I wish to share time with Deputies Dinny McGinley, Terence Flanagan and Denis Naughten.
It is a pity that the Minister of State, Deputy McGuinness, has left the Chamber because I hoped he would come in here and give us a ten-minute talk on how he would help businesses. We all know that Enterprise Ireland and the enterprise boards do plenty of work, but they need more help. They need the rules to be changed and they need more cash to distribute to the people who need it. They cannot give enough to help businesses. While there are some incentives in place, they are not enough. That is what I wanted to hear from the Minister of State, Deputy McGuinness. I wanted him to outline the wonderful things he is planning to do, not what was done in the past. We know all about the past and how wonderful it was.
It was suggested earlier that Deputy Richard Bruton and other members of my party should listen to the Government in terms of how it conducts its business. The Government has decided to refocus after ten years in office. In yesterday's announcement, the Government told us about the new arrangements, as follows:
The measures agreed by Government are clearly focused on:
savings in administrative spending,
economising on the services we buy,
reducing the proliferation of agencies,
squeezing consultancy and PR spending,
streamlining the delivery of services,
re-prioritising certain capital spending going forward.
This is the new focus of a Government that has been in power for over ten years. The Minister of State, Deputy McGuinness, claims that the Government acts like a business, but the seven points listed are actions that all businesses engage in all the time, not just as of yesterday. That is how one runs a country, with all those priorities in place. One does not just start to do it in the middle of a recession. That is the way businesses are run. Deputy McGuinness has been a Minister of State for the past few months but it is a pity he does not have any influence in the Government because this is the way business should have been done before now.
Yesterday we were told that the Government had a big plan that would restore confidence in the country but it will do no such thing. The plan contained no concrete announcements and did not bring clarity to the potential cutbacks. It left everything in limbo. It referred to a 3% payroll reduction, as if it could be achieved just like that. It is not as simple as that. Such a reduction will result in reduced services and will affect the work of county councils and other bodies. It will result in cutbacks in services.
Yesterday, the Minister for Finance did not have the guts to announce the cuts and passed the job of relaying the bad news down the line. Details will come out every month for the next 18 months, through announcements by county councils, enterprise board, FÁS and various other bodies. We will have announcements by everybody except the Minister in this House, who will not take responsibility for cutbacks. The announcement yesterday has not restored confidence but has simply fudged the issues. People are still not sure what will happen. They will continue to wait and wonder what the Government will do in September or December in the budget. It has not restored confidence or given anybody reassurance. It has stalled the process again and we know what happened when the Government stalled on stamp duty — it created serious problems.
I wish to take issue with a comment made by the Minister of State, Deputy Billy Kelleher. He claimed, as did the Minister of State, Deputy Barry Andrews, that the Government has been wonderful in reducing the national debt. However, while it may have reduced the public debt, it most certainly did not reduce the private debt. Public debt has gone down but private debt has risen enormously. We are probably the most privately-indebted country in Europe, if not the world. The people of this country are carrying the Government and have been for a long time. They are paying for houses, 42% of the price of which went into the Government's coffers in tax. The Minister of State, Deputy Kelleher, spoke about previous Governments causing his generation major problems because of the spiralling national debt. I wish to remind him that the Government has caused my generation major problems by saddling us with 30 or 40 years of a burden in terms of mortgages for houses that are not worth even half what we have paid for them, given that almost half of the price was tax. I ask the Deputy not to try to tell me that the Government has done the country a favour.
Part of the plan announced yesterday was supposed to be related to cost-savings. Part of our job as politicians is to point out where savings can be made, but yesterday's plan did not do that. There are a number of areas from which savings could be gleaned. In the past few months I managed to obtain a number of replies from the Government to parliamentary questions. I found out that consultancy costs in the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food in 2007 were €10.5 million, the Department of Transport, €3.3 million and the Department of Social and Family Affairs, €10 million. The plan refers to cutting back on such costs but does not give any figures. To what level will such spending be cut back? We were also told that the Government will cut staff but if it does that, it may have to hire more consultants. Was this plan really thought out properly? I do not think so. The Government has been talking for a long time about e-procurement. It produced a report in 2000 telling us that it was going to introduce e-procurement which would save us €177 million per year. Seven times that figure for the past seven years is well over €1 billion. Why was this not done?
The Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform boasted about all the shared services we are going to have. We did not have them. It was recommended years ago that we should share services yet this Government spent €60 million or €70 million on putting a new financial services system in all 15 Departments when two or three shared would have done it.
I have a long list of things we could do but I will not go into them tonight. There are plenty of things we could do to help this country but we do not see any plans here to save or protect jobs or to give confidence. Hopefully, the Ministers might listen to my ideas in September when I return. We must have a proper plan, not a load of crap like that which we received yesterday because this is what it was.