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 Header Item Tax Code (Continued)
 Header Item Finance Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 856 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan] However, the Deputy will notice that is not true of this Administration and that in every Finance Bill we have concentrated on agriculture and food and tourism which we are growing into major industries, even bigger than they historically were. I will continue to do this. While foreign direct investment is very important, the growth of indigenous industry with deep roots in Irish society is equally important.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins A total of 150,000 people made a submission to the Government on Saturday. Will it listen to them?

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan There is evidence that the Government is listening.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am afraid that the time for parliamentary questions has expired. We will now move on to the Finance Bill.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger We started ten minutes late.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett The Deputy should read Standing Orders. The time for parliamentary questions runs from 9.30 a.m. to 10.45 a.m. It is now almost 10.55 a.m. and I have to-----

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger You can extend the time allowed. We started ten minutes late.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is not my fault. I was standing outside the door, waiting for a quorum to be provided.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger It is very rare that we get a chance to question the Minister.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I am sorry, but it is up to others to make certain that Members are present to form a quorum. I cannot do anything about it; I only apply the rules of the House.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins On a point of order, I had to come in to ensure there was a quorum. The Government is supposed to provide a quorum.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett That is not my problem and there is no point in blaming me for it.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins The Ceann Comhairle said at the outset that while, on the one hand, Question Time would run to 10.45 a.m., on the other, 75 minutes were to be allocated.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I have checked with the official who advises me that the new Standing Order states Question Time will run from 9.30 a.m. to 10.45 a.m.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins It is extremely unfair on a Deputy who has to make special child care arrangements to be here to ask the question.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett I know it is unfair and it is not just Deputy Ruth Coppinger who is affected. Deputy Michael McGrath was next in line.

Deputy Ruth Coppinger: Information on Ruth Coppinger Zoom on Ruth Coppinger I know that, but is this a ruse by the Government not to show up?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett We are not going to waste more time. The Deputy can take up the matter through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges. If it wants to change the rules, I will apply them. I am sorry, but it is up to the Dáil to have a quorum at 9.30 a.m. I have been here since 8.45 a.m.

Deputy Joe Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins Zoom on Joe Higgins It is outrageous.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty The problem with the rules is that the Government can reduce the time in which we can hold the Minister to account.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Barrett Zoom on Seán Barrett No, it is up to the Dáil to provide a quorum.

Deputy Michael Noonan: Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan I was here at 9.25 a.m.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty I know that, but that is not the point.

  Written Answers follow Adjournment.

Finance Bill 2014: Second Stage (Resumed)

  Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty It has been a very interesting three weeks since the Minister introduced his latest budget. Like the previous one, as I said on previous occasions, it is unfair and contains harsh cuts. However, what has since been in the minds of the people, as we saw clearly and as was evident last Saturday, and what the budget cannot be divorced from is the issue of water charges. While the Government claims that water charges are not part of budget 2015, the reality for families is that they are very much part of it and this is a further austerity measure coming down the road.

The Minister has tried to provide sweeteners for the public who are simply saying enough is enough, that they will not pay his charges and that they want them scrapped. He has suggested tax credits will be available for those who have tax liabilities and those who do not. On budget day he announced measures which he said would allow for a maximum tax credit of €100 to be received by those with a tax liability. However, it is bizarre, given the number of officials involved, Cabinet meetings, sub-committee meetings and Economic Management Council meetings and the fact that Irish Water and water charges has been the burning issue in the State for many months that he left out tens of thousands of families from the scheme. Three weeks have since passed and we still do not have clarity on his tax credit proposal. It does not appear in the Finance Bill and he has not indicated, unless I missed it in his Second Stage speech, that it will be brought forward by way of an amendment on Committee Stage. This reduces and curtails debate. We had a discussion earlier about the fact that as a result of Members not turning up on time this morning the amount of time we had available at Question Time to hold the Government to account was restricted. Similarly, by the Minister and the Government not getting their act together in bringing forward the amendment on tax credits to off-set water charges we are allowed less time for scrutiny. We will not be able to deal with the issue at the finance committee and will not have sight of the Government's proposal before we have to propose Committee Stage amendments. This is simply not the way to do politics. I ask the Minister to confirm whether he has sought the approval of the Attorney General or the Cabinet for a proposal of this nature.

It is very clear that the Government is scrambling frantically to try to appease a certain group of individuals. I tell the Minister clearly that it is not going to work. I believe he is around here long enough to know members of the public have had enough. They are not going to buy into tax credits for water charges that they simply do not want. They are not going to buy into sweeteners from the Minister for Social Protection to off-set the charges. They are not going to buy into an extension of fixed rate charges. I was proud to be standing with people in Donegal at one of the biggest rallies held. There were 10,000 people in the market square in Donegal, while another 1,000 turned out in Lifford, as well as about 4,000 in Ballyshannon, and none of them had a placard demanding tax credits or flat rate charges or clarity. What they did demand was that the water charges be scrapped. Unless it listens to this demand, the Government will go down with the charges.

The Minister knows that over 200,000 took to the streets last weekend. He bravely says this was the last sting of a dying wasp, or words to that effect - as the people will have their day, let them go out and it will all fizzle away - but I am telling him that they are determined. They are determined to travel in numbers to the capital city on 10 December to show him that they are not giving up the fight. Despite all of the pressures on them in travelling long distances, they will be here and we will be with them. I hope they will prove the Minister wrong and that he will show a little more humility in understanding where they are at, that they are simply at the end of their tether, that they cannot take this additional austerity measure and that any repackaged water charge will simply not wash with them.

This week, at the presidential dinner, the Taoiseach said that without water charges, the tax rate at which some would have to pay would go up by 4%. We have had other Ministers say child benefit would have to be reduced. This is scaremongering and a sign of desperation on the part of a desperate Government that is simply out of touch with the people. The comments of the Taoiseach confirm at least one thing, namely, that there are alternatives to water charges, if the Government wanted to pursue them. However, an increase of 4% in the marginal rate of tax is not one of them.

In a letter to a Fine Gael colleague of the Minister he said that if Irish Water was to be on the State's books, it would cost an extra €550 million in 2015, reducing to some €500 million in 2016. The demand is where the Minister would get the €550 million needed and how he would raise it while reaching the deficit target. The Minister knows well that the deficit target the Government intends to reach in 2015 is 2.7% and that the deficit to be reached under the rules is just below 3%. Therefore, he knows that we have headroom of about €570 million in order to be below the 3% figure. These facts are indisputable, although the Minister is shaking his head.

Minister for Finance (Deputy Michael Noonan): Information on Michael Noonan Zoom on Michael Noonan It is €550 million with the loss of the charge, giving a total of €850 million.

Deputy Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty Zoom on Pearse Doherty I will come to that figure. Let us be clear: it is indisputable that there is headroom of €570 million for us in order to be below the 3% deficit target. Therefore, if Irish Water were to be included in the State's books, that figure could be absorbed. As the Minister rightly said, there would then be the issue of the €300 million to be raised in domestic charges.


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