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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 30 Sep 2010

Vol. 717 No. 1

Economic Strategy: Motion (Resumed)

The following motion was moved by Deputy Richard Bruton on Wednesday, 29 September 2010:
That Dáil Éireann, noting with concern that since the Taoiseach took office:
the number of people on the live register has more than doubled bringing the total number on the live register to a record 466,923;
over 100,000 people have emigrated;
GNP has declined by 20% and the Irish recession has been deeper and longer than that of any other EU country;
Irish borrowing costs have increased dramatically, reflecting the growing lack of international confidence in Ireland's economic strategy; and
the Government has failed to present a coherent jobs strategy;
calls on the Government to steer Ireland away from economic disaster by putting jobs at the centre of a new confidence-building economic strategy, in particular by:
using the National Pensions Reserve Fund, private pension funds and sales of nonstrategic State assets to accelerate the investments in high speed broadband, clean energy and water needed to make Ireland a better place to do business and to create jobs;
cutting employers' PRSI rates for the low paid;
scrapping the travel tax and reducing airport charges as part of a deal with the airline industry to expand services and increase tourist numbers;
providing partial loan guarantees for small and medium sized enterprises;
publishing an action plan for implementing the recommendations of the National Competitiveness Council and the Competition Authority in order to drive down costs in the economy;
slashing unnecessary red tape for small businesses;
providing second chance education and traineeship positions for unemployed young people; and
encouraging entrepreneurship by overhauling our outdated bankruptcy laws.
Debate resumed on amendment No. 2:
To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following:
"—supports fully the actions and policies of the Government designed to restore sustainable economic growth and job creation capacity to the economy as soon as possible, through:
safeguarding the future of the banking system as a provider of credit to viable enterprises in the State;
pursuing policies to ensure restoration of overall economic competitiveness including reducing the cost of doing business and taking action to reform the public sector to secure a more efficient and cost competitive delivery of public services;
planning a sustainable and achievable reduction in public spending to contain the increase in the burden of taxation that would otherwise arise and which would hamper job creation in the future;
preserving a low tax regime on companies and business to attract foreign enterprise and jobs;
providing a capital stimulus package of nearly €40 billion over the next six years which will fund infrastructure projects to support about 30,000 jobs each year for the next six years;
helping to sustain over 100,000 jobs by providing financial support to over 1,700 companies through the Employment Subsidy Scheme and the Enterprise Stabilisation Fund;
implementing an employer job (PRSI) incentive scheme to support job creation and counter the drift of people into long-term unemployment and which is expected to create up to 10,000 new jobs;
establishing the €500 million Innovation Fund to support entrepreneurs so that they can create jobs; and
increasing the number of training places for the unemployed to over 180,000 so that they have the skills to access the 96,000 vacancies forecasted to arise each year on average up to 2014;
welcomes, in particular, the Government's five year integrated trade, tourism and investment plan, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy, designed to increase the value of indigenous exports by 33%; to diversify the destination of indigenous exports; to increase overseas visitors to 8 million; to secure an additional 780 inward investment projects through the Industrial Development Agency (IDA) Ireland and create up to 300,000 sustainable jobs across the economy."
—(Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation).

I wish to share time with Deputy McManus.

Last night was a sad occasion in this House when the Government forced through a vote which extended by another three months the blanket guarantee that had been operating for two years. This morning we see the extent of the guarantee and its effects on the economy — Ireland inc., so to speak — and taxpayers. The cost of the bailout will be at least €46 billion, the deficit has shot up to more than 32% and one of our major banks is to be nationalised. We find ourselves in a very sad position.

The Labour Party opposed the blanket guarantee from the beginning. Having opposed the pig in a poke, we now see what is in it, even if all tranches of the various portfolios have not yet been transferred to the National Asset Management Agency. The policy adopted over the past two years has resulted in an unemployment rate of 13.7% or 450,000 people, the emigration of more than 100,000 young people, a decline in gross national product of 20% and a further sharp dip into recession in the second quarter of 2010. These developments provide all the more reason for the Government to concentrate on a strategy for the economy and jobs. What we are seeing, however, is a Government with its face turned in the other direction.

We, on these benches, have repeatedly argued that the most important policy should be one to deal with small and medium sized enterprises. Every time the Government introduces a new element of its strategy, the main thrust is either to recapitalise the banks or to ensure they provide a credit flow to small and medium enterprises. As the Minister for Finance has indicated again and again, the latter forms part of the bank guarantee and NAMA process. There has not been a credit flow.

The small and medium enterprise sector provides 50% of jobs and 65% of all private employment, yet the Government does not have a strategy to retain existing jobs or promote expansion in a sector that is crying out for credit. The banks have not been able to provide credit and refuse to borrow from the European Investment Bank to do so within the parameters set down for expanding existing enterprises and establishing new enterprises. The Government has been in complete derogation of its duty in this respect.

The Labour Party proposes the establishment of a strategic investment bank using the National Pensions Reserve Fund to ensure that the SME sector, the lifeblood of the economy, is given the credit it requires. Every Member of the House has received letters from representatives of the retail sector in this city and around the country stating that it is being bled dry by the rise in commercial rents. In the past 12 months alone, 35,000 jobs have been lost in retail. Representatives of the sector argue that 80,000 jobs could be created if the Government reversed legislation providing that rent reviews for commercial leases may only be upward. This is a simple matter but the Government has not addressed it.

The Government's policy document, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy: A Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, does not say a word about either of the sectors in which major job creation can take place. It will not be possible to get out of the economic mire without job creation and the key to achieving this will be to increase consumer spending and confidence. This cannot be done without a stimulus in the economy.

What is the main proposal with regard to the new quango, the foreign trade council, the Government announced last Tuesday? The new body will meet twice annually, will be chaired by a junior Minister, will not have a budget and will oversee the production of annual reports from heads of mission or ambassadors in overseas countries. That was the main thrust of the Government's economic policy. It is ridiculous that this is all it has to offer after such a long period of recession.

The Government hopes to increase employment in the tourism industry by 15,000 and will magically restore the 2007 tourism figures when 30 million people passed through our airports from a current figure of less than 20 million. How will this objective be achieved when an air traffic tax which imposes a burden on the airlines bringing passengers to this country has been introduced in the meantime? Surely in a recession, one does not want to establish obstacles for visitors coming here and spending significant sums of money. No ideas, even one as simple as that, are coming through. Retention of existing jobs, job creation, promoting consumer confidence and getting consumers to spend again are essential if we are to solve our problems. If we do not do this we will continue in the mire.

Listening to the Minister for Finance at his press conference this morning, I heard no sign of anything other than satisfying the international market. The Minister is satisfying the international market with all these austerity measures and with the old mantra of ensuring stability in the banking system, which of course we have not succeeded in doing, but where are the policies that will get the wheels of the economy moving? That is what this Private Members' motion is about and what we should be concentrating on. That is what is missing in the Government's strategy.

I thank Deputy Costello for sharing his time. I am also grateful that we are taking the opportunity to debate the issue of jobs and economic growth. We have a Government that is fixated on the banking crisis, which was created largely by its own incompetence and ideology. We have a mammoth task of ensuring that we get people back to work and grow our economy.

One of the areas mentioned in the Labour Party amendment is broadband, on which I want to concentrate. Broadband is as important to this generation as electricity was to a previous one, in terms of providing the capacity and capability for economic growth, yet Ireland is currently in the bottom five OECD countries in terms of broadband performance. We have to deal with this. These are not the conditions in which we would choose to do so but we have got to deal with this basic infrastructural requirement. It is not being dealt with.

I was taken aback to learn that only a minority of small and medium enterprises actually trade on the Internet. I am conscious of a divide in the country. There are many areas where broadband is either not available or only available at a huge price or an unacceptable speed.

