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Snippet Contents:

Deputies Michelle Mulherin, Denis Naughten and John Paul Phelan raised the issue of petrol stretching. This is a very serious issue about which we have heard a significant amount in recent times. I assure the Deputies that it is being taken very seriously by the Revenue Commissioners and that investigations into the matter are ongoing. To date, 48 premises nationwide have been tested, with samples referred to the State Laboratory. Where the examinations indicate the presence of illegal stretching agents, the Revenue Commissioners will take action and pursue prosecutions against offenders, where possible. I reiterate a call I made previously during Topical Issue debates that anyone with relevant information pass it on immediately to the Revenue Commissioners. There is a section on the Revenue Commissioners' website to enable people to pass on this information.
Deputy Pearse Doherty asked about the VAT treatment of Government funding for the 1916 centenary commemorations. As Government funding is outside the scope of VAT, there will be no VAT liability on the receipt of funding by groups commemorating the 1916 Rising. The Deputy also asked for clarity on the different VAT treatment of Irish dancing and ballet classes. The EU VAT directive, with which Irish VAT legislation must comply, provides for a public interest exemption for education. Ballet schools are regarded as providing VAT-exempt education of a similar kind. This is because, in general, recognised ballet schools are run by qualified ballet teachers who teach to an externally examined syllabus. That was one of the more niche issues raised, but it was also an important one.
A number of Deputies referred to the pension fund levy, which will be very significantly reduced next year and end after that. Other Deputies welcomed the retention of the 9% VAT rate on tourist-related activities. As the Minister for Finance said in his Budget Statement, without the pension levy fund, there would have been no VAT reduction, but he has now outlined very clearly how he intends to wind it down.
I have tried to answer as many questions as I can. No doubt, there will be an opportunity to tease out these issues further on Committee Stage. In his opening statement to the House the Minister mentioned that there were still a small number of matters under consideration for inclusion on Committee Stage.
I will end where I began. The Finance Bill is not a panacea for all of the challenges faced by families. It is simply not possible to do this in one budget after the significant economic crisis from which the country is emerging. We now have the fastest growing economy in Europe, with the expectation that this will continue into 2015 and 2016. We also have one of the fastest growing employment rates in Europe. The budget was the first opportunity we had to try to give something back in a small and modest way. I hope it is something on which we can build in future budgets. I think the message that needs to go out is that the firefighting in the economy is over and that we now need to do all we can to create more jobs, continue to reduce the unemployment rate, increase investment in the country and deliver the public services on which all of our constituents and every citizen in the country depend. I commend the Bill to the House.