Financial Resolutions, 1999. - Financial Resolution No. 1: Foreign Travel.

Wednesday, 1 December 1999

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 512 No. 1

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The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I move:

(1) THAT the duty of excise on the issue of passenger tickets imposed by section 65(2) of the Finance Act, 1982 (No. 14 of 1982) shall not be charged or levied on or after 1 January, 2000.

(2) IT is hereby declared that it is expedient in the public interest that this Resolution shall have statutory effect under the provisions of the Provisional Collection of Taxes Act, 1927 (No. 7 of 1927).

The resolution provides for the abolition of the excise duty on tickets issued for travel overseas by air or sea with effect from 1 January 2000. This tax was first imposed with effect from 1 September 1982 and the annual yield has increased steadily over time to approximately £19 million this year. However, with the improvement in Government revenues and in recognition of the abolition duty free sales for intra-EU travel with effect from 1 July 1999, it is an opportune time to abolish this tax. This is a positive measure in support of the business and tourism sectors and will be of considerable benefit to regional airports and to air and sea transport operators.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I should point out that this discussion is in Committee.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  This foreign travel tax should be abolished immediately. People travelling this Christmas to meet members of their families who are abroad should not have to pay this tax. Many people will travel this Christmas and many will travel abroad to celebrate the millennium with members of their families who are abroad. They should not have to pay the tax.

This tax is wrong and it was wrong on the day it was introduced. We can now afford to abolish it and we will have to do so as a result of EU rules. The date by which it is removed should be 1 December. We should not wait until 1 January.

We cannot put down an amendment to change the date because the procedure does not allow us to put down any amendments. We have no choice, therefore, but to oppose it on the basis that we believe a new resolution should be introduced tomorrow with the words “with immediate effect” substituted for the words “or after 1 January, 2000.” Unless the Taoiseach is willing to accept an oral amendment to that effect we have no choice but to oppose it.

We are also opposing this tax symbolically because of our opposition to the philosophy of the budget. It seems that the Minister believes that people who are not paid for things do not count. If a mother or father decides to stay at home to look after their children the fact that [163] they are not being paid for it means they do not count.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  A question. The Deputy should confine his remarks to the resolution.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  They do not count for anything. Women in the home do not count for anything in the eyes of the Government. That says all that needs to be said about its ethics. I am glad to have the opportunity to oppose this motion, symbolically for that purpose and in practical terms because this tax should be abolished with immediate effect and not from 1 January.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  We are opposed to the motion for two reasons. First, this is a very bad budget. It is far worse than we were led to expect or believe. I do not know who is in charge of the shop in Upper Merrion Street, but as on previous occasions, this resolution gives us our first opportunity to express our utter opposition to the thrust of the budget.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That discussion is a matter for a general resolution.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  This is a component of the budget.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  We are on Committee Stage and as Deputies are aware, on Committee Stage only proposals before the House are dealt with.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I will not suggest that the tax should be retained to tax you, Sir, when you travel to Kilkenny.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The proposal now before the House is one relative to the—

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The proposal before the House is that this tax be abolished with effect from January at a time when the Government has more money than any previous Administration ever had. It has so much money it is trying to hide it from itself let alone from the public at large. There is a contingency fund of approximately £500 million going into this budget as well as a projected surplus. The only reason contingency funds were projected in the past was to maintain some degree of budget equilibrium and overall income equilibrium between one year and another. There is absolutely no reason that this tax could not be abolished with effect from midnight tonight. There is certainly no financial reasons and I am sure, given the competitive market in the travel area, that the people with responsibility for collecting this tax would be quite happy to avail of that. Certainly those people who tonight will be collecting the extra 50p on packets of cigarettes, which were bought into the shops prior to this, would be quite happy to charge the extra 50p at midnight.