The privatisation of Eircom was a disaster. I believe the company is now trying to address some of the major issues it faces in a competent way. However, we cannot simply rely on the market. The Minister for Communications, Energy and Natural Resources, Deputy Eamon Ryan, speaks about the smart economy with next generation networks and assures us it is up to the market to develop this. The market has failed and, in fact, the Government has failed. We appreciate that financial resources are not there in the way they were in the past, but that does not absolve any Government from confronting the issue of broadband development and ensuring that we have next generation broadband. If we do not, we will be unable to compete with countries that are developing, whether through the markets, because they are more developed and more competitive, or through State investment.

Deputy, your time has expired. You are sharing time with Deputy Costello.

I did not think five minutes had gone.

Deputy Costello may have used more time than he realised.

With all due respect a Cheann Comhairle, I think he was depending on you to tell him when the five minutes were up, because he did ask. However, I shall concede and give way.

I dtosach báire, molaim Pairtí Fhine Gael as ucht an rúin seo a chur síos. Tá sé thar a bheith tábhachtach go mbeidh deis againn cursaí fostaíochta a phlé. I would like to praise the Fine Gael Party for putting down a very important motion. I may not agree with the terms of the motion but the question of growth in the economy and jobs is central to the issues faced by ordinary people every day.

The Government continues to focus on the issue of jobs and has made them central to its policies. The negativity and pessimism that pervades Irish society will not create a single job. Experience tells us one of the first requirements in building an economy is people believing in the future.

Significant progress has been made despite the huge challenges we face. The value of exports in July was up by 12% compared with July 2009. Service exports for the first half of this year were 8% higher than the corresponding period of 2009. These are very encouraging figures which show that our export sector is now coming back to strong growth as our economy stabilises. We expect economic growth to take hold more widely as we go into next year. Our Exchequer finances are on track. Consumer price inflation has been lower than that in the euro area for the last few years. This is contributing to competitiveness, which underpins growth and will assist future job creation.

The drop in the September live register announced yesterday is a positive outcome and is fully consistent with what I have been saying for some months, namely that the live register is stabilising. However, levels of unemployment are still very high and our overriding priority in government is to drive forward the process of economic recovery and to create new jobs and opportunities to get people back to work.

The figures published by the Central Statistics Office show that the live register September headline figure was 442,417, which is 24,506 below the August 2010 total. The month-on-month decrease of 24,506 is the biggest fall ever recorded in any one month. The previous biggest fall in a single month was 17,307 recorded in September 2006. The live register seasonally adjusted figure was 449,600. This is a decrease of 5,400, or 1.2%, on August 2010. The year-on-year increase is dropping every week. While we are far from where we would like to be, significant continuous progress is being made. The CSO labour force survey also shows that more than 62,000 people on the live register are in part-time employment. Of course, we would like to get as many of those people as possible back to a five day week, but they are not totally disconnected from the workplace.

It has been said that the Government is concentrating on the bank issue. Of course, for the economy to flourish it is imperative that we fix our banking system, restore order to the public finances, regain our competitiveness and create jobs. We are working on a multi-faceted approach to creating jobs and stimulating growth. Under the leadership of An Taoiseach we are undertaking a number of key strategic initiatives, including the announcement on Monday of the Government's five year integrated plan for trade, tourism and investment aimed at generating 300,000 jobs and boosting exports by one third. With this initiative we are positioning Ireland to be even more successful in the sale of our goods and services, attracting more visitors to come to our island to experience our magnificent tourism offering first hand and winning further global investment. This plan will strengthen Ireland's trade links. While the US, UK and our eurozone partners will continue to be key markets for us, this plan aims to dramatically increase the number of exporting firms and diversify the destination of indigenous exports into new high-growth markets.

Our other specific measures to create jobs include the €40 billion capital investment plan launched by An Taoiseach in July. Innovation Fund Ireland, from which €500 million is available, will support enterprise development and job creation by attracting top venture capitalists to Ireland. During the next five years, €360 million will be invested in research and innovation. The latter will involve third level institutions and will help to create new jobs and enterprises and drive Ireland's economic recovery. Last week, the Government launched a new strategy to expand international student numbers dramatically.

Under the employment subsidy scheme, we are investing over €130 million to assist more than 1,600 exporting firms to keep 80,000 workers in jobs. We announced an additional €55 million investment in August to give early-stage entrepreneurs capital for their businesses. The back to work enterprise allowance aims to encourage the long-term unemployed to develop businesses, while allowing them to retain a reducing proportion of their social welfare payments. At the end of August, 6,646 people were availing of the scheme.

Some €169 million is also being provided by my Department for the back to education allowance scheme in respect of the current academic year. Practical changes to ease its qualifying conditions came in to effect from Monday, 19 July. The additional €12 million provided for the labour market activation fund, which was announced in August, will bring the total number of places supported by the fund to over 11,000 in 2010. Finally, the employer job PRSI incentive scheme is focused on creating new jobs for people who have been on the live register for six months or more.

In the context of discussing the Government amendment to the motion, I wish like to focus on the latter scheme. The employer job PRSI incentive scheme provides a direct stimulus for the real economy by reducing costs for employers and shifting the balance in favour of job creation. It is an important measure in tackling unemployment because it cuts business input costs and incentivises employers to take workers off the live register as Ireland emerges from recession and the economy begins to recover. The scheme is supporting job creation in a very practical way. It saves each employer in the region of €3,000 or more per annum with regard to the cost of employing an additional worker. It is an exemption scheme. Unlike many schemes under which grants are paid out and then recouped, savings are made immediately on the basis of the exemption because employers are not obliged to pay the PRSI to the State.

Any job created in 2010 which meets the criteria relating to the scheme can benefit from the exemption. If an employer created a new job prior to the launch of the scheme in June, he or she may still qualify for an exemption of employer's PRSI in respect of it. I am aware that Fine Gael supports this scheme. If I am correct, it suggested the establishment of the scheme at this time last year. If an employer qualifies for the exemption, it will be for 12 months from the date they are approved for the scheme.

As already stated, this measure is deliberately targeted at those who have been unemployed for six months or more. The proportion of people who return to employment after a short period out of work remains relatively high. After six months on the live register, however, there is a danger that people will drift into long-term unemployment and welfare dependency.

The Government's employment strategy is as much about creating new jobs as it is about supporting unemployed workers in order that they can re-enter the labour force as the economy improves. Our training programmes and extra places in further and higher education are reskilling the workforce to take up new jobs in growth areas of the economy. We are hugely committed to creating jobs in the competitive economy. That is the Government's first and foremost priority and it is the key focus of my colleague, the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Innovation, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe.

One of the priorities I have been given in my Department is job activation. The various experts agree that the increase in employment will lag behind economic growth to some degree. During the period of this timelag, it is important that we should examine innovative way of giving as many people as possible the opportunity to work and provide necessary services in our communities. I have already indicated that I will be making a firm announcement in this regard in the coming weeks.

Mar a dúirt mé ag an tús, is í fadhb na dífhostaíochta an fhadhb is mó go bhfuil go leor daoine ag stracadh leí. Cruthaíonn an dífhostaíocht fadhbanna i measc an phobail ó thaobh easpa oibre, easpa ioncaim agus easpa rud le déanamh. Cruthaíonn sí fadhbanna freisin ó thaobh morgáistí. Tá an Rialtas seo dírithe ar fhostaíocht a chur ar fáil agus ar tabhairt faoin bhfadhb seo ar bhealach stuama éifeachtach.

