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Budget Statement 2013 (Continued)

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 785 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming] I cannot believe the Minister has done this to the women and the mothers of Ireland - taxing maternity benefit, cutting child benefit, cutting the eligibility for one-parent family payment, cutting the carer's respite care grant, cutting the back to school clothing and footwear allowance, and hitting the household benefits package that will affect more women than men. I am shocked that he has done this. Had he taken a few days extra, he would have seen that. The mistake was made when the Minister decided to achieve the majority of the €3.5 billion by way of expenditure cuts. Had he done it the way we suggested, he would still have achieved his targets. Our document is on the public record. Some of what the Minister has done is in our document published two or three weeks ago, but had he followed our approach, we would have had an equal split between the taxation and expenditure cuts. Instead, the Minister chose to load it on the lowest paid who most need the support.

The Taoiseach: Information on Enda Kenny Zoom on Enda Kenny It is the consequence of Fianna Fáil's approach.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming In respect of the Department of Social Protection benefits, the Minister has cut the period in which people can avail of jobseeker's benefit, from 12 to nine months for people who were working for three, four or five years and who, through no fault of their own, have lost their jobs, and from nine months to six for those who have worked ten, 20 or 30 years and who never missed a day's work or a week's contribution. The Minister is cutting their benefit from nine months to six months to save €82 million. The Minister might say that will encourage them to get back to work. That would be fine if there were jobs available, but the only option he is giving jobseekers, who are at their weakest and most vulnerable, having lost a job after working for decades and who know nothing else, is to cut their jobseeker's benefit. The Minister is essentially saying that new Labour's way is for these people to go to Frankfurt, Quebec or Queensland or wherever to get a job.

The Minister has also made it more difficult for employers to employ people. He has cut the employers' redundancy rebate at a saving of €30 million. We all would agree that the future success of the economy lies in small local businesses which employ between two and five people. If a downturn in business occurs through no fault of their own, the small business operator must lay off workers. If the employer cannot get that redundancy payment rebate, he or she will think twice about employing a person. That is a disincentive to employment.

The Minister has also cut the back to education allowance. He has discontinued the €300 payment per annum at a saving of €24 million. He has also cut the respite care grant.

This brings me on to a bigger issue directly affecting the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Howlin. He should bear this point in mind because I have not made it previously. There was an application in the Dáil this week for Supplementary Estimates for the Department of Social Protection and the Health Service Executive to the tune of €685 million and €360 million, respectively. As the Minister knows only too well, there were a number of Supplementary Estimates last week totalling €73 million across a range of Departments. These Supplementary Estimates were voted by the Dáil because of the Government's flawed budget last year. The Minister's figures were wrong, we told him his growth projections were wrong and we told him the health budget was wrong as well. The Minister has had to come back in recent days with Supplementary Estimates to the tune of €1.118 billion for all those Departments. There has been well in excess of €1 billion by way of Supplementary Estimates.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin They already counted PRSI. It is being recounted. We know that.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming In preparing for the Supplementary Estimates debate last week, the Library and Research Service gave me details of all the Supplementary Estimates. I asked how much there was in Supplementary Estimates in previous years and the staff gave me the figures for each year back to 2007. There have never been in recent memory Supplementary Estimates of the scale of those that have gone through the House this week. That is remarkable, and it is a statement of fact.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Fleming will be aware that the recounting of PRSI is a third of it.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming They amount to €1.118 billion. I will spell it out to the Minister in further detail. When the Taoiseach set up the new Department of Public Expenditure and Reform, I thought it was a good idea and I supported it. In the Government's first full year in office, we have seen this Department fail utterly. The Taoiseach should take out the scorecards he stated he had for the Ministers. Here is the biggest Supplementary Estimate in living memory coming after the setting up a Department with responsibility for public expenditure.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Kelleher cannot count.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming What use did that Department serve? I will explain it to the people. Since the Minister stood in this House exactly one year ago, all of the Departments that are under his direct control as Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform-----

