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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 23 Oct 2019

Vol. 988 No. 4

Finance Bill 2019: Second Stage

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

Two weeks ago, I made my Budget Statement and outlined the many challenges that our economy had gone through. Despite those challenges and issues, we have economic growth that is broadly based, public capital investment will increase by 22% and the unemployment rate has fallen to 5.3%. Tax revenues are largely in line with forecasts and we expect to meet our revised target of €58.6 billion this year. The Department of Finance is forecasting GDP growth of 5.5% for this year, up from 3.9% in the stability programme update. We have eliminated the deficit and are projecting a surplus of 0.2% of national income.

That said, we cannot for a moment underestimate the challenge that Brexit poses to the economy. In the event that the UK leaves the EU with an agreement, we will continue to build on this surplus. Brexit is the main immediate threat to the Irish economy. It is a threat to the wider European economy and, ironically, it is a threat to the UK economy, in particular the Northern Ireland economy. Similar to today's events, that communities are grappling with the consequences of planned job losses in the coming weeks, months and years reminds us of the many challenges materialising before us. We find ourselves facing an uncertain situation over which we have relatively little influence. This is all the more reason to take care with policies that we can control and influence.

Due to recent actions, we are in a strong position to mitigate some of the worst effects of Brexit if we are forced to do so. In the event of a no-deal Brexit, we will intervene in a sustained and meaningful way to support jobs and our economy. We have a package of €1.2 billion to be called on if needed. If we must intervene in this way, our surplus will move to a deficit of 0.6% of national income. We hope that the withdrawal agreement is ratified, but it is only prudent to remain cautious until it has taken place. This is the context within which budget 2020 was framed, and the Bill sets out the legislative provisions required to give effect to the budget.

I will begin with income tax and enterprise supports. The Bill provides for a number of significant enterprise taxation supports by way of broadening access to the key employee engagement programme, KEEP, the employment investment incentive, EII, and the research and development tax credit. The Bill extends the special assignee relief programme, SARP, and the foreign earnings deduction, FED, to the end of 2022. The Bill further provides for income tax measures announced on budget day, applying increases to the home carer's credit and the earned income tax credit. It also provides for the extension of the help-to-buy scheme to the end of 2021.

The House will be aware of, and has adopted, the decisions that I have recommended in respect of carbon prices. There is broad support to move to the target of €80 per tonne by 2030. However, we know that this change will not be easy for everyone. Instead of a large increase in any one year, therefore, I am committing to a €6 increase as a first step towards the 2030 target. It is my ambition to increase this move each year. This €6 increase applied from budget night to auto fuels, but I have decided to delay its application to other fuels until May 2020 after the winter heating season. The increase will raise €90 million in 2020, all of which will be ring-fenced to fund new climate action measures that will protect the most vulnerable in society, support sustainable mobility projects, deliver new agri-environmental schemes and invest in our low-carbon future.

This approach is supported by the Climate Change Advisory Council, the report of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Climate Action and the recommendations of the Citizens' Assembly on climate change, which also point in that direction.

I will briefly summarise other climate-related tax changes. I am replacing the 1% diesel surcharge introduced last year with a nitrogen oxide, NOx, emissions-based surcharge, to apply from 1 January 2020. In addition, in this Bill, I am introducing an environmental rationale to benefit-in-kind for commercial vehicles from 2023. The Bill will also extend the benefit-in-kind zero rate on electric vehicles to 2022 and extend VRT reliefs for conventional and plug-in hybrids to 2020, subject to CO2 thresholds. The Bill will reduce qualifying CO2 thresholds for reliefs in respect of capital allowances and VAT reclaim on commercial vehicles, and provide additional relief through the diesel rebate scheme to hauliers to compensate that sector for the increased cost of fuel. I am equalising electricity tax rates for business and non-business.

One of the main strengths of Ireland's corporate tax regime is the certainty we offer investors through a stable, consistent and transparent policy regime. Investment decisions that bring jobs to Ireland are long-term decisions and, therefore, certainty is important. It also worth reflecting that often the problems in the international tax system have come not from the actions of governments but from advisers and business designing complex plans to exploit mismatches or gaps in legislation. Those days must come to an end. While governments worldwide are doing their part globally, tax advisers, lawyers, and the professional services industry must also play their part. It is in the long-term interests of all. The Bill includes a number of significant changes to address the issue of tax avoidance. I am making changes to Irish real estate funds, IREFs, to address aggressive tax planning activities identified by Revenue on examination of IREF accounts filed this year. I outlined in my Budget Statement that analysis of these structures is ongoing, and I intend to make some further amendments on Committee Stage to ensure that the aggressive activities of some entities do not negatively impact on bona fide, third-party lending in vehicles funding much-needed development projects. I am also making amendments to the real estate investment trust, REIT, regime and to the taxation of securitisation vehicles to strengthen anti-abuse measures and ensure appropriate taxation is collected. I am also updating existing transfer pricing rules and extending their scope and application. The changes take account of the latest 2017 version of the OECD transfer pricing guidelines and significantly extend the scope of the rules in line with the recommendations in the Coffey review.

As part of our commitment to implementing the anti-tax avoidance directive, ATAD, I am introducing new anti-avoidance measures this year in the form of ATAD-compliant, anti-hybrid rules. The purpose of anti-hybrid rules is to prevent arrangements that exploit differences in the tax treatment of an instrument or entity under the tax laws of two or more jurisdictions to generate a tax advantage. They will apply to all corporate taxpayers from 1 January 2020. The Bill makes amendments to the treatment of investment limited partnerships, ILPs, and puts the long-standing treatment of stock borrowing and repurchase transactions on a legislative footing. These amendments are being introduced in conjunction with the introduction of ATAD anti-hybrid rules to ensure that the existing treatment of ILPs is clear in legislation. As well as tackling avoidance, these reforms enhance the legitimacy of our corporate tax regime internationally.