Is rún an-thábhachtach í an rún atá os ár gcomhair inniu. Baineann an rún leis an dífhostaíocht, an eacnamaíocht agus straitéis an Rialtais chun rudaí a chur chun cinn sa tír seo.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to the debate on this issue. The Opposition's main focus is attacking the Government and highlighting the problems that exist. Deputies are aware of those problems because they are exposed to them each day in their constituency offices. We are well aware of the difficulties unemployment causes for individuals, families and the State. We know what the problems are and we know that we have to find a solution to them.

The Government has put in place a range of solutions, ideas, plans and strategies. For many months, we have been accused of having no plan. When the Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy strategy was announced earlier in the week, however, we were accused of rehashing old plans. The Opposition cannot have it both ways. I am glad that the new strategy has been put in place. The State agencies are at the cutting edge of attracting employment. It is our duty and responsibility and their duty, responsibility and privilege to attract as much foreign direct investment as possible. Those in the employ of the State agencies, who are very able people, want to work to the best of their ability. The targets they have been set are both exacting and necessary. I am sure they will be achieved. I have every confidence in the agencies. In recent days, many naysayers, including those on the Opposition benches, have asked what these agencies know about jobs. I am of the view that they are at the cutting edge in that regard.

There are a number of aspects of the Fine Gael motion I would support. It refers, for example, to the reform of the bankruptcy laws. What would be the reaction of Fine Gael or Labour if we were to propose such reform? The first accusation to be made would be to the effect that we were bailing out Seán FitzPatrick. However, when the proposal is put forward by Fine Gael, it is seen as reasonable. Those opposite will always try to highlight the bad news stories and accuse us of trying to do something for the few rather than the many. Fianna Fáil has always been about the many, not the few. When we introduce bankruptcy reform legislation, we will look forward to the full support of Fine Gael and the Labour Party. I am sure at that stage we will not be accused of trying to assist the few and that the Opposition will recognise that our aim will be to try to encourage people to take reasonable risks in the future.

On occasion I am obliged to question why we do not use more money from the National Pensions Reserve Fund to assist capital infrastructure projects, particularly those relating to broadband services, school building projects and road development programmes. The Government has a massive capital investment programme in place but this is not acknowledged by the Opposition, which almost acts as if it does not exist. I have always been of the view that moneys from the National Pensions Reserve Fund should be invested in capital projects. I accept that such projects would have to realise a return on such investment, either through charges for broadband or road tolls. In addition, some form of public private partnership should apply in respect of school building projects. However, we would then be faced with all the usual complaints and motions in the House with regard to why people would be obliged to pay such charges and tolls. The answer in this regard is that any investment must be paid back and that a return for the taxpayer must be achieved.

The Government is doing everything possible in the current climate. It has been hit by the greatest financial crisis in the history of the State. In addition, Europe has been struck by the largest financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Governments have found it difficult to react and to identify what needs to be done. The Irish Government is no exception in that regard and has encountered real difficulties. However, I am of the view that it has risen to the challenge. People are beginning to realise that and to lose heart with regard to the shrill rhetoric which accompanies opposition at all costs. The apotheosis of the latter occurred earlier in the week when, for purely political reasons, the Tánaiste was almost prevented from travelling abroad in order to try to attract jobs to this country.

Jobs are the focus of the Government. The attraction and creation of jobs lie at the heart of what it is doing. We will not be in a position to attract or create employment until the uncertainty relating to the banks has been resolved. It would not be possible to attract further foreign direct investment if, as the Opposition parties wanted us to do last night, we were to suspend the bank guarantee scheme or allow it to lapse.

I am glad to fully support the Government in respect of its banking and economic policies. While we do not like what we have to do, we know it is essential for the future of the country that we get finality to the banking crisis and keep foreign direct investment coming in. Public representatives and public servants need to work together to the best of our abilities to get people working again.

I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate initiated by the Opposition. As Deputy Thomas Byrne said, there are elements in the Fine Gael motion that we all support. Everybody in this House is very much aware of the jobs crisis that exists. While we all have different ideas, we all support the notion of creating employment. Fundamental to the restoration of jobs and growth in the country is having an effective banking system that will provide access to cash at realistic interest rates for businesses to be able to employ people and for individuals to be able to live their lives in an ordinary way. We do not have that at the moment. Clearly, the lack of credit is retarding growth and in many cases leading to job losses. Small and medium-sized enterprises are not in a position to get adequate credit to continue their businesses. I would hope that today's announcement will signal finality——

——to the serious measures taken by the Government, which with some limited support from the other side can bring some order to the banking situation. Clearly, it is vital that the banks are stable, well financed and capitalised in a manner that will enable support for our economy. We need to bring closure as quickly as possible, notwithstanding the very considerable costs to the taxpayer. It is vital for the future survival of the economy to have those banks supporting viable business. Members on all sides have met people who have lost their jobs because their employers have been unable to get credit. There are many non-viable enterprises that will not survive what was the bubble, but there are those that are viable and have the potential to sustain employment, and we need to get behind them.

The members of the alternative government are at odds on how the banking system can be restored to a healthy position. Last night, there were some suggestions from Fine Gael that the extension of the guarantee was the right thing but it could not find it in its heart to support it on some minor technical issue.

The special resolution regime is not a minor technical issue.

The Labour Party has completely diverted. Had that amended guarantee scheme not been approved last night, what would the outcome have been? Our banking system would have collapsed and there would have been a flight of capital.

The capacity of the country to fund its future would have been put in jeopardy. Thankfully, there were enough people who were responsible enough and prepared to take the tough decision to approve the scheme last night.

There is considerable talk about jobs, but some people refuse to engage in the fundamental questions of how to resolve the banking crisis in a manner that ensures that jobs can be created. It is very well to talk about the past and who was to blame. Everybody must accept their responsibility in that regard and I, as a member of my party, am happy to take the blame apportioned in that regard. However, that does not allow us to hide from the fact that we now have a responsibility and duty to put things right. Attempting to hide behind some fictitious suggestion that somehow all this can go away without impacting on the citizenry of this country is farcical in the extreme. We continue to hear from elements in the Opposition that bank bondholders — and I suppose by extension depositors — particularly senior bondholders can be told to take losses and that they will not be getting their money back while at the same time providing no explanation as to how they would fund our banks and economy in the future.

On the Order of Business, I heard Deputy Burton talk about the renegotiation of senior bonds. If we renegotiate with senior bondholders, we would need to do the same with depositors. Is she seriously suggesting that it would be possible to renegotiate with bondholders and depositors and then somehow expect there would not be a flight of capital from the country or that the cost of borrowing for the State would not increase exponentially? Although Deputy O'Donnell shakes his head, much of his party's NewERA document——

The Government found everything wrong with that document.

——is predicated on the capacity to issue bonds to fund the development of Fine Gael's policies.

Every day Government Members shouted down the NewERA document.

I do not believe Deputy Dooley understands what is going on.

I ask Deputies to allow the Deputy in possession to speak.

Fine Gael cannot be taken seriously if, on the one hand, it brings forward a policy, which Deputy O'Donnell claims will be the bedrock on which it will create jobs in this economy, while, on the other, it undermines the financing model it has set out.

The Government is putting in excess of €50 billion of taxpayers' money into the banking sector. Can the Deputy explain that?

It does not have credibility. It is easy to criticise what is being done by the Government but it is another thing to propose an alternative policy with the capacity to work and be funded by the international markets. Fine Gael has not done that and continues to undermine its own policy by the suggestions it makes. Clearly, we need to have policies that will improve competitiveness. We are making progress in that regard and are working on it. However, it is not good enough for us to sit back and suggest that just because we have reduced the cost of doing business here, somehow the rest of the world has stood still because it has not. Competitiveness is improving in other states and we need to continue our work in that regard.

There is a prize somewhere for that performance.

