All posts by Pat Carroll

Standing Commission on Taxation now needed after Coffey Report

Following the publication of the Coffey report, Labour spokesperson on Finance Joan Burton has said it showed once again the need to establish a Standing Commission on Taxation tasked with continually monitoring our laws, regulations and enforcement of tax matters.

Deputy Burton said:

“While I welcome the publication of the Coffey Report on Corporation Tax several months after it was submitted to the Minister, it is a substantial document that must now be carefully assessed.

“It is clear that we still have some way to go on tax transparency and justice. For some time I have called for a Standing Commission on Taxation to be established.

“This would be tasked with continually monitoring how our tax laws are being used, to examine loopholes, reliefs and avoidance structures on a rolling basis.

“As the Coffey Report shows, Ireland has made significant progress, but the recommendations on intellectual property in particular highlight that this evolving and highly technical field must be closely monitored.

“I firmly believe that we need a Commission now to examine matters like this and other recent issues I have raised including the use of corporate losses. The growth in use of the R&D credit and Knowledge Development Box also needs to be closely monitored and such a body would be ideally suited to examine these.”

SAVE ST CATHERINE’S PARK – FINGAL VOTES


I am delighted that Mayor Mary McCamley secured the unanimous support of Fingal Councillors to remove this route for a road that would have destroyed St Catherine’s Park and severely harmed the Liffey Valley.

In the 1990s I campaigned hard to protect the Liffey Valley and secured the support from then Minister Michael D.Higgins to purchase the Demense for a Public Park.

Last night’s vote by councillors is not binding on the Fingal County Chief Executive, however from my own representations to the National Roads Authority and Transport Infrastructure Ireland neither state agency is seeking to build a new National Road through St Catherine’s Park.

I am continuing to be vigilant in respect of defending the park from inappropriate and residents can count on my full support in their campaign to defend the Park

NOTE:

1) Motion passed by Fingal County Council  

2) Correspondence from Transport Infrastructure Ireland regarding linking the M3 and M4 

COUNTY COUNCIL MEETING

MONDAY 11th SEPTEMBER 2017

Item No. 22a Variation of the Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023

Mayors Business: Councillor Mary McCamley

That this Council requests that the Chief Executive to initiate a variation of the Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023 with the purpose of; (a) Removing the following road schemes listed under Table 7.1 of Objective MT42, N3-N4 Link Ongar to Barnhill and N3-N4 Barnhill to Leixlip Interchange. and (b) To include an additional Objective under Green Infrastructure namely – This Council recognises the significant importance of St. Catherines’s Park as a recreational amenity for the Region, and mindful of this the integrity of the Park shall be preserved and it shall not be used in any way to provide a link from the N3 to the N4, within the functional area of Fingal or Kildare.”  

FINGAL CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S REPORT:

“National policy on transport includes objectives to enhance orbital movement outside the M50 C-Ring between the N3, the N4 and the N7. In response to the national policy, an indicative road line is shown on the Fingal Development Plan 2017-2023 maps and included in Table 7.1 Road Schemes, of a link between the N3 and N4 from Ongar to the Leixlip Interchange. Any road project at this national level would be a matter for TII in terms of feasibility, funding and routing options. Routing options would have to go through appropriate studies and statutory environmental processes, including public consultation. Fingal will support and facilitate the TII, South Dublin County Council and Kildare County Council in the planning and delivery of road upgrades, subject to proper planning and sustainable development The initiation of the process to make a variation of a Development Plan under Section 13 of Planning & Development Act 2000 (as amended) is an executive function. Ordinary resolutions passed by the elected Members of the Council do not oblige the Chief Executive to initiate the procedures under Section 13”.

The CEO of Fingal County Council in his response to members of the Council advises that the indicative route on the Fingal County Plan is in response to the needs of Transport Infrastructure Ireland. However when I previously contacted TII in May they replied to me (copy of TII response attached) that “The Link Road between the N3 and N4 is a proposed regional road” and that the NTA “is the body responsible for transport strategy for the Greater Dublin Area”.

 

Time that Ireland saw benefit of lower borrowing costs

I welcome the announcement today by the Government to repay some of the bailout loans to secure interest savings but cautioned that it was now time that the Irish people saw the benefits from the savings on the national debt.

“The Government and the NTMA should always be seeking to lock in lower interest costs on our national debt so I welcome today’s move to repay the outstanding portion of IMF loans and the bilateral loans with Denmark and Sweden.

“The Exchequer figures up to August show that €131 million less than budgeted has been spent on interest payments.

