Finance (No. 2) Bill 2008 (Certified Money Bill): Committee and Remaining Stages.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Seanad Eireann Debate
Vol. 193 No. 4

First Page Previous Page Page of 9 Next Page Last Page

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I move recommendation No. 1:

This is a very good amendment because it examines the Commission on Taxation. The Commission on Taxation was given a lot of work to do in the last budget. It has to examine a range of tax concessions and new taxes which the Government would like to impose, but it is important the commission examines the effects many of these tax breaks have on our economy. [212] For many exemptions, such as the private hospital and nursing home tax exemptions, we do not know how much they cost the Government.

A number of years ago the then Minister for Finance, former Deputy McCreevy, put a clause into the Finance Bill whereby everybody who claimed these, mainly property-based, tax breaks had to fill in tax returns to let the Government know exactly how much they were benefiting from this. The Government should easily be able to put this information together and find out how much people are benefiting from tax loopholes. The impact of the private hospital and nursing home tax exemption, property based tax breaks and the VAT difference between the North and South of Ireland are all very important.

Some are trying to make out that the only reason people are flying up to Northern Ireland is the sterling-euro exchange rate but there is a large difference between VAT rates North and South and that is having a major impact. It also gives the perception that there is a problem. We should be seeking to normalise trading between the North and South of this island in the long term. We see many high profile cases of people claiming to be non-residents for tax purposes and avoiding significant amounts of tax. The impact of the 1% levy on consumers is very important and I would like to hear the Minister’s views on that.

Senator John Hanafin: Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  There may be difficulty with the other paragraphs but I am looking in particular at paragraph (e). The Minister has made it clear that he has factored in all the costs and implications of taxation. There is a convention in this House and in other parliaments throughout Europe that one does not mention certain events that occurred in the past, including the Civil War. Unfortunately, Senator John Paul Phelan gratuitously mentioned the Civil war this morning. In the spirit of Christmas, I will just say that the convention should be adhered to in the future. It was wrong to say what he said, but I am sure it will not happen again.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  On behalf of the Fine Gael Party, what was the gratuitous insult to which the Senator referred? I was here at the time and I do not remember anything more than a misinterpretation of the historical facts being put before the House.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I call on the Minister of State to speak on the recommendation.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Deputy Pat Carey): Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The Commission on Taxation was established in February 2008. The purpose of the commission is to review the structure, efficiency and appropriateness of the Irish taxation system. The work of the commission will set the framework within which tax policy will be set for the next decade. It is important that the commission takes a strategic, considered and balanced perspective that recognises the evolving challenges we face. Therefore, the terms of reference of the commission are broadly defined and far-reaching and allow for consideration of all aspects of the Irish taxation system.

Introducing the type of very specific terms of reference as the Senator has proposed would only serve to restrict the work of the commission and place it under unnecessary constraints. If we were to make the terms of reference so specific that they would remove discretion from the commission, why would there be need for a commission in the first place? It is also important the commission retains an independent role in the course of its deliberations. For that reason, it is not appropriate to comment on further specific proposals made to the commission at this stage.

[213]The members of the commission are drawn from the social partners and the accounting and tax advisory sectors, and they also include accomplished people with environmental and economic expertise, as well as people who have wide experience in central and local government. The wide range of skills and knowledge of the members of the commission will help ensure that we get a report that can help shape future policy in a positive manner. Therefore, I do not accept this recommendation.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is Senator Doherty pressing his recommendation?

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Indeed, I am. Property-based tax breaks, especially tax breaks which facilitate the privatisation of our health care system, have made very little difference to the long-term performance of our economy. However, they have resulted in the State forgoing hundreds of millions of euro in revenue. A recent article published in The Sunday Business Post showed that a tax investor who puts €75,000 worth of equity into a private hospital would benefit to the amount of €293,000 in capital allowances over seven years. That would offset the investor’s tax bill on any other rental income. The investment has been described as a State subsidised bonanza for extremely wealthy investors who will be queueing up to direct their money into private hospitals at a time when there is a property slump. These tax breaks will do nothing for our economy, but will do more damage to our public health care system.

I call for a review of the VAT system because we have continued evidence of price disparities. A recent survey has shown that homeware was as much as 53% more expensive at Laura Ashley and 49% more expensive at Dunnes Stores, while clothing at Monsoon, Reiss and Next were 40%, 33% and 37% more expensive in outlets in the Twenty-six Counties, respectively, than in the Six Counties. Therefore, I am pressing the recommendation.

Senator Nicky McFadden: Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  I fully support Senator Doherty’s recommendation, especially regarding the 1% levy. We have a small business and I must say that it is impossible for people to make ends meet. There have been increases in energy costs and commercial rates, and people just do not have the same spending power as before. I admit that I am one of those desperate shoppers and the disparity in high street shop prices on either side of the Border is incredible.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The terms of reference of the commission are wide enough to cover the areas being raised by the Senators. Tax incentives are clearly within the remit of the commission on taxation, but I will bring the comments of the Senators to the attention of the Minister.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  The recommendation simply requires that the Minister requests a study to be done within six months of the enactment of the Bill. If he is unwilling to give that commitment, I must press the recommendation on this important issue.

Recommendation put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 19; Níl, 26.

Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul. Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy.
Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice.
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal.
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic.
Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  Healy Eames, Fidelma. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on David P.B. Norris  Zoom on David P.B. Norris  Norris, David. Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.
Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.  


Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Marc MacSharry  Zoom on Marc MacSharry  MacSharry, Marc.
Information on Lisa McDonald  Zoom on Lisa McDonald  McDonald, Lisa. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Pearse Doherty and Liam Twomey; Níl, Senators Diarmuid Wilson and Camillus Glynn.

Recommendation declared lost.

Section 1 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  As recommendations Nos. 2 and 2a are related, they may be discussed together.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I move recommendation No. 2:

This recommendation aims to increase the number of people who are exempt from the 1% levy. The Government decision to take cash from households at a time when their spending power has been severely diminished is a regressive one. Sinn Féin proposes that the PAYE tax credit be increased by 5% to give households more purchasing power at a time when inflation is persistently above 4% and energy costs are the subject of double-digit increases. The €18,000 breather does not prevent low income families from being penalised. Given that our economy is based on consumption and spending, why is the Minister for Finance stymying the spending power of households that could help to ease the recession at a time when economic activity is plummeting? Why did the Minister not remove the PRSI ceiling to ensure that low income families are not touched by this tax increase? This recommendation proposes to increase the €18,000 threshold, which my party feels is far too low. We want those earning under €37,000 to be exempt from the 1% levy. The Government should accept the recommendation because it would set a fairer threshold.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Senator Doherty’s recommendation would almost double the exemption threshold applying to the income levy from €18,304 to €37,000. The cost of such a measure would be €185 million in 2009 and €265 million in a full year. Not only would this measure involve a significant cost, it would also be 7% in excess of the average industrial wage for 2009. It should be noted that to maintain the current budget parameters, the cost of this recommend[215]ation would have to be recouped from elsewhere. I believe the current structure of the levy is fair and equitable. It is straightforward and readily collectable. The Minister has introduced measures in the Bill to ensure the lowest paid will be exempt from the levy. As the Minister stated in his budget speech, the levy is being introduced to allow income earners to contribute in a proportionate manner to the restoration of order and stability in the public finances. Therefore, I cannot accept the recommendation.

  3 o’clock

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Some of the approaches to taxing income are a bit of a mess. With the income levy a person can change from paying nothing to paying a significant amount on the flip of a euro, which is discriminatory. This is why we propose a graded increase for people who are required to pay the levy, which would be fairer than the proposal in the Bill. The Government may need to review all such payments. There are different thresholds and income limits for an entire range of payments. Some people running businesses will need to employ people to work out these rates. Not only is this provision discriminatory against the person required to pay the income levy, but it adds an additional burden on the administration of companies with all these different thresholds. PRSI, the income levy, the health levy and income tax itself are all taxes on the people. They are a bit of a mess and need serious review. The levy is bad for the person who must pay it and a mess for employers who have enough on their hands without having to deal with this.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  In his reply, the Minister of State spoke about the proposal to double the exemption. In reality this levy is not in place until the Bill is enacted. The Government is trying to force low and middle-income earners to pay more. These are people caught in a poverty trap. In my Second Stage speech, I outlined the difficulties that many within these brackets face, including increases in the cost of fuel prices, food, home heating, child care and mortgages, which are all leading to a poverty trap. The Government may not realise that people earning less than €37,000 are struggling and should not be burdened with this 1% levy. They are already paying their VAT. The Cabinet has lost touch with the reality of the suffering and hardship people are facing throughout the year, particularly coming up to Christmas and the demands on families. The Government is placing additional burdens on people.

People I meet in my constituency and elsewhere in the State are appalled at some of the excesses at Government level. It is clear the Government does not understand the hardships being felt on the ground. If it did, the Tánaiste would not have her toilet refurbished at a cost of €47,000, nor would she spend nights in Dubai at €811 per night. The Cabinet is completely out of touch and does not understand that people earning up to €37,000 are caught in a poverty trap and should not be subject to this levy. I intend to press the recommendation.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Senator Twomey’s recommendation would introduce a fourth rate of 0.5% to the income levy, which would apply for incomes between €18,304 and €28,304 in the case of persons aged between 65 and under and for income between €20,000 and €30,000 for single persons aged over 65 and between €40,000 and €60,000 for a married couple where one or both are aged 65 or over. This would cost approximately €60 million in a full year and the maximum benefit to individual workers would be less than €3 per week. It would also create considerable difficulties in payroll implementation.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Someone on standard income is paying PRSI, the income levy, income tax and a health levy. They all have different minimum thresholds and exemption limits. Would it not be appropriate to tidy up them all?

[216]Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  There are step effects in our current taxation system which have been in place for a number of years. For example there is a step in the current health levy and the PRSI system. There is no compelling evidence that these step effects have discouraged workers from accepting increases in pay. There is precedence for the current income levy structure. The income levy introduced by the Fianna Fáil-Labour Government in 1993 had a step effect, as did the income levy introduced by the Fine Gael-Labour Government in the early 1980s. The health levy is exempt for those earning less than €500 per week or €26,000 per annum. Once a person goes above this threshold he or she will pay the levy on all income, including the first €26,000.

In the PRSI system there is an exemption limit of €352 per week or €18,304 per annum. Once a person goes above this threshold he or she will pay 4% PRSI on all income except the first €127. With the income levy, once a person goes above the €18,304 limit he or she will pay 1% on all his or her income. For a person whose income increases by €1 per week over the threshold they will pay an extra €3.50 per week. This demonstrates that the step effect in the income levy is smaller than the steps in the health levy or the PRSI system.

This levy will aid in the restoration of order and stability in the public finances and will enable Ireland to return as soon as possible to a natural level of economic growth. Economic growth and the provision of high-quality public services are essential in a modern economy. This measure is forward-looking and will have a positive impact on the future. The Minister has said in the Dáil that the Commission on Taxation may consider these issues.

Question put: “That the figure proposed to be deleted stand.”

The Committee divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 6.

Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Marc MacSharry  Zoom on Marc MacSharry  MacSharry, Marc.
Information on Lisa McDonald  Zoom on Lisa McDonald  McDonald, Lisa. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.



Níl
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Dominic Hannigan  Zoom on Dominic Hannigan  Hannigan, Dominic.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Diarmuid Wilson and Camillus Glynn; Níl, Senators Pearse Doherty and Shane Ross.

Question declared carried.

Recommendation declared lost.

Recommendation No. 2a not moved.

[217]Section 2 agreed to.