I will now refer to each Part. Part 1 deals with income tax, corporation tax, capital gains tax and the universal social charge, USC. Section 1 is the interpretation section. Section 2 provides for the reduced rate of universal social charge, USC, for full medical cardholders whose individual annual income does not exceed €60,000. It will be extended for a further year until the end of the 2020 tax year. Section 3 deals with the increased value of the home carer credit. Section 4 deals with the earned income credit. Section 5 deals with benefit-in-kind on employer-provided vehicles. The exemption for electric cars and vans with a market value of less than €50,000 is extended to 31 December 2022. A new charging regime for employer-provided cars will take effect from 1 January 2023.

Section 6 extends an exemption from tax for payments made to compensate individuals for expenses incurred in the donation of a kidney to also include those who donate a lobe of a liver. Section 7 makes a technical amendment to the Magdalen restorative justice ex gratia scheme. Sections 8 to 10 deal with SARP, KEEP and FED. Section 11 seeks to maintain the status quo for qualifying UK residents by allowing them to retain entitlement to certain allowances. Sections 12 to 14 deal with payments, including certain payments to foster parents, training allowances and student grants. Section 15 extends the help-to-buy scheme. Section 16 provides tax relief for pension contributions made by a company to occupational pension schemes set up for employees of another company in certain circumstances. Section 17 extends the living city initiative. Section 18 is the adjustment of the qualifying CO2 thresholds for capital allowances.

Section 19 makes two technical amendments to the general rules on deductions for tax purposes. Section 20 includes Children's Health Ireland, Enterprise Ireland and the National Oil Reserves Agency, NORA, which is a designated activity company, DAC, in the list of specified non-commercial State-sponsored bodies that qualify for exemption from certain tax provisions under the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Section 21 amends section 845C to extend the treatment afforded to additional tier 1 instruments to comparable instruments with equivalent characteristics issued by companies other than regulated financial institutions. Section 22 deals with certain corporation tax measures. Section 23 increases the rate of dividend withholding tax, DWT, from the standard rate of income tax of 20% to a rate of 25% and increases the rate for distributions to certain non-residents in a similar manner. Section 24 amends Chapter 2 of Part 29 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 in respect of additional supports for micro and small companies.

Section 25 makes a number of amendments in respect of the Ell scheme. I covered sections 26 to 31 earlier. Section 32 amends section 1035A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Section 33 inserts Chapter 3 into Part 28 of the Act. It relates to the tax treatment of stock borrowing and repurchase, repo, arrangements. Section 34 amends section 604B of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The section provides for capital gains tax relief for the purposes of farm restructuring. Section 35 amends section 616(1) of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to provide interpretations for the purposes of Chapter 1 of Part 20 of the Act. Section 36 amends section 621 to correct an inconsistency in the treatment of an allowable loss in comparison with a chargeable gain. Section 37 makes changes to the exit tax.

Part 2 deals with excise. Section 38 confirms the budget day increase. Section 39 confirms the budget increase in the carbon component of mineral oil tax on mineral oils used as auto fuels from 9 October 2019. Section 40 makes a number of amendments to the Finance Act 1999 to bring national law concerning fuel oil used for private pleasure navigation in line with EU rules. Section 41 provides for an enhanced relief under the diesel rebate scheme.

Section 42 provides for an increase to the production threshold for eligibility to claim 50% relief from alcohol products tax for beer brewed in small breweries. Section 43 provides for the equalisation of the rates of electricity tax referred to earlier. Sections 44 and 45 provide for an increase to the natural gas carbon tax.

Section 46 amends section 64 and section 77 of Chapter 1 of Part 2 of the Finance Act 2002 and inserts a new section 68A to that Act to provide a relief from betting duty and betting intermediary duty.

Section 47 amends the definition of the European Union in respect of Italy to exclude certain territories. This amendment transposes a legal measure that has been approved at EU level.

Sections 48 and 49 refer to the nitrogen oxide emissions that I referred to earlier. Section 50 deals with extension of the vehicle registration tax, VRT, relief for hybrid electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids until 31 December 2020.

Part 3 of the Bill deals with VAT. The first section is the interpretation section.

The second section, which is section 52, reduces the carbon dioxide threshold from 156 g to 140 g per kilometre for business vehicles qualifying for a VAT deduction. The section also removes the possibility of deducting VAT on services used to effect a transfer of the ownership of goods within the scope of transfer of business relief.

Section 53 amends section 108 of the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 to ensure that the powers contained in section 108 can be used in respect of mutual assistance requests received by the Revenue Commissioners.

Section 54 amends Part 2 of Schedule 3 to the Value-Added Tax Consolidation Act 2010 by inserting a new paragraph 3A to provide that food supplements will be subject to VAT at a rate of 13.5%. I should make it clear that foods for specific groups, such as infant formula, vitamins and minerals such as folic acid, licensed as medicines by the Health Products Regulatory Authority, HPRA, and fortified foods, such as fortified cereals, will continue to benefit from the zero rating for VAT purposes.

Part 4 deals with stamp duties. Section 55 is the interpretation section.

Section 56 amends Schedule 1 to the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 to give effect to the budget increase in the rate of stamp duty applying to conveyances or transfers and lease premiums of non-residential property from 6% to 7.5% It amends section 83D to take account of the new rate of 7.5%. The 6% rate will continue to apply for purchasers or lessees with binding contracts in place before 9 October and where the sale or lease is executed before 1 January 2020. Sections 57 and 58 provide that Gibraltar-regulated insurers will continue to be liable to the current levies on insurance policies on their Irish business in the event of the UK leaving the EU.

Section 59 amends the Stamp Duties Consolidation Act 1999 to maintain the fixed annual levy of €150 million. The levy is charged on the deposit interest retention tax, DIRT, paid by the relevant financial institutions in a series of base years. This measure came into effect on budget night.

