Finance (No. 2) Bill 2007: Second Stage.

I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I am glad to introduce this, my fourth Finance Bill to the House. In my first Bill in 2005, I concentrated on reducing the tax burden on low and middle income earners. In my second Bill in 2006, I reformed and refocused the structure of investment tax reliefs and set a minimum tax which the well-off must pay. In my third Bill earlier this year, I sought to ensure that the benefit of strong economic growth is shared by all taxpayers and, in particular, low and middle income earners. In this, my fourth Bill, I am implementing a very specific stamp duty reform, as set out in the programme for Government, to exempt all first-time buyers from stamp duty.

I will take a little time to review where we are now in regard to first-time buyers. In my last budget I indicated it was the Government's aim to help first-time buyers directly and substantially, including those who were already paying their first mortgages. I did this by increasing mortgage interest relief for first-time buyers from €4,000 single and €8,000 married or widowed per year, to €8,000 and €16,000 respectively. This measure helped first-time buyers who were already in their first home, as well as brand new first-time buyers.

This bill is the first instalment in the implementation of the programme for Government. It is testament to the good faith of this Government that the first measure it promised to deliver for the people is the first measure it will deliver. The proposals it contains are timely, affordable, targeted and will support one of the most important sectors of our economy. It will do all this in a way that directly assists those without any housing equity of their own in their efforts to acquire their first home.

Home ownership is one of the primary aspirations of the people. It provides a secure environment in which to grow up and grow old, and it strengthens communities and improves the environment. It provides parents with a valuable asset to pass on to their children. As Minister for Finance, I have always supported home ownership through targeted policy initiatives and these proposed changes mark a continuation of a process of support for first-time buyers which I put in place in my first budget.

The housing market has enjoyed remarkable growth in terms of both output and prices over the past decade or so. We have seen a dramatic increase in the number of homes built. In 1996, 33,725 new homes were built. Last year, that number was 93,419. Huge progress has been made in raising supply to meet very strong demand which has had a moderating impact on price inflation. I welcome that moderation on both social and economic sustainability grounds. I far prefer to see house prices increasing at a modest pace in line with changes in affordability. These increases can be sustained in the long term; double-digit increases cannot be. Therefore, it is in everyone's best interests, including first-time buyers, existing owners, construction workers and the population as a whole, that prices increase at a moderate rate which reflects fundamentals, which I remind the House remain sound.

We have heard much speculation about the economic outlook in recent times, much of it of a negative variety. I accept there are risks to the outlook but I believe our economy will continue to outperform most of our peers. The residential construction sector is easing back towards more sustainable activity levels and this is having an impact. However, it should be noted that commercial property activity remains very strong and that the roll-out of the national development plan will also have a positive impact on growth levels, not least in the construction sector. At the same time, the external demand environment, most notably in continental Europe, is brightening and that is something which all exporters will welcome. Certainly, the impact of tighter monetary policy is serving to dampen economic activity but a moderation of pace should not be mistaken for a substantial and sustained deterioration in our economy's performance.

Our economy is set to enjoy strong growth rates over the medium term, albeit at a lower level than enjoyed over the past ten years. By accepting that more moderate outlook now, we can make it a reality and enjoy the much talked of "soft landing". It is essential that we adapt our expectations in the property market in relation to Government spending growth and in the wider economy to that calmer but still positive growth environment. That is the best means by which we can secure our prosperity for the long term.

The outlook for the Irish economy remains broadly positive. The main impetus for Irish economic growth in recent years has been domestic demand which is set to continue this year. Against that favourable background, in 2007 both GDP and GNP growth are forecast to be broadly in line with our sustainable medium-term growth rate of around 5%. In addition, the labour market has performed very strongly, with employment growth of 4.4% in 2006. Employment is expected to remain strong, with growth of over 70,000 jobs projected for 2007 while unemployment is forecast to average 4.4%. Our economic success in recent years ensures we can face any future economic challenges from a position of relative strength.

