It was comical listening earlier to the response of Deputy Michael McGrath and Fianna Fáil, still torn between pretending to be an Opposition party and being a party of government. Of course, this a Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil administration which has cobbled together the budget before us. This is the 11th austerity budget since autumn 2008 when Fianna Fáil began a decade of austerity and capped expenditure. I welcome some of the small restorations of payments in what is essentially a standstill budget. I sent in my own submission to both Ministers, which outlined a number of measures I felt could have been included with even a reasonably extended fiscal space, significantly beyond the €1.2 billion provided for in this budget.
I welcome the partial restorations of pension payments under sections 3 and 4 and Schedule 1, the partial restoration of child benefit payments under section 7, the restoration of the respite care grant under section 6, the partial back-tracking of the family income supplement earnings threshold under section 8, the changes to the carer’s allowance under section 9 and the amendments to certain PRSI credits and earning thresholds under section 10 of the Bill.
It would be churlish of me not to acknowledge these partial restorations, yet it is also disrespectful of the Minister of State and the Tánaiste to refer to them as increases.
Deputy Broughan submitted a number of Budget 2016 priority recommendations to Ministers Noonan and Howlin and hopes that they take this opportunity, their final budget in Government, to close the inequality gaps in Irish society (which are becoming more evident as growth and concentrations of wealth return to the dysfunctional pre-crash levels). Deputy Broughan highlighted housing, health (including disability), education, childcare and child protection, and social protection as areas to immediately be addressed.
I welcome the opportunity to make a brief contribution on the Civil Debt (Procedures) Bill 2015. I welcome the provision to abolish imprisonment for non-payment of fines, which has been a particularly problematic issue for the Prison Service in the case of smaller fines. The legislation repeals sections of the Debtors (Ireland) Act 1872 on imprisonment for non-payment. When the Law Reform Commission reported in 2010, attachment of earnings orders were primarily used to enforce maintenance orders in family law cases. Since then, however, they have been sanctioned for other matters a number of times in legislation, including in the Finance Act 2012 for local property tax, in the Fines (Payment and Recovery) Act 2014, which has not yet been commenced, for unpaid fines, and in the Social Welfare and Pensions Act 2013 for social welfare overpayments. This legislation is, if one likes, part of the panorama of austerity the Government has inflicted on citizens.
Deputy Thomas P. Broughan: I am grateful for the opportunity to contribute briefly to this important discussion on our spring economic statement for 2015. Of course, it is extremely clear that the Government is gearing up for a general election and apparently hoping that the Irish public have very short memories. Let me start by saying […]