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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 Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan] The Thornhill report.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly The Thornhill report says 0.1% but the Minister for Finance has opted for twice that.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins They would not publish that report until recently.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly We can talk about the Thornhill report later.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath It said to go back to council houses.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly They said a lot of things the Minister is not doing. I have paid local property tax in London and elsewhere abroad. I did not mind paying it because it provided me with local services. I got a letter from the council explaining what I had paid and what I was getting for it. This Bill, however, does none of those things and it is grossly unfair.

I am bemused as to why the Minister is going ahead with this. It is not for local services. If it were, people in County Wicklow and South Dublin County would not pay more than anybody else when the services are less expensive to produce. Therefore we know it is not for local services. It is astounding that the Minister is not looking at the net value of the house. As someone of that generation who knows many people in negative equity, including myself, it astounds me that any government would say, "You made a big mistake. You were one of the parties involved in that mistake and it has financially wiped you out. Your generation who did that will get back to zero at about 55 years of age. For the rest of your lives this one mistake you made will destroy you financially, but we are going to tax you on that".

I have a student loan, so why does the Minister not tax me on that? I am sure that many Members of the House have overdrafts, so why does he not tax them? It is extraordinary. In addition, the Minister is not bringing in an inability to pay clause. Why not? As Deputy Ross and others have said, what will the Minister say to those who do not have money to feed their children? What will he tell those who walk into our constituency offices - and I am sure the Minister's also - and say they have suicidal thoughts or their children are hungry?

A person may live in a house the market value of which might be €250,000 yet it was purchased for €500,000. That person and their partner have lost their jobs, so they have nothing but they will now have to pay another €500 in property tax. What is the Minister going to say to those people?

I have gone through all the amendments and I notice that the Minister has not tabled a single one. We will not get through all of these amendnemtns, which are well meaning and technically sound. They have been tabled by many Deputies but we will not get through them. The Minister may describe all of this as bombast, but this is the only chance we get to try to represent the people. Does the Minister intend to accept any of these amendments or will we just go back and forth for the remaining two hours or so, before the Government Deputies vote against them? I would like to know if the Minister intends to accept any of these amendments.

I have a final word for the Government Deputies, none of whom is present in the Chamber.

Deputy Michael Healy-Rae: Information on Michael Healy-Rae Zoom on Michael Healy-Rae Which is shocking.

Deputy Stephen S. Donnelly: Information on Stephen Donnelly Zoom on Stephen Donnelly If any of them happen to be listening on their office monitors, a lot of strong rhetoric was used in the Chamber in the small amount of time given on Second Stage to change this Bill. Yet, very unusually, the Minister has not tabled a single amendment - not one. Members of the Select Sub-Committee on Finance - including myself, Deputies Doherty, Michael McGrath, Boyd Barrett, Higgins and others - will not get a chance to look at this measure. Neither will the Committee on the Environment, Community and Local Government. Any Government Deputies who may be listening to this should note that their Minister has not tabled a single amendment, which means that they have no influence. It also entirely negates their argument that it is better to be in the party because one can influence legislation. They have been unable to change a single letter of one of the most important pieces of legislation to come before the Dáil in this Government's lifetime. If people like Deputy Mitchell, who said this would cause revolution in the country, believe what they said, then as public representatives they should vote against the Bill.

Nevertheless, I suppose we will go on. I would be interested to know if the Minister intends to accept a single amendment. If not, we could do away with this sort of parliamentary charade we seem to be engaged in.

Deputy Joan Collins: Information on Joan Collins Zoom on Joan Collins I will not take up too much time because many of the points have been made. I wish to put on the record, however, the fact that this is probably the most inappropriate legislation that has come before us in the past 18 months. It is the most draconian and feudal Bill that this country has seen in decades, whereby the Revenue Commissioners will be brought in as a strong arm of the law to force people to pay who cannot pay. If they cannot pay by the end of the year, the Revenue will have the authority to take tax credits from people's wages. Those people will then have to decide whether to put food on the table, pay the ESB or gas bills, or pay transport costs to get to work. It is one of the most draconian pieces of legislation that I have seen.

This will be the most hated tax in the country and is being introduced by a Fine Gael-Labour Government. It will be much worse than the tax on children's shoes that was brought in decades ago. The household tax boycott was progressive in that it united rural and urban communities. That is the basis of people wanting to resist this property tax. It should not, and will not, be viewed - as other Deputies have said - as a tax on more affluent areas. This is a family home tax to bail out the bondholders and cannot be described otherwise.

This country probably has one of the highest rates of home ownership in Europe. In recent decades, however, housing policy has failed the people. They were encouraged to buy their own homes. Everything, including mortgage interest relief, was put in place to encourage people to buy homes. Now, however, when people need protection most, the Government comes after them for a family home tax.

When I return home, I do not say I am going to a property; I say I am going to my family home, to close the door behind me, light a fire and look after the family. This policy will fail and even if the Minister rams it through and takes the tax from people's wages in 2014, it will be resisted. People will be waiting for the Minister to come knocking on their doors, but I can tell him that the doors will be slammed in his face.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath I am pleased to speak on Section 1 of the Bill but I am very disappointed that the Minister is guillotining this measure. When the Minister was on the opposition benches, he was constantly objecting to the guillotine. He made a big play that when he would be in Government it would not happen. We all understand that the guillotine has to be used occasionally but this is outrageous. Last Friday week, the Minister of State came here and summarily cancelled the Monday sitting. He then tried to say that it was due to lack of interest on this side of the House, which is a grossly unfair misrepresentation. I hate calling it the word "L-I-E" but it is misleading in the extreme. It is shameful.

If I were the Minister, I would be extremely worried. He is a long-serving Deputy in the House - a lot longer than myself - but there is not a sinner on the Government benches, not a solitary Member. Deputy Bannon has left but he was more interested in the big houses of the landed gentry. Some of them were burned in the troubled times to get rid of the Black and Tans, and they still have no roofs on them. He wants to put the roofs back on them and take the clothes off ordinary people. I cannot understand where he is coming from but he will find out when he goes back to Longford. When he goes up all the tree-lined avenues, he will meet all the fellows coming down against him.

This is not funny. How can the Minister introduce this measure? As Deputy Donnelly said, it gives the lie to Deputies who say they are voting for this because they can influence the Government from within. Deputy Michael McGrath will confirm that the late Brian Lenihan never sat in the House in those tough times without a few of us behind him in support. He was accessible and amenable to us, as well as accepting amendments from our own group. I do not know what has gone wrong with the Minister, Deputy Noonan. The Government's majority is the biggest problem because it thinks it can do what it likes and to hell with the ordinary people. It is like having Cromwell back again - to hell or to Connaught. As I said last week, it is too hell with the ordinary people, let them go to the soup kitchens or refuges for the homeless. That is what the Minister is going to do to people. We are talking about honest-to-goodness people who are going to get a deferral, if you would not mind.

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