Section 60 imposes a stamp duty charge of 1% where the acquisition of a company is effected by means of a particular type of scheme of arrangement under Part 9. The usual stamp duty charge in respect of the sale or transfer of shares did not apply, as this type of arrangement does not involve a conveyance or transfer on sale. This measure came into effect on budget night.

Part 5 deals with the capital acquisitions tax. Section 61 is an interpretation section.

Section 62 amends the section of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003, which deals with the information to be supplied to Revenue and the Probate Office. Section 63 amends section 86 of the Capital Acquisitions Tax Consolidation Act 2003, which provides for an exemption from inheritance tax for beneficiaries inheriting certain dwelling houses. Section 64 increases the group A tax-free threshold from €320,000 to €335,000.

Part 6 is the final part and deals with miscellaneous matters. Section 65 is the interpretation section.

Section 66 gives effect to certain provisions of an EU directive to introduce a mandatory disclosure regime for certain cross-border transactions. Section 67 makes several amendments to the tax appeal procedures contained in Part 40A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Section 68 will allow the collection of disputed tax to be suspended in cases subject to a mutual agreement procedure. Section 69 removes the requirement that the hard copy of an electronic tax return should be approved by Revenue. Section 70 allows the Revenue Commissioners to reduce a PAYE assessment downwards without the taxpayer having to formally appeal. Section 71 amends section 1001 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 to allow entities to which a fixed charge on book debts has been transferred to notify Revenue of the transfer. Section 72 amends a Schedule to the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997 which lists all international tax agreements entered into by Ireland. Section 73 and Schedule 2 provide for minor technical amendments to a selection of Bills. Section 74 deals with the care and management of taxes and duties. Section 75 contains provisions related to the Short Title, construction and commencement of the Bill.

As is customary with the Finance Bill, there are still a number of small matters under consideration that I may bring forward on Committee Stage. I hope that the debate on the important provisions contained in the Bill can be conducted in its typically constructive way. I will always listen to other views and to suggestions to improve the Bill, and to Committee Stage amendments. I commend the Bill to the House.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on Second Stage of the Finance Bill 2019. It was nearly 12 months ago that our party leader, Deputy Micheál Martin, against the backdrop of Brexit uncertainty, decided to extend the confidence and supply arrangement to ensure that there would be no general election in this country in 2019. I welcome the Brexit agreement reached recently. I commend all those who have worked so diligently, patiently and professionally in Ireland's best interests over the last number of years on Brexit. I commend the negotiating team in Brussels, led by Michel Barnier, and our European counterparts who stood by Ireland and did all that was possible to uphold the Good Friday Agreement. Regardless of what happens in the coming days, weeks and months, there is no mistaking that Brexit still represents one of the challenges of our age. The uncertainty, so pervasive across the water last December, persists to this day. As we sit here, we still do not know entirely what will happen by 31 October and we do not know precisely what kind of Brexit will materialise in the end, if any at all.

Fianna Fáil decided to facilitate the passage of this budget, and subsequently this Finance Bill, because it was clear to us that Ireland needed a stable Government at this time. We must all continue to do everything in our power to protect jobs from the cold reality of Brexit. People up and down the country, in urban and rural areas alike, are rightly concerned over the future of their livelihoods when Brexit, no matter what form it takes, materialises. A no-deal Brexit, though now unlikely, is still possible. That means the assumptions underpinning this budget still stand. With more than €16 billion in goods exported from Ireland to the UK, a no-deal Brexit would represent a step change in Ireland's economic relationship with the UK. A no-deal Brexit brings with it job losses and a return to deficit spending. It will not only lead to east-west checks on goods moving between our two countries but would also inevitably mean checks going north and south.

The Brexit deal announced last week is no doubt better than a no-deal scenario. However, it would be a mistake to call a Brexit under this existing deal a soft, seamless Brexit. A hard Brexit is still a possible outcome, especially when one considers the changes from the deal agreed with Theresa May, in that the UK will, in effect, leave a customs union in a scenario where no free trade arrangement is agreed, so tariffs could potentially apply from the end of 2020.

It will be difficult for those businesses importing goods from Great Britain as the reality of regulatory divergence comes to pass. At the end of it all, we could be back here again at the end of 2020, still finding ourselves on the precipice of the UK walking away, essentially without a deal. Free trade agreements can take many years to finalise and oftentimes can take over a decade. Yet as it stands under this deal, the EU and the UK will have just 12 months. I do not believe anyone thinks that is a realistic timeframe. Brexit is not going away, regardless of whether this deal is ratified by the House of Commons or not. I would urge the Minister and the Government to be forthcoming when time permits with an economic impact assessment of the deal reached last week and what that means for Ireland.

At the outset of negotiations for budget 2020, Fianna Fáil wanted assurances the industries most impacted by a no-deal Brexit would be protected insofar as is possible. Those sectors are as follows: the tourism sector, which relies heavily on UK tourists coming here and spending their hard-earned cash; the agrifood sector, which exports most of its produce to the UK; and the small businesses throughout the country that find it far more challenging to adapt to an ever-changing environment. Fianna Fáil insisted these sectors were given the support they needed to get through the potentially choppy waters of a no-deal Brexit scenario. While the budget day announcement of a Brexit fund, principally for these three sectors, is to be welcomed, we have concerns about whether this funding can be deployed in a timely manner if a no-deal Brexit comes to pass. The various loan schemes announced in the past year or so have not had a significant uptake. They are tied up in too much red tape to be deployed in an efficient manner. Of the funding announced on budget day for a no-deal Brexit, it is unclear whether it has been granted state aid approval. Perhaps as the finance Bill moves through the Oireachtas, the Minister can provide clarity on that issue. It is critical that if a no-deal Brexit materialises at the end of this month or at the end of January, this funding be deployed quickly and effectively to the businesses that need it most.