It was not live; it was prerecorded.

I will deal with the NewERA document in a moment. I am happy to have the opportunity to speak to the Government amendment to the motion which is about reality, work that is being done and consistency. It is ironic that not one Member from the Labour Party is present in the Chamber today. The Labour Party has effectively been absent from any economic debate in real terms because it has proposed no policies.

Fianna Fáil gave them pairs; they do not have to be here.

We do not want to rake all that back up again.

I ask the Deputies to refrain from engaging.

I give Fine Gael some small degree of credit; from time to time it has come up with some policies and has backed some Government decisions. That cannot be said of the Labour Party, which treats the economic difficulties we have had and the banking crisis in particular as if there is an easy option.

The Deputy should tell us one of our policies the Government has taken on board.

The Labour Party voted against the bank guarantee scheme and, unfortunately, Fine Gael saw fit to chase after Labour last night just as it is chasing after it in the polls. That is unfortunate because Fine Gael had brought some credibility to the discussion. People in the business community in my constituency and across the country tell me they want to see the Oireachtas trying to work together on dealing with the country's economic difficulties. Thankfully, the Government has taken the decisions in the past three years that have put us in a position where the economy is returning to growth. Deputy O'Donnell might laugh but his finance spokesperson would admit that he also pays no regard to the party's NewERA document, which he has thrown in the bin, in effect, and claims it was created by the party's press office. The Government is about stabilising the public finances which we have done, stabilising unemployment and creating jobs.

How much are we paying on the international bond markets today?

Allow the Deputy to continue, please.

Perhaps if the Deputy has been sitting in the Chamber this morning he is unaware that according to Bloomberg the bond spreads have come down as a result of this morning's announcement.

Wait until he sees where they are tomorrow morning.

Does the Deputy think 6.57% is good?

I ask the Deputy in possession to refrain from inviting a response.

I probably should. There is no point in talking to them; they do not understand anything.

The Deputy has a monopoly on wisdom, surely.

The bottom line is that the Government faces major difficulties regarding the banking crisis. Today has brought closure and finality to that because there is certainty as to how that is being dealt with. Regarding the real economy, at every stage the parties opposite try to talk down the good work being done by our citizens. Some 1.9 million people are working in the country. In 2009, we brought in €19 billion in foreign direct investment, which equates to half of what the entire United Kingdom brought in. It brought in just short of €40 billion and we brought in €19 billion. Ireland is a good place to do business and unlike my colleagues on the other side of the House, I am very positive about the country's prospects for next year. Projections from many sources have been positive about our economic outlook including a recent Morgan Stanley report, published on 13 September, Peter Sutherland and the European Commissioner for Economic and Monetary Affairs, Olli Rehn.

We had to be upfront in dealing with the banking crisis. If we had taken Deputy O'Donnell and his colleagues' approach of allowing the banks themselves to write down their debt, we would be still here in ten years time trying to figure it out.

If our approach had been taken, there would have been a good bank out of AIB rather than 90% of it being nationalised today.

Deputy O'Donnell's magic bank proposal——

That has come at a cost of €7.2 billion of taxpayers' money.

Deputy O'Donnell, please allow Deputy O'Brien to continue without interruption.

There is no credibility in the magic bank approach among international markets and experts. Former Fine Gael economic experts even said this approach had zero credibility. The bottom line is that Fianna Fáil has moved the country on a course to ensure economic growth.

Fianna Fáil broke it in the first place.

There were good economic growth figures in the first quarter but disappointing in the second. By the end of this year, however, the country will have returned to economic growth. Next year, there will be net job increases. It is important that all Members, regardless of party, do what they can to ensure jobs are created for the 460,000 people out of work. The slight decline in yesterday's live register figures is also to be welcomed.

The Government is there to make decisions, not just talk about what it would do. We are already setting the country on a course to recovery. With the Minister for Finance and the Taoiseach, the country has turned the corner and has credibility in the international markets.

I wish the Labour Party, whose Members are absent from the Chamber now, was more cautious about some of its public comments. It is simply lying to the public with the claim it has a silver bullet that can fix all of this through temporary nationalisation of the banks. That is simply not possible. If we followed such a course, all the moneys raised by Bank of Ireland in the private markets in recent months would have actually been taxpayers' money. The Labour Party has zero credibility. Unfortunately, because it is not telling the truth to the public, some people believe there is an easier option. There is not.

Thankfully, last night the Oireachtas decided to extend the bank guarantee scheme. Through the fees it charges, it has brought €1 billion into the Exchequer. The next scheme will be more costly for the banks. I, like all Members, have no truck with the banks. We all have had complaints about their practices. I have received many complaints about how AIB treats small businesses. The decision today to take a majority stake in AIB is important because it will ensure credit will flow to the SME sector. The Government has identified through Bank of Ireland and AIB €6 billion in working capital for the SME sector for the next two years which will be monitored by the credit review group, headed by John Trethowan. While the process may be a little slow, it is necessary. The indigenous SME sector employs over 800,000 people and we must do everything we can to support it. The Government has also brought in the employment subsidies scheme which protects more than 100,000 jobs and several other initiatives.

The Opposition parties have put forward initiatives as well. I hope during the framing of the next budget, they will put across their proposals and all parties can examine realistic policies that can be agreed by all. While I would expect that of Fine Gael, I do not expect it of the Labour Party.

Unemployment is the single largest issue. I speak as someone who had the experience of being out of work in the 1990s. We need to improve the market to enable growth. Our costs have come down and we are becoming more competitive. We will be able to attract necessary foreign direct investment. The Government must also ensure the indigenous SME sector is supported. Today's announcements on the banks have been welcomed by Europe and the bond markets. The country has funding until the middle of next year. This time next year, I believe we will be dealing with a much more positive situation in the economy.

I wish to share time with Deputies McHugh, Connaughton, Breen, O'Donnell, Tom Hayes, D'Arcy and Deenihan.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I commend Deputy Bruton on tabling this Private Members' motion.

The one issue causing much disillusionment among the public is unemployment and the haemorrhage of jobs. Almost every family has seen some of their children either lose their job, be unable to get one, not even get an acknowledgement or interview or be forced to take the emigrant plane like the emigrant ship in the last century.

The Government's policy until a week ago to get the economy right was first to recapitalise the banks and then the jobs would follow. After the events of the past 24 hours, it will be some time before that happens. The young educated, skilled people of this country cannot wait for five or ten years. They need to be given some help immediately.

I welcome this recent change of heart by the Government that job creation is critical. I hope, however, this is not another optical illusion which ends like the funding for computers promised to schools by the beginning of 2010 which never materialised. One critical area in the economy which has suffered more that any other sector is the small and medium-sized enterprise sector. At the height of what was almost full employment five years ago, 50% of it was provided by the SME sector. Each of them was employing small numbers with a good spread across every city, town, village and crossroads.

These are the very same businesses that have bled tens of thousands of jobs over the past three years. These job losses have not got national headlines because they have been in fives and tens. Nonetheless, they have been the largest contributors to the live register figures.

These businesses cannot get any credit from the banks. As a result of the finality brought to the bank bailout, we have been told credit will open up again. How many times have we heard that same statement in the past two years? These businesses are hit with the same, and in many cases additional, local authority levies that they had to pay at the height of the boom even though their incomes and footfall have been decimated. These same businesses have to wade through sacks of red tape and regulation before they even open their doors.

These businesses have the potential to provide thousands of jobs but they are not given any support. Why can they not pay their local authority rates based on turnover or audited profits rather than valuations? Why are there no other schemes like the PRSI subsidy scheme — for which only a few hundred offers were made when thousands applied — available to assist them?