Construction has become an increasingly important sector of the economy in recent years. Within construction, home building accounted for 11.4% of GDP in 2006, compared to 4.6% of GDP in 1997. Driven by economic and demographic fundamentals, around 570,000 new houses have been built. Despite this rapid growth in house building, the stock of houses per head of population is still one of the lowest in the euro area, implying there is still scope for a significant level of house construction. However, the housing market has slowed in recent months, in part due to uncertainty relating to stamp duty. In introducing this measure to reform stamp duty, I intend both to remove uncertainty from the housing market and to reduce the cost of home purchase for first-time buyers. This will allow people to buy and sell their homes in a more stable market environment and help to restore necessary confidence to the market.

In the past five years, the number of new homes being built each year has increased from 53,000 to around 90,000 last year. At this stage we can see housing demand levelling with supply and this is reflected in a slowdown in house price increases. This is clear evidence that Government policy is working. With the market stabilising, we have to ensure that any changes that are made must be carefully thought through, given the importance of this sector for jobs in every community in Ireland.

While leading indicators of future output, such as new house registrations, new housing starts, planning permissions and the number of new mortgages drawn down by first-time buyers, point to a lower level of completions this year, there is a general consensus that the level of new housing output will decline from last year's record levels, with the current market expectation at around 62,000 new housing starts this year, which is still a very high output by any standard. Underlying demand remains strong, supported by demographic developments and the positive economic environment.

The annual rate of increase in residential mortgage lending slowed to 21% in April, the lowest rate of increase since August 2002. On the other hand, the rate of non-performing loans remains low, as does the level of repossessions. In line with these trends, the rate of house price inflation has slowed. The level of house prices are now back to the same as those in August 2006.

The main factor impacting on the housing market is the rising interest rate environment. This is impacting on affordability and hence on the demand for housing. Eight quarter-point increases by the European Central Bank over the last 18 months have doubled the key official interest rate for the euro area from 2% to 4%.

While property price increases have moderated, the cumulative increase in house values in recent years puts first-time buyers at a distinct disadvantage. Those who are already on the property ladder have benefited from those increases in value and have built up their own property market equity. First-time buyers do not share in their good fortune and our proposals are designed to help them as they compete with existing owners and investors in the property market. In effect, the measures for which this Bill makes provision will level the playing field for purchasers by directly helping those who come to the property market without the advantage of the house price appreciation of recent years. It will also level the playing field between new and second-hand houses and widen the choice available to first-time buyers with clear social benefits.

As a result of the existing stamp duty regime, first-time buyers are incentivised to buy new homes which, in many cases, are considerable distances away from their families and support networks. The changes that this Bill proposes will make first-time buyers indifferent between second-hand and new homes and will remove an existing financial obstacle to establishing their own homes in the neighbourhoods and communities in which they grew up. This has obvious and desirable social benefits, which flow directly from the provisions of the Bill.

Leaving aside the equitable and social impacts on the first-time buyer, our proposals are good for the property market as a whole because they will bring an end to the speculation and uncertainty about the evolution of policy in this area. In addition, by making these changes retrospective on transactions executed on or after 31 March, we have minimised the potential for market disruption. Where a person who has paid stamp duty becomes entitled to an exemption from that duty when the Bill is enacted, he or she will be entitled to claim a repayment of that duty from the Revenue Commissioners. The latter will, in due course, publish details of how a claim to such a repayment is to be made when the Bill becomes law.

We want to see the output of new housing remain strong in the interests of purchasers, construction workers and the wider economy. We recognise how important the construction industry is to our success. It directly employs 280,000 people across the country and many tens of thousands of others in related industries. It is a major contributor to the health of our public finances. A strong construction sector is vital to a strong economy and is in everyone's best interests.

Let me be clear regarding my position on stamp duty reform. First, what I have been saying is that, as Minister for Finance, I could not speculate on the specifics nor could I say what I would or would not do because the market reacts to what the Minister for Finance says. Second, at all times I made it clear that I would do nothing that would disrupt the market, not that reform of stamp duty could not take place. Third, I indicated that if people wanted to have an idea of how I would be thinking, I asked them to examine the two initiatives I had brought forward in this area in previous Finance Acts, both of which were exclusively for the benefit of first-time buyers.