I would like to know what will happen if this deal is ratified by the House of Commons. Based on our understanding of the Minister's speech on budget day, the €650 million in funding will not be deployed if a no-deal Brexit is prevented. Aside from Brexit, Ireland faces many risks in the coming 12 months and beyond. Growth in our economy is set to slow, regardless of Brexit happening next year. Globally, we are seeing more protectionism and a ratcheting up of trade tensions. As we speak, tariffs are set to increase on certain goods being exported from the EU to the US. As a small and open economy, Ireland is particularly vulnerable to changes in global trade.

In my budget day speech, I outlined the risks Ireland faces in terms of our reliance on corporation tax receipts. We know 45% of our receipts in 2018 come from just ten companies. Undoubtedly, these companies are all foreign-owned multinationals. That is about €4.7 billion in tax from ten companies alone. Let us be in no doubt the global corporate tax regime is changing rapidly, and this has the potential to have very significant impacts on Ireland. The OECD has recently released details of the new base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, roadmap that could change the way corporation tax rights are allocated between countries and could well pave the way for a global minimum effective tax rate for companies. While Fianna Fáil will always defend our 12.5% corporate tax rate, there is little doubt these changes will reduce its effectiveness in attracting foreign direct investment, FDI, to Ireland. In the past 24 hours alone, we have seen more than 800 job losses confirmed in Shannon and in my constituency, Cork South-Central, so there is no room whatsoever for complacency.

We need to rebalance the economy towards the small and medium enterprise, SME, sector. We will always support the FDI that comes to Ireland and we need to work hard to continue to win new business for our country. However, we also need to ensure we have a supportive tax and enterprise environment for SMEs throughout our land. The Minister announced various changes to the KEEP scheme, the employment and investment incentive scheme, EIIS, the SARP scheme, the foreign earnings deduction scheme and the research and development tax credit. These changes, I hope, will reduce the amount of red tape and open these incentives to more firms, whether they are pre-trading start-ups or developed companies seeking to grow.

While I welcome the changes announced, I regret to say we have been here before. Tax schemes are proposed that in principle would assist SMEs, but when we get down to the nitty gritty in the finance Bill, what was proposed as a tax incentive can turn into an administrative nightmare. Business owners applying for these schemes need to put in a lot of hard work or spend a large amount of money on expensive tax consultants and accountants. The logical conclusion therefore, is that SMEs will sometimes walk away and not apply for these reliefs. Take the KEEP scheme for example. It was sought by industry for quite some time. SMEs, particularly in the tech industry, were looking for a mechanism by which they could compete with larger companies for talent. In budget 2018, the Minister first announced the KEEP scheme and the subsequent finance Bill placed that scheme into law. The hope at the time was that the scheme would do what it said on the tin. Unfortunately, the reality was different. In budget 2018, it was anticipated the KEEP scheme would be a game changer for many of these firms. However, we stand here today and only 87 employees have signed up for it. I note the changes to the various tax schemes announced by the Minister on budget day, but we must ensure the provisions in this Finance Bill do exactly what they are supposed to do and help SMEs to progress and grow, not hinder them from doing so.

I note, too, the areas that were not covered in this budget. The self-employed are still waiting to be treated equally with PAYE workers. We are seeing some progress again in this budget, but we are not seeing equalisation. The entrepreneurial relief has been left unchanged. As the UK gets ready to leave the EU, our relief stands in contrast to the UK offering, and not in a positive light. We still have the lifetime limit of only €1 million, which is paltry when compared to the £10 million limit that operates in the UK. The capital gains tax, CGT, rate in general stands as among the highest in the EU at 33%. I note that just last weekend in The Sunday Business Post, the Irish Medtech Association made it clear Ireland's high capital gains tax rate is proving a big challenge for the sector. According to that article, there has been a notable increase in the number of entrepreneurs looking to invest abroad due to our CGT environment. Not only do we need more progress on entrepreneurial relief, we also need to see progress on the headline CGT rate.

I welcome the introduction of the de minimis relief for the betting duty. l, along with many other Deputies, raised issues around the application of betting duty last year during the budget and the Finance Bill. What has been announced does not go far enough and it will not stem the tide we are witnessing of small and independent bookmaking firms having to close many outlets.

I turn to the issue of VAT on food supplements. I note section 54 of the Bill, which moves to provide that food supplements will be subject to VAT at a rate of 13.5%. The story behind the VAT treatment of food supplements is a long one. Food has a 0% rate applied to it, and food supplements were previously also treated in this way. That is the historical context. Back in 2018, issues were raised with many of us on how the Revenue Commissioners were treating food supplements at a regional level for the purposes of VAT. There seemed to be confusion and inconsistent treatment regarding what food was and what a food supplement was and what the difference was. I raised this in last year's Finance Bill. We made it clear then this was an emerging issue that had to be dealt with. At the time the Minister accepted there was an issue and committed to having it reviewed in the tax strategy papers. After the commitment was given, the Revenue Commissioners made a separate decision and indicated that from the end of March 2019, food supplements would be subject to the 23% VAT rate. Its determination in this regard stems from its contention that there is no specific reference in legislation that warranted the 0% treatment for food supplements. This was a huge change for the industry and instantly put many businesses at risk of closure. At that time, along with others, we called on the Revenue Commissioners to put off the application of the 23% VAT rate, pending the outcome of the work of the tax strategy group, TSG. It did not help matters when the Taoiseach rose to his feet in this House and referred to food supplements as "snake oil". The Taoiseach's glib response was insulting to the people who use food supplements and the businesses that sell them. Thankfully, at the time, the Revenue Commissioners agreed to defer their decision until a public consultation took place and the tax strategy group had an opportunity to examine the issue. The issue, as it stands, revolves around the reason a zero rate of VAT was applied to food supplements. One side of the debate argues the Revenue Commissioners originally deemed food supplements to be food, which, under legislation, is zero rated for VAT. The Revenue Commissioners argued this was a concession, though it only started using that term in the past year or so, and therefore, in its view, there is no basis in legislation for food supplements to be zero rated. Consulting with the sector, I have been briefed in detail on the state of affairs. I have seen documents released under the Freedom of Information Act 2014, which indicate food supplements were classified by the Revenue Commissioners as food products. I understand this case will end up in the courts next year and we await the outcome of that process. I understand the Revenue Commissioners is independent and cannot be instructed by this House or the Government except of course through the laws we enact here.