There is an urgent need to introduce personal examiner legislation for small businesses. Provisions could contain safeguards preventing abuses by requiring detailed financial records to be put before the courts. As a result, a small business which could otherwise go to the wall could be saved and jobs retained. Thousands of jobs could be provided if the SME sector got proper support. However, in the Government's economic strategy announced the other day, the sector was ignored. In my contact with young people in my constituency clinics, I am aware of dozens forced to emigrate, not going abroad for a year or being head-hunted by a company abroad.

I compliment Deputy Bruton on putting down this important and timely motion, particularly when unemployment is savage. The Government does not listen to the people. Prior to the crash, people were predicting the property bubble would burst since one cannot give money away for free. The Irish people predicted that young people would have millstones around their necks for the rest of their lives. Obviously, commentators and experts will pat each other on the back — last night David McWilliams was being commended for predicting the crash. He was not on his own, however. Someone in every household predicted this crash, an argument the Government fails to hear.

People never wanted to pump billions of euro in Anglo Irish Bank. Today's announcement is more money going into a dark hole that will lead to dark times for many years to come.

There are, however, solutions. The Government will try to stretch its lifetime as far as possible but it has the opportunity to do something while it is still in place about red tape and bureaucracy. Every person in business in this country is stifled with red tape. The situation is so bad that it keeps prices up. We cannot continue with these high costs. The legacy of this Fianna Fáil Government is that it has the most sophisticated state-sponsored bureaucracy in the EU. Everyone knows that; we go on holiday to Spain, France and Belgium and see how we have gone too far to implement directives while blaming Europe.

Job creation, retraining and up-skilling were all mentioned. There are perfectly well trained nurses heading to London and elsewhere because they cannot get work here. There are teachers who are well qualified to educate the people of this country but they cannot get a teaching post. I appreciate there is a moratorium in place in the public service but we must review its implementation. People at the coalface, be they nurses or teachers, are well trained and want to work but cannot get a job.

I thank Deputy Bruton for tabling this motion. Everything he predicted as Fine Gael finance spokesman has come true. I remember several budget nights when we talked about the famous bubble, where an inordinate amount of funding was coming into the Exchequer from one source, the building sector. Everyone knew it would not last.

We must work our way out of this. I lay the blame at the feet of the Government for the way it has handled everything, particularly Anglo Irish Bank. It was an absolute disgrace because the Government did not even know until this morning how much it would cost. We do not know if a further €5 billion must be invested to get out of this black hole.

People glibly talk about unemployment figures going up or down by 5,000. We should consider the impact on every area — unless we get a grip and help the SME sector, there will be problems. Each business might employ an extra one, two or three other people. It is the road to go for recovery but the Government has turned its back on it.

Unemployment has hit homes in every parish in Ireland. In County Galway in August 2008, there were 14,460 unemployed people. In August 2010, the figure was 25,300. In Ballinalsoe in August 2008, there were 1,449 unemployed people and that had increased to 2,759 in August 2010. These are human beings who are stuck at home, drawing the dole they do not want. No matter how the figures are massaged, these are the people we must worry about.

The idea of a national recovery bank must be carefully considered. If people have a good business proposition, they must get the necessary investment. AIB was the bank that most people went to in this country and today we hear that it has almost been taken over the Government. People in every house in Ireland are horrified.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on this important motion. The volcanic ash cloud has cleared from over Iceland but this morning all of us in Ireland have discovered an even darker cloud over the Irish economy. The people must face further pain as they are €16 billion worse off than they were yesterday. There is huge discontent at the way the wrongdoers who caused this crisis have got off with this lightly while the ordinary people must bear the pain.

The recession has left 455,000 people unemployed, 170,000 people in negative equity and 110,000 families facing winter with no light or heat. Thousands of young people are leaving the country. Unemployment among the under 25s in County Clare has reached 60.74% in the past two years. According to CSO emigration figures, not since 1989 have we seen such levels of emigration. The country faces a huge brain drain that must be addressed.

The recent announcements of the Government, unveiling and repackaging old job strategies for PR purposes, have contained nothing new. There is nothing smart in the new strategy Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy. It is overly ambitious and lacks credibility.

How does the Government intend to deliver 15,000 extra jobs in the tourism sector and increase visitor numbers to 8 million while persisting with the €10 travel tax? As an island nation, the best way to create jobs in the tourism industry is to abolish this tax. We are dependent on air access into the country and all airlines are committed to increasing services into the country if the tax was axed. We should call Michael O'Leary's bluff. He has recently reduced services from Shannon, Kerry and Dublin. According to recent figures, only €45 million was collected under this tax for the first six months of the year. The revenue falls well short of the predicted amount of €125 million while some people say we are losing €450 million in revenue as a result of this tax. The casualties of the tax are clear to see — visitor numbers are declining and airlines have cut services. As a result, bed and breakfasts, hotels, restaurants and car hire companies are struggling. Shannon Airport has been the biggest victim of the tax. If the airport is to turn a corner and restore services, this tax has to be abolished.

The game is up for this Government. It is bereft of ideas and its strategies have failed the country and have brought it to the brink. It is now time that the people were given a choice to elect a new Government. I commend Deputy Bruton for tabling the motion.

I also commend Deputy Bruton for tabling this motion. My colleagues have touched on many of the areas but I want to zone in on one term, namely, "credibility". We have Government spokespersons and Deputies coming out and continually saying that the Opposition is making soundings without any content. I want to consider this in the cold light of day. Why are we here at this particular point in time today? It is because of the policies implemented by the Government, particularly in regard to the banks. I read the announcement today from the Minister on the recapitalisation of the banks and could find little or nothing about credit to the real economy. It is all about the banks and having to reprogramme the budget, thereby hitting taxpayers.

When the guarantee was put in place, the Government had a two year window of opportunity to deal with the banks. It procrastinated. We put forward very straightforward policies which involved the banks dealing with their toxic loans and setting up good banks. Furthermore, we spoke about a national recovery bank, which concerned the flow of credit to the SME sector which is currently dying on its feet. It is the lifeblood of this economy. Half of our general Government deficit is due to unemployment. The Government did not factor in any sort of growth.

Now we are in a situation whereby €90 billion is going into the banks, including NAMA. It is the equivalent to virtually 100% of our annual wealth. How did we get to this position? How do we have a situation whereby the biggest bank in the country is being nationalised today? How did that happen? It is because the policy the Government went with put no onus on the banks to deal with their situations. Effectively, they put their hands out and all the Government asked was, "How much more do you need?".

The problem is getting the real economy going. Furthermore, the old board of AIB needs to be told to step down by the Minister. I heard him earlier saying it was not his role to interfere with boards of banks. We now effectively own AIB. That is taxpayers' money and he who pays the piper calls the tune. We need to send out a marker to the international markets that change and credibility are going to happen. Furthermore, our bond yields went down earlier by a minuscule amount. We are paying 6.57% in international markets today. The Government has put us in a position where the NTMA is reluctant to go out next month to borrow money on the international markets.

The Minister said earlier that it is not going out because of the rates. That sends out a message that there is a further degree of uncertainty. It is about credibility and belief. If I go into my local bank manager and I am doing well, he or she will more than likely give me the funding. If I have made mistake after mistake and I go back to him or her, he or she will query my figures in minute detail. The Government knew there were problems with Anglo Irish Bank. It went to Bank of Ireland and said it wanted it to take it over because it was insolvent.

Furthermore, Mr. Michael Somers, the former CEO of the NTMA, stated he was reluctant to give deposits to Anglo Irish Bank for a long period before that. Now we have a situation where Irish taxpayers will have a millstone around their necks for the next ten years and beyond to repay €90 billion in debt, €52 billion of which is to recapitalise the banks and €40 billion of which is for NAMA. NAMA was supposed to stabilise the market but it has had the opposite effect. The haircuts are so severe that they have undermined the quality of the loan books in the banks while the international markets are looking on.