Sections 3 to 7, inclusive, agreed to.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I move recommendation No. 2b:

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Income tax relief in respect of health expenses will be granted at the standard rate of tax for 2009, with the exception of nursing home fees which will continue to be granted at an individual’s marginal rate of tax. The change provided for in the Finance Bill follows on from the changes made in the Finance Act 2007, that is, the removal of the de minimus threshold of €125 for a single individual and €250 for a married couple. The Finance Act 2007 also provided for the removal of the requirement that there would be a defined relationship between the taxpayer and the person who is the subject of the tax claim. Standard rating health expenses relief will make the tax system fairer and more equitable for all taxpayers in accordance with the commitment in this regard in the programme for Government. The standardising of health expenses relief brings it in line with other reliefs such as rent relief, trade union subscription relief, medical insurance relief, third level fees relief and service charges relief. In addition, the standard rating of health expenses relief will mean better value for money for the Exchequer and will ensure that the relief will benefit the broadest range of taxpayers in a fair and equitable manner.

With regard to Senator Kelly’s recommendation, while I am sympathetic to the individuals undergoing IVF treatment, given the very significant costs they face, the Minister does not believe that one particular treatment or medical procedure could readily be singled out for marginal relief while other treatments are standard-rated. Other Opposition Members have sought the retention of marginal relief for orthodontic treatment that can also involve significant cost.

I understand that what the Senator has in mind is that the higher rate of taxpayers, who are aged 70 years or over, will be allowed to deduct health expenses at their marginal rate. The biggest health expense which an elderly person may face is nursing home fees and the Minister has introduced an amendment to ensure that such fees will continue to be deductible at a taxpayer’s marginal rate. The majority of persons aged over 70 years of age have no liability at the higher rate and many are exempt from tax altogether. The Revenue Commissioners have informed the Minister that approximately 90% of all income tax earners aged over 70 do not have a liability at the higher rate and therefore would not be in a position to benefit from this recommendation.

I do not believe it can be justified to provide a special regime to higher taxpayers based on their age and, for those reasons, I cannot accept the recommendation. However, as I indicated, the Minister is prepared to keep the IVF matter under review.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  The last couple of sections of the Bill were approved by the House. I will point out to the Minister of State that Government Mercedes cars do not come under the heading of benefits-in-kind, BIK, nor are they liable for the parking levy. The only thing the ordinary person gets out of those sections of the Bill is a bicycle. We are making a special case for ourselves and separating ourselves from the public. The provisions in these sections should apply to Government as much as they apply to the ordinary citizen.

[218]The Minister of State is painting this as trying to be fair to every single citizen and that is wrong. These are significant costs for elderly people, especially as the Minister has got rid of their automatic entitlement to a medical card.

I refer to my recommendation 2c on the impact of dental costs on families and children under the age of 16. Orthodontics, dental work and health care are a huge expense for elderly people and young families. To suggest that everyone will be treated equally is completely wrong. The State should be providing many of these services and it fails to provide them. The marginal rate of tax relief should be allowed to apply to this extremely costly expense for many families.

The Minister of State will know that many young children will receive dental treatment over a continuous period of time and they may well be undergoing treatment not yet paid for, and parents will be hammered by not getting the tax relief on the extra costs. The same will apply to some individuals over the age of 70. Their automatic entitlement to a medical card has been taken away from them. If they have substantial health care costs within the community and they are not ill enough to go to a nursing home, they will be heavily penalised by this measure. This measure is incredibly regressive and is not fair.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  As I indicated in my response to the previous recommendation on the Commission on Taxation, the Minister cannot accept an amendment that affects the existing broad terms of reference of the Commission on Taxation.

Recommendation put.

The Committee divided: Tá, 16; Níl, 27.

Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul. Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy.
Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice.
Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal. Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances.
Information on Fidelma Healy Eames  Zoom on Fidelma Healy Eames  Healy Eames, Fidelma. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on Joe O'Reilly  Zoom on Joe O'Reilly  O’Reilly, Joe. Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe.
Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul. Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal.
Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene. Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane.
Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.



Níl
Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse.
Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John. Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine.
Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus. Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John.
Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia. Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry.
Information on Marc MacSharry  Zoom on Marc MacSharry  MacSharry, Marc. Information on Lisa McDonald  Zoom on Lisa McDonald  McDonald, Lisa.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann. Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran.
Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim. Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.  

Tellers: Tá, Senators Maurice Cummins and Liam Twomey; Níl, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson.

Recommendation declared lost.

[219]Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I move recommendation No. 2c:

Recommendation 2c relates to what we discussed on Recommendation 2b. The Government is taking away the opportunity for people to write off their dental costs against tax and get tax relief on dental costs. I have pointed out the substantial cost of this to some families. The Minister does not accept that this should be repealed and that families should be able to continue to write off the cost of orthodontics and other expensive dental work. This is often a plan going over years and many families will be in the middle of this treatment and find that this becomes an additional expense.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The initiative on health expenses relief will yield €120 million in 2010 and €150 million in a full year. The changes provided for in the Finance Bill follow on from the changes made in Finance Act 2007, that is, the removal of the de minimis threshold of €125 for a single individual and €250 for a married couple. The Finance Act 2007 also provided for the removal of the requirement that there be a defined relationship between the taxpayer and the person who is the subject of the tax claim.

Standard rating health relief expenses will make the tax system fairer and more equitable for all taxpayers. The programme for Government commits to increasing the fairness of the tax system and this measure is being introduced in line with this commitment. The standardising of health expenses relief is in line with other reliefs such as rent relief, trade union subscriptions and so on. The standard rating of health expenses relief will mean better value for money for the Exchequer and will ensure the relief will benefit the broadest range of taxpayers in a fair and equitable manner. It is difficult to justify reliefs for one sector of society just because they earn more than another sector. Health expenses relief is an expensive relief and has quadrupled in the past four years. It has risen in cost from €100 million in 2004 to €400 million in 2008. It is difficult to see how we can afford such a generous relief in these challenging economic times. There can be no doubt that the savings accrued from standard rating health expenses relief, some €150 million in a full year, will raise much needed revenue. The Minister has received a number of submissions from the dental profession setting out its concerns in this area.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Orthodontics have a lifelong impact on a young person if there is a failure to complete proper orthodontic work on him or her. The availability of orthodontic work in the public system in this country is abysmal. Most families must do this on their own. It is not just a question of how a child’s teeth are from a functional point of view. There is also the psychological aspect of young children who have significant dental problems and who need extensive orthodontic and other remedial dental work. This expensive work is not available in the public system. We should not just look at the physical part of dentition but also the psychological effects on young teenagers when they are unable to get this work done properly. The argument that there is a sense of fairness in this is wrong. We should provide this service publicly to young teenagers and children. The Minister of State should re-examine this.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The dental profession has sought the extension of the relief to routine dental treatment, basing this on a comparison with relief available for routine doctors visits. Routine dental treatment has never qualified for tax relief and dentists are not in competition [220]with doctors. In any event, the cost of such a concession is estimated to be very high and, given the current fiscal situation, such a concession is out of the question.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I support this recommendation. The recommendation does not set out what relief should be imposed or if one should be imposed at all. It calls for the Commission on Taxation to produce a report within three months on the dental costs of families with children under 16. The report will come up with findings. The reality is that many families cannot afford this dental work. The longer it goes on without being dealt with, the more costly it becomes for families. Not only is this an issue of cost, the person who needs the work done sometimes retreats within and becomes shy or embarrassed in society or among friends. This is because of the work that cannot be done because of the extortionate cost. This should be readily and freely available in the public sector. I support this amendment and the Minister of State should not deny the right of the Government to ask the Commission on Taxation to examine this report. It does not have to be implemented if the Government does not want to but we should have a report from the commission on the cost to families of this treatment.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The terms of reference of the Commission on Taxation are very broad and it will issue its final report on 30 September. I suggest we await the report.

Recommendation put and declared lost.

Section 8 agreed to.

Sections 9 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I move recommendation No. 2d:

The Minister has put forward his version of this. He does not want to be limited to the expertise to which this section can be offered. It is too broad at the moment. The Minister wants to take a wait and see approach to see if this will be abused or used in a way other than the way he recommends. Our amendment refers to the development of a new technological, telecommunication, scientific or business processes. We are trying to build an innovation society. We are trying to build on new technologies and develop new ways of doing business. We must limit the sort of people to limit abuses of this section.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The purpose of section 13 of the Bill is the attraction from overseas of individuals with the necessary high level skills that are needed in the current economic climate. Those individuals will, in turn, act as potential magnets to attract additional levels of business to Ireland, which will enhance our ability to develop further the sectors within which they work. It will enable us to benefit from emerging areas of growth in the future. These factors are especially important in light of the current increasing competition that Ireland faces from other jurisdictions in attracting highly skilled people. The Senator’s amendment seeks to restrict the scope of the new remittance basis for foreign employment income to individuals working only in certain industries. This would involve obtaining information from a number of Depart[221]ments and would involve substantial costs to the Exchequer. For that reason, the recommendation is opposed.

Recommendation put and declared lost.

Question proposed: “That section 13 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Does this section deal with people who have business in the country and live for six months of the year outside the State?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  No.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 14 and 15 agreed to.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I move recommendation No. 2e:

Section 16 is concerned with allowing people to put off purchasing defined contributions and this has been dealt with.

Recommendation, by leave, withdrawn.

Recommendation No. 3 not moved.

Question proposed: “That section 16 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I have the letter I received from the Cathaoirleach with regard to recommendation No. 3 being out of order but I do not understand the reasons.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  A charge on the people.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I note the reasons given in the correspondence. It is important that this Bill contains a measure to rule out tax incentives for private hospitals and private nursing homes. We know the situation with regard to public hospitals. We heard the announcements in the 2009 service plan on the cuts that will be made which, including the other €400 million, will amount to approximately €1 billion. At the same time the Government is providing tax incentives for private hospitals and not everyone can avail of such facilities. However, everyone must invest in them. If private hospitals want to exist, let them do so but they should not be funded by people earning just above the minimum wage who will never be able to avail of their services. I am disappointed that recommendation No. 3 cannot be pressed today but I recognise the ruling of the Cathaoirleach.

[222]Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  We should examine the issue of private hospitals. A new tax is being introduced on young families whereby they must pay a levy on their private health insurance. We face increasing unemployment and an additional burden will be placed on young families which may mean they will fail to pay for private health insurance. This in itself is wrong when we consider the savage cutbacks in the public health services. Many private hospitals will not survive because they will have a smaller pool of patients because young families will not be able to pay for private health insurance.

The Government seems to be introducing this levy to subsidise the VHI and the argument is made constantly that older people must pay large premiums. To the best of my knowledge, the High Court judgment got rid of risk equalisation but not community rating. One cannot be rated according to age or illness as long as community rating survives and therefore everyone must pay the same premium. If the Minister of State is knowledgeable on this issue, I ask him to inform the House on it. I believe the Minister for Health and Children, Deputy Harney, is misleading the public on why she has increased the tax burden on young families to subsidise the VHI.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I understand recommendation No. 3 has been ruled out of order.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Yes, but we are discussing section 16.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I will broadly address the issue raised. The scheme of capital allowances for the construction or refurbishment of buildings used as registered nursing homes and private hospitals came into effect in April 1998 and May 2002, respectively. The purpose of the schemes is to attract private investment into the provision of nursing homes and hospitals. Under the schemes, investors can write off their investments in a nursing home or hospital against their tax liability over a period of seven years but are obliged to retain their investment in the nursing home or hospital for 15 years. These tax incentives have proved to be an effective way of attracting the necessary private investment into areas of the economy where investment is needed.

Senators will recall the Minister’s predecessor undertook a major review of the property-based incentive schemes in 2005. In this context, his Department commissioned Indecon International economic consultants to carry out a detailed review of certain sectoral property-based tax incentive schemes, including the schemes for registered nursing homes and private hospitals. In its 2006 report, Indecon indicated that the scheme for registered nursing homes had been effective in increasing the supply of nursing home places and that many projects either would not have proceeded or would have taken longer to come on stream in the absence of the tax incentive. Indecon identified a need for ongoing investment in private nursing homes that would assist in reducing demands on the public sector and provide a valuable service for those in need of nursing homes.

With regard to private hospitals, Indecon indicated that the scheme had the potential to address supply shortages in the hospital sector and to reduce costs. It concluded that most of the extra investment in the sector either would not have been undertaken or would have taken longer to have come on stream in the absence of the tax incentive scheme. It identified a need for ongoing investment in private hospitals to free up beds in public hospitals currently used by private patients and to reduce demands on the public hospital sector.