“The reality is that multi million euro savings have already been made on the National Debt, and this will add further to it. It is time the Irish people saw the benefit of these savings.

“These loans are being paid down with the proceeds of AIB share sales that was bailed out from the National Pension Reserve Fund. Those sale proceeds could have been reinvested back in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to provide a benefit to the Irish people.

The NTMA has a proven ability to borrow cheaply, and manage the national debt.

“We should be using those skills now, and the interest savings to deliver the investments we need in housing, health and public transport infrastructure.”

“The availability of low interest loans internationally offers a chance to redeem high interest debt and replace it with cheaper loans. The gross debt remains the same but lower service costs means more money for public services. People will remember that when the economy nosedived from late 2007 on the interest rates being charged to Ireland went through the roof and that is one of the key reasons why the Troika had to come into Ireland.

“The Government and the NTMA should always be seeking to lock in lower interest costs on our national debt so I welcome today’s move to repay the outstanding portion of IMF loans and the bilateral loans with Denmark and Sweden.

“The E xchequer figures up to August show that €131 million less than budgeted has been spent on interest payments.

“The reality is that multi million euro savings have already been made on the National Debt, and this will add further to it. People should also be aware that the Exchequer is carrying €20 billion in liquid cash and assets.

“It is time the Irish people saw the benefit of these savings.

“These loans are being paid down with the proceeds of AIB share sales that was bailed out from the National Pension Reserve Fund. Those sale proceeds could have been reinvested back in the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund to provide a benefit to the Irish people.

“The NTMA has a proven ability to borrow cheaply, and manage the national debt.

“We should be using those skills now, and the interest savings to deliver the investments we need in housing, health and public transport infrastructure.”

 

FALL IN STERLING NEEDS ROBUST RESPONSE BEFORE CHRISTMAS SHOPPING SEASON BEGINS IN EARNEST

On foot of the continuing fall in the value of Sterling I have requested the Oireachtas Select Committee on Enterprise to examine what steps can be taken to avoid unnecessary loss of trade for Irish retailers and VAT income for the Exchequer.

Mary Butler TD

Chair

Select Committee on Enterprise

Leinster House

Dublin 2

September 4th 2017

Dear Mary

As I write the each Euro now buys about 92/92p Sterling a marked contrast with the value a year ago. Consequently, UK imports to Ireland cost a lot less. I am concerned that this new situation is not yet reflected in the price Irish consumers pay for UK products in Irish shops.

It seems to me that retailers are failing so far to give consumers the full advantage of the new exchange rates. This is a cause for concern.

Should this situation continue I fear consumers will choose to travel North or even to places like Manchester or London to take full advantage of the favourable exchange rate to purchase items such as clothing which will be available at cheaper prices than in Irish shops, indeed even in the Irish branches of leading UK stores.

This will lead to an avoidable loss of business in our country with potential loss of VAT income for the exchequer and of course the loss of employment mainly in border counties. I would like to suggest that your committee might consider taking up this matter and invite representatives of the retail trade and the representative of the Consumer Protection agency to attend a meeting and discuss what measures can be put in place to rectify this situation.

One specific example mentioned in a recent newspaper article refers to a fashion item in one store that costs £169 in Britain, equivalent currently to about €184 . Yet in Ireland this same item cost €229. There are many similar examples across a range of sectors.

Consumer interest in prices is always significant in the run up to the Christmas shopping season and I do think the matter should be examined before that time.

I hope you and your colleagues will consider my suggestion when you return from the recess.

Many Thanks

Joan Burton TD

 

EXCHEQUER RETURNS

Irish Times September 5th

Labour finance spokeswoman Joan Burton said that Exchequer returns figures published by the Government yesterday showed that the Government would have “considerable leeway” to expand public spending. She said the money should be spent on health and housing, rather than tax cuts.

 

“It would be foolish to squander resources on unnecessary tax cuts at a time when vital needs must be competently addressed. Taoiseach Varadkar and Minister Donohue should not be tempted to play Santa for electoral popularity. People want housing, health and infrastructure properly provided. The Government should not be tempted to bypass these issues for short-term electoral gains,” she said.

 

Mail on Sunday September 3rd

Commenting on the figures [for self employed tax revenues] Labour’s finance spokesperson Joan Burton said: “Increases in the number of self employed are a Finance Minister’s dream. It is cash straight into the Exchequer kitty”.

