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Non-Use of Motor Vehicles Bill 2013: Second Stage (Continued)

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 800 No. 4

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  7 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath] They have the attitude that they are the people who cannot be touched. Some of those people were exempted from having to pay the pension levy when lies were told to the late Minister, Deputy Lenihan, to the effect that there were only 120 people in the band earning more than €100,000. However, when I tabled a motion before my parliamentary party and researched this, for which the late Minister thanked me, he found out that there were 700 or 800 such people and they had never paid a pension levy because they had the ear of the Minister and were in his offices. It is a disgusting betrayal of the democratic process in this country. The sooner people recognise this the better or we will have riots on the streets. This is simply outrageous. I cannot believe it.

There is a need for a deterrent, and we must have deterrents but the deterrent is the law enforced by the Garda Síochána. One is stopped at checkpoints by the Garda. There are toll bridges. There are Garda vans everywhere. We are told they are there for safety but it has nothing to do with safety. There are very few accidents in my constituency and Deputy Tom Hayes, who is in the Chair, will not disagree with me on that. Garda vans park in a sneaky way and a light flashes if one passes them. I have thankfully never been the victim of any of them. Perhaps my van would not go fast enough or as I was driving by I may have been looking over the ditch at crops where the Minister, Deputy Coveney, says a bale of hay will be dropped from a helicopter. The Government is going to give one bale of hay to each farmer yet it is going to make farmers tax the tractors that they have had in their farmyards with a yardscraper for the past 20 years. A farmer with a TVO tractor, a David Brown or a Massey Vintage could not have such a tractor on the road because there are no mudguards on them. They are used in the farmyard yet the Minister wants farmers to tax them. He also wants to tax off-road dumpers.

I met a builder from Dublin last week who has no work but when he gets a job he needs to use his vehicle to load equipment. I want a system brought in, for which I have lobbied, and on which I intend to table an amendment to the Bill, that will enable people to pay their motor tax by the month. This is especially important for lorry drivers, sole traders, road hauliers and those who have a combine harvester or a forest harvester. People with a combine harvester or a forest harvester were able to get a few months' work but now they will only get ten days' work I want a system brought in, similar to that which is in place in other countries, where people can pay their motor tax as they go. How can a sole trader driving a lorry pay €2,500 in respect of his lorry when he might not get two days this month, only get a month's work in May or June and no work in October, November and December? That is the reality. The people are going from pump to pump to get the cheapest fuel. A system whereby they can pay motor tax by the month should be included in the legislation. Are we interested in supporting business or are we trying to drive those people out of business?

Those are the types of people we are supposed to be supporting. With every initiative introduced since the Government came into office there has been talk of supporting small businesses. If it supported those in small businesses and left them alone such that they could hold what they have and take on one person, it would halve the unemployment rate, but those people have been hit with one regulation after another. Two years ago a van could not be taxed as a commercial vehicle unless one had a jackhammer and something else in the back of it; it was not enough to have a bottle of milk and one's child sitting in the front of it. That was a myth as well, which has now disappeared. The septic tank charge was to be imposed to persecute every property holder in the country who were portrayed as dirty people which they are not. Thankfully, throughout my county there will be only 49 inspections and there will be probably fewer in Kerry. The Government frightened the lard out of the people with the introduction of that charge. It had to back off because it was nearly not going to get away with it. It cannot persecute people from rural Ireland, parts of Dublin and our towns and make them pay for the ineptitude of the Department of the Environment, Community and Local Government for having dozens of municipal plants in every county spewing sewage into our rivers and seas. The Minister of State knows that and I know that. That is what the EPA was going after and that is the reason it was doing so. The Government tried to create a smoke screen that it was the people of rural Ireland who were polluting the water.

We dealt with the Companies Bill last night which runs to 1,300 pages. It costs €109 to buy it. As I said, one would buy ten of Shane Ross's books and 15 of the late Maeve Binchy's books, God be good to her, and they would make for better reading. Who is going to read that lengthy Bill? It is cumbersome, anti-business, anti-work and anti-society. To beat it all, it can be decided that people who are overcharged will not be paid back because it is too complex to do so. It beggars belief that official Ireland has got away with so much that they think they can do this. They have taken everything away from us in the country.