The Minister fully supports the recommendations made by the consultants on the ongoing need for investment in both of these areas. The Government is committed to a health strategy that uses a combination of public and private provision of nursing home and hospital care. Private facilities have proved to be cost effective when compared with the cost of direct provision. With regard to private hospitals, several have been built already and are operating [223]successfully while several more are in the pipeline. These include the co-located hospitals which will be constructed on the campuses of existing public hospitals and this will make a significant contribution to freeing up public beds for public rather than private patients. The Minister is satisfied that the tax incentives have already made an important contribution to the increase in hospital beds and services and that they will continue to do so.

In addition to their relative cost effectiveness vis-à-vis public provision, the construction of new private health facilities has other positive economic and Exchequer benefits such as the additional economic activity and employment generated by construction and related services. The creation of employment opportunities is especially important in the current economic climate.

With regard to the proposed recommendation, it should be borne in mind that closing capital allowance schemes suddenly can have unforeseen consequences. As capital allowances are spread over a seven-year period, an immediate cessation of tax relief would result in an investor not being entitled to an allowance in circumstances where the investor had already made a decision to invest based on receiving these allowances.

In the case of facilities that have not yet been built and are still at the planning stage, promoters and developers would expect to be in a position to recover development costs incurred by passing them on to investors who in turn qualify for capital allowances on their investments. Ceasing tax incentives for private nursing homes and hospitals as suggested therefore could be seriously prejudicial to genuine investors and promoters alike who would have incurred costs on the basis that the properties would carry the relief and this might leave the State open to serious legal challenges in this regard.

The legislation on the levy, which Senator Twomey mentioned, has not yet been published. If we await its publication, we can discuss it then.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  With regard to section 16, it should be borne in mind that many private hospitals which benefit from these tax exemptions are not very profitable at present. They are not in a great financial state. This issue needs to be examined in the context of restricting the number of people with medical cards and people not paying for private health insurance because of what the Government plans to do in the new year and what is happening in the economy. Senator Doherty and I may not come from the same side of the coin ideologically but I do not like to see tax exemptions wasted on white elephant projects throughout the country. The Government needs to be careful and this should be re-examined in light of what is happening.

  4 o’clock

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  The Minister of State quoted the Indecon report. Let us be clear on what Indecon called for with regard to property-based tax incentive schemes. It called for direct public investment to be used as an alternative to property-based tax breaks. This is what my recommendation dealt with. Tax exemptions apply only to very wealthy investors who can offset a large amount of rental income from property. Such investors can offset hundreds of millions of euro in other rental income through the building of private hospitals and that can result in a huge reduction in their tax bills. It is not just a question of whether this State should have a two tier health system. It is about income that should come from wealthy people in the State to the State to allow it provide other services.

Unfortunately, as the Minister reiterated, this Government is committed to pursuing a two tier apartheid health system in this State. It happens every time the Government pushes ahead with front-line health cuts and closure of vital services such as accident and emergency in rural [224]Ireland. It is a disgrace, given the economic position, that we continue to allow the wealthiest people in Irish society to avoid paying tax and plunge money into what is an unequal system. If that money were allocated to public services there is no doubt we would be able to save lives and provide better health care for all the people of this State.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I would like to make a contribution on that issue because the position outlined by Senator Doherty is not correct. While I will always support a measure that is good for society, there is a huge degree of risk involved and there must be an incentive for the risk taker. As I have often said here, if there are no golden geese there will be no golden eggs. This is a major employer in rural Ireland as well as in the towns and cities of our country.

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  What is a major employer?

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  As we see currently and as Senator Twomey pointed out to the House——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  We are on section 16.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  ——quite a number of these small hospitals are in a difficult financial position and those who invested heavily in these schemes are not getting back the return. In some cases they are but they are not in 50% or more of the cases.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  We are dealing with the question, “That section 16 stand part of the Bill”.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  That is what the section states. It deals with risk taking. I understood that was the point Senator Twomey made earlier.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 17 to 19, inclusive, agreed to.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I move recommendation No. 4:

This section deals with capital allowance for qualifying specialist palliative care units. In layman’s terms it is similar to the recommendation ruled out of order. It concerns subsidising private hospices throughout the State. I propose the deletion of lines 1 to 21 and repeal section 26 of the Finance Act 2008.

It is important to note that 12 counties do not have any hospice facilities and there is a national shortage of beds and care staff but, in encouraging private hospices, the Government is only exacerbating the inequality in hospice care. There should be no doubt that end of life care should be available to everyone, regardless of their incomes. My recommendation proposes that the section in the legislation be repealed and that the State to do its job and provide public end of life care that is accessible to all.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I agree with Senator Doherty’s comment on the availability of palliative care services, which are abysmal. It is shocking that many areas of the country do not have proper hospice care facilities to care for people with specific and special palliative care [225]needs. In my county I believe there are two dedicated beds in an ordinary nursing home that were handed over for the provision of palliative care. We do not have a full palliative care team. A palliative care team involves a wider structure, which I will not detail now, but it does not exist in my county. In some parts of the country up to 83% of palliative care is provided by way of voluntary contributions, while in other areas 83% of the cost is provided by central government funds. There is gross inequality when it comes to the provision of palliative care throughout the country.

I do not mind that this exists in this Finance Bill and I will explain the reason for that. Because of the absolute lack of available services, there are private hospice centres providing excellent services but they are very expensive because the families pay for everything. As hospice palliative care often involves people with chronic illnesses such as Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions, it is an unbelievable cost to the families involved. I do not see any other way of providing these services in the short term unless some form of incentive is given. It is detrimental to families. It has an unbelievable long-term effect on the entire family when palliative care services are not delivered to the family involved.

The Government should pay for this very expensive service. People will not make money out of the palliative care service. They may in time make money out of a private hospital because they can cherry-pick off the public sector in the future but they will not make money out of palliative care. The Government might have to examine that in terms of supporting families. They may or may not become part of the new deal in time but there is a need to support families when it comes to palliative care. I hope they will become part of the new deal process. I do not have an objection to that but I agree with Senator Doherty on the non-existence of these services and the fact that they be provided by voluntary organisations in most parts of the country.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Senator Doherty has proposed that the new scheme of capital allowances regarding the construction and refurbishment of buildings to be used as specialist palliative care units does not come into effect.

This scheme was introduced in the Finance Act 2008 but has yet to receive European Union Commission approval from a State aid perspective and be commenced by the Minister. It was introduced in response to identified gaps in the supply of and demand for palliative care facilities around the country. The scheme has similar terms, conditions and exclusions to those that apply in the case of qualifying private hospitals and qualifying mental health centres. It aims to encourage private sector investment to fill some of these gaps but only where proposed developments of facilities are in line with the longer term public health policy objectives in this area. For expenditure to qualify for capital allowances, the development of a facility must have pre-approval from the Health Service Executive, with the consent of the Minister for Health and Children, as being in line with national development plans and needs assessments for palliative care facilities.

As the Senator will be aware, this Finance Bill contains amendments that will make the scheme more effective when it comes into operation. Because the Minister was persuaded by the arguments made during the Dáil debate on the introduction of this scheme in the Finance Bill 2008 that the minimum bed capacity requirement of 20 beds could be a significant hurdle for some palliative care units, he is lowering this requirement to eight beds. He is also allowing capital expenditure under the scheme to qualify for capital allowances from the date of the passing of the Finance Act 2008 because he did not think it reasonable that legitimate capital expenditure on qualifying projects should be excluded from benefiting under the scheme in the period pending EU Commission approval.

[226]Tax incentives for similar schemes have proved to be an effective way of attracting the necessary private investment into areas of the economy where investment is needed. The Minister believes this scheme has the potential to make a real contribution to increasing the provision of much needed palliative care facilities and, therefore, he is unable to accept the recommendation. However, as with other similar schemes that have been reviewed in recent years, he will keep this scheme under review to ensure it meets the requirements he has in mind for it.

Recommendation put and declared lost.

Section 20 agreed to.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  Recommendation No. 4a is ruled out of order as it involves a potential charge on the people.

Question proposed: “That section 21 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I wish to make some brief comments on one of the urban docklands areas, Cork docklands. While I welcome some of what the Minister has done in the Finance Bill regarding Seveso sites, he has not gone far enough. I say that for a number of reasons. The Cork docklands regeneration project is of particular importance not just to Cork but to the region. Cork docklands is a pivotal part of the national spatial strategy’s gateway innovation fund. However, it has received lip service from the Government.

Prior to the last general election promises were made about the delivery of the eastern gateway bridge and putting various funding mechanisms in place, but nothing has happened. I welcome the Seveso sites initiative because 77% of the land in the Cork docklands area is frozen at present. It requires a major amount of work. Land must be levelled, Seveso sites must be removed and businesses must be relocated. However, the landowners and Cork City Council, which are the stakeholders, are at an impasse. There has not been a clear and unambiguous commitment to fund the gateway bridge. The programme launched yesterday and this Finance Bill were two vehicles in which a commitment to that bridge could have been met. I readily accept that the Seveso site tax incentive scheme announced in the budget will assist part of the process, and I welcome that.

A second major piece of the jigsaw to instill confidence in developers was the funding of the eastern gateway bridge. The Government has kicked to touch on that. The section of the Bill dealing with relocation schemes and Seveso sites covers part of it but it is rhetoric if there is no action. Why is there a failure on the part of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to publish the Cork docklands report? That started in the Department of the iar-Taoiseach. He established a forum but when the Government changed, the issue was moved to another Minister. I am disappointed the Green Party Members are not present because the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, has had the report since last summer but we have heard nothing about it. Why is he afraid to publish the report? Surely it could have been published in tandem with the budget and this Bill.

On 9 October last I raised this issue on the Adjournment of the Seanad and the Minister of State, Deputy Seán Haughey, replied on behalf of the Minister. He said: “While the Minister is aware that the main content of the report was recently reported in the national press, he does not believe its formal publication at this time would serve a useful purpose.” Why is that the case? If section 41 is implemented and if land in Cork is changed and upgraded in this major project, it will free 160 hectares in the city centre, create thousands of jobs and accommo[227]date new industry. It could very well become the regeneration project for Cork just as Dublin docklands was for Dublin. The forum report was leaked and an initiative in Cork City Council for a regeneration agency is being mentioned.

There is much in section 41 to be commended. However, parts of it are vague and do not go far enough. Where is the report? Where is the commitment to the gateway funding for the bridge? Two years later why is there a failure to provide a full line commitment to the people of Cork?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I will try to be as helpful as possible to Senator Buttimer regarding the eastern gateway bridge. There is a submission from Cork City Council to the gateway innovation fund for €60 million, with €20 million to be provided by the council. Decisions on the gateway innovation funding have been put in abeyance until after 2009. That reflects the review of capital expenditure and the Government decision of July 2008. The forum report mentioned by the Senator has been received and is being considered by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government. It will be considered in the overall context of the public finances. Section 21 applies to all docklands, not just Cork. The tax incentives are generous, with 100% capital allowances. It is the only new incentive introduced in this year’s budget.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I appreciate the Minister’s reply but this must be put in context. Yesterday, the Taoiseach launched a programme in Dublin Castle. If we are serious about developing the regions, Ireland does not stop at the end of the M50 or the Red Cow roundabout. I do not subscribe to that view, and the Minister, being from Kerry, will not either. We have dealt with the Seveso sites and given certain tax incentives but we have not expanded the most important one to give confidence to the developers to come in there. Unlike other parts of the country, Cork has experienced massive unemployment in the past six months. At a time of recession this scheme would have created jobs and confidence and would have given impetus to Cork city.