It is generally accepted that speculation in recent months about stamp duty has had a negative effect on the market. Such speculation was not of my making. In dealing with the situation as it evolved, I was obliged to handle it in a responsible manner in light of the extra attention drawn to comments of a Minister for Finance in this area. The proposals before the House to introduce stamp duty reform with retrospective effect will restore stability and certainty to the market.

The Bill contains two sections. Section 1 provides an exemption for first-time owner-occupying house buyers and for the repayment of stamp duty where it has already been paid in respect of instruments executed on or after 31 March 2007. Section 2 is simply the Short Title and construction of the Bill.

We have planned further measures to support those who are about to buy their first homes or who have done so in recent years. Our policy initiatives are designed to help young people and young families, not just those who are about to buy their first homes but all those who have purchased apartments and houses in the past seven years. They will improve affordability, reduce the burden of higher interest rates and have a positive social impact. Our initiatives pass the test because they are socially fair and economically appropriate, they support those who need State support most, they will eliminate uncertainty and they will support and protect our construction industry.

I do not doubt that I will be asked why I am not introducing other types of stamp duty reform at this time. The answer is simple, namely, I am doing what the Government said it would do in the programme for Government. I am exempting first-time buyers from stamp duty in respect of all houses, regardless of whether they are new or second hand. In doing so, I am removing any uncertainty regarding the stamp duty regime which may have arisen among house buyers during the election campaign.

Taken together, the measures in the Bill, combined with the mortgage interest relief measures in budget 2007 and those proposed for 2008, provide real and tangible benefit to first-time buyers as they seek to purchase a home. I, therefore, commend the Bill to the House.

I congratulate the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on his appointment. It is somewhat ironic that his first action will be to preside over the unnecessary guillotine that is being applied to the Bill. The latter is to some degree a measure of arrogance that has been evident in the Government since its re-election. I again congratulate the Leas-Cheann Comhairle on his election and I look forward to very fair rulings from the Chair during his stewardship.

The origins of the Bill are deeply cynical. It is not six months since the Tánaiste, in his capacity as Minister for Finance, informed those buying houses that reform of the stamp duty code was not justified. Less than four months ago he voted down reforms designed to extend the thresholds at which stamp duty would apply to first-time buyers. Sadly, many first-time buyers took him at his word. I have received e-mails and letters from people who paid stamp duty of between €25,000 and €27,000 before 31 March last, confident in the belief that the Minister for Finance would stand by the word he gave at budget time. This legislation will do nothing to cater for the needs of such people, who feel deeply let down. The Bill is not part of any thought-out Government strategy aimed at helping those who are disadvantaged in the housing market or bringing stability and sustainability to the market. This deeply cynical exercise is an example of the naked political ambition of Fianna Fáil, which wants to stay in power at all costs. Fianna Fáil housing policy has not helped disadvantaged people within the housing market and it has not created a stable market. Where is the equity in the Government's provision in this regard?

The Government is masquerading, like a wolf in sheep's clothing, as the defender of first-time buyers. I am sure the Acting Chairman, Deputy O'Shea, remembers that the Government added €40,000, in effect, to the cost of a house for a first-time buyer. It increased VAT by 1%, added development charges, abolished the first-time buyer's grant and introduced the Part V site cost under the planning Act. This Bill does nothing to alleviate such extra costs, which are being paid by first-time buyers. The only first-time buyer of a new house who will get anything from this legislation is someone who is buying a new house in excess of 125 sq. m. I see no reason the taxpayer should be asked to dish out money to the buyers of such houses. This change is not needed in such cases and cannot be justified. It will do nothing to relieve the burdens faced by many people who are buying homes.

I would like to examine briefly the Government's housing record over the past ten years. House prices have increased by 200% as a result of the Government's mismanagement of the land bank market. The Central Bank, which is not exactly a centre of radical thinking, has claimed that half of the population cannot afford the payments on an average house. The Central Bank is not a left-wing think tank. The Government promised in the national development plan that 11,000 social and affordable houses would be built on foot of public investment on public land. Just 6,000 such houses — barely 50% of the target that was set to benefit the most disadvantaged people in the housing market — have been delivered under the Minister and his colleagues. The so-called Part V provisions were supposed to ensure that one in every five houses built on private land would be a social or affordable house. One in 40 houses built on private land falls into that category, however. Less than 2.5% of houses privately built last year were deemed to be social and affordable houses under the so-called planning provision.

