Tuesday, 11 November 2014
Dáil Éireann Debate
[Deputy Tom Barry: ] There are cases where people are receiving cheques for their electricity allowance which make it clear that they are not living in the house. If they are not living there then it is the case that a social house is empty that someone else could use. Given that we are investing €2 billion in social housing, we must examine the current stock and ensure that claims are properly made. I do not take issue with the requirement by Irish Water for people to provide PPS numbers given the situation with the household benefits package. Previously, people who got an allocation of electricity units used them up and started again the next month, but now if one does not use them, one gets a cheque for the relevant amount. That is absolutely bonkers.
Deputy Sean Fleming: I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Social Welfare Bill 2014. The Bill, as presented is a particularly short one. It essentially contains one section, which runs to little more than a page. One must ask what it is all about. It gives statutory effect to the recent budgetary announcement by the Ministers for Finance and Public Expenditure and Reform. Two items of legislation are required on foot of the announcement, namely, the Finance Bill, Second Stage of which was discussed last week, and the Social Welfare Bill we are discussing today. The Bills are related as they cover different aspects of the same budget day announcement.
One could ask whether the budget was good or bad. The answer is very simple. The budget can be summarised in one simple sentence. On budget day and on the following day people asked me to explain the budget to them. I gave a straight answer to the question put to me. If one earns an income of more than €70,000 per annum then one is better off. If one earns an income of less than €40,000 a year, that is €800 a week, one is worse off.
In the context of the Finance Bill and the Social Welfare Bill, we are talking about legislation to copperfasten a budget that gave tax increases to the wealthy and caused severe difficulty for every household in the country with an income of less than €800 a week. The latter group is worse off following the budget. Anybody who thinks for a minute that the Opposition will support any legislative enactment to bring the budget into effect is badly mistaken. The budget was wrong. It was regressive. It looked after the wealthy - certain supporters of certain parties in government - and the other party in government was ignored. In case people do not understand, the budget is simple. If one’s household income is more than €70,000 a year, one is better off and if one has a household income of less than €800 a week, one is worse off.
Deputy Sean Fleming: I include in those figures the water rates bills that are due next year. They must be taken into account. On budget day the Minister made it very clear that water rates are separate from budgetary measures, but one person gave the lie to that statement by the Minister for Finance, namely, the Taoiseach. At an annual Fine Gael event he inextricably linked tax rates and water rates. He made it very clear that if water rates are not introduced, there will be a 4% increase in the tax rate. He made the situation abundantly clear, more so than any commentator in this House or elsewhere could have done. The point we made on budget day is that one cannot look separately at the budget and other Government charges. The Taoiseach confirmed that in his own statement. He said it on the national airwaves. He inextricably linked water rates and income tax rates. The water rates bill is part of the legislation. There is a reference to the issue in the explanatory memorandum of the Social Welfare Bill even though it does not appear in the legislation.
The answer to the question of whether this is good or bad legislation is very simple. It is legislation to look after the wealthy. All the budgets produced by the Government since 2012 were regressive. All objective analysts have confirmed that. Someone cajoled the ESRI recently into producing a report showing that the combined effects of budgets from 2008 to 2012 were progressive overall. The reason for that is very simple. Difficult and all as the budgets were in 2008, 2009 and 2010, when the most difficult cuts were being made, those on the lowest income levels were looked after the best and the budgets were progressive. Ever since the Government came to power the budgets have been regressive. If one adds the budgets introduced by the Fianna Fáil-led Governments to the first two budgets introduced by the Government, the overall effect was positive because of the carry-over of the progressive budgets.
One could ask what we should have done with the available resources. This is the first time we had resources available and the Government made choices. Although key issues arise in the areas of health, homelessness and housing, the Government decided to give tax cuts to high income earners. That was the answer to everything.
|Last Updated: 22/09/2016 12:26:15||Page of 90|