For that reason, the Labour Party is opposed [164] to this resolution. We will call a division in respect of it. If it must go, and it is being abolished because of an EU interpretation which the Minister for Finance has already indicated as being the reason for its abolition, then it should go tonight because there is no financial reason, from the point of view of available moneys, that it should stay for four more weeks. For both those reasons, one—

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  If it was a new tax, it would be introduced tonight—

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Yes.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  —but they cannot give the concession tonight.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Deputy is correct. Other people will have the chance to say this within the orders of the House. On this net point, the Labour Party is opposed to this resolution.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I just want to add my voice to that. The price of cigarettes is being increased immediately from midnight, but the Government is not introducing this for a good reason. The only reason is that it is being forced into withdrawing this tax because it is seen to be unfair and discriminatory. I appeal to the Taoiseach to immediately implement the cut to give a Christmas bonus to the thousands of travellers who will be travelling over the Christmas period. The public will appreciate it.

As my Leader said, my party will vote on this to show its opposition to one of the most anti-family budgets to have ever been introduced in this House. The appalling situation where the woman working in the home is being discriminated against—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Statements on the budget are not in order.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  —is outrageous.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I pointed out that we are in committee debating the Financial Resolution and the Deputy should reserve any comments of a general nature to the General Resolution.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I will reserve those comments, but I am putting on record the reason my party opposes this issue, is to show its position on a number of anti-family measures which the Government is introducing at a time when the coffers are overflowing.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I am happy to support this resolution.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  Asylum seekers.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  I am surprised to hear the comments of some of the Opposition spokespeople in opposing the abolition of a £5 travel tax.

[165](Interruptions).

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  He is offside. He is offside this week again.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  No, the question which is being put relates to the abolition of a tax. The Deputy should not try to misrepresent me.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  You are offside. You have tried to mislead the people.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  In recent weeks and months, I have contacted a number of airline companies and the Minister for Finance on this issue with a view to—

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Organising charters.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  —perhaps, increasing benefits to a number of people, in particular, older people where an extension of their current travel arrangements under the Department of Social, Community and Family Affairs regarding free travel could be explored, but—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  That is a separate matter. The Deputy should confine his remarks to the resolution.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  —but there were two difficulties: the £5 travel tax and another charge. I am pleased that this is a step in the right direction, as the Minister stated in his speech today, if I recall correctly, as it would encourage and assist older people to travel. I support the abolition of this excise travel tax. This will be of tremendous benefit to all concerned as we approach the 21st century at a time when air travel is a means of transport used by everyone. I welcome this proposal to abolish such a tax.

Mr. D. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  The difficulty which Deputy Callely does not seem to understand is that his Government likes to apply discriminatory taxation. It can afford to increase the tax on cigarettes tonight but it cannot afford to abolish the travel tax until January.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  The Deputy should be pragmatic.

Mr. D. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  There is nothing unpragmatic about that. That is the simple matter. You are trying to change it somewhere else. If you were appealing—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  The Deputy should address the Chair.

Mr. D. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  A Cheann Comhairle, had Deputy Callely appealed to the Taoiseach on behalf of the old age pensioners who will receive a miserly increase—

(Interruptions).[166]

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  His Government gave nothing.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Order, please.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Remember the £1.50 they gave them.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The Taoiseach should not be ridiculous.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Is something the matter today? What happened—

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Could we have order, please? Again may I point out to the Members that—

Mr. D. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  I was about to say something about the Taoiseach's constituency. There are rumours circulating in the House that there are people in the Taoiseach's constituency who bought in stockpiles of cigarettes knowing that their price would increase by 50p. That is a fact and it occurred in the Taoiseach's constituency.

(Interruptions).

Mr. D. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Therefore, they can do that and laugh at the poor old age pensioners.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  The Taoiseach does not smoke.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I join my colleagues in opposing this for a couple of reasons. First, as other Deputies have said, it seems to me entirely illogical that this tax would be continued until 1 January. It is quite clear that it contravenes EU rules. It is clear that the Government is being forced to introduce this change because otherwise it would be penalised by the European Court. It seems to me that it is a very bad day when we recognise that we are imposing an unlawful tax but then say that we will continue to impose it for another month. This House has a duty to uphold legal rules by which the State is bound. I appeal to the Taoiseach to amend the resolution. When responding will the Taoiseach indicate the additional income from which the State will benefit over the next 31 days for which the tax will continue to apply?

