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Budget Statement 2019 (Continued)

Tuesday, 9 October 2018

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 973 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe] SOCIAL WELFARE

I will now turn to social welfare. Last year, I was in a position to increase all weekly social welfare payments and I am pleased to announce that I can do so again in 2019. In addition to a €5 per week increase in all weekly social welfare payments from next March, I am also pleased to be able to fully restore the 100% Christmas bonus payment to all social welfare recipients this year.

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Hear, hear.

Deputy Paschal Donohoe: Information on Paschal Donohoe Zoom on Paschal Donohoe A new paid parental leave scheme will be introduced in November 2019 to provide two extra weeks' leave to every parent of a child in their first year. I intend to increase that to seven extra weeks over time.

  To support working families and to ensure that work pays, next March, I will increase the earnings disregard for the one-parent family payment and introduce a maintenance disregard for the working family payment.

  I am also introducing a set of measures that focus on increasing the living standards of the most vulnerable in our community. This includes increases to the qualified child payment of €2.20 per week in respect of under 12s and €5.20 per week in respect of over 12s, as well as a €25 increase in both back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance rates. These supports aim to ensure that national economic growth translates into rising living standards and falling poverty, especially for our children.

EDUCATION

  Education also offers an important avenue to enhanced living standards, delivering benefits for individuals and for society. Uncertainty around Brexit and other risks to the economy underscore the need for us to continue to invest in our people.

  That is why I am allocating €10.8 billion to the Department of Education and Skills in 2019. That is a 6.7% increase on 2018 and includes funding of €66 million to meet our changing demographics. That will allow for almost 1,300 additional posts in schools in 2019. The Government is also increasing the standard capitation rate per pupil by 5%.

  The Government is investing more than €1.8 billion to support children with special educational needs. That will allow for up to an additional 950 special needs assistants to be recruited in 2019, bringing the total number to more than 15,900.

  In last year's budget, I announced a 0.1% increase in the national training fund, NTF, levy and I indicated that I would consider further incremental changes. I am satisfied that further modest increases of 0.1% in both 2019 and 2020 are appropriate.

  That enables me to provide more targeted investment to meet the skills and education needs of our people with more than 15,000 new places in the higher education and further education and training sectors, including more than 1,200 craft and earn-as-you-learn places; 1,100 traineeships; more than 8,000 places through Skillnet Ireland and Springboard; and 5,000 new lifelong and flexible learning opportunities.

  That investment, along with the almost 3,500 additional undergraduate places being funded in 2019, represents a significant response to the global uncertainties facing the economy, including Brexit.

  In response to the recommendations of the independent review of the NTF, the Government will use part of the surplus in the fund to establish a multi-annual, ring-fenced human capital initiative of €300 million over the period 2020 to 2024, which includes the period of Brexit. The initiative will increase investment in higher education courses throughout the country.

  I am allocating an additional €196 million for capital in education in 2019. This will support the creation of up to 18,000 additional permanent school places and 5,000 replacement places; facilitate the further upgrade of ICT infrastructure in schools; and provide €150 million for investment in higher education, further education and training, and research.

  The long-term focus on investing in education has allowed Ireland to attract and develop world leading businesses across a range of sectors. That is needed because of Brexit but it also provides us with new opportunities to attract and to create new businesses.

SUPPORTING BUSINESS AND SMES

  To support that, I am allocating funding of €950 million to the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation in 2019, which is an increase of 9% on last year. That is because SMEs provide most of our employment and additional Government support for this sector is crucial in light of Brexit.

  I am, therefore, pleased to announce the launch of a future growth loan scheme for SMEs and the agriculture and food sector. The Government will bring in new legislation to implement this scheme, which will provide up to €300 million. That builds on the €300 million invested through the Brexit loan scheme last year and forms an important part of the Government's Brexit initiative.

  I am also providing more than €110 million for Brexit measures across a number of Departments, including funding for essential customs requirements and other targeted measures.

  As part of the national development plan, NDP, I have established a disruptive technologies innovation fund, which makes €500 million available for co-funded projects including enterprise and research partners over the period to 2027.

Key Employee Engagement Programme

  The key employee engagement programme, KEEP, came into effect on 1 January this year to help SMEs to attract and retain employees in our highly competitive labour market. I am aware that take-up has been less than expected and I have decided to take early action now.

  I am increasing the ceiling on the maximum annual market value of share options that may be granted to 100% of salary. I am also replacing the three-year limit with a lifetime limit and increasing the overall value of options that may be awarded per employee from €250,000 to €300,000. Those changes will help support SMEs to compete for skilled staff.

Employment and Investment Incentive

  Following on from the review of the employment and investment incentive, I intend to bring forward a priority package of measures in the finance Bill to address the main problems identified and to increase its efficiency and effectiveness.

  The measures provide certainty for businesses to enable them to plan for the future. Another way in which certainty will be provided to businesses is through a consistent approach to corporation tax policy.

CORPORATION TAX

  Our long-standing 12.5% rate will not change. Corporation tax revenue has been growing strongly and a significant part of the growth for this year is due to changes in international accounting standards, IFRS 15. Approximately €700 million of the 2018 over-performance is estimated as one-off. As these receipts are not expected to repeat next year, they do not feature in projecting receipts for 2019.

  We must be aware of the risks associated with the concentration of these revenues.


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