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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 Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin] It is untenable to have a system of unvouched expenses so I am proposing to abolish the unvouched element of the parliamentary standard allowance.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath We have been saying that for years.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin In future, all Members of the Oireachtas will have to use the vouched system.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty What about the logged miles?

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I also intend to reduce the volume of money available for the vouched system. I will also be applying reductions of 10% and more to the expenditure limits that comprise the parliamentary standard allowance and of 50% to the allocation of Oireachtas envelopes.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Similarly, it is untenable for the party leaders' allowances to be paid to Independent Members-----

Deputies: Hear, hear.

(Interruptions).

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin -----without any external validation of its use.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath We have been saying that for the past 18 months.

Deputy Tom Hayes: Information on Tom Hayes Zoom on Tom Hayes Mattie will have to get a new van.

A Deputy: He has a horse outside.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Can the comedians wait until the Minister has finished? Then you can have your play time.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I intend to amend the legislation to provide for such auditing. I also intend to apply an across the board reduction of 10% to the party leaders' allowance.

Currently, severance is payable to Ministers and other officeholders, commencing the day after the person ceases to hold ministerial or other office. This is payable for a period up to a maximum of two years. I do not believe this is justifiable any more. I now propose to introduce legislation to abolish this payment for current members of the Government-----

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin -----and all future officeholders.

Summary

  In total, spending adjustments designed to yield more than €15 billion have been implemented during this crisis. This represents the vast bulk of the required total adjustment.

  The scale of this adjustment should not be underestimated, nor do we underestimate the difficulties this has caused for many of our citizens. As reliable economic commentaries from the ESRI to the European Commission and the OECD have indicated, we have sought to do so in a manner consistent with fairness. In reducing the deficit, we are endeavouring to ensure we protect the vulnerable in our society. Those who can contribute more should and will do so.

  This year’s general Government deficit is estimated at just under €13.5 billion, or 8.2% of GDP. This is within the 8.6% of GDP limit set by ECOFIN in December 2010. We must continue to meet our fiscal targets and to reach a deficit of below 3% by 2015.

  The next comprehensive review of expenditure will commence in 2013, and will be central to identifying additional cost savings and future efficiencies. The Croke Park agreement will continue to enable reforms and to extract costs from the public service.

Conclusion

  As a Government, this is our second budget. The economy we inherited had experienced a catastrophic shock. When I took office last year, I could not be certain that we would, as a nation, make it through this crisis.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Come on.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I no longer hold that fear.

Deputies: Hear, hear.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin What the people of Ireland have endured has been tough and almost without precedent in the developed world. That we will come through it - and we will - is a significant shared achievement for our people. In time, future generations will be proud that we, as a people, tackled this crisis head on. There remain difficult challenges ahead of us but Ireland and her people will prosper again.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett Spokespersons will have 60 minutes each. It is for the main parties to decide how to share their time.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath With the agreement of the House, I will share 30 minutes of my time with Deputy Seán Fleming.

  We are all agreed that the Irish people have made enormous sacrifices in recent years as Ireland works its way through an extraordinarily difficult economic period. The Irish people have been patient and tolerant. They have made major changes in their own lives to reflect the new economic realities faced by them and by the country.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I ask Deputies to be fair to the spokespersons. If they wish to have discussions, they should do so outside the Chamber. Please show some regard for other people.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Thank you, a Cheann Comhairle.

Of all the things people want from their politicians at this time of crisis, the most wanted are honesty and leadership and for us to ensure the decisions made are fair. I wanted the Government to bring in a budget that gave people hope for the future, showed we are all in this together, that was about fairness and solidarity, had enterprise at its heart, said something about our values as a country, was about more than the national accounts and provided some direction for Ireland. Fianna Fáil want the economy to recover. That is why we have put forward our own ideas in A Fairer Way to Recovery, to achieve the deficit targets and stimulate economic activity.

I hoped the Government, in preparing today's budget, had learnt a lesson from last year when the Minister introduced the first regressive budget since the crisis began in 2008, a budget that hit the poorest income households the hardest. It will take a while for a full assessment to be done of the impact of today's budget on different income groups. On the face of it, however, low and middle income families and elderly citizens will bear the brunt of the budget. They are the biggest losers from a budget that has, again, protected the country's highest income earners at the expense of struggling families who are put to the pin of their collars to pay essential day-to-day bills such as the mortgage and their grocery, heat, electricity, health, transport and school costs. I get no sense of empathy or understanding from the Government, nor do I get any sense that they understand what life is like for ordinary people and families.

The Government has introduced a budget that is shaped more by the respective party political needs of Fine Gael and Labour than the national interest. The deep divisions between Fine Gael and the Labour Party that emerged in recent days are most revealing. Fine Gael showed that its absolute priority in the budget is to protect those who have most. We are told the Labour Party made valiant efforts to protect households dependent on social protection but, clearly, it has failed.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Not so.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath All of this begs the question, who was looking after everyone else in the middle. Families who do not qualify for a medical card now have to make a drugs payment of €144 per month. In the budget negotiations, who was watching out for families who get no assistance whatsoever with their mortgage or rent or who have to bear the full cost of their children's education?

The price Fine Gael wanted to extract in return for considering even a modest increase in tax for those earning more than €100,000 was to cut the most basic welfare payments.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn Not so.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Fine Gael used the basic welfare payment of €188 per week as a negotiating chip to protect those earning more than €100,000 per year.

Deputy Ruairí Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn Zoom on Ruairí Quinn The Deputy wrote the speech too early.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath The Government has increased the universal social charge for pensioners over 70 years of age by 3%, but it cannot increase the tax on those earning enormous sums of money.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan Fianna Fáil will not outdo Sinn Féin.

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath In the face of this resistance from Fine Gael, the Labour Party capitulated and accepted the symbolic fig leaf of a so-called mansion tax that will affect a small number of people and bring in little additional revenue.

Deputy Willie O'Dea: Information on Willie O'Dea Zoom on Willie O'Dea Will it affect Dr. Reilly?

Deputy Michael McGrath: Information on Michael McGrath Zoom on Michael McGrath Principles that were articulated in opposition are forgotten around the table of power.

  Fianna Fáil believes the Minister had some scope to increase the direct taxation burden on those with very high incomes. This would have given him a wider set of choices in deciding his spending priorities.

  The Minister, in a highly regressive move, abolished the PRSI exemption threshold in a move that will cost every worker earning anything above the minimum wage €264 per annum.


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