The Government's banking and budgetary policies have failed because it did not factor in that the economy must grow and we must have jobs. It is a four letter word — jobs. The Government is very slow to cop on to it.

I commend Fine Gael and Deputy Bruton for tabling this motion. To the minds of everyone looking at this House recently, and particularly yesterday and today, the biggest issue is jobs. Some 100,000 people have left this country, which is shameful, and 450,000 people are on the live register. There is nothing the vast majority of the people concerned crave more than a job. The one fear in every household in Ireland is the lack of a job for a family member. The fact that 100,000 young people have left our shores to go to Australia, America, Canada, mainland Europe or elsewhere in search of a job is a shame on this Government.

To give any reason for it happening is simply inexcusable. In the time I have been in this House, in every budget debate Deputy Richard Bruton has stood up and pointed out to the then Minister, the Taoiseach, Deputy Brian Cowen, and the current Minister, Deputy Brian Lenihan, that there was a major bubble and problem in the country. The Government benches laughed at every proposal. They did not agree with Deputy Bruton. They condemned what he said as talking our economy down. The truth of the matter is that he was right and ultimately the 100,000 people who have left our shores and the 450,000 people who are signing on are the people paying the price for the fact that the Government did not listen to Deputy Bruton.

We can talk about every television programme or radio station, but the buck stops in Leinster House. We were warned by Deputy Bruton about what should not happen. The fact is that this Government is not serious about job creation. A significant number of small businesses are ready and willing to take a chance at expansion but the reason they cannot do so is because they are hampered by Government charges and credit facilities from our banks. While we recapitalise and fund the banks, the reality is that we are not forcing the financial institutions to allow credit to flow to small businesses. We can talk about creating 300,000 jobs in press releases, but the fact is that unless the banks free up capital to those people, no jobs will be created.

I want to touch on the issue of the banks. I have the business review from the NTMA from 1 July 2010. The national debt at that stage was €84 billion for the first half of this year, with a deficit of €20 billion. At the end of this year it will be €94 billion. On top of that there is €81 billion, which the NTMA states NAMA will cost, plus the costs of €45 billion we found out about today. The sum total is approximately €230 billion.

I want to be fair. Over a period of ten years, NAMA will generate some funds. The news is not all negative but it will be mostly negative. The State will owe €240 billion at the end of this year in comparison to where it was three years ago. At the time of the last general election, the national debt was approximately €35 billion. The Government has increased it almost ninefold. That is astonishing and is the dilemma we now face.

Another difficulty we face is what Mr. Michael Somers said when he spoke to the Fine Gael Parliamentary Party in Waterford. This country has an obsession with process. We cannot get things done because of the stream of red tape, criteria, rules and directives that exists. We employ an army of people to implement rules that are hindering our progress. We are told we cannot do certain things because of the rules. I will give the House a good example of what I am talking about. The Leas Cheann-Comhairle will be familiar with the Arklow Banks wind farm from his journeys up and down to Dublin. Six offshore wind turbines have been constructed, but it is planned to construct almost 200 further turbines. This €1 billion project is supposed to be financed with equity from the private equity markets, but it is not happening because someone somewhere is stopping it. Airtricity, which is promoting the project, started a similar project off the east coast of Britain at the same time, and it is now under construction. The two projects are in different jurisdictions, but they are subject to the same EU directives. It is madness that we are stopping the development of the Arklow Banks project, which would involve a number of full-time maintenance jobs.

I will conclude by speaking about small business. As a commercial dairy farmer with two employees, I am strangled by the processes involved. I encounter red tape all the way. Some 4,500 people in my district are unemployed. In County Wexford as a whole, the relevant number is 20,000. They have not chosen to be unemployed — they want to be in gainful employment so they can contribute to this country's tax take. The only way we can develop as a nation is by increasing our tax take and our GDP so that people can contribute instead of taking. Although our proposals are sound, the Government is continuing to snipe at them for the sake of it. The Government will not accept any of our ideas.

In its recent publication, Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy: A Strategy and Action Plan for Irish Trade, Tourism and Investment to 2015, the Government identified the role of tourism in employment creation as a key element of its strategy. I would like to use the few minutes available to me to make a few recommendations to the Minister of State, Deputy Billy Kelleher. I will speak about what he and his Government colleagues should do to fulfil the commitment they made in that document.

Deputy Breen mentioned the issue of the departure tax. I remind the Minister of State that most EU member states no longer impose such a tax. Holland abolished its departure tax in 2009 on the basis that while it raised €312 million, it cost the Dutch economy €1 billion. Economists and people like Michael O'Leary — regardless of what people say about him — have recognised that the departure tax acts as an impediment to bringing people into this country. We welcome people to Ireland by imposing this charge on them. It does not act as an incentive for them to come to Ireland. It does not help us to sell Ireland. Belgium, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and Malta have all abolished their departure taxes. The Government has an opportunity to change its strategy in this regard in the forthcoming budget. I suggest that the departure tax should be scrapped.

Access to credit is a major issue. We have all encountered it in our personal capacities and when dealing with community enterprises, etc. The Government needs to intervene following the withdrawal of Bank of Scotland from the Irish market. Irish hoteliers had approximately €2 billion in loans with that bank. They also relied on the bank for overdrafts, etc. There will be widespread casualties if the Government does not step in. The creation of a national recovery bank, which was proposed by Fine Gael through Deputy Bruton, should be the subject of serious consideration. The establishment of a new national credit corporation, as favoured by the Irish Tourist Industry Confederation and other tourism bodies, should be seriously considered at this stage.

Fine Gael's very good policy document, NewERA, was ridiculed by the Government but recognised by people like David McWilliams. It should have been considered by the Government. It was a well thought through policy. One aspect of it was the roll-out of the broadband network. During the summer months, I met a number of business people in County Kerry who would like to be able to do their business from Kerry or elsewhere in the west of Ireland for a month each year. They cannot do so at present because our broadband services are not adequate. That is a key issue. I will conclude by saying the Government should scrap the departure tax, increase access to credit and facilitate the roll-out of broadband to this country's tourist areas, most of which are in the west.

I have noted the headlong rush to congratulate Deputy Bruton on placing this important motion before the House. While I will not congratulate him just yet, I would like to thank him for giving us an opportunity to highlight what the Government is trying to do to address the severe economic challenges that exist.

As I have just five minutes in which to speak, I do not propose to engage extensively in political rhetoric. However, it should be noted that an attempt has been made to rewrite history in the Chamber this morning. Some people have claimed to have forecast the difficulties that now face the Irish economy. I distinctly remember that during the building and construction boom, Deputies on all sides of the House castigated the Government for its failure to extend capital allowances for urban renewal, the development of hotels and the Shannon region. It is a little disingenuous for people to claim they forecast with clarity and certainty that the property bubble would collapse in the manner it did. As I have said, Deputies from every party continually supported the extension of schemes for which my political party are now being vilified, having supported them in the first place.

The biggest fall-out from the downturn, in terms of collateral damage, has been the loss of jobs. This has had a particular effect on young people, many of whom now feel that few opportunities are available to them. As a Parliament, a Government and a people, we have two options. I suggest that we should face our serious difficulties, accept the realities of where we are and deal with these matters from there. We have an impaired banking system and an economy that contracted by 10% last year, but it is probable that we will experience positive growth this year. That is critically important. We have to point out that this country is now on the verge of turning a very difficult corner. We will encounter more collateral damage if we do not speak in positive terms and try to introduce policies that address serious issues, such as the lack of credit.