The strategy of the Government in the housing sector has imploded. Public policy is undermining the position of first-time house buyers. The circumstances of people who are forced to rent their homes are little better. Some of the poorest families in the community are forced into the rental market because they cannot afford to buy houses. The princely subsidy they receive from the Minister comes to just €13.85 a week. That is the total subvention paid to people with low incomes who live in rented accommodation. That people who are unemployed get a further subvention is another example of a poverty trap that is built into the Government's housing policy.

It is absolutely and certainly true that stamp duty is an unfair tax. Root and branch reform, rather than the sort of timid changes which are proposed in this legislation, is required in this area. It does not include any thresholds or sliding scales which would link the benefits received to the ability to pay in some way. It breaches the requirement that a tax should be fair and equitable, which is one of the so-called canons of taxation. Perversely, it makes it more difficult for people to move to homes in areas with established schools, health facilities and other amenities. The schools in my constituency are emptying and many facilities in the area are under-used. The extent of the huge tax barrier which prevents people with young families from occupying houses in areas with established facilities has increased from €9,000 to €41,000 in Dublin over the past four years. This perverse tax is damaging our capacity to care for the community efficiently and to use our housing stock effectively. It is facilitating the headlong rush by developers to build houses in greenfield sites, where buyers will not face stamp duty. Those who are living in areas where unsustainable development has taken place are facing long commutes.

Ireland is characterised by its repetition of the worst mistakes of urban sprawl, as seen in the United States. The housing policy that is being pursued by the present Government is dysfunctional. The people who designed the policy have no concept of integrated planning. The manner in which the Government is approaching its housing policy does not reflect any thinking about these important issues.

This unjust tax will continue to apply after today to everyone buying houses who are not first-time buyers. Who are these people? Are they property speculators who are entitled to this quadrupling of their tax bill in the space of four years? They certainly are not. They are not the property speculators or the super rich, although the super rich still have plenty of tax havens. These people are ordinary families who want to buy in a neighbourhood with facilities. They are couples who bought a one-bedroom apartment, now have a family and want to move to a family home. They are older people who might need to trade down because of diminishing capabilities. They cannot run a garden or manage the stairs and want to move. They are people whose relationships have broken up and who need to buy again, but are not deemed to be first-time buyers. These people are being singled out in this Bill for this sort of tax penalty — a quadrupling in the space of four years. These very ordinary people are being charged a total of €41,000 on an average house in Dublin. I see no fairness in that position.

Is this part of some grand strategy to stabilise the housing market? I beg to differ. I will read a quote to the House which is not from some sore-headed Opposition politician:

A strong case can be made that the patterns of settlement, neighbourhood design and density in the past decade are storing up significant social, environmental, budgetary and economic problems in the years to come. Furthermore, this has been occurring in a context in which there are clear, well-defined, feasible alternatives that are sustainable.

The National Economic and Social Council said that — the great and the good of Irish society. It pinpointed the dysfunctional nature of Fianna Fáil housing policy that has been pursued for a decade. Nothing is being done to address that situation. Instead of a proper set of reforms to change the way the housing market operates, we have seen inept interventions which have all had to be abandoned. The 60% "use it or lose it" capital tax introduced by Charlie McCreevy went within a year, while the penal code for investors went within a couple of years. These were inept interventions that did nothing for the housing market.

Over the past decade, Government policy has fostered a chronic imbalance in the housing market. It has created a contrived scarcity of development land, driving the price of development sky high. It has failed to reform a dysfunctional planning system that sees new homes built without schools, public transport and health facilities. It has encouraged unsustainable one-off housing on cheaper land, free from any development levies — the contrary to the sort of policy we should be pursuing to try to create a compact way of living.