The plan unveiled yesterday was the vehicle to promote Cork and its docklands as the project for Cork. Why is the Minister, Deputy John Gormley, not publishing the report six months after he received it? I do not understand it. I accept that the gateway innovation fund is frozen and that the Government does not have the money, but it should spend money on this. It will get a return on the investment. Why is the Government’s commitment waning? Have the Cork Ministers in Cabinet lost their influence and power? Do the people of Cork not matter? The project has been put forward but Cork people are now being given empty rhetoric. The Government has provided section 41 of the Finance Bill and certain tax incentives but what is it saying to the landowners, developers and Cork City Council? The council established a separate directorate, unique to Cork city and many councils, on this project. It beggars belief.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  With regard to the publication of the report, I will ask the office of the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government to contact the Senator to bring him up to date on the position. Given its responsibility to the entire State, the Government cannot single out a project in a given city, regardless of its merits. I am confident, however, that the project to which the Senator refers, with its high employment potential, will be considered when resources allow.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 22 to 24, inclusive, agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 25 stand part of the Bill.”

[228]Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is this the section which deals with people who are outside the State for tax purposes?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I gather section 15 is the relevant section.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I was informed, when I raised this question on section 15, that it was not the relevant section.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Section 25 amends section 198 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 which exempts certain interest payments to non-residents from the charge to Irish income tax. The purpose of the amendment is to extend this exemption to payments of interest on wholesale debt instruments as well as to discounts received on financial instruments issued by an Irish company or investment undertaking. In both cases, to qualify for the exemption, the recipient of the interest or discount must be resident in another European Union member state or in a country with which Ireland has a double taxation agreement.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Does section 15 or section 25 deal with people who stay outside the State for tax purposes?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Section 15 amends section 819 of the Taxes Consolidation Act concerning tax residence of individuals. Currently, an individual is only regarded as in the State for a day for tax residence purposes if he is present in the State at midnight on the day in question.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  When we reached section 15 I asked whether it dealt with those living outside the State for tax purposes. It is not clear from the text of the Finance Bill which section deals with this issue. I would like to know which is the relevant section because I wish to ask a number of questions, specifically on how the procedure for dealing with such persons will be policed.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Section 15 addresses the Cinderella rule. I gather the Senator raised a question on this issue when we reached section 13.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I raised a question when we reached section 15. May we discuss section 15?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No, my hands are tied in this matter.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  On a point of order, if the wrong information was given to the Senator when he asked——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No one said wrong information was given.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Please allow me to make a point. The wrong information may have been given to Senator Burke as a result of the Minister of State interpreting what he understood the Senator to have asked. The Senator asked on section 15 whether it dealt with a certain issue. If the section did not deal with the Cinderella rule——

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  A question was put and the Minister, through his officials, replied. This is not a matter for the Chair. Senator Burke did not indicate he had been given wrong information but inquired as to which section was relevant to a particular question he wished to ask. Perhaps the officials will inform the Minister of State which section is relevant. If we have gone past the section, we cannot return to it.

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  May we discuss the issue on Report Stage?

[229]An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  An amendment would have to be tabled on Report Stage.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I am sure we can indulge Senator Burke if he wishes to ask a number of questions. We do not need to prolong this session any more than necessary. I ask that a little leeway be shown to the Senator and my party will also show leeway to try to speed up the process.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  While I cannot allow debate on a previous section, the Minister of State may reply to the question asked on section 25.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Is it possible, in addressing section 25, to provide information on another section?

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Do any of the subsequent sections deal with the issue of non-residency?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Revenue monitors the arrangements for persons who are not resident for tax purposes using a risk management method.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  How does the Minister propose to police the arrangements pertaining to those who reside outside the State for tax purposes? I understand such persons must be outside the State for 186 days in the year. If a person arrives in the State at 11 p.m., is it considered a full day?

On the issue of sportspersons, are days on which jockeys or golfers are in Ireland attending race meetings, the Irish Open and so forth considered as days in the country or is attendance at such events disregarded? Is a procedure in place to impose fines for breaches of the non-residency rules?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I am advised that fines are not imposed. A person is regarded as being in Ireland for a day if he or she is present in the State at 11 p.m. This also applies to sportspeople.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I know it applies to sportspeople. Are days on which sportspersons are in the State to attend sporting fixtures included? Are days on which golfers, for example, are playing in the Irish Open or jockeys are taking part in race meetings counted?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I am advised the rule applies to everyone.

Question put and agreed to.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I move recommendation No. 4b:

The recommendation proposes that the DIRT tax rate would be 22% rather than 23%.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  There are various reasons for the increase of three percentage points in the DIRT rate. It was necessitated by general budgetary constraints. The Minister announced in his budget speech that this overall measure, including the increase on collective investment funds and life assurance products, would raise €85 million in 2009. The capital gains and capital [230]acquisition tax rates were increased by 2%. While the DIRT rates were increased by 3%, unlike other types of income, the 1% levy does not apply to deposit interest.

The Minister was also influenced by the fact that general levels of deposits in banks are currently high. This specific recommendation applies to deposit interest earned on savings and special term accounts only. Based on this recommendation, deposit interest retention tax would be charged on interest earned on those accounts at a rate of 22% rather than 23%, as is currently proposed in section 26. The other rate change provided for in section 26, which relates to the vast majority of deposit accounts, would remain unaltered. This amendment would also favour special savings and special term accounts over similar accounts held in credit unions. The accounts covered by the amendment already benefit from favourable treatment.

Regarding special term accounts, part of the interest earned on such accounts is exempt from DIRT. In the case of a deposit held in a medium term account, the amount is €380 and €635 where the deposit is held in a long term account. Interest on both special savings and special term accounts is not liable to PRSI or health levies. It has not been possible to open a special savings account since 1 April 2001. For those reasons, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Brian Lenihan, is unable to accept the recommendation.

Recommendation, by leave, withdrawn.

Section 26 agreed to.

Sections 27 to 33, inclusive, agreed to.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I move recommendation No. 4c:

We would like to see all money invested in research allowed as tax deductible. The current situation is that the baseline is only the difference between what one invested in 2003. Only extra investment is covered in the Bill. All research and development should be allowed for so we can generate that sort of knowledge and innovation the Minister, Deputy Lenihan, announced yesterday in Dublin Castle.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  With this recommendation, Senator Twomey seeks to introduce a volume-based tax credit scheme for research and development, with effect from 2009. There have been calls over the years for the research and development tax credit to become a volume-based scheme in which all expenditure in this area, and not just incremental expenditure, benefits from the tax credit.

This would involve a dead weight cost to the Exchequer in respect of research and development that would have been undertaken without the need for a fiscal stimulus and would represent poor value for public money. Having an incremental scheme has enabled us to provide a high rate of tax credit at 20% which the Minister is now increasing to 25% in this Bill.

This represents a significant contribution to the efforts of companies in the area of research and development and will help improve the competitiveness of Irish industry internationally. In this Bill the Minister is permanently setting 2003 as the base year under the scheme. Expenditure on qualifying research and development in 2003 is the base against which increased expenditure on it in any subsequent year is measured for the purpose of the tax credit.

[231]Under the existing arrangements 2003 will remain the base year, up to and including 2013. It will also now be the base year for all future accounting periods beyond 2013. Given the time value of money, the scheme will become volume based on a gradual basis, but without the short run dead weight costs. Together with the other changes being introduced, including options to ensure the benefit of a research and development tax credit arising in any year will accrue to a company over a minimum of three years, the Minister believes the overall budget and Finance Bill package for the research and development tax credit scheme places Ireland to the fore in terms of similar schemes globally.

For those reasons, I do not propose to accept the recommendation.

Recommendation put and declared lost.

Section 34 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 35 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  I would like the Minister of State to explain a matter to me. We said we would like all research and development allowable for tax reductions. He has stated this will happen after 2013 and that 2003 is the baseline level on which the entire amount will be accounted for in 2013 and beyond, but he does not want to see top loading in the system at this time.

Research is becoming incredibly important and we want to make ourselves a knowledge-based economy. Section 35 states that buildings become tax deductible, and that allowances go to the buildings. The Minister of State should examine the area of research and development to see if it, but not buildings, can receive tax allowances.

This is a mindset that continues our obsession with property in business. The intellectual rights of software and many computer applications do not need a physical building. We need to focus on the fact that research work is vital and is the central core of everything, and move away from buildings. Let the buildings be an add-on issue and not given the priority they receive here.

We may find that people who are very innovative in research and development will bring their businesses around and become highly attractive to people. People who own property may see this as an attractive issue. If I am reading this correctly, it seems as though we are saying the physical building is part of the research and development, when it is not. It is a means to an end. Research and development must be housed somewhere but the concept and mentality of how we think about it must change. We need to focus on developing concepts and not on fancy buildings.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I will try to be as helpful as I can to Senator Twomey. Since the scheme was introduced in 2004, expenditure on new or refurbished buildings used exclusively for research and development activities has attracted a tax credit of 20% of that expenditure, paid over a four year period.

Data emerging from the operation of the scheme suggest this part of the scheme is not being used. This probably reflects the fact that in many instances work on research and development takes place in production or manufacturing environments and not only in laboratory conditions. The Bill provides that a tax credit of 25% will be available from next year, subject to certain conditions on a proportion of the expenditure incurred on a new or refurbished building used in part for research and development activities.

[232]In this way we hope to capture not just the benefit of additional research and development activities which may be undertaken in conjunction with production and other activities, but also to have the opportunity to benefit from the fruits of that research and development with the potential for additional production activities to be undertaken here.

The provision requires State aid clearance from the EU Commission, which the Department will pursue and will take effect by way of a commencement order when that clearance is obtained. The changes to the scheme providing for the payment of any unused tax credit which cannot be offset against current or prior year corporation tax liabilities is being introduced to give companies certainty about the availability of credit. Another advantage is that it will allow companies to plan their research and development activities in the certain knowledge that they will receive the benefit of the tax credit.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  If we left out this section and focused on research and development and the amendment we proposed, we would prevent it from being all about buildings. The tax concessions given on buildings should go directly to research and development. This would allow what will happen after 2013 to happen sooner. There is a mind block on what research and development is about and we should focus tax concession on the actual work.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 36 to 54, inclusive, agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 55 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  I appreciate it is not the Minister, Deputy Carey’s Department, but on 4 November the Minister of State, Deputy Mansergh, took my Adjournment debate matter in this House on the travel tax. I welcome the Government’s Pauline conversion and flip-flop on the regional airports. I am a strong defender of my region but I still believe the tax is wrong. We should not impose a levy on people travelling. Senator Twomey mentioned this earlier. According to the Bill “‘aircraft’ means an aircraft capable of carrying 20 or more passengers”. Why are the Government jet and the private airfields and aeroplanes not included? If I am wrong the Minister can correct me, but I do not think they are.

When CSO figures show a decline in tourists coming into Ireland, particularly into the south west region, it behoves us not to tax but to incentivise and attract people in. The Minister knows the cliché that once one imposes a tax or levy it stays the same or increases, but does not decrease. I hope the Government will not use this tax, as Deputy Breen said last week, to balance the books. The yield of this tax does not justify the imposition on the regions. While I welcome the changes, they do not go far enough. Why is the Government victimising the regions, especially the people of Cork? I will not read the reply to my Adjournment debate by the Minister, Deputy Mansergh, but this tax is wrong, even in its amended form.

The Government is making up its aviation policy as it goes along. As Minister for Transport, a couple of years ago the late Deputy Séamus Brennan, God be good to him, made a commitment but subsequent Ministers for Transport, Deputies Cullen and Dempsey, changed that. We are on the cusp of Cork Airport not getting independence from Dublin. That has implications. This is a twin attack on tourism and our aviation industry. Why are we penalising the airports and, more importantly, the people who have to travel while we exclude the private jets and airfields?