The Minister might clarify why he is not in a position to legislate for food supplements to be zero rated. I have no doubt this issue will be debated at length on Committee Stage. Why was the particular rate selected? Why was the 9% VAT rate, which sits within our VAT code, not selected?

A legacy issue has also resulted in confusion. Many businesses have applied a zero rate of VAT and were cleared as being tax compliant by the Revenue Commissioners. Suddenly, Revenue changed its view and these companies found they had large tax bills. They received threatening letters and their businesses were put at risk. We need this issue to be dealt with in a comprehensive and fair manner because it has been all over the shop until now.

Here we are again in 2019 having to close loopholes for certain fund structures operating in Ireland. No matter how many amendments we make to the law, these funds continue to be one step ahead of the curve. Highly paid lawyers and accountants are continuously finding ways of extracting money out of these funds without paying significant taxes or any tax at all. First, we had the section 110 structure that we and others highlighted over time. Loans with artificially high interest rates were used to extract money out of these funds without tax being paid. We always seem to be a number of steps behind the curve and we desperately need a mechanism that identifies these aggressive tax structures to close the loopholes much quicker or, ideally, ensure we design laws whereby they are not there in the first place.

I welcome the changes made in the budget on IREFs and REITs. These funds are earning large profits in Ireland and they need to be taxed appropriately. The introduction of limitations on interest expenses for IREFs based on debt-to-property costs and on an income-to-interest ratio is to be welcomed. The system has also tightened for REITs. Under the legislation, proceeds distributed from the disposal of a rental property will be subject to DWT. These two anti-avoidance measures alone are projected to bring in €80 million a year. One must ask how much would have been brought in if these loopholes had been identified and closed much earlier. We need to deal with this matter comprehensively on Committee Stage. The Minister has indicated he intends to table amendments and we will study them closely.

The home carer's tax credit was again increased in the budget and we very much welcome this. It was a key issue for us in the confidence and supply agreement. It has increased from €1,000 to €1,600 and this is to be warmly welcomed. In the past, I have raised the issue of what I regard as a low drawdown of this particular credit. Revenue has made some progress in automatically extending the credit to people entitled to it but I continue to come across people whom I believe are entitled to it but who are not claiming it because they are simply not aware of it. We need to deal with this issue.

I want to raise the issue of how VRT is applied to hybrid vehicles. I welcome that the Minister has pushed the proposed VRT changes until 2021. The new worldwide harmonised light vehicle test procedure, WLTP, while welcome, would distort the current VRT system and reform will be needed. It would counterproductively penalise people buying newer cleaner cars. We need to take time to fully look at the impact of the WLTP changes and then reform the VRT system and widen the bands in a manner that is appropriate for 2021.

Section 50 makes a subtle change to the VRT rules that could have a significant adverse impact on hybrids. It stipulates that hybrid electric vehicles with CO2 emissions in excess of 80 g/km will not qualify for VRT relief. With a new VRT system coming into place in 2021, this is an issue that will impact 2020 sales only. According to the people in the industry with whom I have discussed this, 70% of hybrids sold in Ireland are above this threshold and, therefore, in 2020 will not qualify for the VRT relief the Minister is extending on a restricted basis. The real issue is that for the first quarter of 2020 cars have been ordered and are in the system. If people in the industry had known this change was coming they could have changed the product mix being brought to the Irish market to ensure more cars qualified for the VRT relief. We will discuss this issue with the Minister in detail on Committee Stage. He should consider pushing it out by a couple of months to allow what has been ordered to wash through the system. Otherwise, it will be distorted.

Changes were made on budget day by way of financial resolution that addressed certain stamp duty issues relating to share transactions. Financial Resolution No. 5 and section 60 of this legislation impose a stamp duty charge where there is an agreement to acquire a target company and that target company enters into an arrangement whereby the shares in that company are cancelled. Under previous provisions, this was a method to sidestep the 1% stamp duty charge. While I am totally in agreement with the change made by the Minister, in the interest of tax certainty he should consider including a provision that would exclude transactions where shareholders have been notified of this transaction.

Issues have also been raised about the rebate scheme announced for the haulage industry as a consequence of the increase in carbon tax. It was announced on budget day that this scheme would compensate the industry for increases in the tax. Section 41 outlines how the scheme will work. There are concerns that the parameters put in place by the section still leave hauliers in a worse-off position. We will tease it out on Committee Stage. I ask the Minister to consider the possibility of backdating the provisions to when carbon tax was increased on budget day.

Almost 12 months ago, Fianna Fáil decided to extend the confidence and supply arrangement to ensure there was no election in 2019. The backdrop of that decision was the uncertainty and chaos that was evident in Westminster. As we gather this evening to discuss budget 2020 in legislative form, that uncertainty persists and is equally relevant. We still do not know what Brexit will materialise or when it will materialise. As a party, we will engage constructively, as we have done on previous budgets, on Committee Stage with all Members to tackle the issues I have outlined and many others I have not had an opportunity to cover in a short Second Stage contribution. We look forward to engaging with the Minister and all Members on Committee Stage.

