors, namely, the protection of incomes for family farms, support for small farm holdings in disadvantaged areas, taxation measures to restructure, modernise and promote growth in the agrifood and farming sectors, the provision of support programmes in line with the targets of the Food Harvest 2020 strategy, particularly concerning job creation, the provision of support for the future of the sector through new research and development funding and through investment in food safety and animal health and welfare controls and a continued programme of reform within the Department aimed at continued improvement in service delivery and reducing costs.

I refer to taxation measures in respect of restructuring and modernising the agrifood sector. In addition to and together with direct financial support for the agrifood sector, the Department has secured agreement for a range of taxation reliefs that will link in with the key measures being pursued in the Food Harvest 2020 strategy for the growth and development of the agriculture, food and marine sectors. The main taxation measures in the budget which will benefit the sector are the retention of the general 25% rate of stock relief for all farmers and 100% stock relief for young trained farmers, a new farm restructuring initiative to allow consolidation of land parcels with the aim of improving the overall efficiency of the combined holdings, an expansion of the foreign earnings deduction scheme, which benefits SMEs, to apply where an individual spends 60 days a year developing opportunities for Ireland in certain key markets, the extension of the farm partnership scheme to sectors other than milk production partnerships, subject to State aid approval and relief from excise duty on auto-diesel for licensed road hauliers. These taxation measures reflect the Government’s commitment to the agrifood industry and in particular to the expansion planned in the Food Harvest 2020 strategy. They are designed specifically to address key constraints in the sector and ensure the growth potential of the sector is fully realised.

In respect of beef, I note the €25 million of continued investment in suckler beef. The Department was anxious to build on the success of the suckler cow scheme that operated from 2008 to 2012 and accordingly, has allocated €10 million in 2013, financed from unspent single farm payment funds, for a new support programme for suckler beef farmers to participate in a new beef data programme. When taken together with residual payments of €10 million under the suckler cow welfare scheme, this will amount to €20 million in direct payments to suckler farmers in 2013. This programme will assist farmers in improving the genetic quality of Irish cattle and will maintain the data flow into the Irish Cattle Breeding Federation, ICBF, to build further knowledge and more rapid progress in breeding and ultimately in profitability for farmers.

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