[233]Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I have a couple of points and questions for the Minister and he may clarify my reading of this section. Will stop-over flights, which originate in another state and whose end destination is another state but which stop in Ireland to re-fuel, be subject to this tax? Could the Minister answer this briefly so I can lead on from it?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Stop-over flights are not covered by the tax. On Senator Buttimer’s point about small aeroplanes, other EU member states and countries that operate a similar travel tax have a similar arrangement for smaller aircraft. I have a note on the general issue of the travel tax if the Leas-Chathaoirleach wishes me to read it out.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I have a question on the two rates of €2 and €10 which are dealt with in subsection (2)(b) . I am thinking in particular of Donegal Airport and the flight from there to Glasgow. Subsection (2)(b) refers to:

than 300 kilometres from Dublin Airport. . .

I seek clarification. Is it the distance between the airport from which somebody leaves, for example Farranfore or Donegal Airport, to the destination or the distance between Dublin Airport and the eventual destination?

The smaller regional airports should have been exempt from this. We have a serious problem in the north west. Visitor numbers have declined dramatically. In some areas, such as Leitrim and Roscommon, expenditure on tourism has been less than 1%. An incentive is needed to get people into those regions. Putting an additional burden on those smaller regional airports is excessive and counterproductive. Some of these regional airports operate international flights, for example, there is a flight from Donegal Airport to Prestwick in Glasgow, which is not subsidised by the State. It has also taken in charter aeroplanes from Rotterdam and these will all be subject to the levy.

All the different agencies and partners are trying to get people into these regions, which do not have access to public transport. A person cannot fly from Rotterdam to Dublin Airport and then get the train to Gweedore. There is no train. The public bus will take one as far as Letterkenny. It is very important that the vision for these regional airports in very rural communities that need support is welcomed and applauded. These regions, which have suffered seriously over many years and have seen a significant drop in the amount of tourism generated, should have been exempt from this tax. I seek clarification on the broader point and an answer on whether the distance is measured from Dublin Airport or the original airport. What rate would be imposed on the Donegal-Prestwick and Dublin-Rotterdam connections?

The Minister may be aware that these airports offer a subsidised scheme to cancer patients who cannot go through a four and a half hour journey to Dublin for a couple of minutes treatment. Perhaps the Minister can tell me there is an exemption for patients with these health needs who travel from these regional airports to the capital city. If so, the Bill would support what the local voluntary community and airport have done to meet the needs of cancer sufferers as a result of not having the services in the north west.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Section 55 excludes from the tax “a person under the age of 2”. Why do we not exempt passengers under the age of five or seven? Why are children not exempt [234]from this levy? What do we hope to yield in revenue. The Minister, Deputy Mansergh, said the original scheme would yield €95 million in 2009 and €150 million in a full year. What is the revised figure for the scheme? Why have we penalised families going on holidays in the summer season or coming to Ireland? Why not put the cap at age seven or eight?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I will try to get information on the last point raised by Senator Buttimer. Air travel tax will be charged on the departure of a passenger on an aircraft from an airport in the State with effect from 30 March 2009. The general tax applying will be €10 per passenger. However, a rate of €2 will apply in the case of a flight from any part of the State to another airport not more than 300 km from Dublin Airport. Therefore, for the purposes of the calculation of the tax, Sligo, Shannon, Letterkenny and so on will be considered the same as Dublin. Senator Doherty mentioned Glasgow Prestwick and Rotterdam, for which there will be a charge of €2 and €10, respectively.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Will the Donegal to Dublin flight be €2?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Yes. All Irish departures to locations such as Manchester, Liverpool and Glasgow will be subject to the €2 charge. Airline operators are liable to pay the tax. Detailed arrangements for the collection of the air travel tax will be contained in regulations to be made by the Revenue Commissioners.

Ireland is not unique in introducing an air travel tax. The UK, France and the Netherlands all apply air travel taxes, while countries further afield such as Australia and New Zealand also operate a departure tax. Air travel tax will not apply in the case of an aircraft carrying fewer than 20 passengers. Therefore, it does not apply to flights to or from the Irish offshore islands. Planes used for these flights would have a maximum passenger capacity of eight or nine.

The following persons are exempt from the tax: members of the aircraft crew, including any relief crew; a child under the age of two who does not occupy a seat on the aircraft; a disabled person and one person accompanying the disabled person for the purposes of providing care and assistance; and transit and transfer passengers. The exemption for disabled persons applies where the disabled person had requested and availed of assistance from the airline in accordance with EU Regulation 1107 of 2006, which concerns the rights of disabled persons or persons with reduced mobility when travelling by air. A transit passenger means a passenger who is on board an aircraft which lands at an airport in the course of its journey, and who continues his or her journey on that aircraft. A transfer passenger means a passenger who arrives on a flight to an airport and who leaves on another flight other than to the airport where the passenger’s journey started, where both flights are part of a single booking and there is not more than six hours between the scheduled time of arrival of the first flight, and the scheduled time of departure of the second flight.

The amount to be raised by this measure is €148 million in a full year.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  That amount is €2 million less than what the Government claimed it was taking during a matter on the Adjournment that I raised on 4 November. Why are we penalising children and families? I appreciate that children under the age of two are not included. However, we are imposing a further tax on families who have children over the age of two. Why did we pick that age?

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I thank the Minister of State for the clarification on the points I raised. There is a lack of public transport in the areas where smaller regional airports are [235]located. There are no other options, so people use the small airports quite regularly. The Donegal to Dublin connection is in reality being subjected to a €4 levy, rather than a €2 levy. If a person leaves Dublin to go to Barcelona or wherever, the charge is €10 because the person is not levied on the way back. If somebody is travelling to Dublin from Donegal for business, or to go to hospital or go shopping, the return flight will also be levied, which means the levy is €4. Therefore, that is excessive and the Government should have waived this for the smaller regional airports in order to give them a head start.

In April 2007, the Government announced an €86 million package for smaller regional airports as part of the national development plan. We heard two months ago that such funding has now been postponed. These airports are being starved, yet the passenger numbers continue to increase, so the Minister is introducing a regressive step here.

There is much good work being done by voluntary groups and by the airlines in helping to transfer patients to hospitals in Dublin for 15 minutes of therapy, before flying them back to their native counties. Cancer patients cannot sit in a car for a nine hour return trip in order to undergo their treatment. They have been able to reduce the costs between the airline and between the voluntary organisation that has fundraised on their behalf.

I note the Minister of State spoke about exemptions, including disabled persons. However, I assume that disabled persons do not include cancer patients requiring treatment. We have often heard about the cancer care facilities in the north west, and I know the Government is pressing ahead with the Minister in the North to develop a centre in the north west. In the absence of such a centre, the Government should support the initiative led by the regional airport and by the voluntary group and exempt cancer patients and the person accompanying him or her.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I am advised that the category of disabled would likely apply to the people referred to by Senator Doherty. The regulations are being drawn up by the Revenue Commissioners, so I will bring the Senator’s suggestion to the attention of the Minister for Finance and we will see if it can be incorporated.

I am advised that a flight from Donegal to Barcelona via Dublin would incur a €10 charge, as the flight from Donegal to Dublin would be regarded as a transit flight. The two year age limit for children is the age limit that airlines apply for charging fares.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 56 to 71, inclusive, agreed to.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I move recommendation No. 5:

This recommendation deals with the 0.5% VAT increase that is proposed by the Government in this Bill. It could be argued that a 0.5% change in VAT will make little difference, but we have an option in this Bill to help the retail sector in the State. When the Government announced the increase in VAT, I was quite taken aback. VAT is one of the most unequal forms of taxation the State applies. Everybody has to pay VAT regardless of his or her income. Those with less income have to buy the same types of produce as those who are very wealthy. The VAT increase will simply take more money from the weekly budgets of Irish families. It [236]will push more people to try to find cheaper products, including food and other basic items. It is easy to call on the public to be patriotic and to shop locally. As people lose their jobs at phenomenal rates, they will look for cheaper products. Belts are being tightened as people try to balance the books of their family homes. The decision to proceed with this increase is even more bizarre when one considers that VAT receipts have already decreased by €2.1 billion. It does not make any sense to me.

  5 o’clock

The huge disparity between the rates of VAT that apply on either side of the Border has a real influence on people when they are deciding where to do their shopping. The effect of this problem is not just being felt in the Border counties. People in this House have told me they have travelled up the M1 and across the Border to do their Christmas shopping and would do so again. When one hears about the savings that can be made, who can blame them for doing so? The staff of this House and other people are willing to travel more than 100 miles, from Dublin and further afield, to cross the Border and avail of the lower prices. I accept that such disparities cannot be solely attributed to VAT. In my Second Stage speech, I referred to the price differences in shops and retail units like Dunnes Stores and Next. While the VAT issue is not the only contributing factor in this context, the disparity in VAT is having a major impact and is contributing to people’s decisions to shop on the other side of the Border.

If we are to enable middle and low income families to pump much-needed money into the economy, we will have to reduce the rate of VAT, which is something my party has been demanding for some time. There is an onus on the Government to deal with this issue. We need to standardise the rates of taxation across this island. The decision of the British Chancellor of the Exchequer to reduce the rate of VAT in Northern Ireland had an immediate effect on Border towns that had built up a retail base, such as Letterkenny, County Donegal and Dundalk. I heard last year that the Next outlet in Letterkenny was that company’s biggest earner in any part of the world. I am not sure whether it was taking in more money than any other outlet, or was making a greater profit, but it was rewarded for the way things were working out for it. There were different factors at play last year. The prices of sterling and the euro were different and there was not such a disparity between the respective VAT rates. The Next outlet in Letterkenny will definitely not have such a good year this year. Today, things are going well for retailers in Derry, Belfast and other towns in Northern Ireland. Tomorrow, things might go well for Letterkenny, Dundalk, Dublin or Cork. It is not good to have such instability in the retail sector. We need to consider the harmonisation of VAT rates across the State.

This Bill gives the Government an opportunity to intervene to help the retail sector. Figures published by the Central Statistics Office indicated that retail spending decreased by 7.7% in October, which was before the British Chancellor of the Exchequer reduced the VAT rate in that jurisdiction by 2.5%. The October figures were the worst since 1984, which is almost 25 years ago. The figures for November and December will be even worse. There is an onus on the Government to step in and do something positive in this regard. When the Tánaiste was asked how she intended to assist the retail sector, she responded by pointing out that she does not own a shop. It was an appalling answer. She said that the Government is not a shopkeeper and suggested that shops should reduce their prices. The Tánaiste is the second most powerful person in the Cabinet. The Government is sitting on its hands as the retail sector goes down the swanee. We need to step in.

In this recommendation, I propose that we should reduce the rate of VAT to 19%, rather than following the Government’s plan of increasing VAT and thereby reducing consumer [237]spending power. If we adopt a 19% rate, we will not harmonise our rate with the rate in Northern Ireland, but it will suffice as an interim step. It would allow people to shop and provide a better playing field. In such circumstances, purchases would represent an investment in the economy as well as a spin-off for the retail sector. More goods would be manufactured and more people would remain in employment, or enter employment in this area. The Government needs to seriously consider this proposal. It is not an option to stand still by retaining the 21% rate. We need to reduce it. The Government’s decision to increase the rate of VAT does not make any sense.

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Hear, hear.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  That is proved by the Government’s own figures, which show that there has been a decrease in VAT receipts of €2.1 billion. The Government needs to acknowledge that it is making a mistake and intervene now.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I welcome the Minister of State, Deputy Pat Carey, to the House. He was not here when I spoke about this issue on Second Stage. I do not want to repeat what I said earlier. When businesses hit tough times, they have to decide how to cut costs and take in more money. The choice faced by the Government at this time is not dissimilar. If one wants to take in more money, one must consider whether the best way of doing so is to increase one’s prices. However, price increases generally lead to reduced receipts when one’s customers go somewhere else. In a competitive marketplace, one can take in more money by reducing one’s prices. The markets to which Senator Doherty referred are certainly competitive. I know Dundalk better than I know Letterkenny.

When the British Chancellor of the Exchequer wanted to encourage people to spend more and to take in more money, he facilitated price reductions. At the same time, we did the exact opposite. Our decision — that the best way to get more money is to increase prices — is based on the assumption that the marketplace here is not competitive. It would have been possible to do that successfully in the old days, when we had a protectionist society. We have taken a step in the wrong direction. On budget day, we should have decided to encourage people to spend more money. If people spend more, our VAT receipts will increase. I know we are not talking about basic foodstuffs, to which different circumstances apply. VAT is very competitive.

