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Social Partnership (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny] The pension for the blind was cut twice and the Christmas bonus was abolished. That was against the background of the interaction in question and a flood of money that had never been seen before in Ireland.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin That is not true.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I am not blaming the Deputy.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We increased the payments dramatically, including the respite grant, when the money was available.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The decisions were taken by the previous Government. It is a case of determining how best to avail of the opportunity to engage with and listen to people. The responsibility of the Government is not just to engage and listen but also to bring forward propositions to act upon.

I have tried to achieve the best impact from the Cabinet sub-committees I chair in order that their members will have timelines in regard to the priorities with which we must deal. The members meet every month, as the case may be; therefore, they are clearly aware that there is a need to deliver and make the necessary decisions. The next meetings of the committees will be on Monday.

The Deputy and I know that circumstances are far from being right in a number of areas. We must and will rectify this. That is why I say to Ministers and public servants directly that we need improved performance in meeting our targets. This requires engagement, listening and action.

In the context of preparing for the EU Presidency and dealing with the economic problems the country faces, a great deal of time is taken up in dealing with the serious challenges that arise. From my interaction with so many groups, I realise it is necessary to have responsibility allocated to various Ministers and Ministers of State. In taking on responsibility, they can report on where the Government can decide to take action. It is always difficult, as the Deputy knows, when drafting a budget, to make decisions that are in the interests of the country generally. I hope the presentation of the budget next year will be very different because of the movement in Europe to have much earlier presentation and engagement with the Houses of the Oireachtas in order that people will see at a much earlier date the layout and have an opportunity to express their views, be they good, bad or reflective. These are important considerations.

I would like to believe that the Freedom of Information Act actually works and that it has been extended to so many areas is in the interests of citizens and public representatives alike. We will never get this 100% right. It is a case of determining the most effective way to interact with organisations, agencies, groups and individuals to obtain their ideas for improving the lot of the country.

With regard to the process of engagement which involves the Minister of State, Deputy John Perry, so many businesses are indicating what the Government needs to do. I cannot allow circumstances in which I am forced to impose extra taxes on employment because I am struggling as I am. Until such time as confidence is restored in the indigenous economy – there are signs of this, which I am sure we will all welcome – it is a case of being as free as possible to prosper and develop.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I ask the Taoiseach about his prospects for engagement with outside parties in the context of framing the budget. Is it not the case that, when examining the balance struck in the past two budgets, he has been listening to some groups very seriously and not listening to others? We know from last year that the Clearing House Group, comprising banks and speculators, precisely the sorts of people who caused the crisis, has privileged and institutional access to the Government. The group is chaired by the Department of Finance and comprises Barclays, Bank of Ireland, Citigroup and a range of other financial interests. The budgetary submissions of these bodies are included in the Budget Statement almost word for word and the Taoiseach trenchantly defends their demands. He makes their demands to have no increase in corporation tax and no financial transaction tax red-line issues and fights for them trenchantly. When groups representing the less well-off, the disadvantaged, the disabled and the low-paid make representations to him asking for a different balance to be struck in the budget and taxes on wealth and profit as an alternative to attacking the poor, the less well-off, the disabled and the vulnerable, the voices that always win out with the Government are those of the financial services sector, multinationals and the super-wealthy. Why does he defend so trenchantly the demands the latter make in their budget submissions and ignore the pleas of those representing the least well-off who wish for a different type of budget that focuses on protecting the vulnerable, prioritising investment in job creation and having a tax system that shifts the burden of austerity onto those who can afford it rather than those on the breadline?

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny I noted the Deputy's comment on engagement with outside bodies. He is incorrect to state the Clearing House Group includes speculators. Perhaps he would like to expand on this when he asks me his next question. I am not sure what speculators he is talking about.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett State Street is a speculator.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny The Clearing House Group is not chaired by the Department of Finance but by the Secretary General of the Department of the Taoiseach for very good reason.

Deputy Richard Boyd Barrett: Information on Richard Boyd Barrett Zoom on Richard Boyd Barrett I apologise; it is even closer to the Taoiseach.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny This is in order that we can have a very clear understanding of what these employers of thousands say about the state of the economy and Ireland's position on European and eurozone difficulties, etc. It is not a case of trenchantly defending the claims of those who attend meetings of the Clearing House Group but of the Government having had a very clear position for a very long time on the rate of corporation tax and not increasing it beyond 12.5% or reducing it. The tax rate has been steady, stable, transparent and very effective.

The Government has taken the view, although not on account of interaction with a particular group, that while there is stamp duty on financial transactions, it would not favour a financial transaction tax for very good reason. I pointed out previously that the application of a financial transaction tax in Ireland and not in London would place the International Financial Services Centre in Dublin which employs over 30,000 people at a competitive disadvantage. Bearing in mind the incoming Irish Presidency of the European Union and the enhanced majority voting arrangements, we will not restrict the 11 or more countries that wish to participate in a financial transaction tax from so doing, provided we are clear on the detail of what is involved.

I do not accept the Deputy's contention that there has been no interaction with low-paid workers, the less well-off, the disabled, the vulnerable and the isolated and that we do not take into account their very legitimate and sensitive concerns. That is why the vast majority of social protection measures have not been touched. With regard to carers, an additional €20 million has been allocated for the overall group, including carer's benefit, the carer's package and half-rate carer's allowance.

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