I found Deputy Callely's intervention intriguing. He is a man who does not want to tax the people who want to leave the country but he is quite happy to make it difficult for people who want to enter the country.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Its more about arrivals than departures.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  He has a problem about arrivals but no difficulty about departures. I think that is the issue.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  That does not warrant a response.

[167]

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I was expecting when he rose to his feet that not only would he support the Taoiseach on abolishing this tax, as he would inevitably have to do because the Whip is imposed on him, but that he would appeal for an additional tax to be imposed on anyone who attempts to enter the State and wishes to stay for more than two weeks. It came as some relief that he did not do so.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  That is lovely.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I agree with statements made by other colleagues that this—

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  How long are you in it?

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Could you repeat that?

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  Sorry, did I miss something?

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  You did.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  It was only a comment.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  Deputy Callely said something else which he should withdraw.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Deputy Callely asked, “how long are you in this country”?

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  No, I did not.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Yes, you did.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  You did; you certainly did. I heard you.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  Could we have some order. Deputy Shatter, have you anything else to say?

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Will the Deputy repeat the words again?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Séamus Pattison  Zoom on Séamus Pattison  I remind Members that we are on Committee Stage and, therefore, it is possible for every Member to make a comment in order.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  I must confess, Sir, that I did not hear what Deputy Callely said, but it is usual that the first vote on an issue on budget night not only deals with the issue on which the House is voting but is a symbolic indicator of the level of the House's support for the basic ethos and thrust of a budget. It is right because this resolution is foolishly drawn up. Under European law it is possibly illegal for us to continue with this tax. It is right for us to vote against it for that reason, but it is also right that at the first opportunity Opposition Members have to vote they should indicate their disapproval for the view now taken by the Government that any spouse – be it a man or woman – who decides to remain within the [168] home to bring up the family should be financially penalised for so doing.

Mrs. O'Rourke: Information on Mary O'Rourke  Zoom on Mary O'Rourke  She is not being penalised. Nobody is being penalised.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  That is rubbish.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  That is an extraordinary precedent for this House. I have no doubt that it is a precedent, as the solicitor who was involved in the Murphy case—

Acting Chairman (Mr. O'Malley): Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  This resolution concerns excise duty on travel tickets.

Mr. Shatter: Information on Alan Shatter  Zoom on Alan Shatter  It is an issue which will inevitably give rise to a constitutional challenge.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  On a point of order, a comment was made by Deputy Callely, which may be on the record and if it is I would like him to withdraw it. If it is not on the record, he should have the decency to withdraw it anyway.

Acting Chairman:  The Chair did not hear any comment by him.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  I heard it and I am sure other Members of the House heard it also.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I heard the comment. He asked Deputy Shatter how long he had been in the House. I do not see what is wrong with that comment.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  He asked how long was he in the country. That is what he said. Of course, the Taoiseach did not hear him last week either.

Mr. Callely: Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  It might be on the record and the Deputy will be proved wrong.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is not a very nice comment to make. The Deputy should be ashamed of himself.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  We are debating the proposal by the Minister for Finance to abolish a £5 travel tax. The tax was introduced in 1982 and since then it has remained at £5. All parties have had spells in Government since then, although some of them have been in power longer than they deserve. We all had our opportunities—

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  We did not all have billions in the coffers.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  When the Opposition is having difficulty finding fault with the budget, it is perhaps understandable that they should decide to focus on a £5 tax they were prepared to put up with for the last 17 years. All of a sudden, they now want the tax to be abolished on 1 December rather than 1 January. It is hypocrisy at its worst. The Opposition should cop themselves on.

