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 Header Item Suicide Prevention Authority Bill 2015: First Stage (Continued)
 Header Item Estimates for Public Services 2015

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 900 No. 1

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating] Through my experience of hospitalisation, including treatment, medication, counselling and, most important, the love I feel for my family every day, I discovered the wonderful process of recovery. We do not give people that message. The time has come to face these new challenges and address suicide in a more serious way, not only through the agencies doing the invaluable work but also through a national strategy framework with direct ministerial accountability. I have so many facts and figures available to me and I would love to believe that if the House had the opportunity to interrogate this Bill meaningfully on Second Stage, we would have the time to digest them.

I thank the Office of the Ceann Comhairle and the Government Chief Whip. I pay special tribute to Mr. Noel Smith, co-founder and chairman of 3Ts, and also Ms Lisa Halford, the manager, who drafted this Bill. I thank my staff, including Mr. Gerry Kennedy, my parliamentary assistant, Ms Linda Kavanagh, my secretarial assistant, and my colleague Paul Hughes, who was invaluable in conducting research and assisting me today. I commend the Bill to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Is the Bill being opposed?

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin No.

  Question put and agreed to.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Zoom on Seán Ó Fearghaíl Since this is a Private Members' Bill, Second Stage must, under Standing Orders, be taken in Private Members' time.

Deputy Derek Keating: Information on Derek Keating Zoom on Derek Keating I move: "That the Bill be taken in Private Members' time."

  Question put and agreed to.

Estimates for Public Services 2015

Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform (Deputy Brendan Howlin): Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin I move the following Supplementary Estimates:

Vote 6 – Office of the Chief State Solicitor (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €1,500,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Chief State Solicitor.
Vote 7 – Office of the Minister for Finance (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €1,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Finance, including the Paymaster-General’s Office, for certain services administered by the Office of the Minister and for payment of certain grants.
Vote 12 – Superannuation and Retired Allowances (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €16,770,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for pensions, superannuation, occupational injuries, and additional and other allowances and gratuities under the Superannuation Acts 1834 to 2004 and sundry other statutes; extra-statutory pensions, allowances and gratuities awarded by the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, fees to medical referees and occasional fees to doctors; compensation and other payments in respect of personal injuries; fees to Pensions Board; miscellaneous payments, etc.
Vote 17 – Public Appointments Service (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €380,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Public Appointments Service.
Vote 20 – Garda Síochána (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €35,200,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Garda Síochána, including pensions, etc.; for the payment of certain witnesses’ expenses, and for payment of certain grants.
Vote 21 – Prisons (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €6,297,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Prison Service, and other expenses in connection with prisons, including places of detention; for probation services; and for payment of certain grants.
Vote 26 – Education and Skills (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €175,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Education and Skills, for certain services administered by that Office, and for the payments of certain grants.
Vote 29 – Communications, Energy and Natural Resources (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €1,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, including certain services administered by that Office, and for payment of certain grants, and for the payment of certain grants under cash-limited schemes.
Vote 30 – Agriculture, Food and the Marine (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €104,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, including certain services administered by that Office, and of the Irish Land Commission and for payment of certain grants, subsidies and sundry grants and for the payment of certain grants under cash-limited schemes and the remediation of Haulbowline Island.
Vote 31 – Transport, Tourism and Sport (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €100,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, including certain services administered by that Office, for payment of certain grants and certain other services.
Vote 32 — Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €50,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, including certain services administered by that Office, for the payment of certain subsidies and grants and for the payment of certain grants under cash-limited schemes.
Vote 37 — Social Protection (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €299,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Social Protection, for certain services administered by that Office, for payments to the Social Insurance Fund and for certain grants.
Vote 38 — Health (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €600,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Health and certain other services administered by that Office, including grants to the Health Service Executive and miscellaneous grants.
Vote 40 — Children and Youth Affairs (Supplementary).
That a supplementary sum not exceeding €15,000,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 2015, for the salaries and expenses of the Office of the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, for certain services administered by that Office and for the payment of grants including certain grants under cash-limited schemes.

Budget 2016 set the expenditure forecast outturn at €54.9 billion. This figure included provision for gross Supplementary Estimates of €1.6 billion, which have now been debated at the relevant committees and are returning to this House today. The net forecast figure for the Supplementary Estimates - the gross figure minus moneys received in appropriations-in-aid, such as PRSI and pension contributions - set out in the expenditure report on budget day was just under €1.3 billion. These figures were entirely consistent with Ireland's obligations under the Stability and Growth Pact. As colleagues understand, Supplementary Estimates confer legal authority on Departments to expend money based on their best estimate of the year-end requirements. Departments are not allowed to exceed their Supplementary Estimate figure but in some cases it is not reached. As a result, the agreed Supplementary Estimates figure can sometimes overstate the actual year-end requirement. It is obviously better to have a buffer of some level than to run out of money.