The legacy of this policy is clear — excessive house prices, unaffordability, a new poor and a sector bloated by high profitability. The Minister talks about the indication that the housing market is in great shape. It is being driven by house prices that are too high. It is commonly believed that houses are overpriced. The volumes are excessive and unsustainable in the long term and, as Davy noted, in the next two years, we will see house completions go from 95,000 down to 65,000. This will have an impact on Exchequer revenue and employment in the construction sector. These are the indicators of a mismanaged housing market, not a well-managed one, and not surprisingly——

The Deputy has one minute remaining.

That is a pity. It is part of the chronic arrogance of the Government that it is guillotining such a motion. The whole policy in this area needs change. I defy anyone on the other side of the House to give me any convincing reasons to believe that the housing market has been managed competently by the Government. All the indicators are to the contrary. Sadly, the very bloated nature of the housing market and the excessive prices that people must pay are undermining our competitiveness. As a small open economy, we depend on being able to trade. One of the reasons we are running into difficulties is because the Government has mismanaged a crucial market that is important to maintaining competitiveness, namely, the housing market. I see no indication in any of this legislation that there has been any thinking about either the equity or the efficiency of the way in which we intervene in the housing market. A lot of change needs to happen before we could say we are doing anything for either fairness or stability in the housing market.

I wish to share time with Deputy Ó Caoláin.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Last year information given out before the budget stated first-time buyers paid up to €70 million in stamp duty, of which €66 million was on properties costing less than €635,000. The Bill's provisions grant absolute relief to all first-time buyers, regardless of the size of house purchased. Last year, the Progressive Democrats put forward proposals to abolish stamp duty for first-time buyers but restricting it to houses of 1,300 sq. ft. or less, a sizeable three or four-bedroom house. The Fianna Fáil proposal contains no restriction on the size of property. It is, therefore, of particular advantage, as are most Fianna Fáil proposals on housing, to the well-off. It will benefit wealthy first-time buyers and, mainly, those with wealthy parents who can contribute up to €500,000 in the purchase of a first-time home without involving themselves in capital acquisitions tax difficulties. There are several taxes that apply when wealthy parents transfer properties to children. This measure is tilted at the better-off while the number of ordinary first-time buyers who will benefit will be limited.

I have received several representations from home-buyers who have lost out on the refund deadline of 31 March 2007. A couple — a teacher and a garda who bought before the deadline — informed me it was unfair that those who bought between the budget and the deadline will receive nothing from the Bill's provisions. They pointed out they bought in the same market conditions and political climate but that the cliff-like all or nothing impact of the deadline has created a chasm of complete winners on one side and losers on the other.

The Minister for Finance, Deputy Cowen, has attempted to justify his U-turn on stamp duty as being appropriate. On the Monday before the general election was called, I recall the Minister on "Questions and Answers", stamping the table saying he was the Minister for Finance and that stamp duty would not be changed. The Minister made the false representation to many young couples that they could be sure the moves made in the budget would be the market conditions that would apply. People made decisions in good faith on the word of the Minister for Finance to purchase homes. Solicitors, based on the Minister's claims no change would be made to the stamp duty regime, would have advised clients to proceed with sales. Many house purchasers who did so before the 31 March deadline have been caught out.

Tomorrow, I will offer the Minister a simple amendment. He could talk about sales concluded in the quarter ending 31 March. That at least would restore some fairness to people who believed, in good faith, what Deputy Cowen had to say, as Minister for Finance. People relied on his reputation as Minister for Finance and on what he said in that role, and they and their advisers then acted to their detriment because they believed him. I should expect the Minister to have some sense of obligation to those who acted in that fashion. It was not an unreasonable thing for them to do, following what he had indicated when he spoke as the Minister for Finance on this issue. All Members of the House understand the politics of the situation, and that he was overruled by the Taoiseach. The two of them then came to a political agreement. Part of Deputy Cowen's reward subsequently was to become Tánaiste——

Ah jaysus——

That was the way the thing was structured, but there are people out there——

That is the best conspiracy theory the Deputy has come up with.

——who have lost out as a consequence of taking the Minister at his word.

I want to write that one down, now, for the first day of the Dáil. That is the best one she has come up with in a long time. We have had a few good ones but that is the best.