[169]Mr. Higgins: Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins  (Dublin West): I support the lifting of the £5 travel tax. I will not be voting against it because that is game playing. I am appalled at the attitude of the Government and some of the Opposition parties. I remember when the tax was introduced in the 1980s and at the time I was a member of the administrative council of the national executive of the Labour Party. It was an appalling measure, a knee-jerk reaction to the crisis in which the Irish capitalist economy then found itself. The travel tax was in the same category as many other measures introduced then, including water charges and various forms of double taxation which hit ordinary people. In the context of the 1980s, the travel tax was the ultimate insult for tens of thousands of our people, the youth in particular, who were forced into emigration and exile because of the dismal failure of the economy. Their parting gift for the Governments of the day – and a number presided over the measure – was to pay £5 tax as they were kicked out to make a living abroad.

I listened carefully to the Minister for Finance when he gave the rationale for getting rid of the tax and it certainly was not done in a generous spirit. It was done because the EU required the abolition of the tax on the basis of equality between people of different nationalities within the EU. Otherwise this State would have had to levy the tax on people travelling within the State as well as those travelling to destinations outside the EU. The distinct impression I got from the Minister's comments was that he would not have the neck to impose a £5 travel tax on people travelling within the country and, therefore, the easiest thing was to get rid of it. In fact, the tax should never have been imposed in the first place.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  I support the proposal to have this tax abolished immediately. It would have been a warm gesture on the Minister's part to transfer it in total to the fuel allowance for the elderly, which has not been increased for 13 or 14 years. By abolishing the travel tax today instead of on 1 January, the Minister could have given the benefit to the elderly immediately. It is unfair that the Minister forgot about the elderly in today's budget. The Minister for Social, Community and Family Affairs told us such a measure would cost millions of pounds, but £20 million could have been made available by abolishing the travel tax a month early, and that could have been transferred to the elderly.

Acting Chairman:  This resolution is on foreign travel.

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  That is right.

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy should stick to that.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Before the House votes on this resolution, I am seeking a point of clarification arising from what Deputy Farrelly said. He [170] said he would like to support the proposal to oppose the elimination of this tax on travel. I am not aware that there is any such proposal that Deputy Farrelly can support. No such proposal is before the House and none has been made. Can the Deputy, or anyone else, explain how he is opposing a proposal from the Minister for Finance to abolish a tax on travel from this country – which everyone in the House has opposed for almost 20 years – while, in his own words, supporting a proposal which is not before the House? I do not understand that. The Acting Chairman has had some considerable experience in the House also. I have heard some specious arguments from the Opposition that they are not actually opposed to the proposal but they will use the vote to highlight some other matters, even those that have no relevance whatsoever to the motion in the name of the Minister. Whatever other reasons may be used to vote in a certain way, Deputy Joe Higgins put it very well when he said it was game playing. If the Opposition is going to vote against this motion, they should do so in the full knowledge that they are against the elimination of a travel tax.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  For Deputy O'Kennedy's benefit, may I correct the Fine Gael position in relation to this motion? The motion proposes that this foreign travel tax be abolished as and from 1 January. As an Opposition party we support the concept of abolishing the tax, but we are saying it should be done today instead of on 1 January. Other resolutions are making changes as and from today and we are quite within our rights to propose an amendment. If the Taoiseach does not accept it, then we have no alternative but to—

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  Where is the Deputy's amendment?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  We cannot table the amendment, as the Deputy well knows, having spent some time as Minister for Finance.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  The Deputy is within his rights to table an amendment, but where is it?

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  I am surprised that Deputy O'Kennedy is not aware of the position.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  One cannot put down an amendment.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  We make no apologies for the fact that we wish this tax to be abolished as and from today and we will vote against the proposal that does not permit it to be abolished as and from today. I would remind the Deputy that on many occasions in the past, particularly in the early 1980s, when some people found it too difficult to support hard decisions, they walked out on the first vote, which was a Mickey Mouse vote, in order to oppose the budget. Other Deputies who feel very strongly about some of the proposals [171] contained in the budget, particularly the anti-family proposals—

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  That is not before us now.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  —are entitled to express their opposition to that type of budget.