Deputy Barry Cowen: Information on Barry Cowen Zoom on Barry Cowen The Minister's success.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming -----overspent by €3 million every day, €20 million a week or €100 million every month for the past 12 months, and there have been Supplementary Estimates recently in the order of €1.2 billion. The list is available and the Minister knows it well. I have never seen such a poor outcome for a new Department and I did not expect I would be going down this road. I did not expect Supplementary Estimates of such scale----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I will go through it with the Deputy.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming -----but those are the irrefutable facts.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I will explain about the PRSI recounting, but Deputy Fleming knows about it.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming We told the Minister this time last year that the health Estimate was flawed. The figures were wrong; they did not stand up. Everybody knew they were flawed. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, needs stronger legislative powers to be able to stand up to the Ministers, Deputy Reilly and Deputy Burton, and tell them they cannot overspend.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin No wonder the Minister, Deputy Howlin, is smiling. He will not stand up to the Minister, Deputy Joan Burton.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming Deputy Howlin comes into the House at the end of the year and thinks he can slip through €1 billion in Supplementary Estimates that arise from flawed budgeting. There was no overspending in the Department of Health. The Minister, Deputy Howlin, had a flawed budget for that Department to start with. Everybody told him the figures passed by the House last year were not adequate for the job. The Minister is talking today about achieving another €781 million in cuts for next year. That is not true. It is fairyland stuff. The Minister spun it for the year and he is doing it again.

In the Department of Education and Skills, there is another broken promise from the Labour Party in the form of an extra €250 in student fees, all to raise €55 million. It is a small figure in the education budget but the Minister is making students pay. The Minister, Deputy Quinn, stated a week ago that he is happy with his budget and he has come here today looking to cut €123 million from that budget. These are issues that need to be addressed by the Minister, Deputy Howlin, and his Department over the course of the year.

As we are all aware, this time next year the troika will have gone home. There is only one thing standing between Ireland and the troika going home, and that is how the Minister manages the Government's finances between now and then.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin There has been an outcome of 8.2% in a single year.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming If we continue to have overspending of the Estimates produced today-----

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin It is 8.2%.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming -----in the order of €3 million a day, €20 million a week, €100 million a month or more than €1 billion per annum, woe betide the Minister if he does not do his job and the troika must stay.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The target was 8.6%; the outcome, 8.2%.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming The troika are scheduled to go. They are on the road out of here.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Thanks to us.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming They were here for a short period and the Minister, Deputy Howlin, should not mess it up.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher The Minister took €10 off child benefit.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Sean Fleming's party brought them in.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin It is only one budget.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming The Minister should not mess it up.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Order. Deputy Sean Fleming has the floor.

Deputy Brendan Griffin: Information on Brendan Griffin Zoom on Brendan Griffin Some neck.

Deputy Billy Kelleher: Information on Billy Kelleher Zoom on Billy Kelleher A forest of placards.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming Last Thursday was an interesting day in this Chamber. The public is focused on us today and they all tune in once a year to see what is going on in the House, but I would take them back to Thursday last when the Labour Party voted to renew the bank guarantee in this Chamber. That seems to run counter to everything that party's members stated they would do before they took office.

Also last Thursday, the Minister, Deputy Howlin, presented a Supplementary Estimate for his Department to provide for pensions for retired civil servants, 84 of which were in excess of €100,000. When will he learn that the people do not want to hear of a Supplementary Estimate providing for these high pensions?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin The Deputy's party gave them to them. They negotiated and signed off on them. He has a brass neck.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming Deputy Howlin is the one who has done the talk. He promised the change.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Deputy Martin's former colleagues are collecting them as well-----

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming These are civil servants' pensions.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin -----such as the former Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, and all the rest of them.

Deputy Micheál Martin: Information on Micheál Martin Zoom on Micheál Martin We had a proposal for it.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming I want to be clear. These pensions were for the retired Sir Humphreys. The modern-day Sir Humphreys captured the Minister to look after the retired Sir Humphreys because they will be in that category some fine day.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I abolished the top level appointments commission terms which Fianna Fáil brought in.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming The pensions were for civil servants only. If that had happened in a local authority where it had trouble in the last month of the year meeting the payments for its retired workers, it would have had to have found the money for those pensions out of its own resources and make the necessary cuts.


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