Similarly in the case of the driver's licence, people were able to obtain a driver's licence in many councils on completion of the required form and payment of the required fee. We had a great relationship with the staff. Now that process is being done nationally. The Road Safety Authority wants its hands all over this to keep its people in jobs. I am talking about Noel Brett and the many other legions of officials. Gabh mo leithscéal. The Ceann Comhairle said that I should not mention names but I find it hard at times to get these people out of my mind because we see them so many times on television advertising something, and so on. They are making a career out of putting misery on ordinary people.

This Bill is a shambles if we cannot put a system in place under it that will allow people to pay their motor tax as they go. People who have a combine harvester or a forest harvester use those machines at a maximum over a six-week season. Have they to tax them for the entire year? Why should they have to pay that level of tax? Issues like that are important. The next thing the Minister will want to tax is the milking machine. He taxed the hearse in the last budget. The shroud will be taxed next and for anyone who does not know what a shroud is, it is a piece of cloth people used to wear when they were being interred. Where will it stop? Tá an tAire ag gáire. He can laugh away but he knows how serious this issue is and I know how serious it is.

The biggest breach of faith of all, and it was referred to in the context of the changes we lobbied for in 2008, was when people took a leap of faith and bought a new low emissions car because they were less costly to tax but that deal is off. Those people have been blackguarded in the past two budgets. The tax on two and three year old cars has doubled and trebled.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd The hearse has been taxed since 1967.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath Of course, but the tax was increased. They did not have them in 1966. They might have had the horse-drawn one. The Government hardly taxed the horses and carriages. They had a horse-drawn one at that time in my place. The hearse is taxed. Every vehicle on the road should be taxed. I am not advocating that anybody should drive without tax.

Deputy Fergus O'Dowd: Information on Fergus O'Dowd Zoom on Fergus O'Dowd That tax was brought in in 1967.

Deputy Mattie McGrath: Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath The Minister of State is making an interesting comment but I cannot hear him. Every vehicle on the road must be taxed. One would think from what speakers have said that half the county was driving untaxed vehicles and if stopped they were going to Garda stations to get a garda to sign something for them. That is a disgraceful supposition to be making. It casts a slight on the people and on the Garda Síochána. It is terrible. The biggest problem with this legislation is that it does not include a provision for people to be able to pay their motor tax as they go. This is especially important for people who cannot have their vehicles on the road all the year because of a lack of work in the current deep recession. Road hauliers and sole traders who have lorries are trying to keep their businesses going and trying to stay off the dole queues, not claim jobseeker's allowance and provide for their families. To provide a service, they have to pay for everything but they should be allowed to pay their motor tax as they go and at the very least make a monthly payment.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Deputy Seán Kenny is sharing time with the Deputy O'Mahony. They have five minutes each.

Deputy Seán Kenny: Information on Seán Kenny Zoom on Seán Kenny The primary purpose of the Bill is to provide for a prospective system of declaring vehicles off the road for motor tax purposes, closing a loophole whereby owners can declare retrospectively that a vehicle has not been in use on the public road, which is unverifiable. This Bill will replace the current system whereby owners declare a vehicle off the road retrospectively when seeking to tax a vehicle where there are arrears of tax outstanding.

Where owners tell the motor tax authorities they intend to keep their vehicle off the road for a period, they will not be liable for motor tax. This closes off the existing tax evasion loophole, where owners are able to make a declaration at their local Garda station stating that their car was off the road and avoid payment of arrears of motor tax.

I welcome the fact the Government is putting an end to this, and compliant taxpayers will welcome this move as well. Up to €55 million per annum is not collected currently through this form of tax evasion by people not paying their motor tax. I am confident the vast majority of motorists will welcome the tackling of those who are evading motor tax and not paying their fair share. This is a simple change in the rules governing motor tax for vehicles not being used on the road from time to time.

There are many valid reasons a person may wish to put their car off the road for a while, such as working abroad for a time, and they will be facilitated so long as they let their motor tax office know in advance. There will be no change in the rules for those who pay their motor tax on time, or those who end up paying arrears where they let their motor tax slip from time to time. This is especially important in the current economic environment. We need to give people a little breathing space. What this legislation is targeting is the persistent evader - those who abuse the system and evade paying their motor tax altogether.

Once the Bill is enacted, a non-use declaration can be made in advance of the vehicle being taken off the road for a period of between three and 12 calendar months.

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