We will use our position to vote against this proposal, in order to express that dissatisfaction.

Mr. O'Kennedy: Information on Michael O'Kennedy  Zoom on Michael O'Kennedy  That was an extraordinary presentation.

Minister for Tourism, Sport and Recreation (Dr. McDaid): Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  I support this resolution.

Mr. D. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  The Minister wanted to increase it further.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The debate which has occurred has nothing to do with this proposal. I must take issue with Deputies Barrett, Shatter and John Bruton who veered away from the substance of the motion when they know that all they have to do is make a speech connected with the issue.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Minister wanted to increase it.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  I support Deputy Higgins who stated—

(Interruptions).

Acting Chairman:  The Minister, without interruption.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  I only want to make one point. Deputy Higgins and my colleague, Deputy Power, were quite correct. This tax has existed since the early 1980s. We have abolished it today.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Minister was forced to do so by his Leader.

Mr. Timmins: Information on Billy Timmins  Zoom on Billy Timmins  He will replace it with a tax on bed nights.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  That tax has been there since 1982. Successive Administrations had the power to abolish it, yet the only argument the Opposition can make tonight – Deputy Higgins is quite correct in his deliberations – is to oppose this for the sake of political opportunism. I thought Deputy Quinn did not stand for that type of opportunism. That was the old way. It is true we are abolishing it because the EU found this tax would be illegal.

Mr. D. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  The Minister wanted to double it.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  It is time we abolished it. The point is that—

Acting Chairman:  The Minister, without interruption.

[172]Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The EU's point was that for this tax to remain legal, we would have to tax Irish people going from Dublin to Connemara and so on.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Minister considered it.

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  However, this Government is not in the business of taxing Irish people.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  What about married couples?

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  We are here to remove taxes from people. Therefore, we are abolishing this tax. That is what we have done from the beginning. That is the relevance of this point. We are not imposing any further tax on people.

Mr. Barrett: Information on Seán Barrett  Zoom on Seán Barrett  The Government imposed it on married couples.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Now that the Minister, Deputy McDaid, has decided to offer his view on this matter, it might be useful if he informed the Taoiseach how his logic is derived from European Union decisions. I understand the Minister was suggesting a tax on people arriving here. If European law is the basis—

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  The Deputy should come into the present. We are talking about today.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I am talking about today. I am just suggesting—

Mr. Farrelly: Information on John V. Farrelly  Zoom on John V. Farrelly  It is a case of, “Do not remind me what I did”.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It is matter of being logical, not just today but five minutes ago. We have just heard from the Minister that there is a European basis for removing the £5 tax. I suppose the European Union was concentrating only on movement between Dublin and places such as the Aran Islands, and was not worried about European citizens moving around Europe, which is its usual concern. That is a little illogical, unless we hear a very clear statement in the final summary that the Taoiseach has told the Minister that the £5 on arrivals – and, God knows, we have heard enough about departures and arrivals over the past month or two – is now as dead as a dodo. What is being suggested here is perfectly—

Dr. McDaid: Information on James McDaid  Zoom on James McDaid  That was long ago.

Mr. Allen: Information on Bernard Allen  Zoom on Bernard Allen  The Minister was suggesting it six months ago.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  It is very clear. If the Minister wants to dance on the head of a pin, the resolution before the House can be changed only by the Government. The Taoiseach can stand up and say that everybody is playing games and that he is going to call their bluff. He can say he has listened very carefully and that he proposes to [173] amend the resolution, that it will be exactly the same as the increased tax on cigarettes and that he will do it from midnight tonight. The argument would then be over. However, he is not going to do that.

