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Finance (Local Property Tax) Bill 2012: Committee Stage (Continued)

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 787 No. 3

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath]  I lament the way in which we are dealing with this Bill. I hope we can get down to some business but if the Minister had any sense, he would put it back to the new year. When the Taoiseach was challenged in the House today about why there was such a rush to bulldoze it through the House, he replied that we were taking up the Presidency of the EU on 1 January and we need to get these things out of the way. I can tell the Minister that this Bill and the property tax are far more important to most ordinary Irish people than Ireland taking up the Presidency of the EU. There is no logical reason we cannot return to this in January and debate it in a mature and responsible way.

Deputy Brian Stanley: Information on Brian Stanley Zoom on Brian Stanley I thank the Leas-Cheann Comhairle for giving me the opportunity to contribute to this debate. My contribution will be short. Looking to my right, it is interesting to note that the only member of the Labour Party present is a man involved in the campaign for Labour policy because the rest have forgotten what they campaigned on. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Pat Rabbitte, confirmed that the other night on television.

Amendments Nos. 2 and 3 to section 1 are about trying to get the language straight. I regret that amendment No. 1 from Sinn Féin is not being taken. Language is everything. Let us take the terms "serviceman" and "terrorist". The serviceman is the guy in the aeroplane with the big bomb, while the terrorist is the fellow on the ground with the small bomb. That is the way it works. There are cuts and there are adjustments but could somebody tell me the difference between them? We have a property tax and a family home tax so language is used to cover everything. The Labour Party and Fine Gael are deliberately using false language to mislead people about what is happening.

I will make a short appeal. The Government will tax the disabled, the unemployed, pensioners and the low paid. These are the people who are hungry behind closed doors this evening. I met some of them in the past week. They are people who bought houses and who, up to three or four years ago, were flying and did not need help from the State or anyone else. They were net contributors who were pouring money into the coffers of the State in VAT, PAYE and stamp duty. They are now in dire straits but will be slapped with this penal tax of €300, €400 or €500. We should get the language straight.

Somebody raised a point about council tenants. Council tenants do not have any wealth invested in the house. They pay rent, which the Government will put up because that is what will happen when this Bill is passed back to the county managers. They will charge it on the local authority rent. The Government is taxing a liability in the case of people in negative equity. It is taxing people in significant negative equity. There are properties in the estate next to me that were bought for €250,000 during the boom but are now worth €50,000. That is what the Government is going to tax. Does the Minister realise that and can he look those people in the face and tell them he is going to tax a liability? We need to get the language straight here.

I am saying this truthfully, if the Minister can put the economics to one side. We have presented the alternative based on figures from the Minister's officials. Surely, he is not going to call the people on his right liars? Will anybody here call them liars and say the data they gave to us in answer to parliamentary questions are false? They were not false because they do not do that. I have that much respect for them.

The Minister will push families over the edge. I recently met people who I had not seen for 12 or 14 months. I saw the deterioration in their physical and mental health. They were strong people, some of whom had their own small businesses, but they are now broken financially, physically and mentally. In the past week, people have sat across the table from me in my constituency office and talked about suicide. One man told me he considered finishing things last Thursday. Normally, I refer people to the Revenue Commissioners, the Department of Social Protection or the money advice and budgeting service. I referred this person to the Samaritans.

I want the Minister to take this on board and stop. There is still time to pull back from this and he does not need to rush it through. The only reason he is rushing it through is so that Deputies on the Government benches can go back to their constituencies, eat their Christmas dinner in peace and not be harassed by constituents trying to change this. The Minister knows that if he leaves this until January, constituents will turn the heat up, especially on Labour Party Deputies and Fine Gael backbenchers. I am asking the Minister to have some humanity, change the language in this Bill and look again at it. For God's sake, let him think of the people who built up and carried this country but who are on their knees and broken in the three ways I described and stop it once and for all.

Deputy Patrick Nulty: Information on Patrick Nulty Zoom on Patrick Nulty I am very happy to contribute to this debate. I have been in this House for about 14 months. If a debate lasting a couple of hours on an issue of this nature is what passes for democracy for this country, we have some very serious questions to answer. It is not real debate and it is not appropriate to say that people contributing to the debate are engaging in bombast. This is the only opportunity elected Members of this House from all parties and political philosophies get to discuss this issue because it is being railroaded through. This is wrong regardless of who the Government is. It should be said that it is totally undemocratic.

I have a few things to say about the Title of this Bill. When people talk about this so-called property tax, they need to stop saying it is progressive. It is not progressive. A tax that is progressive is based on income and ability to pay. Someone on the average industrial wage will face the same liability for this tax as someone earning a six figure sum. That is not progressive, rather it is regressive. Any economist or first-year student of political economy can tell the difference between a progressive and regressive tax. It is quite simple.

I am disappointed that amendment No. 1 has been ruled out of order because my colleagues, Deputy Tommy Broughan and Nessa Childers MEP, have put similar proposals to the Minister about a wealth tax. My amendment in respect of section 17, which would increase the tax on homes worth over €1 million to 1% rather than 0.5%, has been ruled out of order. That would be a very moderate increase that the Minister could introduce later on this evening on Report Stage if he wanted to. I understand that it would bring in an extra €24 million which would pay for the restoration of the respite care grant, the cut in which was forced through last week. I understand it was the Minister and other Fine Gael Ministers who blocked an increase in income tax for people earning €100,000 per year because they are obsessed with protecting and looking after them. It is a case of protect the rich at all costs but attack people on low incomes.

I spoke to someone last week who paid €10,000 in stamp duty, is unemployed and faces losing their home. Where is this person going to get the extra €250 or €300 to pay this tax? The Minister must provide an explanation because this person faces losing their home. Their asset is wrapped around their neck and they do not know how to get out of the suffocating personal debt they have. The Personal Insolvency Bill will not address it either. We cannot go on getting blood from a stone and sucking money out of the economy, which is costing jobs. The budget will cost 40,000 jobs, according to the Nevin Economic Research Institute. That is not economic recovery. This Bill is not progressive. It is another attack on working people. Unless there is a dramatic change in economic policy, this economy will stagnate for years with massive structural unemployment and people picking up the pieces for years to come. This is the reality we face unless we change course. This tax is the wrong tax on the wrong people, although Fianna Fáil opposing it is absolute hypocrisy.

Deputy Shane Ross: Information on Shane P.N. Ross Zoom on Shane P.N. Ross I have listened to what the other Deputies have had to say. Deputy Joe Higgins may represent a very different electorate from me but when he says there will be resistance to this tax, he is right. The Government has, in an extraordinary way, misread the mood regarding this tax.

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