People continually talk about the bailout of the banks. It is often said that no Government would stand idly by and allow the entire banking system to collapse. That is what would have happened on 29 September 2008 if most of the political parties in this Chamber had not supported the bank guarantee. One party, which stood out and opposed the blanket guarantee in its entirety, is now claiming it was opposing elements of the guarantee rather than the guarantee itself. If one examines the record, one will find that it opposed the guarantee in its entirety.

That is not correct.

If we had followed that party's example, the economy would be in absolute rag order at present.

The Minister of State is indulging in the rewriting of history.

We must address where we are now.

One should stop digging when one is in a hole.

The banking situation is of critical importance. This is not about bailing out banks. We are trying to address the impaired balance sheets of the banks so they can access credit and capital, lend it to small and medium-sized businesses and ensure it flows into the broader economy. That is a critical part of the Government's job creation strategies. We need to have a functioning banking system that supports small and medium-sized businesses, lends to individuals, supports the purchase of homes and cars. Confidence is needed if such an increase in consumer spending is to happen.

As someone who has travelled the world to try to promote this country in as positive a manner as possible, I emphasise that some of the negative commentary from people in this Chamber — it is incessant from some quarters — is undermining this country's hope of turning a difficult corner. I can genuinely say that I have more at stake as a father of young children than I ever will as a Minister of State. This is dragging the country down. It is not a question of shooting the messenger. People should report in an honest and fair manner. They can be critical when criticism is necessary. At the same time, they should try to be supportive during this difficult time for the Government, the Parliament and the hundreds of thousands of people who have lost their jobs. If we consistently undermine this country, and almost hope it will fail, we will do a disservice to those who are trying to run a small business and create employment and the hundreds of thousands of people who are trying to look for work at present.

On a political note, as a member of Fianna Fáil I will accept any blame that is apportioned to me for what was not done in the context of oversight of the banks and perhaps putting the brakes on earlier through budgetary policy. However, equally every political party in the Dáil put inflationary policies before the people in the 2007 general election. Not one political party stated we should increase stamp duty and slow the property market. To be honest and fair about the criticism I will accept, people must be honest with themselves. However, the negative sentiment that sometimes comes from this Chamber, but more importantly from outside the Chamber by some of our broadcasters, is damaging opportunities and the hope that we can turn this corner using the only resource that we have, which is the people themselves. I commend the Government amendment to the House.

To conclude the debate, I now call Deputy Deirdre Clune.

I will share time with Deputies Seymour Crawford and Richard Bruton.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

I speak in support of the motion. If the Minister of State, Deputy Billy Kelleher looks back on the record of the Dáil he will see time and again that following the budget announcements made by the Taoiseach when he was Minister for Finance, this side of the House consistently pointed out that the over-dependence on income from property tax was unsustainable and would lead to a bust. This was pointed out time and again in this House and outside it. The Government chose to ignore those warnings. The Minister of State, Deputy Kelleher, spoke about the messenger; broadcast and print media are at the messengers and they report matters as they see them. The Minister of State should look to his own.

I accept what the Minister of State stated, that he will take whatever blame is coming. We have had many reports that point to the fact that we would not be in this situation today if different decisions had been taken. Nevertheless, that is an issue which will be decided by the people when we have a general election. They will be the final arbitrator on where they see things having gone wrong.

In the few moments available to me, I want to focus on a couple of points. This is about job creation and pointing out to the Government where it can provide the type of environment where jobs and enterprise can flourish. We have an enormous problem in banking. However, at the same time, stimulus must be provided and we need to create the type of environment in which enterprise can develop and existing enterprises can stabilise.

The Forfás report produced last week outlined various areas in which enterprise can be encouraged and developed. In his opening statement, Mr. Martin Shanahan stated now is the time for action. We have had all the reports. We know what has to be done. The National Competitiveness Council produced a report outlining the costs of doing business in this country and what needs to be done to ensure we become more competitive. This report recommends various initiatives that can and should be taken across a range of areas, including education and skills development. I will focus on entrepreneurship and regulation in that area, which will be very important. It will not be the solution to everything but we have to continue to ensure that we have an environment in which entrepreneurs can dip their toes in the water, start up businesses and employ people. The indigenous sector is the lifeblood of this economy and small and medium-sized businesses throughout the country will be the key to success.

Bankruptcy law should distinguish between those who are reckless and fraudulent. The bankruptcy laws in this country are Draconian and need to be updated. We have had one nod in this direction from the Minister for Justice and Law Reform, Deputy Dermot Ahern, in the Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2010, which would reduce the application period to the court for discharge from bankruptcy from 12 years to six years. This is not enough. As it stands, the law on bankruptcy for individuals and companies is putting people off establishing businesses and does not contribute to an environment in which we can encourage entrepreneurs. Will the Minister of State ask the Government to examine this area? It is something that can be done, it is probably cost neutral, and would contribute to creating an environment in which people can start their own businesses. It would encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and the creation of jobs throughout the country.

On a point of information, the Minister for Finance asked me to apologise to the House for being unable to attend. He wanted to do the wrap-up but could not do so because of urgent public business. I apologise for not having stated this sooner.

I support the motion tabled by my colleague, Deputy Richard Bruton. It is very timely because I believe jobs are at the centre of our difficulties. In recent years, the number of those on social welfare has doubled, which has major implications for the country. I welcome the recent announcements made in my constituency, particularly in my home county of Monaghan, of 150 jobs in Monaghan Mushrooms and 35 jobs in Shabra Plastics, a company I was deeply involved in founding. However, the reality is that those 150 new jobs in Monaghan were transferred from existing companies in Mayo. Nationally, there was no improvement whatsoever.

Small and medium-sized enterprises, together with the retail trade, are under severe pressure from banks. Today, we will commit further hundreds of millions of euro to various banks. However, the Government is failing to get those banks to release funds to allow businesses to employ more people and get on with their jobs. Only 3% of those targeted for Government PRSI incentive schemes have been reached and there are only three months to go.

There is another issue about which I am extremely angry. The Government's business regulation forum states a saving of €500 million per year can be made by cutting back on regulation. However, only 4% of this has been reached. We have to get real about this issue. I live in a Border area and recently two business people presented information to a forum. One of them was from Northern Ireland and the other was from southern Ireland but doing 80% of his business north of the Border. He explained that he sought information from a Department here and was told the only way to get it was from the website. However, on the website he would have had to go through 2,300 pages to get what he wanted. He rang the office in Northern Ireland because he needed the same information for there. The person to whom he spoke told him he would get back to him in five minutes, and did so with a single page document. If that is the type of thing we have to deal with, we are not serious about creating jobs. I know there are websites and great technology. However, busy business people need the co-operation of the public service to ensure that business can flow.

We do not have as many people on social welfare as we might because 100,000 of our best young people have emigrated. I was extremely sad when speaking to a middle-aged couple about their family of two, one in Canada and the other in Australia. The only contact they have with them is through the computer; they sit down on a Sunday and use a mechanism to talk to them. We did not educate those young people for that. The State paid a great deal of money to educate them. They want to work here; they want to be part of our society. However, the Government is doing nothing. Look at what has been proposed; it simply has not worked. For God's sake, get out there and introduce innovations that will work or get out and allow in somebody else who will do it.

I thank all of those who participated in this debate, both on my own benches and on the Labour Party benches, and, indeed, on the Fianna Fáil benches — the Minister, Deputy Éamon Ó Cuív, adopted a particularly constructive approach.

I do not doubt the Minister of State, Deputy Billy Kelleher's sincerity in addressing the issue of employment because we are facing a horrendous crisis. However, I would say to him and to the Government that if they keep doing the same thing and expect a different outcome, they are simply fooling themselves. That is the problem with this Government. It keeps doing the same thing in the case of banks and the public finances and ignoring the wider competitiveness agenda.