The Taoiseach: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  We would have nothing to talk about if I did that.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  Therefore, the onus is on him to justify the distinction between cigarettes and this £5 tax.

I also want to refer to some of the other comments that were made. This suggestion is made in the context of a very long statement by the Minister for Finance. Those of us who are taking the first opportunity to vote against a budget which gave a huge benefit to those with inherited wealth who want to transfer property, while giving £20 per week to the lower paid—

Acting Chairman:  We are discussing the question of excise duty on foreign travel.

[174]Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  We are reserving the right to call a vote. We are taking the first opportunity available to us to show what we think of a purely regressive budget that transfers benefit to wealth, not only to earned wealth but massively, when one does the figures, to inherited wealth. Those who want to transfer great fortunes, which were mostly made on the basis of speculation, are receiving a tax reduction from 40 per cent to 20 per cent. They will be laughing—

Acting Chairman:  This motion is on the question of excise duty on foreign travel.

Mr. M. Higgins: Information on Michael D. Higgins  Zoom on Michael D. Higgins  I notice there has not been a great rush by the Progressive Democrats to speak in the House because they are too busy in the bar, crowing about the budget they managed to impose on Fianna Fáil.

Acting Chairman:  I ask the Deputy to resume his seat as the time for this debate has expired.

Question put: “That Financial Resolution No. 1 be agreed to.”

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Ahern, Noel.
Ardagh, Seán.
Aylward, Liam.
Blaney, Harry.
Brady, Johnny.
Brady, Martin.
Brennan, Matt.
Brennan, Séamus.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Wexford).
Callely, Ivor.
Carey, Pat.
Collins, Michael.
Cooper-Flynn, Beverley.
Coughlan, Mary.
Cowen, Brian.
Cullen, Martin.
Daly, Brendan.
Davern, Noel.
de Valera, Síle.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
Doherty, Seán.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fleming, Seán.
Flood, Chris.
Foley, Denis.
Fox, Mildred.
Gildea, Thomas.
Hanafin, Mary.
Haughey, Seán.
Healy-Rae, Jackie.
Jacob, Joe.
Keaveney, Cecilia.
Kelleher, Billy.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Killeen, Tony.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Lenihan, Conor.
McDaid, James.
McGennis, Marian.
McGuinness, John.
Moffatt, Thomas.
Martin, Micheál.
Molloy, Robert.
Moloney, John.
Moynihan, Donal.
Moynihan, Michael.
Ó Cuív, Éamon.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Flynn, Noel.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Batt.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Malley, Desmond.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Reynolds, Albert.
Roche, Dick.
Ryan, Eoin.
Smith, Brendan.
Smith, Michael.
Treacy, Noel.
Wade, Eddie.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Woods, Michael. Wright, G. V.[175]

Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Bell, Michael.
Belton, Louis.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Broughan, Thomas.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Burke, Ulick.
Carey, Donal.
Clune, Deirdre.
Connaughton, Paul.
Cosgrave, Michael.
Coveney, Simon.
Crawford, Seymour.
Creed, Michael.
Currie, Austin.
D'Arcy, Michael.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas.
Farrelly, John.
Ferris, Michael.
Finucane, Michael.
Fitzgerald, Frances.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Éamon.
Hayes, Brian.
[176] Higgins, Michael.
Hogan, Philip.
Kenny, Enda.
McCormack, Pádraic.
McDowell, Derek.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGrath, Paul.
McManus, Liz.
Mitchell, Gay.
Mitchell, Jim.
Mitchell, Olivia.
Moynihan-Cronin, Breeda.
Naughten, Denis.
Neville, Dan.
O'Keeffe, Jim.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Jan.
Owen, Nora.
Penrose, William.
Perry, John.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerard.
Ring, Michael.
Ryan, Seán.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick.
Shortall, Róisín.
Stanton, David.
Timmins, Billy.
Upton, Mary.
Wall, Jack.
Yates, Ivan.

Question declared carried.


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