This is important in terms of the damage it will do to him as Minister for Finance. The defence of that position in his speech is not acceptable to reasonable people who acted in good faith on the advice contained in the statements he made. In the recent Finance Bill, on foot of amendments tabled by the Labour Party, the Minister agreed that abuses of stamp duty were taking place in regard to licensing arrangements, whereby developers and builders were entering into agreements for the purposes of avoiding stamp duty. The Minister introduced amending legislation in the Finance Bill for which he was complimented, but he has not brought it into force, so that all the avoidance mechanisms continue merrily while the couple who might have bought an apartment and need to buy a house because they have a family, are caught in the stamp duty trap.

I thank Deputy Joan Burton and the Labour Party for accommodating me.

Sinn Féin is committed to helping first-time buyers to secure affordable housing. We are especially concerned for those young couples on average incomes who are over-borrowing for overpriced houses and are being forced to place themselves in extremely vulnerable positions, given that further increases in interest rates are already signalled.

Therefore the key question for us in determining if we can support the proposals contained in this Bill is whether they will make housing more affordable. Sadly, these changes will most likely end up by increasing prices and making houses even more unaffordable. This has been the impact of previous changes. This reality is the main reason the Department of Finance advisers have been so reluctant to support proposals to reduce or remove stamp duty.

A 2005 paper by advisers to the Government's tax strategy group concluded that there would be no guarantee that changing stamp duty rates or increasing thresholds would benefit principal home buyers because “there will be, most likely, some consequent increase in house prices”.

Sinn Féin, therefore, cannot support this legislation. Sinn Féin recognises there are flaws in the current system of stamp duty and we are therefore open to reform. However, we cannot support changes that will have the effect of making houses even more unaffordable for first-time buyers while giving most benefit to those wealthy enough to be purchasing their first house at the top end of the market. If stamp duties for first time and principal home buyers can be reduced to assist those on average incomes without pushing up house prices and making them more unaffordable, then we would propose taking such steps. For example, if reforms involved changes to the stamp duty thresholds or changes whereby stamp duty would only apply to value in excess of the threshold and were accompanied by price controls in the housing sector, this might have the desired result.

Our bottom line is that we will support whatever policy instrument will be most effective in ensuring that people, especially those on low and average incomes, can access the house of their needs. Sinn Féin has proposed ring-fencing a proportion of stamp duty receipts for further investment in social housing provision. Given that Sinn Féin genuinely wants to help would-be first-time and principal home buyers, we have proposed, in place of these stamp duty changes, a number of measures to reduce investor-led demand and, therefore, house price inflation. Sadly, looking at the statistics, it is indicated by the Irish Banking Federation that only about 2,000 of the 38,000 first-time buyers in 2006 had to pay stamp duty. Clearly, therefore, the Government's measures will only benefit a very tiny and, most likely, well-to-do section of the population.

With the permission of the Acting Chairman and the House, I ask that what I have to say not be regarded as my maiden speech, which I intend to deliver tomorrow.

I welcome the appointment of the Tánaiste and Minister for Finance, which has been greeted warmly around the country and does a great deal for economic confidence. I welcome the Bill, which more than fulfils an election commitment, particularly the introduction of an extra month of flexibility, extending back to 31 March.

I am distinctly puzzled by Deputy Burton's argument. If I heard her correctly, she talked about a television debate on the Monday before the election was called. If so, she is referring to late April and I do not understand how that could have influenced people to miss the new deadline of 31 March.

I welcome the level playing field in respect of newer and older houses. The Tánaiste made the very cogent point in his speech that this should reduce the need for people who want to avail of the incentive to have to commute from new houses. Bearing in mind the maintenance of the older housing stock, certainly at this stage of our development, there should not be discrimination between new and old.

This is a very short debate but the issue was debatedad nauseam during the election campaign.

It sounds like the Deputy agrees with the Opposition.

I regret the extent of the emphasis placed on it. I cannot think of a single poverty group that mentioned the subject of stamp duty and it was hardly raised once in several months in the part of the country I represent. It was raised more recently but only by somebody who has a child in Dublin. I am not saying that a problem that pertains only to Dublin should not be addressed.