GOVERNMENT MUST USE POSITIVE EXCHEQUER RETURNS FOR VITAL NEEDS SUCH AS HOUSING AND HEALTH

Today’s exchequer figures are the second last returns before the budget in October. As such they indicate an economy that is on track to meet financial and budgetary targets. Today’s returns also foreshadow a large cash influx for the Minister for Finance from the self-employed that will not materialise until November, after the budget.

This means that Taoiseach Varadkar and Minister Donohue will have considerable leeway and to expand the country’s spending base, but won’t have to disclose that until budget or even later. This makes a farce of “new politics” and of Oireachtas budgetary oversight as government will not come clean on what is likely to be available in the budget.

The economy faces a serious crisis in respect of Housing, the need to Upgrade Infrastructure and to improve vital services such as Health

Today’s figures show that it is possible to address these critical issues in people’s lives in the forthcoming budget. It would be foolish to squander resources on unnecessary tax cuts at a time when vital needs must be competently addressed. Taoiseach Varadkar and Minister Donohue should not be tempted to play Santa for electoral popularity. People want housing, health and infrastructure properly provided. The Government should not be tempted to bypass these issues for short term electoral gains.

In addition the receipts from the partial sale of AIB continue to flatter the figures. The income tax figures are still behind schedule and the minister has yet to explain in detail why that should be so.

 

Exchequer Returns mean Government should boost Capital Spend

This week’s Exchequer Returns indicate that the Government is in a strong position to commit to essential capital expenditure, to make up the clear requirements for additional spending in particular on new and refurbished schools, health infrastructure, and housing.

“The Taoiseach, who has constantly referenced income tax cuts as being his preferred option, also needs to explain why given that more people are also now at work, income tax receipts are behind profile.

“With Brexit fast approaching, the economy needs to develop an infrastructure capacity if it is to attract more local and international investment into Ireland.

“The Social Insurance Fund has now moved firmly into surplus position. However, this does not mean that the Government should take its eye off the ball in relation to those individuals and families who still remain without employment.

“Clearly, the other gloss on these figures is the sale of AIB which feature in the returns, but again it is an enormous regret that this very significant boost to the State’s coffers cannot go on Capital Investment- but instead the Government will use all of it to pay down the debt. For example, one option could be to invest the funds in the new national health strategy, Sláinte Care”.

 

REFERENDUM DEBATE NEEDS TO BE RESPECTFUL

Yesterday I questioned the Taoiseach about when in 2018 will the referendum on the 8th amendment to the constitution be held. As someone who campaigned in various abortion referenda over the past 34 years I am concerned that any debate on the abortion issue is respectful to people on all sides of the debate.

 

Deputy Joan Burton asked the Taoiseach   the referenda he is considering as a priority in the coming period. [29967/17]

The Taoiseach  I propose to take Questions Nos. 2 to 7, inclusive, together.

Under the Programme for a Partnership Government, the Government is committed to holding constitutional referenda on the following matters: Article 41.2.1, regarding a woman’s life within the home; Article 40.6.1, on the offence of blasphemy; giving the office of Ceann Comhairle constitutional standing; and Ireland’s participation in the Unified Patent Court.

Three of these proposals arise from the Convention on the Constitution that sat from January 2013 to February 2014. The Government has responded to all the convention’s reports. One of the convention’s recommendations, of particular importance, is in relation to amending the Constitution to give citizens resident outside the State the right to vote in presidential elections. In March of this year, Government approved, in principle, to the holding of this referendum and the Minister for Housing, Community and Local Government is now working on this matter.

In addition, the Programme for a Partnership Government committed the Government to establish a Citizens’ Assembly with a mandate to look at a limited number of key issues, including the eighth amendment to the Constitution. In July 2016, the Houses of the Oireachtas approved establishment of the assembly.

The assembly is chaired by former Supreme Court Judge, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy. It operates independently of Government and will report directly to the Houses of the Oireachtas. The assembly has concluded its deliberations on the first topic, the eighth amendment, and published its report on the matter only last Thursday and laid it before the Houses. The Houses will now refer it for consideration to the recently established Joint Committee on the Eighth Amendment under the chairmanship of Senator Catherine Noone, which will in turn bring its conclusions to the Houses for debate. As I have already indicated, it is my intention to hold a referendum on this matter in 2018.

The Programme for a Partnership Government also says that on foot of the recommendation of the banking inquiry, the Government will seek a review of the powers of Oireachtas committees in conducting inquiries and, based on this review, will consider whether there should be a constitutional referendum to strengthen the power of Oireachtas committees.

