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Social Welfare Bill 2012: Second Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 786 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh] They are not the only cases where there was depression and despair and where I had to comment that they needed help other than a few words from myself.

I will deal with the many specifics of the Bill on Committee Stage, although the time allocated to Committee Stage is also quite restricted. I call on all Members to pause and reflect on those quotes I gave, and not just bin them because they are opposed to the Government. Members should read them and think. These are ordinary working class and even middle class men and women who are struggling badly.

Despite contrary promises, the Bill cuts core social welfare payments and rates. It cuts the respite care grant, child benefit and jobseeker's benefit, which are all core social welfare rates. It increases PRSI contributions for the low paid and for self-employed people with very low incomes. I have tabled amendments aimed at removing all of these cuts from the Bill. I have also tabled progressive amendments to show where the Minister can find some of the money she has sought to rob from those like the carers, the disabled and those dependent on social protection. I have shown how it is possible to raise €55 million through the social welfare (amnesty) Bill and further moneys through changes to the PRSI regime, as well as through control savings and a third rate of employer's PRSI, where it is possible to raise €91 million without drastically affecting employment or employers. In addition to those savings, which are internal to the Minister's departmental budget, I have, with my party, produced a detailed budget, costed by the Department of Finance in reply to parliamentary questions, which clearly shows that every cut to social welfare contained in this budget could have been avoided and is detrimental to local economies.

As I said, I listened here to the Fianna Fáil Members, who have been trying to put out the message of their opposition to these cuts. We need to look at their record also, and I know the Minister's backbenchers will probably have a go at them. However, there is a world of difference between Fianna Fáil’s pre-budget submissions and our own. In terms of social welfare, the only proposal Fianna Fáil costed amounts to a fresh cut. Despite the growing evidence that the last round of rent supplement cuts are causing homelessness, Fianna Fáil proposed to save €25 million by cutting the scheme further and hiking the individual contribution yet again.

Speaking of that, only last week in this Chamber, the Minister showed how much she was in denial of reality when she said she was not aware of the wide-scale and widespread practice of under-the-counter payments to landlords. I do not know what planet she is living on as that has been a practice for years, but it has increased because of her changes to rent supplement last year. There has been a growth in homelessness caused by the fact people cannot afford the under-the-counter payment or the difference between what they receive in rent supplement and what the Department has been giving them.

I want to examine the combined record of the Fianna Fáil Government and this Government over recent years.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea What about Sinn Féin's record in the North?

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh We will get to that again. You should listen to your record for a moment, Deputy O'Dea.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Thomas P. Broughan): Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan The Deputy should speak through the Chair.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea It is one policy here and another in the North. Tell us about the Sinn Féin policy in the North.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Fianna Fáil cut the weekly working age payment rates twice. Fianna Fáil abolished the Christmas bonus.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Shinners are the only people who-----

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Fianna Fáil cut child benefit across the board. However, it is the current Government which cut child benefit for later children and abolished the grants for multiple births that were payable at birth, four and 12 years of age. Fianna Fáil announced the end of the smokeless zone fuel allowance top-up but it was the current Minister who implemented it, and she also cut the fuel allowance by six weeks. In budget 2012, the Minister introduced a tax on illness benefit from the first day whereas the first six weeks used to be exempt. From January 2009, under Fianna Fáil, illness benefit was limited to two years maximum for a person with 260 paid contributions and one year for someone with between 104 and 260 contributions, whereas it had been available indefinitely until then. The treatment benefit scheme was cut by Fianna Fáil in budget 2010 and again by this Government in this budget.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea The Deputy promised me he would tell us about the North.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Labour and Fine Gael cut the redundancy rebate for employers, which is one of the scandalous cuts.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea He said he would tell us about the North.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Thomas P. Broughan): Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Please, Deputy O'Dea.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh The fact a Labour and Fine Gael Government cut the redundancy rebate for employers from 60% to 15% is scandalous. Who did this affect? It affected employers but it also affected those people who they were getting laid off because they no longer got any top-up over and above the two weeks statutory payments to which they were entitled.

In 2009, Fianna Fáil cut rent supplement by 8% and reduced the maximum rent caps. In budget 2012, the Minister cut the supplement further and she also abolished the concurrent payments so lone parents and people with disabilities are now effectively excluded from CE schemes.

Having said all that, I welcome Deputy O'Dea's conversion to supporting the low paid and the most vulnerable in our society.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Here is the guy who has one policy in Newry and another in Dundalk. I welcome his conversion to democracy. We have ways of-----

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Thank God, you will never be in government again if you keep up your attitude of being two-faced in this Chamber and outside.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Thomas P. Broughan): Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Through the Chair, please, Deputy.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Two-faced? You could give lectures on being two-faced, you hypocrite.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Lig dom ar dtús------

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Your friends were caught in a van with items to commit crime. You come in here and talk. You hypocrite. One policy in Dundalk and one in Newry.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Thomas P. Broughan): Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Deputy O'Dea should speak through the Chair.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh I heard Deputy O'Dea describing his visit to a dictionary not so long ago. I wish he would visit it and see what "hypocrite" means.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Look in the mirror and you will see what it means.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Thomas P. Broughan): Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Will Deputy Ó Snodaigh address the Social Welfare Bill?

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh I will address it. Ba mhaith liom filleadh arís ar an mBille. Níl aon dabht ar bith orm-----

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea One policy in Dundalk and one in Newry. That is hypocrisy. You do not have to go to any dictionary.

Acting Chairman (Deputy Thomas P. Broughan): Information on Thomas P. Broughan Zoom on Thomas P. Broughan Order, please, Deputy O'Dea.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Tá mé chun déileáil leis an mBille seachas an mbladaráil atá ag teacht as béal an Teachta.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea That is hypocrisy of the highest order. They are hypocrites.

Deputy Aengus Ó Snodaigh: Information on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Zoom on Aengus Ó Snodaigh Ná bíodh dabht ar bith ar éinne sa Dáil faoi cad go díreach a bheidh i gceist má chaitheann siad vóta i bhfábhar an Bhille seo. Déanfaidh an Rialtas cinnte de go mbeidh cáin ar liúntas máithreachais. Beidh an Rialtas ag fáil réidh le faoiseamh PRSI. Déanfaidh siad réabadh ar liúntas leanaí. Beidh gearradh de beagnach 20% á dhéanamh ar an ndeontas faoisimh a fhaigheann cúramóirí.

This is one of the lowest and meanest budgets and this Bill is draconian in all its provisions. How out of touch with reality the Minister is in this regard. I believe she has an opportunity to reflect on it. I appeal to her to talk to the Chief Whip to delay this until such time as she has managed to grapple with her conscience and come in here with a Bill that supports and protects those people who are on social welfare in this State.

The Minister said in her speech: "While I understand the disquiet felt by those affected by the measures in this Bill, it is also fair to point to the large numbers of social welfare recipients whose incomes are entirely unaffected by the budget because their payments have been preserved". There is no social welfare recipient in this State who has been unaffected by this budget. The Government has by its measures in the Social Welfare Bill, and the other measures it has promised, dipped into their pockets and it is screwing ordinary people in this society.


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