Fáiltím roimh an díospóireacht seo inniu sa Teach. Beidh díospóireacht chuimsitheach againn nuair a théann seo go dtí Céim an Choiste ina mbeimid ag plé seo thar trí lá agus muid ag mionscrúdú na n-ábhar atá sa Bhille seo.

It has been two weeks since we heard the Government announce its budget, which was framed in the context of Brexit. As I said then, and reiterate now, Brexit was always going to have an impact on the budget but it should not have defined it. As I said then, Brexit did not set the parameters for the budget; those parameters were set by the Government.

As we discuss the Bill in great detail in the Chamber and in the coming weeks on Committee Stage, we will have a greater opportunity to debate those choices the Government took. The budget was an opportunity to give workers and families a break as they faced out-of-control rents, rip-off insurance premiums and unaffordable childcare costs but it did nothing to deal with any of those issues. Instead, it hit households with the hike in carbon tax, a policy that will not change behaviours but will just make those families and households poor. I will go through certain aspects of the Bill before offering greater scrutiny on Committee Stage. There are some parts I would like to touch on but will not have an opportunity until Committee Stage, and the Minister knows I will go through each one of them thoroughly.

Budget 2020 was a bad day for workers and families but a great day for multinational executives because the Government chose in the Bill to extend SARP, a wee scheme that very few of the public know about but with which many of wealthy executives are all too familiar. The scheme allows them to write off one third of their salary against income tax. It means a multinational executive who moves to Dublin on a salary of €1 million is able to dodge more than €123,000 in tax, which anybody else would have to pay. As people were wondering what they gained from the budget, and "Prime Time" put up slides showing that people gained little if anything and that they lost as a result of the carbon tax, up to 1,000 people were rubbing their hands with glee, popping the champagne corks and toasting the Minister because they will be €123,000 better off next year as a result of a measure in the legislation that every member of Fianna Fáil will endorse and support.

Let people hear that clearly. This was not a budget that changed the fortunes of the many but did change the fortunes of the few who always have the ear of the Government and Fianna Fáil and are always accommodated in legislation such as this. Other workers will have to pay tax of 40% on their salary above the standard rate band while these multimillionaire executives will pay tax of 28% above the standard rate band.

We do not even know the cost of this tax break but we can make some predictions. In 2016, 793 people, 18 of whom were millionaires, used this tax break and it cost the State €18 million. In 2017, 1,084 people, 31 of whom were millionaires, used this tax break and it cost taxpayers €28 million. If that increase of 55% in the cost of the tax break between 2016 and 2017 is mirrored into 2018, 2019 and 2020, this tax break will cost the Irish people €100 million next year. At the same time, the Government is handing out only €5 million for lone parents and €18 million to increase medical card thresholds for the over 70s. Those were the choices of the Government and, in other areas, it did nothing. Despite the risk to the public finances posed by Brexit, the Government thought it appropriate to provide a tax break to executives, some of them millionaires, which could cost the State up to €100 million annually.

Despite all of the expert advice on another measure, the Government and Fianna Fáil have decided to press ahead with the help-to-buy scheme, extending it for another two years in section 15 of this Bill, at a cost of another €100 million in 2020 alone. That is €40 million more than was allocated for additional social housing.

I spoke in this Chamber last week and, speaking to the Tánaiste, I raised the issue of Sam, a five year old child who was eating his dinner from a piece of cardboard on the streets in this city. There are other children sitting outside the GPO and doing likewise because they are not allowed hot food in emergency accommodation. Children are being provided with sleeping bags instead of emergency accommodation and a safe home. I spoke about how the nation wants to reach out and comfort those children, and there was an opportunity in this budget to do that. This nation and State, particularly us in this House as the representatives and voices of the people, could do that by making the right choices but the only outstretched hand from this Government reached out to comfort multinational executives who are getting the tax breaks in this Finance Bill.

The Government has sold out the children of this nation who need a helping hand now. The Minister has reintroduced this tax break by extending the scheme. More than one fifth of houses that were bought through this scheme were bought at a cost of more than €375,000. Worse still, 40% of the people who availed of this tax break already had the 10% deposit that was needed to get the mortgage to buy the house. That 40% equates to €40 million that was handed out to people who did not need it to get the deposit to buy a house and yet Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil think that money is better spent in their pockets than it would have been spent in reaching out to people like Sam and many others who deserved a break in this budget. This is not an affordable housing scheme no matter what way it is wrapped up. The report by the Parliamentary Budget Office made it quite clear that it has done nothing to reduce house prices and has failed to help low and middle-income earners onto the property ladder. This is the affordable housing strategy of the Government and Fianna Fáil, the party of home ownership for only the wealthiest in society.

What has the Government done for the self-employed in the Finance Bill? Quite simply, not enough. The Government promised, in the programme for Government, to equalise the earned income tax credit and PAYE tax credit, bringing it to €1,650 by 2018. We will soon be entering 2020 and the self-employed are still waiting because it is only going to reach €1,500, €150 short of the amount promised to be delivered in 2018. Sinn Féin has shown clearly that equalisation should have happened and the Government has still chosen not to do it.

Section 64 of this Finance Bill provides an increase on the capital acquisitions tax, CAT, threshold from €325,000 to €335,000 at a cost of €11 million. That increase is unjustified and amounts to nothing more than a giveaway to the wealthiest in society. For the average family, the new threshold is still set above the average house price in the State, which stands at approximately €257,000. If we are to be honest with ourselves and the people, this was a gift from the Government to the wealthiest households in Dublin. Its sole policy outcomes will be to increase inequality, narrow the tax base and reduce available resources for our public services.

