Budget 2020 needed to be a dynamic, proactive budget to protect the incomes of our people facing the challenge of Brexit and climate change actions. In the event, two weeks ago, the budget was a regressive imposition on huge cohorts of society, effectively cutting the real incomes of families and citizens on social protection and those in lower-paid jobs. Despite the concerns repeatedly expressed by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and civil society agencies like Social Justice Ireland, and the regressive increase in carbon tax, there was no attempt to widen the tax base and lessen Ireland’s serious tax dependence on the corporation tax being paid by a small number of multinational companies. As Deputy Michael McGrath said earlier, 45% of it is paid by just ten companies.
58. To ask the Minister for Children and Youth Affairs the quality control procedures in place in Tusla; the type of performance management and upskilling which takes place for persons working with vulnerable children; the workplace supports available to those working with vulnerable children and families; and if she will make a statement on the matter.
The €11.4 billion from Vote 26 and the Estimates for 2020 from last week is welcome. I welcome the improvements that have been made with SNAs and we just heard about 150 extra teachers for demographic reasons, but overall we still have the biggest class sizes in the eurozone and nearly the biggest in the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, OECD. A key aim of the Irish National Teachers’ Organisation, INTO, and the National Principals’ Forum is to reduce these. The Government has not really made progress on this in this year’s budget.
I commend Deputy MacSharry on introducing the Road Traffic (Amendment) (Use of Electric Scooters) Bill 2019. Road and traffic safety have to be the cornerstones of all legislation, along with regulation regarding transport vehicles and road traffic structures and systems. We have all noticed the growing popularity of e-scooters and electric-powered bicycles in many cities across Europe, including in our capital city and in other towns. The development of personalised powered transport vehicles in recent years by manufacturers and distributors like the Lime Company is reminiscent of the roll-out of Airbnb and Uber. Pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, however, are increasingly anxious that all the safety implications of powered scooters and bicycles should be closely invigilated by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport and the Road Safety Authority, RSA, to ensure the current unregulated situation would be addressed. In that context, Deputy MacSharry’s Bill is timely and welcome.
I wish to warmly commend our Sinn Féin colleagues on the motion before the House calling for an immediate increase in the national minimum wage and the introduction of a living wage of at least €12.30 per hour in 2020. A major contribution has been made by low-paid workers to the economy. Often, they are in precarious and difficult employment. It has to be recognised that the adoption of a national living wage will benefit them. I note the Minister in her speech seemed to denigrate the whole concept of a living wage as a theoretical estimate. Actually, the difference between the living wage and the national minimum wage is that the living wage is based on real research in the real economy and the real suffering that families endure, as well as the expenses to which they are subject. I believe the Minister completely misunderstood the whole basis of this debate. She referred to the tiny 30 cent increase per hour in the national minimum wage and said this had been accepted by the Government. However, I searched for the reference in the budget speech. There is no reference whatsoever by the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, to the national minimum wage in his 34-page speech. It is completely missing. Even a derisory 30 cent per hour increase features nowhere and certainly there is no reference whatsoever to a living wage.
I am delighted to have a chance to say a few words about Budget 2020. It was laughable listening to Deputy Michael McGrath and Fianna Fáil spokespersons criticising Fine Gael and the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, given that once again Fianna Fáil’s fingerprints are all over the Budget Statement the Minister read this afternoon. Last year I asked the Taoiseach about the measures he was taking to reduce the high levels of tax expenditure and introduce a sense of accountability for them. Of course, between them, Fine Gael and Fianna Fail have now delivered about a dozen budgets since early 2009. Tracing it back to the crash, in the two budgets that followed, Fine Gael Members trooped in after Fianna Fáil Members. When we got to 2011 and Fine Gael entred into government, Fianna Fáil Members voted resolutely with Fine Gael Members. Since 2016 we have had this bizarre Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil Government. The vast majority were savage austerity budgets. Today, on balance, the two parties have returned to the austerity path, following a few brief years of restoration and easing financial pressures on ordinary citizens. I have noticed that a distinguished journalist, Fionnán Sheahan, is quoted as saying Brexit was used as “a cloak covering the void of vision and Donohoe’s ‘Bertienomics”’. It is another chapter of “Bertienomics” since 2008.
However much we reject Boris Johnson’s letter and his proposals, the Tánaiste has stated that it is a more serious effort to negotiate. Could we take it that, up to Hallowe’en, that this House will be kept informed at every turn in the negotiations?I mainly want to ask the Tánaiste about his previous portfolio. As he is aware, yesterday, the Raise the Roof-Homes For All coalition stood outside Dáil Éireann. This time last year, the House passed a motion which called for affordable rents and security of tenure, ending eviction into homelessness, doubling national housing investment, the creation of a legal constitutional right to housing and the declaration of a housing emergency. Fine Gael was the only party to vote against the motion and to refuse to do anything about it in the past year.
Yesterday, while the Minister’s colleague was taking the debate on the Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill because the Minister could not attend, I raised again the upsurge in appalling crime that occurred in parts of my constituency earlier this year, with murders in broad daylight and so on, and asked what steps were being taken.The second matter is the great anxiety people are feeling in the run-up to Hallowe’en that the festival will be used as an excuse for anti-social behaviour and the creation of general mayhem on estates.
I am delighted to have the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the Firearms and Offensive Weapons (Amendment) Bill 2019. This is a short Bill which will amend section 9 of the Firearms and Offensive Weapons Act 1990. Its key purpose is to increase the maximum sentence for knife crime from five years to ten years. I commend Deputy Jim O’Callaghan for bringing forward this legislation following four tragic deaths by knife attacks in Dublin this summer.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan asked the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport his views on whether the Road Safety Authority, RSA, should upscale its road safety campaigns, especially in the case of speeding and aggressive driving practices, in view of the tragic and disappointing road traffic casualty figures to date in 2019; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [39754/19]Something like 112 people have tragically lost their lives on the roads this year, seven more than at this stage last year. The breakdown is 21 pedestrians, 59 drivers, 13 passengers, 12 motorcyclists, five cyclists and two pillion passengers. Does the RSA need to upscale its major campaigns to try to bring home the message to speeding and aggressive drivers in particular that their behaviour is perhaps the key cause of these tragic figures?