The IKEA store in Belfast is getting a significant amount of business from people south of the Border. The IKEA store in Dublin is ready to open but that is not allowed to happen just yet. I estimate that the Exchequer will lose €20 million this year as a result of people from Dublin and other parts of this jurisdiction going north to buy goods in the IKEA store in Belfast that they could have bought here. Some 600 jobs will be created, and other benefits will accrue, when the Dublin store eventually opens. I believe we should be reducing VAT, in a subtle and clever way that gives us more rather than less income, instead of increasing it.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Senator Doherty was being hard on the Tánaiste, Deputy Coughlan, when he referred to her comment about not owning a shop. People have been going to Newry since the Tánaiste said that we should shop around. Perhaps that is why she is afraid to say anything at present.

Senators on this side of the House are in favour of this amendment because, as Senator Quinn said, the decision to increase VAT sends out the wrong signals. Consumers are prepared to shop around. In recent times, many of them have decided to shop in Northern Ireland, unfortunately. Delays in making changes to substantial charges such as expensive rates, waste [238]costs and company taxes have allowed our retail sector to become uncompetitive in some respects. When the public finances hit rock bottom, the Government tried to extract a little more from the people by increasing the rate of VAT. The signal we are sending out as we try to run our economy is completely wrong. There is almost a sense of panic among people who feel they have to go to Northern Ireland. We have to acknowledge that there is a significant difference between the price of certain consumer goods in Northern Ireland and in this jurisdiction.

Regarding making bland statements about being patriotic, Irish people do not see much difference between buying from a British retailer in the Republic or Northern Ireland. It is also insulting to people in Northern Ireland that the so-called “republican party” would treat people north of the Border as citizens of another country. We spent years trying to get rid of that sort of mentality. We would be far better served by a review of how VAT is applied to many goods and services to make us competitive again.

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  I echo the sentiments of Senators Doherty, Quinn and Twomey about the Government’s increase in VAT rates. At a time when the British Chancellor of the Exchequer is reducing VAT rates, it will have a detrimental effect on the take from VAT south of the Border. In other European Union countries, virtually all finance ministers are considering reducing various tax rates, not just VAT. Yet the Government is proposing a large number of tax increases, the most obvious of which is the 0.5% increase in VAT. It was obvious that the take from VAT this year would reduce somewhat anyway. The recently announced figures indicate that it has reduced significantly. Senator Quinn is right in suggesting it will be depressed even further by this rise.

Some retailers have proposed to absorb some of the increase themselves. However, not all are in a position to do so. Following a fall in the overall VAT take, a further increase in the rate will dissuade people from spending money at a time when the Government should be doing everything in its power to encourage people to spend to keep money circulating in the economy and keep businesses running. It flies in the face of every sort of economic view held by leading economists and part-time economists like myself and others as to how we should use our taxation system. It is an abuse of the system and makes no sense.

It has recently been brought to my attention that a number of retailers are encountering considerable difficulty with Visa card payments. The system operates via telephone lines. There seems to be a considerable problem with telephone lines at present adding to difficulties retailers are experiencing. I understand a number of transactions are not being completed because of faults with the network.

My substantive issue is the increase in VAT rates, which at this juncture is the last thing the Government should be proposing.

Senator Jerry Buttimer: Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Most of what I wanted to say has been said. If one goes around the capital city of Dublin to places like Dawson Street, Grafton Street, Henry Street, Moore Street, O’Connell Street, or goes to Patrick Street or McCurtain Street in Cork one will see a great number of shops for sale or to let. In addition there is a great number of “sale” signs indicating reductions of 50% or 25% or offers such as “Buy one and get one free” or “Buy two and get a third one free”. That applies across the board. This is an indictment of the proposed VAT increase. I am all in favour of shopping around and of competition. At a time when we should be encouraging consumers to spend we are not doing that. It is no wonder we have the flight of the Gaels to Belfast and Newry. People will soon start to travel to Manchester and London [239]with the euro and pound approaching parity. All that may be stopping people is the Ryanair charge for luggage because people might be paying more for their bags than they would save on their purchases. We need to encourage people to spend.

I was in the Stephen’s Green Shopping Centre yesterday where a number of shops have signs announcing they have absorbed the VAT increase. Senator John Paul Phelan is right that not everybody can do that. My biggest concern is not for the multinationals such as IKEA mentioned by Senator Quinn, but rather small local shopkeepers we all know who are struggling. We should be asking consumers to support these people. I do not blame people going to Belfast or Newry. I would do it myself if I were living in Dublin.

Related to the VAT increase is the way the banks have collared us all. The purpose of the bank financial support scheme was to allow liquidity into small enterprises. This morning we heard about the €87 million being hidden by a banker, which sounded like something from Alice in Wonderland. However, banks are coming after small business people for money. Senator Quinn has tabled a very good recommendation: “That the VAT Payment Deadline for businesses be extended to 90 days”. We should be encouraging people and not discouraging them. I appreciate the Minister has a difficult job to balance the books. In America, President Bush gave a rebate cheque to people so they could go out and spend. Many states in America have sales tax-free days at the time of going back to school in August. I do not disagree with what should be the Government mantra of going out to spend. However, it is not encouraging people. This is a further tax that will discourage people from spending and is wrong.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Section 72 gives effect to the budget increase of 0.5% in the standard rate of VAT from 1 December. The budget introduced a general package of revenue-raising measures to fund key public services, one of which was increasing the standard VAT rate. Already we borrow more than 10% of all day-to-day spending on public services before capital spending. This is unsustainable and we faced difficult choices in introducing corrective measures. The estimated €227 million that will accrue in a full year from the VAT increase will go some way towards funding necessary public services.

Some of the goods and services that will be affected by the increase in the standard rate are alcohol, cigarettes, cars, petrol, electrical equipment, furniture, telecommunications, cosmetics, confectionary, soft drinks and adult clothing and footwear. The effect of the 0.5% increase in the standard rate is that the price of goods and services that applies at this rate will increase by 0.41%. This equates to an increase of 8 cent on a good costing €20 or 41 cent on a good costing €100. Approximately half the value of goods and services purchased in the State is not subject to the standard rate of VAT and is unaffected by the change in the standard rate. All Government and local authority services are outside the scope of VAT, while hospitals, schools etc. are exempt from VAT. The zero rate of VAT applies to the majority of foodstuffs, oral medicine, books, and children’s clothes and shoes. In addition housing, electricity, gas, domestic fuels, restaurant services and labour-intensive services such as hairdressing and shoe repair qualify for the reduced 13.5% reduced VAT rate.

As part of a fiscal stimulus package the British Government reduced its standard VAT rate from 17.5% to 15% on a temporary basis with effect from 1 December 2008 to 31 December 2009. The Minister has no plans to make a similar reduction in the standard VAT rate in Ireland or to reduce the rate to the UK level of 15%. Our starting point is different from the UK’s. We already have a low-taxation economy especially in the area of direct taxation, both income and corporation taxes, which has a direct impact on all employment in the State. This lower starting position for direct taxation makes it more difficult to reduce taxes further. Each [240]percentage point reduction in our standard VAT rate would cost approximately €450 million in a full year. For Ireland to reduce the standard VAT rate by 2.5 percentage points to 19% would cost approximately €1.125 billion in a full year. For Ireland to reduce the standard VAT rate to the UK level of 15%, which would mean a reduction in the standard VAT rate of 6.5 percentage points, would cost almost €3 billion in a full year, which is equivalent to approximately 2.5 times the amount of revenues to be raised in the full year through the new income levy.

Although the reduction in the UK standard VAT rate will have an impact on the price differential between North and South for some goods, the Minister points out that the UK has increased excise on alcohol, cigarettes, petrol and diesel to offset the 2.5% reduction in VAT on these items. Consequently, there will be no reduction in the price of these products in Northern Ireland as a result of the reduction of the UK VAT rate to 15%. Furthermore, as I have already stated, around half the value of goods and services purchased in the State is not subject to the standard rate of VAT and consequently is not affected by the recent changes made to the standard rates in Ireland and the UK.

The VAT rate is not the only factor in the price differential north and south of the Border. The weakening of sterling has had and is having a far more significant impact on relative prices than any VAT changes. As Ireland is a small, open economy, many of our standard rated goods are imported and cutting the VAT rate would benefit the economies from which we import more than our own. In other words, while it would help the consumer, it would not be the most effective way of helping our own economy.

The European Commission recently put forward a proposal for a common EU stimulus package. The Minister welcomes the Commission’s plans as an important signal to EU consumers and business that member states and the Commission are working to boost demand and support business in these difficult times. However, the Commission’s plan also recognises that not all member states are in a position to contribute an additional fiscal stimulus. Ireland is facing very challenging times and our scope to inject an additional fiscal stimulus to that already being provided is extremely limited. The Commission mentions temporary reductions in VAT as one option among a menu of options. At a recent EU meeting, it was clear that most member states are unlikely to pursue the approach of temporary reductions in VAT. I do not see it as an appropriate option for Ireland.

There are other means of stimulating the economy outside the VAT system. The Government is providing a long-term fiscal stimulus through capital investment of approximately 5% of GNP, which is twice the EU average. The Taoiseach yesterday announced the Government’s framework for sustainable economic renewal. This fiscal stimulus will not only support jobs in the short term but will also add to our long-term productive capacity. Irish taxation policy has given us a significant competitive advantage over the past 15 years. We ensured that we had the lowest levels of direct taxation on income, and therefore we have had marginally higher indirect taxation. That model of taxation has worked well for our economy and will be even more important now in leading us back to the path of economic growth. For those reasons I do not propose to accept the recommendation.

The problem with Visa payments was mentioned. Certainly there was a problem last Saturday, but I understand that is more to do with IT capacity than anything else. Senator Quinn mentioned Ikea. He knows I have more than a passing interest in its fortunes. I hope the store will be able to open on the projected date in line with the planning permission which was granted to it, and I look forward to the creation of 550 jobs.

[241]Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  And the cheap furniture.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Listening to the Minister’s reply, I had a sense of déjà vu. When we were in here last year talking about the Government’s over-reliance on the construction industry and the need to plan for the time when the bubble would burst, the Government sat on its hands. It only recently recognised how things are. When we talked about the need to do something with the banks, similar responses were given, and then finally there was action. When we said we were entering a recession the Government denied it and would not use the “R” word, but now, finally, we have some type of plan. We do not know whether it will be good enough — we all have different views on that. Belatedly, the Government came up with a package. Let there be no doubt: we are going to be back here. I hope it will not take seven, eight or nine months, but we will be back here with a plan to increase consumer spending. The Government will have to reverse some of these measures, including the increase in the higher rate of VAT.

The Minister gave out figures, which I am sure are right. I am not saying we should copy what is happening in Britain — we are our own State and we will decide our own policies — but we must take cognisance of what is happening in neighbouring countries and, particularly in view of the continued partition of our country, we need to take into account what is happening in the North, which is affected by the changes made in the House of Commons. The Chancellor of the Exchequer could have stood up and said that to reduce VAT in Britain would cost X billion pounds and he would have been right. However, there is a belief that by reducing it they can increase consumer spending. If we had the same argument about reducing corporation tax, every Minister for Finance would be able to come in here and say, based on the figures of the day, that reducing the tax would result in the loss of so much money. The Minister has not taken into account that reducing VAT to 19%, for which I am calling in this amendment, will increase consumer spending. Yes, there will be a loss, but the Government is not taking into account that confidence will be increased and more money will be put back into the pockets of consumers — in the region of €1 billion per year. People will be able to spend that money in the retail sector. Employment will increase and companies will be able to make profits, so the Government will still get its taxes through the profits of these companies. People will be taken off unemployment benefit and will pay taxes through PAYE. The money will come back to the Government eventually and it should come back in bucketfuls.