Aside from a referendum on the eighth amendment taking place next year, no decision has been made yet as regards timing for other planned referenda. Before any referendum would be scheduled, I will of course bring a proposal to Government and hold discussions with Opposition leaders

 

Deputy Joan Burton:   I welcome the Taoiseach’s commitment to hold a referendum in 2018. Given the timeline of the Oireachtas committee, which has a number of months in which to do its work, whatever further deliberations the Taoiseach may decide are required in terms of these Houses and the actual preparation of the referendum, it would be highly desirable if the Taoiseach could commit to holding the referendum shortly after March and perhaps before the middle of June 2018. It is appropriate for it to be held then because it should not become embroiled in the visit of the Pope to Ireland towards the end of the summer. We want a respectful debate. It is a very difficult personal issue for huge numbers of people. The people who campaign on the “ultra” sides of either side may have very clear and shrill views but many citizens will want the opportunity to come to their conclusions about what is the most appropriate option. I agree with what has been said, namely, that there has been a sea change in people’s attitudes in this area. I want to make it clear that the Labour Party wishes to see the repeal of the existing constitutional amendment, which was passed over 30 years ago. Younger people in particular want their opportunity to vote on that as soon as is practically possible. My view is that it should be early in the second quarter of next year.

Delay in Summer Economic Statement Unacceptable

Last week I highlighted the unacceptability of further delay of the publication of the Summer Economic Statement. This will further undermine efforts to reform the budgetary process and ensure proper parliamentary scrutiny. In particular it will delay the work of the Oireachtas Committee on Budgetary Oversight.

Deputy Burton said:

“We had been reassured that the Summer Economic Statement (SES) would be published in mid June, but today Minister Donohoe indicated it would be a further four weeks. This will mean the Dáil will have likely reached the summer recess before we have critical economic data available to TDs.

“The programme for Government includes a commitment to reform the Budget process, including the publication of a “Spring Economic Statement to set the capacity for spending and taxation changes.

“Last year, the SES was not published until 21st June, which limited the capacity of the Budgetary Oversight Committ ee to do their work. The idea of publishing it in Spring has clearly fallen by the wayside.

“This delay further undermines efforts to ensure appropriate parliamentary scrutiny of the budget process. It will also impact on those groups that will seek to make submissions, and opposition parties planning for the Autumn budget.

“We have no idea as to what official thinking on the capacity of the Government to make tax and spending changes for next year.

Government needs to get its act together on the Baptism Barrier

A year on since the Government and Fianna Fáil sent Labour’s Bill to amend the Equal Status Act to allow local children attend local schools regardless of their religion, for public consultation, Labour spokesperson on Education, Joan Burton TD, has called on the Government to take real action on the baptism barrier by getting its act together and accepting the proposed Labour Party law.

Deputy Burton said:

“The census results earlier this year should have been a wake up call for the Government on the urgent need for reform to the admissions process for our schools. Nearly half a million people now have no religion and our society continues to become more diverse.

“Last June Labour proposed, and the Dáil debated, our Bill to amend the Equal Status Act and redress the imbalance between the right to maintain denominational schools and the rights of children to receive a secular education in a State-funded school.

“With the support of Fianna Fáil, t he Gover nment sent our Bill for public consultation in the Education Committee but a year on we have seen little movement on the issue.

“This school year is just about over and many schools will have finalised their admissions for next year. Across the country parents will be anxiously trying to figure out where to send their children to school in the years ahead.

“So, the purpose of this Bill is to amend the Equal Status Act and redress the imbalance between the right to maintain denominational schools and the rights of children to receive a secular education in a State-funded school.

“Under our Bill, a State-funded denominational school can have a preferential admission policy only if it is proved that the policy is essential in order to ensure reasonable access to education for the children of that denomination within its catchment area, in accordance with the conscience and lawful preference of their parents.

“Our Bill also states that, in deciding whethe r an adm ission policy or a refusal is proved to be ‘essential’, due regard must be had to the constitutional right of any child to attend a State-funded school without attending religious instruction, and also to the concomitant obligation that every such school should be so organised as to enable that right to be enjoyed.

“This change would give effect to the principle that, if the local State-funded school is the only reasonably available school and it is a denominational school then, notwithstanding its religious ethos, the secular and religious instruction in that school must be severable, so as to enable a child to attend that school without receiving religious instruction. Otherwise, the school should not qualify for public money.

“Local children should have access to their local schools, because local schools serve as the centre of our communities.”