It is important to note that there are many anomalies wherever there are thresholds. There are many thresholds in the social welfare system, including for eligibility for medical cards, yet enormous emphasis was placed on stamp duty. Stamp duty is projected to raise €3.9 billion, or 8% of revenue. We do not have property tax in this country and while there is a case for reform it should be carried out with caution. I deeply deprecate the fact that stamp duty was debated in a context divorced from that of the budget. Stamp duty is like excise duty in that if one starts speculating on it in advance, it affects market behaviour. That has caused problems and I hope in the future stamp duty changes will be firmly in the context of the budget, not outside it.

It has been suggested — I am willing to listen to argument on it — that concessions should be made to encourage older people to move to smaller accommodation. Older people have seen an enormous appreciation in the value of their houses. It would take a lot to convince me that those who would perhaps benefit from such concessions would represent the best way to forgo revenue. We should look at this closely — I expect to hear this from so-called "left-wing" parties — in the context of equity in this debate.

I thank Deputies for their contributions. As Deputy Mansergh pointed out, this issue was discussed at length and in detail at the instigation of the Opposition which came forward with proposals that it then changed four times in three weeks — that is how well thought out they were. It was also pointed out that they would cost at least €500 million to implement.

Fianna Fáil changed its proposals within days.

I listened to the Deputy in silence. He has rabbited on about this issue for months.

The Minister guillotined the debate.

I will listen to the Deputy within the order of the House.

There is no need to guillotine this debate.

There seems to be an incapacity on the part of Fine Gael to go with the order of the House on anything today.

The Minister wants to stifle the debate.

I know Fine Gael is upset about losing the election and the quicker we let it go on its holidays the better because everyone is very upset.

I am not going to sit here like a dumb fool while the Minister guillotines legislation that should be properly debated. That is not what I was elected to do; I represent people and will not be roughshod.

I represent people too and they heard this argument in great detail and took the common sense approach we have adopted. That is why we have come forward with a proposal in line with our commitment, as I said we would. We are not coming back from the Áras to look for money in the bottom drawers of offices in the Department; we are basing this on what is affordable, targeted and credible. I hope people will be in better humour tomorrow.

It is not a question of humour; the Government is not entitled to guillotine the debate on legislation on the first sitting day of a five year term. It is not what we were elected to do, as the Acting Chairman should realise more than anyone.

It is necessary to restore stability to the market quickly——

There is no need to guillotine the debate on this legislation.

——after all the nonsense that has been ongoing for six months, which I am glad to say the people have rejected, despite Fine Gael's effort to buy them off.

The Minister is unwilling to face debate on his own proposals. We saw lots of this during the campaign and this is more of it.

Question put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 79; Níl, 66.

  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Ardagh, Seán.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Brennan, Séamus.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Calleary, Dara.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Coughlan, Mary.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cullen, Martin.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Finneran, Michael.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Gallagher, Pat The Cope.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Grealish, Noel.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Healy-Rae, Jackie.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kirk, Seamus.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • Mansergh, Martin.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • McDaid, James.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Nolan, M. J.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.

Níl

  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Breen, Pat.
  • Broughan, Thomas P.
  • Bruton, Richard.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Burton, Joan.
  • Byrne, Catherine.
  • Carey, Joe.
  • Clune, Deirdre.
  • Connaughton, Paul.
  • Coonan, Noel J.
  • Costello, Joe.
  • Coveney, Simon.
  • Crawford, Seymour.
  • Creed, Michael.
  • Creighton, Lucinda.
  • D’Arcy, Michael.
  • Deasy, John.
  • Deenihan, Jimmy.
  • Doyle, Andrew.
  • Durkan, Bernard J.
  • English, Damien.
  • Enright, Olwyn.
  • Feighan, Frank.
  • Ferris, Martin.
  • Flanagan, Charles.
  • Flanagan, Terence.
  • Gregory, Tony.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hogan, Phil.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kehoe, Paul.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McCormack, Pádraic.
  • McGinley, Dinny.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Quinn, Ruairí.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P. J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Varadkar, Leo.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Tom Kitt and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Paul Kehoe and Emmet Stagg.
Question declared carried.