We are in a serious predicament in terms of retail spending. Christmas is buffering the figures because people are going out and spending money on Christmas presents and so on. However, after Christmas — I hope I am wrong about this — we are in for a serious wake-up call. I believe we will be back here debating a package of measures to help the retail sector. We can do it now. We know what is happening and we can prevent it. Reducing VAT to 19% is the right thing to do. It will not solve all the problems. Sterling at 95% and other currency fluctuations will always be a problem for us. However, we need to send out a signal, and the Government should be sending out a signal before Christmas that it intends to support small businesses and put more money back in people’s pockets.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  On the basis of what is being discussed here, the Minister should consider this measure. For example, the ESRI report from yesterday states that it sees overall consumer prices falling next year for the first time since 1946. We actually have the wrong budget. With all the increases we have been talking about, we are doing everything to make sure this happens. There has been a debate in this House for the last number of weeks. I was criticised for saying it was wrong to have a 2.5% pay increase for ourselves in September and [242]then preside over a harsh budget in October, yet we are still talking about pay increases next August. Other aspects of the ESRI report will bear this out also. We are creating a major disjunction between the public and private sectors — the same disjunction that existed a couple of years ago which we tried to rectify with benchmarking, although we did not follow through by achieving reform. We have passed the wrong budget. This is only compounding the problem we are talking about. The Government should seriously consider this issue before the events of 1946 are repeated.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Much emphasis has been laid on retail sales, but retail sales are down in all countries, not just in Ireland. Retailers are currently offering sales with discounts of 20% to 50%; in effect, the VAT rate increase is being absorbed.

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  No other country is putting up the VAT rate.

Question put: “That the figure and words proposed to be deleted stand.”

The Committee divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 5.

Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Marc MacSharry  Zoom on Marc MacSharry  MacSharry, Marc.
Information on Lisa McDonald  Zoom on Lisa McDonald  McDonald, Lisa. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.



Níl
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane.
Information on Brendan Ryan  Zoom on Brendan Ryan  Ryan, Brendan.  

Tellers: Tá, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Pearse Doherty and Feargal Quinn.

Question declared carried.

Recommendation declared lost.

Senator Feargal Quinn: Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  I move recommendation No. 5a:

My reason for introducing this recommendation is because the largest challenge facing many businesses is liquidity. This recommendation would help to provide liquidity at only a tiny cost to the Exchequer. Every business must pay its VAT 19 days after the end of the previous [243]month. I propose it is extended to 90 days, three months. The Government will still get its tax but later.

We hear so much about the credit crunch. The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Finance and the Public Service was recently attended by the two banks. It is clear from the figures that the banks are not lending and have no intention of lending for some time. As a result a large number of businesses are short of cash. This proposal will give them cash by allowing them to hold on to their VAT returns for an extra few weeks. It is worthy of consideration. It will help businesses without a cost to the Exchequer. I urge the Minister of State to accept this recommendation.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The VAT registration thresholds for small businesses were increased in the 2008 budget to €37,500 in respect of services and to €75,000 for goods with effect from 1 May 2008. Ireland operates some of the highest registration thresholds in the EU. Some member states do not operate any VAT registration threshold requiring all business to register. Registration thresholds reduce the administrative burden on small business, often at development stage, and on the Revenue Commissioners.

VAT returns are normally made on a two monthly basis in arrears. Traders making VAT returns on-line may do so until the 23rd of the month, instead of the 19th of the month. There are significant cost savings and efficiency gains for business that use revenue on-line services. It is quick and easy to use and facilitates cashflow management.

For businesses with a yearly VAT liability of €3,000 or less, the option of filing returns on a half-yearly basis is available. For businesses with a yearly liability between €3,001 and €14,400, the option of filing returns every four months is available. Over 76,000 traders were eligible for this initiative. This reduces compliance costs for firms with small VAT liabilities.

The 2007 budget also introduced the annual VAT cash accounting threshold for small firms from €635,000 to €1 million, with effect from 1 March 2007. Traders who qualify for this method of accounting for VAT are not liable to pay the VAT until they receive payment for the goods and services which they supply. Approximately 65,000 traders account for VAT on the cash basis.

Deferring VAT payments for a reasonable number of firms would have a significant once-off cashflow cost, approximately €1.7 billion, for the Exchequer in the year of its introduction. I cannot accept the recommendation.

Senator Joe O’Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  This is a classic example of one arm of Government not listening to the other. Over the past four months, we have raised the difficulties faced by small businesses in accessing cash. Up to €10 billion is being put in the way of the banks to help access to cash. This recommendation provides a way in which the State could offer an opportunity to small businesses, in particular, to improve their cashflow in a significant way at no loss. The loss referred to by the Minister of State is an end-of-year one and would only occur for the last three months of the year when the payment date would cross over the limit.

From a quick calculation of the thresholds given by the Minister of State, these would only apply to businesses with an annual turnover of approximately €150,000 a year, which is about €500 a day. That really would not be a business.

I accept there is a cost for the first year. This recommendation is a simple, sensible and practical way in which the Government could control access to credit for small businesses. In giving €10 billion to the banks, one does not know what is going to come out at the other end.

[244]This recommendation allows businesses to have cash for 90 days. For example, if a filling station is stocking up, it must make payments for fuel on a cash-on-delivery or a next-day payment basis. Filling stations always worked on the basis they got a loan from a bank to pay these charges. Nowadays, the banks have repayment schedules that are shorter than the time it takes the liquid gold in the filling station to be sold. Businesses which are under no threat whatsoever are being hit by the lack of access to credit.

I accept the recommendation will not be accepted but I would like it to be taken to the Department of Finance. This is a classic example of one Department addressing one matter while the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment addresses the lack of credit. Senator Quinn’s recommendation is a practical way of dealing with a problem all Members have raised over the past several months. It is worthwhile examining.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Fine Gael also supports this recommendation for the reasons outlined by Senators Quinn and O’Toole.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  I support this recommendation. It is very sensible and causes no real cost to the Exchequer. It is only a delay in bringing in the VAT intake. As I said with reference to my previous recommendation, we will be back here to revisit this problem. Senator Quinn’s proposal and others, including my earlier recommendation, will be discussed and brought forward by this Government. This is a problem that will not go away. Imaginative ideas from this side of the House must be taken on board. The reduction in VAT must be brought to the attention of the Minister. The extension to 90 days is only an extension of seven weeks and must be brought to the attention of the Minister. This will form a rescue package when the Government gets its act together.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  While I am not in a position to accept the recommendation, I undertake to take the suggestion back to the Minister for evaluation for consideration in a future Bill.

Recommendation put and declared lost.

Question put: “That section 72 stand part of the Bill.”

The Committee divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 14.

Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Marc MacSharry  Zoom on Marc MacSharry  MacSharry, Marc.
Information on Lisa McDonald  Zoom on Lisa McDonald  McDonald, Lisa. Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian.
Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás. Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis.
Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona. Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann.
Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran. Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim.
Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M. Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.



Níl
Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul. Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy.
Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice.
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal,
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Fergal Quinn  Zoom on Fergal Quinn  Quinn, Feargal. Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene.
Information on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Zoom on Shane Peter Nathaniel Ross  Ross, Shane. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Maurice Cummins and Liam Twomey.

Question declared carried.

Sections 73 to 81, inclusive, agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 82 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  This section deals with public private partnerships. What are the main changes to the public private partnership schemes? Are many changes made to the previous schemes? Are the changes mainly with regard to education, water and sewerage schemes and roads or are other changes also made?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  This section repeals section 110 of the Finance Act 2007 and reinstates it again with the same charging provisions but subject to certain exemptions being made to those charging provisions along with some minor technical amendments. The purpose of the original section 110 and this reinstated section is to address the arrangements that are being used by some developers that give rise to an avoidance of liability to stamp duty. As the law currently stands, these arrangements are permissible.

As Senators are aware, stamp duty is imposed at various rates upon specified categories of instruments subject to a range of exemptions. An instrument concludes every written document and liability to stamp duty arises at present when an instrument of a type that attracts a charge is executed. With regard to real property such as land and buildings the document which attracts the charge is the instrument by means of which legal title to land is conveyed or transferred from one owner to another.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  What does that mean in plain English? Will stamp duty be paid on public private partnerships? Will an arrangement be made for people to have their commission returned if a PPP falls? In plain English, what is the substantive change?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  This new section also makes provision for exemptions from the charge. These include public private partnership arrangements and incentive schemes for capital allowances purposes with regard to nursing homes, convalescent homes, private hospitals, mental health centres, palliative care units, the mid-Shannon corridor tourism scheme and child care facilities. This provision is subject to commencement order and the Minister’s intent is to commence it in the near future.

Question put and agreed to.

Section 83 agreed to.

[246]

Question proposed: “That section 84 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Does this section deal with the changes announced in the budget with regard to installation aid for young trained farmers?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  This section amends section 81 of the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act which exempts from stamp duty transfers of land to young trained farmers. The amendment gives effect to the budget announcement which extended the exemption for another four years until 31 December 2012. This is an important relief for the farming sector as it incentivises inter alia the early transfer of the farm to young farmers. The change applies to instruments executed on or after 1 January 2009.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 85 to 87, inclusive, agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 88 stand part of the Bill.”

  6 o’clock

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  I have a question with regard to inheritance tax and the valuation of property, particularly where disputes have arisen and dragged on for a number of years. What valuation is taken? Is it the valuation at the time of death? A valuation taken two or three years ago would be far higher than a valuation today. A major dispute could arise in such a case. How could one value property today? One would not know the value of a property today unless one were to sell it and get the market value for it. Two years ago the market value of those properties was totally unrealistic. This is an area of dispute for people and I ask the Minister to indicate how it can be resolved because a number of cases are in dispute. The high valuations a number of years ago were unrealistic. How does the Revenue Commissioners intend to deal with them?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The valuation date is the date of death but discussions can be entered into with the Revenue Commissioners to negotiate instalment arrangements for paying the tax.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Arrangements can be made for paying instalments if agreement is reached. The Minister said the valuation date is the date of death but how does one know what the valuation is now? How can anybody say what the valuation of a property is in the current economic climate? Some of the properties under dispute were valued at the date of death which may have been two or three years ago. They were unrealistic valuations. There should be some arbitrary system in place to allow people come to some agreement but I am led to believe that in some cases where disputes have taken place there is no talking to the Revenue Commissioners. There is no doubt that any valuation given two or three years ago was unrealistic and I hope the Revenue Commissioners would look on it that way.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The valuation is the market value at the time of death.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Is there any scope for review?

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is there any scope for review in that regard? Market values two years ago were totally unrealistic. They are halved today. In some cases one might not even sell those properties today or even value them.

[247]Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  It works both ways. It applies the other way when the value increases.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  In the current environment when we are bailing out banks and developers, it is a substantial cost to keep it.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I will have an explanation prepared for the Senator.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  In this case more than an explanation is needed. The Government will have to take some action on it because I know of no valuer who can put a value on any property, whether it is a house, a business or land. That is one scenario.

Some of those disputes have taken place in the past two or three years but the properties valued then would not get the same price today. The person might not even be able to sell them to pay their inheritance tax. These properties were given valuations three years ago but if they have to put them on the market now, those valuations are unrealistic. Some sort of intervention is required at ministerial level. The Revenue Commissioners are considering valuations that were done three years ago but the people might not even be able to sell the properties today. The Minister says they can pay by instalment on a valuation given three years ago. The Revenue Commissioners might take the property off their hands in some cases, which might be much easier for the people involved.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The argument can be made that when values are rising, the valuation date means that less tax is paid than would be paid if valued at the price when sold.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  That is hearsay. Valuations made a number of years ago were unrealistic. Every Minister knows that. The Revenue Commissioners valued properties two or three years ago and the people have to pay inheritance tax on those valuations. They may have to sell the properties. There is not a hope in hell of them ever selling. In 20 years time these properties may realise their value of three years ago. Those poor people would have to sell those properties to pay the inheritance tax on a valuation that in most cases is probably 100% less than what they were two or three years ago. The Minister of State should look at this in a sympathetic fashion.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  We can look at it but I am not sure there is any scope for the Minister to do anything other than what is the current practice.