I was alarmed at the smugness of the Minister, Deputy Batt O'Keeffe, when he spoke last night. He suggested that the Government had everything under control. It was bizarre. I do not know whether he read the National Competitive Council report, which is hot off the press. It listed 36 areas in the red zone where Ireland was seriously uncompetitive and damaging job prospects. Twenty of those were directly within the responsibility of Ministers and we had the Minister trotting in here like a two year old pretending that all of these matters were under control.

The public, not to mention the markets, was stunned at the naivety of the Trading and Investing in a Smart Economy document. I do not envy the Minister of State, Deputy Kelleher, the task of chairing a group that will look at the implementation of this because I have never seen such a vacuous set of proposals emerge from any Department. It contained measures such as monitoring international media reports of Ireland. It raised the issue of air access to the country but never mentioned the travel tax. It is a bizarre document.

This was supposed to be a jobs document and it was glossed up with 300,000 jobs. There is not a single commitment to cut the cost of any area of Government. There is not a single initiative on credit. There is not a single initiative on the €500 million in compliance costs that are unnecessarily paid by business, according to the Government itself. There is not a single new initiative on the roll-out of broadband — it simply rabbits what the Minister has already stated.

There is no initiative to tackle the chaos that reigns in both waste and water policy, which has been highlighted time and again to the Government by the National Competitiveness Council and by Forfás. They highlighted the approach that the Minister is taking to waste management, the total lack of regulatory fairness in the way waste management is handled in this country and the chaos in the case of water. There is not a single initiative in those areas.

There is no commitment to link research and development to employment, which is a core recommendation to try to upgrade the skill base and product development. There is no mention of the need to address that aspect.

There is no initiative on specific bottlenecks which, as Deputy Clune correctly stated, were highlighted in the interesting report, Making it Happen. These are bottlenecks that are holding back specific sectors, such as the medical devices sector, and include the difficulty of getting regulatory approvals from ethics committees that are chaotic and difficult to get through. There were many specific initiatives where the Government could have pledged, "We will remove that bottleneck. That is one thing we will remove and we will have it done in six months."

There was no commitment to enforce competition law. There have been umpteen reports about the need to reduce our costs in sheltered sectors where there are barriers to competition, but there is not a mention of it in the Government's great document that is supposed to create 300,000. This was simply an exercise in putting a bulldog clip around a whole lot of stuff that is there already and coming up with a big number to try to manage the media, not the economy.

I must say this to the Minister of State and it is a pity the Minister is not here — the stakes are too high to go on with that sort of political claptrap. These are commitments where a Government must say it will implement these changes. It will set out a roadmap, milestones and the date on which it expects these to be done. It will pin responsibility on someone and expect that to happen.

We cannot continue to preside over a situation where 80% of the job losses are affecting people under the age of 30. These people are vanishing. According to the figures this week, 30,000 Irish people emigrated last year. We are heading for 50,000, which would mean the entire cohort leaving our schools and colleges would be emigrating every year. If that happens, we will see our economy sacrifice and lose the core skills that we need to rebuild this country.

The employment crisis is the main crisis. Banking and fiscal policy are constraints on what we might do, but we are certainly not powerless and there are umpteen recommendations available to the Government on which it need only commit and state it will do whatever it takes to get this done within a fixed timescale. That would be a jobs strategy. Then we would see Ministers putting their own reputations on the line and stating they will ensure that it happens.

However, that is not what any of these documents offer. That is not what the Minister offered when he came in here last night. That is why people are frustrated and upset. The real crisis for most families around the country — the loss of their young talented people — is simply not being taken seriously by the Government.

Amendment put.
The Dáil divided: Tá, 75; Níl, 71.

  • Ahern, Bertie.
  • Ahern, Dermot.
  • Ahern, Michael.
  • Ahern, Noel.
  • Andrews, Barry.
  • Andrews, Chris.
  • Aylward, Bobby.
  • Blaney, Niall.
  • Brady, Áine.
  • Brady, Cyprian.
  • Brady, Johnny.
  • Browne, John.
  • Byrne, Thomas.
  • Carey, Pat.
  • Collins, Niall.
  • Conlon, Margaret.
  • Connick, Seán.
  • Cowen, Brian.
  • Cregan, John.
  • Cuffe, Ciarán.
  • Curran, John.
  • Dempsey, Noel.
  • Devins, Jimmy.
  • Dooley, Timmy.
  • Fahey, Frank.
  • Fitzpatrick, Michael.
  • Fleming, Seán.
  • Flynn, Beverley.
  • Gogarty, Paul.
  • Gormley, John.
  • Hanafin, Mary.
  • Harney, Mary.
  • Haughey, Seán.
  • Hoctor, Máire.
  • Kelleher, Billy.
  • Kelly, Peter.
  • Kenneally, Brendan.
  • Kennedy, Michael.
  • Killeen, Tony.
  • Kitt, Michael P.
  • Kitt, Tom.
  • Lenihan, Brian.
  • Lenihan, Conor.
  • Lowry, Michael.
  • McEllistrim, Thomas.
  • McGrath, Mattie.
  • McGrath, Michael.
  • McGuinness, John.
  • Martin, Micheál.
  • Moloney, John.
  • Moynihan, Michael.
  • Mulcahy, Michael.
  • Ó Cuív, Éamon.
  • Ó Fearghaíl, Seán.
  • O’Brien, Darragh.
  • O’Connor, Charlie.
  • O’Dea, Willie.
  • O’Donoghue, John.
  • O’Flynn, Noel.
  • O’Hanlon, Rory.
  • O’Keeffe, Batt.
  • O’Keeffe, Edward.
  • O’Rourke, Mary.
  • O’Sullivan, Christy.
  • Power, Peter.
  • Power, Seán.
  • Roche, Dick.
  • Ryan, Eamon.
  • Sargent, Trevor.
  • Scanlon, Eamon.
  • Smith, Brendan.
  • Treacy, Noel.
  • Wallace, Mary.
  • White, Mary Alexandra.
  • Woods, Michael.


  • Allen, Bernard.
  • Bannon, James.
  • Barrett, Seán.
  • Behan, Joe.
  • 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.
  • Hayes, Brian.
  • Hayes, Tom.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kenny, Enda.
  • Lynch, Ciarán.
  • Lynch, Kathleen.
  • McEntee, Shane.
  • McGrath, Finian.
  • McHugh, Joe.
  • McManus, Liz.
  • Mitchell, Olivia.
  • Morgan, Arthur.
  • Naughten, Denis.
  • Neville, Dan.
  • Noonan, Michael.
  • Ó Caoláin, Caoimhghín.
  • Ó Snodaigh, Aengus.
  • O’Donnell, Kieran.
  • O’Dowd, Fergus.
  • O’Keeffe, Jim.
  • O’Mahony, John.
  • O’Shea, Brian.
  • O’Sullivan, Jan.
  • O’Sullivan, Maureen.
  • Penrose, Willie.
  • Perry, John.
  • Rabbitte, Pat.
  • Reilly, James.
  • Ring, Michael.
  • Shatter, Alan.
  • Sheahan, Tom.
  • Sheehan, P.J.
  • Sherlock, Seán.
  • Shortall, Róisín.
  • Stagg, Emmet.
  • Stanton, David.
  • Timmins, Billy.
  • Tuffy, Joanna.
  • Upton, Mary.
  • Wall, Jack.
Tellers: Tá, Deputies John Cregan and John Curran; Níl, Deputies Emmet Stagg and Joe Carey.
Amendment declared carried.

As result of that vote, amendment No. 1 in the name of Deputy Penrose falls.

Motion, as amended, put and declared carried.