I will come to some of the issues that I welcome in the Finance Bill. We welcome the move in the Bill to heed Sinn Féin's calls to tackle the serious tax avoidance among property investors through REITs and IREFs. The Minister will know that I have continually banged on about this issue in this House and have submitted parliamentary questions. We have dealt with this matter in Finance Bills over a number of years and it has, unfortunately, fallen on deaf ears until this point. I welcome the move on that, particularly the provisions of section 28 which seem to close the re-evaluation loophole that was present upon REIT cessation by requiring that the relevant REIT must be in operation for over 15 years before enjoying preferential treatment. I would make the point that there should not be a CGT exemption even if a REIT was in operation after 15 years. If these properties are sold to a company after that time, the REIT should still not avail of a CGT exemption.

For example, Green REIT has latent property gains of over €100 million. It seems that this move should restrict the ability of the recent buyer of Green REIT, Henderson Park, from utilising the tax exemption that existed before and the Minister will be well aware that I have raised this case in particular with him on a number of occasions, both on the floor of the Dáil and through parliamentary questions. However, I ask the Minister, as I have before without answer, if the recent sale of Green REIT to Henderson Park will be caught within the change of this tax legislation.

Section 60 seems to close the tax loophole on stamp duty that has existed for investors for far too long. This Government decision is based on its listening to Sinn Féin on this issue but, unfortunately, it is a bit too late. The provisions of this Bill do not go far enough. Property investors have for too long been allowed to aggressively invest in property and avoid serious tax. They should be subject to the new 7.5% rate of commercial stamp duty just like everybody else. If somebody buys a sweet shop in my parish in Gweedore, they have to pay 7.5% stamp duty. When Henderson Park buys Green REIT, holding €1.34 billion of commercial property, it will pay 1% stamp duty.

The Minister will be familiar with what we did in the Finance Bill in 2018. At my instigation, we brought in an anti-tax avoidance measure where companies are able to sell shares at a rate of 1% but the anti-tax avoidance measure meant that gains derived from commercial property would be subject to a 6% rate. The idea and interpretation of legislation that means Green REIT is exempt from that anti-tax avoidance measure makes no sense and goes against the spirit of what I argued and for which I got support from the Government in bringing in that measure. That loophole should be closed in this Finance Bill. The sale of commercial property worth €1.34 billion under the control of Green REIT should be subject to stamp duty at the same rate as every other property that is sold in this State.

I have run out of time for my contribution but there is much more that I want to raise. I particularly want to make a point about the increased dividend withholding tax. Sinn Féin argued for its introduction in the first instance. After a period of time, the Minister agreed to that at a rate of 20% and that was welcome. Sinn Féin argued for that rate to be increased and, unfortunately, the Minister has not gone all the way to 33% but a move has been made, although we will argue it ought to go further.

As for the research and development tax credit, Sinn Féin has long argued that there needs to be a research and development-light scheme, which the Government is now introducing, and for SMEs to have preferential treatment for research and development at a 30% rate. I welcome that.

There are many other aspects of the Finance Bill that I will not get to because my colleagues want to come in on this debate but we will go through this in detail on Committee Stage. The closure of the loophole for Henderson Park, which will bring in millions of euro to this State, must be enacted in the Finance Bill.

I welcome the opportunity to speak on the Finance Bill and to again offer a critique of the Government's budget, some of the measures included in it, and more importantly for Sinn Féin, some measures that should have been included and were not because the Government made the wrong choices and failed to give workers and families a break that they needed.

I will begin with the increase in carbon tax. In my speech on budget day, I made the point that the tax was unfair and regressive, that it would make many working families poorer and that the analysis before the budget from the Minister's Department, accepted by him, was that carbon tax was regressive and that those on the lowest incomes would have to pick up the tab and pay the price. We have to win people over in order to reduce carbon emissions. We have targets to meet, and the only way we will do so is by ensuring that people change their behaviour and reduce their carbon footprint, but there is also a responsibility for large corporations and polluters. The point that the Minister has missed is that increasing carbon tax will not change people's behaviour. It will make people poorer, and if they do not have alternatives that is all it will do, but it will not make the State any greener or cleaner, which is the fundamental flaw in his argument.

In the Minister's closing remarks on budget day, after which there was not an opportunity for us to respond, he argued that those who opposed carbon tax were against taxes that change people's behaviour, but that is not the case. As he knows, we supported the introduction of sugar tax and the plastic bag levy. We did so because they work and because there is an alternative for people. If one drinks Coke, there is also Coke Zero, or if one drinks Fanta, there is also Fanta Zero. If there is an alternative, people have an opportunity to use it, and the same is true in the case of the plastic bag levy. It is not the case, however, in respect of carbon tax because the vast majority of people, as the Minister will be aware, do not have the means to change from heating their home with oil and gas to doing so with alternatives.

The vast majority of people cannot afford electric cars. The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport has indicated that the target in the Government's climate action plan of having 1 million electric cars on the road in the next ten years cannot be met. Even if it is possible, people will not be able to afford them unless the price falls dramatically. There are people living in rural Ireland who do not have access to public transport. I live in a rural village through which no bus, of any description, passes. People depend on their cars because they do not have an alternative. If they did, we could consider increasing carbon tax to change their behaviour. The way the Government chose to increase it, however, will do nothing more than increase revenue. The Minister should not tell us the Government will ring-fence the money for proposals that will reduce people's carbon footprint or be good for climate change mitigation. That can be done in any event, through progressive taxation and the other options the Government had, many of which we presented to him.

Teachta Pearse Doherty spoke about the convoluted schemes in place for executives who can avoid paying income tax. Moreover, banks make large sums of money and secure corporation tax exemptions, and the bank levy is not what it should be. That is because Fine Gael represents a cosseted, privileged class. I stated that on budget day and I firmly believe it. If it was interested in the plight of ordinary working people and had even the remotest understanding of what many families throughout the State go through weekly, it would have presented a different budget. The homeless people to whom Teachta Pearse Doherty referred, and the child seen eating food from cardboard, are not the only ones in such circumstances. There are families who no longer rent homes but rooms, and there are landlords who no longer let houses but rooms in houses. Some people, including families, pay €800 or €900 per month to rent a room in the capital city. That is the reality for many families but I do not believe that the Minister grasps that. There was zilch in the budget for them. The Government did nothing for families who need a home.