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  The point the Minister of State is making is that people will take a hit because valuations can work both ways. If the Revenue took a hit during the past decade in terms of inheritance tax because of rapidly rising property prices, that was an issue for Revenue to decide whether it would accept that risk but the converse position is not true. If people’s inheritance is being put at risk because of a collapse in property prices, the Minister of State is saying to these people that the Government will force them to sell if they cannot pay the inheritance tax for which they are liable or that they must not accept their inheritance if the value of what they are inheriting is less than their liabilities and other costs that might be incurred. It does not automatically apply that just because Revenue accepts that it is taking a hit when prices are rising, we should accept that people inheriting an asset should take a hit. In some cases an inheritance may be a parcel of land or a family home and the valuation of a family home would have been significantly higher three years ago than it is now. We should not just accept that a person may win one way or lose the other way. We should be more understanding.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  What the Senators are asking would involve a change in the current law. The Revenue Commissioners are implementing the law as they see it.

[248]Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  There must be some room for negotiation with the Revenue Commissioners. If agreements can be arrived at in disputes without changing the law, the Revenue Commissioners must have a way to give some latitude in dealing with a situation like that.

Question put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 89 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator John Paul Phelan: Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Will the Minister explain section 89?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  This section amends section 89 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003. The section grants relief at 90% in respect of the market value of agricultural property situated in the State where such property is comprised in a gift or an inheritance taken by a farmer. For the purposes of this section, agricultural property includes agricultural land situated in the State. To qualify as a farmer for the purpose of section 89 of the Act, at least 80% of an individual’s assets, after taking the gift or inheritance into account, must consist of agricultural property situated in the State.

The European Court of Justice, in a decision delivered in January of this year, held that a provision in tax law that confines relief to land in one member state is a restriction on the free movement of capital and is, therefore, contrary to European Union law. Section 89 of the Bill ensures that relief will apply to agricultural land situated in a member state of the European Union. The amendment to the definition of “farmer” in section 89(1) of the Act ensures that agricultural land situated in a member state of the European Union will qualify as agricultural property and that such property will qualify for 90% relief under this section.

This amendment, which the Minister introduced on Committee Stage in the other House, was required because while section 82 of the Bill as initiated ensured that relief at 90% applied to such assets, those assets could not qualify for relief if the bulk of the property comprised in a gift or inheritance was situated outside the State. The amendment corrects this anomaly and ensures that section 89 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003 is in conformity with European Union law.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 90 and 91 agreed to.

Question proposed: “That section 92 stand part of the Bill.”

Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Is this section just a technical amendment?

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  This section gives extra powers to the Revenue Commissioners and provides for an increase in fines. At a time when the economy is in difficulty, it is unbelievable to give extra powers to the Revenue Commissioners and raise penalties for hard pressed business people. This is in addition to tax payment dates for companies being brought forward from October to March. They will have to pay two years tax within one year. Next year will be difficult but we are giving the Revenue Commissioners more powers to raise penalties on hard pressed people in future years. We should take a more lenient approach.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  This section makes three amendments to sections in the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997, which deal with Revenue Commissioners’ powers. The definition of “financial [249]institution” has been aligned in a number of sections to include financial institutions authorised in another member state operating in Ireland under a passport arrangement. These institutions will now come under these provisions in the same way as banks authorised by the Central Bank and Financial Services Authority of Ireland. The second area is the definition of “professional advices”, which has been amended in certain sections to concisely set out parameters for disclosure of third party information and professional advices. Finally, a time limit on the submission of tax returns, within which court orders issued must be complied with, has also been inserted into the section dealing with Revenue offences.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Does that mean a court order must be in place before a fine can be imposed?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Paragraphs (g) to (i) amend section 906(a) which permits access by the Revenue Commissioners to information held by financial institutions, section 908(a) which enables them to obtain a District Court order to access information in a financial institution to enable them to investigate an offence and 908(b) which enables the Revenue Commissioners to apply to the High Court for an order requiring a financial institution to supply information held by a foreign entity over which it has control. The purpose is to include financial institutions authorised in another member state.

Question put and agreed to.

Sections 93 to 102, inclusive, agreed to.

Schedules 1 to 3, inclusive, agreed to.

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  Two minor drafting errors have come to my notice and in accordance with Standing Order 131, I request the Cathaoirleach to instruct the Clerk to make two corrections in the Bill as follows:

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I will direct the Clerk to make the correction.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Will that have to go before the Dáil?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No, it is just a correction.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Is it not an amendment to the Finance Bill?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No, it is a correction of an error.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Will it have to go before the Dáil?

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  No.

Question, “That Schedule 4 be Schedule 4 to the Bill”, put and agreed to.

Question proposed: “That Schedule 5 be Schedule 5 to the Bill.”

[250]Senator Liam Twomey: Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  With regard to the €200 levy on second houses or holiday homes, is it up to the individual taxpayer to list their properties in their tax returns to pay the levy to the county councils or is it up to the county councils to identify the properties?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  The levy will be introduced in separate legislation to be brought forward by the Minister for the Environment, Heritage and Local Government.

Senator Paddy Burke: Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Would a granny flat attached to a property be considered a second home?

Deputy Pat Carey: Information on Pat Carey  Zoom on Pat Carey  I cannot anticipate what might be in the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

Schedule 6 agreed to.

Title agreed to.

Bill reported without recommendations and received for final consideration.

Question put: “That the Bill be returned to the Dáil.”

The Seanad divided: Tá, 25; Níl, 12.

Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  Boyle, Dan. Information on Martin Brady  Zoom on Martin Brady  Brady, Martin.
Information on Larry Butler  Zoom on Larry Butler  Butler, Larry. Information on Ivor Callely  Zoom on Ivor Callely  Callely, Ivor.
Information on John Carty  Zoom on John Carty  Carty, John. Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  Cassidy, Donie.
Information on Maria Corrigan  Zoom on Maria Corrigan  Corrigan, Maria. Information on Mark Daly  Zoom on Mark Daly  Daly, Mark.
Information on Déirdre de Búrca  Zoom on Déirdre de Búrca  de Búrca, Déirdre. Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Ellis, John.
Information on Geraldine Feeney  Zoom on Geraldine Feeney  Feeney, Geraldine. Information on Camillus Glynn  Zoom on Camillus Glynn  Glynn, Camillus.
Information on John Gerard Hanafin  Zoom on John Gerard Hanafin  Hanafin, John. Information on Cecilia Keaveney  Zoom on Cecilia Keaveney  Keaveney, Cecilia.
Information on Terry Leyden  Zoom on Terry Leyden  Leyden, Terry. Information on Marc MacSharry  Zoom on Marc MacSharry  MacSharry, Marc.
Information on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Zoom on Brian Ó Domhnaill  Ó Domhnaill, Brian. Information on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Zoom on Labhrás Ó Murchú  Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
Information on Francis O'Brien  Zoom on Francis O'Brien  O’Brien, Francis. Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  O’Malley, Fiona.
Information on Ann Ormonde  Zoom on Ann Ormonde  Ormonde, Ann. Information on Kieran Phelan  Zoom on Kieran Phelan  Phelan, Kieran.
Information on Jim Walsh  Zoom on Jim Walsh  Walsh, Jim. Information on Mary M. White  Zoom on Mary M. White  White, Mary M.
Information on Diarmuid Wilson  Zoom on Diarmuid Wilson  Wilson, Diarmuid.  


Níl
Information on Paul Bradford  Zoom on Paul Bradford  Bradford, Paul. Information on Paddy Burke  Zoom on Paddy Burke  Burke, Paddy.
Information on Jerry Buttimer  Zoom on Jerry Buttimer  Buttimer, Jerry. Information on Maurice Cummins  Zoom on Maurice Cummins  Cummins, Maurice.
Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Doherty, Pearse. Information on Paschal Donohoe  Zoom on Paschal Donohoe  Donohoe, Paschal.
Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  Fitzgerald, Frances. Information on Nicky McFadden  Zoom on Nicky McFadden  McFadden, Nicky.
Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  O’Toole, Joe. Information on John Paul Phelan  Zoom on John Paul Phelan  Phelan, John Paul.
Information on Eugene Regan  Zoom on Eugene Regan  Regan, Eugene. Information on Liam Twomey  Zoom on Liam Twomey  Twomey, Liam.

Tellers: Tá, Senators Camillus Glynn and Diarmuid Wilson; Níl, Senators Maurice Cummins and Liam Twomey.

Question declared carried.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  I wish all Members and staff, particularly the Leas-Chathaoirleach and the Leader of the House, a happy, holy and prosperous Christmas and new year. I wish everyone a safe journey home tonight and thank them for their co-operation and help over the past year.

[251]Senator Frances Fitzgerald: Information on Frances Fitzgerald  Zoom on Frances Fitzgerald  On behalf of Fine Gael and the Senators in the House, I convey our very best wishes to the Cathaoirleach and thank him for the manner in which he has conducted the business of the House during this term. I thank the staff of the House for all the hard work they have been involved in over the course of the term. There has been a large number of votes which kept everyone very busy and we thank them for the co-operation afforded to us.

I thank the staff of the Houses who have been courteous and supportive to us in our work, particularly today. I wish everyone a very good Christmas and I am sure 2009 will be as eventful as the past few months have been.

Senator Joe O’Toole: Information on Joe John O'Toole  Zoom on Joe John O'Toole  On behalf of Independent Senators, I also wish to be associated with the words of the Cathaoirleach and thank him for his good wishes. We would also like to extend our good wishes to all on both sides of the House and thank the Cathaoirleach for his courtesy at all times and the Leader for his co-operation. We have our rows but always manage to sort them out.

I also thank the Government Whip, who has established a positive relationship with this side of the House. I thank Ms Deirdre Lane and Ms Jody Blake for the extraordinary help they have given at all times to convert thoughts into amendments and bring order to the House.

We have conducted our business well in the House and I ask the Leader to look back and see how we can be even more relevant in the future. I thank the staff of the House and ask the chief usher to convey our views to the staff, as was done this morning by the Leader. I thank Jim Walsh for his constant reporting of the House, which we very much appreciate.

Senator Dan Boyle: Information on Dan Boyle  Zoom on Dan Boyle  I also join in the votes of thanks to the Cathaoirleach for his impartial and judicious marshalling of events in the Chamber, to the office of the clerks and to all staff for helping us to process our work in a very efficient way. I wish all my colleagues in the Chamber a restful Christmas and a solvent new year.

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  I covered all matters in my vote of thanks. I thank everyone for their attention to the Finance Bill this evening and all day today. This was the busiest session in terms of divisions in any Seanad since 1937. It is a great credit to everyone for their total commitment to the House. I wish them all well and look forward to working again in 2009.

Senator Fiona O’Malley: Information on Fiona O'Malley  Zoom on Fiona O'Malley  I join in wishing everyone a happy Christmas and a prosperous new year. I thank the staff for their work. We were here late frequently. It is one thing for us to be here late, but other staff must also attend to the carry-on of the Members from time to time and it is a lot to ask of them.

It has been a fruitful year. I look forward to the break and wish everyone a happy Christmas.

Senator Pearse Doherty: Information on Pearse Doherty  Zoom on Pearse Doherty  Ar son mo phairtí, Sinn Féin, ba mhaith liom cur leis an méid atá ráite ag na Seanadóirí eile. Guím Nollag shona agus sásta ar gach éinne sa Teach seo — na Seanadóirí uilig agus an foireann a dhéanann freastal ar an Teach. Guím athbhliain faoi mhaise orthu go léir freisin.

An Cathaoirleach: Information on Pat Moylan  Zoom on Pat Moylan  When is it proposed to sit again?

Senator Donie Cassidy: Information on Donie Cassidy  Zoom on Donie Cassidy  It is proposed to adjourn sine die.


Last Updated: 06/09/2010 19:22:19 First Page Previous Page Page of 9 Next Page Last Page