  I am pleased to report that the current forecast on outturn, which is provisional and will remain so until the final figures are in, is set to be in the region of €100 million in gross terms lower than the forecast in the expenditure report. How does this impact upon the public finances? The general Government deficit target for this year under the excessive deficit procedure is 2.9% of GDP, as Deputies will know. Budget 2015 set the deficit target of 2.7%. In the interim, both November and October saw tax receipts greatly exceed profile. The vast bulk of these receipts are sustainable, as confirmed in recent correspondence between the Revenue Commissioners and the Minister for Finance. Accordingly, based on the most recent data available, the end-of-year budget deficit forecast for this year will be in the region of 1.7% of GDP. This will obviously feed into the starting position for next year. It represents a remarkable turnaround on where we were when the Government took office almost five years ago. This improved economic position has allowed the Government to target additional expenditure in areas experiencing increased demand and demographic pressure. I am pleased we are in a position to do that.

  It would be useful to put the increases provided in the Supplementary Estimates into context. In order to repair the public finances, gross voted expenditure was reduced from over €63 billion in 2009 to €54 billion in 2014. At the same time, while expenditure was being reduced, demographic and other cost pressures arising from increased demand for services still had to be met.

  The Supplementary Estimates for 2015 allow for additional expenditure to be directed in particular towards the key areas of health, education and social protection. Funding is provided towards a summer works scheme to allow work to be carried out on schools that have been in need of refurbishment. There is funding for the IDA to support jobs in the regions and the regional programme we set out. There are further capital funds for the science and technology programme and the programme for research in third level institutions; a Christmas bonus for recipients of long-term social welfare payments; and funding in the health sector for the delayed discharge initiative, the fair deal scheme, the hospital waiting lists, the winter initiative and the rolling out of universal general practitioner services. There is additional expenditure on the public transport investment programme for the maintenance of the heavy rail network and the expansion of the PSO bus fleet, and on the roads programme to address critical works on the national road infrastructure and improve substandard paving on regional and local roads. The adverse weather of recent times will make the latter allocation all the more necessary. The additional expenditure provided by way of Supplementary Estimate represents a responsible approach towards ensuring public services are adequately funded to meet the Government's key social and economic objectives of protecting the vulnerable and creating economic conditions to support growth in employment.

Deputy Sean Fleming: Information on Seán Fleming Zoom on Seán Fleming I am pleased to contribute to this debate on the Supplementary Estimates, which are additional record Supplementary Estimates from the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Brendan Howlin. His Department was set up to reform public expenditure but the only reform he has achieved was to ensure no adequate budgeting at the beginning of each year. In the last fortnight of every year since taking office, he comes into the Chamber to seek an ever-increasing Supplementary Estimate to back up the flawed Estimate announced in the Budget Statement.

The Supplementary Estimates are really being introduced because of the content of the Budget Statement of 12 months ago. That statement was one of the clearest examples in five years of the total capitulation of the Labour Party to Fine Gael. The budget could have been summarised in one sentence: if one was on over €70,000, one got a tax cut and was better off. The choices made in the budget 12 months ago for 2015 meant that there were tax cuts for the high-income earners. That was done at the expense of people who needed serious support, such as the critically ill and those requiring suicide prevention measures, as recently mentioned by Deputy Derek Keating. I refer also to career guidance teachers in schools and homeless people.

We had a big debate on homelessness and the housing crisis around the time the Estimates were going through last year. The Labour Party lost that debate because there had to be a 1% income tax cut for the top earners. However, as the year progressed we were very fortunate that Ireland received a bonanza increase in corporation tax revenue from the foreign multinationals. Without it we could not have addressed some of the aforementioned matters in the last couple of months in the year. We have to thank the companies that chose to act as they did for a reason utterly unknown to the Minister for Finance or anybody else in the Government. While we have the additional revenue, the problem is that the Minister is not only increasing expenditure for this year but also for next year by the same amount as in these Supplementary Estimates. He will build on that. Although the Government has criticised previous regimes for using the mantra "If we have it we will spend it," it is using that mantra to a scale never envisaged before. It has got the extra money and, since there is an upcoming election, it is saying it will increase expenditure for 2015 and have any amount of money for 2016. It is saying it has it so it will spend it; that is the essence of what is happening. Today is just one little element of the Government's plan to spend the extra €7 billion that is coming our way. Some of this revenue arises from the increase in corporation tax revenue that we cannot explain. The other element is substantially a consequence of the programme the Government inherited and which it operated in full for three years to put the country back on its feet.


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