The health service is an issue that needed significant attention. I have on numerous occasions raised the lack of capacity at University Hospital Waterford. There are pressures at University Hospital Galway, University Hospital Limerick and in acute hospitals throughout the State. Record numbers of people lie on trolleys. It is not that Sinn Féin or anybody else is making up what I have outlined. The Government knows about it and the figures speak for themselves. The Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, releases the figures monthly and they show record numbers of people lying on hospital trolleys but the budget did little to mitigate that.

It was the same last year. There was another stand-still budget, although it may have been worse, with less money going into the health service in real terms, when increased demand, demographics and so on were taken into account. The same will happen this year. Fianna Fáil Deputies will waltz into the Chamber, and Fine Gael Deputies will probably do likewise, crying crocodile tears about the record numbers of people on hospital trolleys or without a home. The time to deal with such issues is on budget day, when the Minister should put his money where his mouth is, tax those who can afford to pay a bit more, raise the necessary revenue and provide for citizens, but that is not what he did. As the Government always does, it pretended there was no alternative.

We proposed an emergency freeze on rents for three years, and Berlin introduced a five-year freeze yesterday. The Government turned its back on the proposal, however, because it does not believe in helping tenants, although it certainly believes in supporting landlords. We sought a refundable tax credit of one month's rent, with a limit, to help tenants but the Government said "No". We sought a package of measures to reduce the cost of childcare but the Government said "No". We sought the provision of two free GP visits for every citizen in the State, to enable us to get to the point Sláintecare promised, but the Government said "No". It has committed to Sláintecare in theory but in practice and delivery, it is nowhere to be seen. The stand-out unfair announcement in the budget, which the Economic and Social Research Institute called a deeply regressive budget, was the increase in carbon tax. It did not take all the other steps that would have given workers and families a break.

The income tax section of the Finance Bill, and in the explanatory memorandum, has to be one of the shortest I have seen in any budget. In most years, some attempt is made to index tax bands and allowances to the level of the expected wage increase in the next year. While I accept that the Minister had to act with some caution in respect to Brexit and to give it significant consideration, it is nonetheless astonishing. As the Minister has noted on many occasions, including perhaps on budget day, he expects low income increases for most workers, at approximately 3% on average or, in some cases, up to 4.5%. The failure to index tax bands in any way means that for the majority of ordinary workers, the budget is highly regressive. Given the Government's previous commitment to developing greater equality in Irish society, the conscious decision to opt for a regressive budget at a time of a threatening Brexit is wrong. The budget could have made proper provision for Brexit but it need not have penalised ordinary workers at the lower levels of income in the way it did. The only increases, welcome and all as they are, included the increase to the home carer credit, from €1,500 to €1,600, or an increase of €100. Section 4 provides for an increase in the earned income credit for self-employed people from €1,350 to €1,500, or an increase of €150. That is all there is.

Section 8, a significant section, proposes to amend the special assignee relief programme, notwithstanding the research other people and I have done in respect of how it has developed.

The Minister has voiced some agreement with the view that this programme is effectively being abused and has become excessive. In section 8, the Minister has provided relief from income tax on 30% of salary between €75,000 and €1 million to qualifying employees on the special assignee relief programme, SARP. In effect, he is proposing to extend the special assignee relief programme to December 2022. He is doing so while giving a very large and significant benefit for at least another few years to very highly paid people, extending to those paid up to €1 million a year. What the Minister has done will be considered excessive by anyone with any sense of equality. It is not required.

The Economic and Social Research Institute, ESRI, examined the budget last week. This did not get much publicity but the ESRI stated that the budget was clearly regressive. I will make several points in this regard. First, on the losses arising from the freezing of the tax bands, while incomes are going up, tax bands for pay as you earn, PAYE, workers remain frozen. These workers end up paying more tax owing to fiscal drag. This is clearly regressive and creates a very large bounce in tax flows.

Moreover, an issue has arisen as a result of the distinction made between people in employment and those who are self-employed. As the Minister knows, when I was Minister for Social Protection I launched several reviews, in co-operation with his Department, which specifically examined bogus self-employment. People recognise that self-employed people who work hard are deserving of consideration, and we have welcomed this year's long-awaited and long-promised further increase in relief for the self-employed. However, due to the differential which arises on the basis that the self-employed do not make a comparable contribution in areas like social insurance contributions, the incentive to exploit bogus self-employment may increase greatly following this budget. I am sure the Minister could find a way to address that and I hope we can examine it in conversations on the Bill's details.

The Minister has given approximately €80 million to businesses through various tax breaks. These include the increase in the inheritance tax threshold by €15 million per year. I reiterate that, with the exception of a couple of very narrow cases, the Minister failed to offer people on social welfare or low earned incomes any improvement.

I also note a feature which was present in previous years. We will have time to tease it out in the budget discussions. Last year, the Minister said he would cast his eye around to see if he could identify tax-raising measures arising from better compliance procedures. These account for approximately €175 million of the additional money he expects to raise. I wish him luck in that regard. I hope we get that money, and more, but it is something we will need to discuss when we discuss the detail of the Bill.

Regarding carbon tax, the €2 increase to the fuel allowance will not really help the most vulnerable people. I was able to increase the fuel allowance by €2.50 per week when we were still emerging from a very difficult economic collapse. The Minister's increase of €2 per week for roughly half the year is the only social welfare increase. It means that a household on social protection will get an extra €1 per week. The Minister can hardly describe himself as some kind of Santa Claus in the run-up to Christmas.

I now turn to welfare issues in general. The failure to raise social welfare rates will mean a real cut in living standards for people heavily dependent on social welfare. It has done so already. The key issue for people on retirement pensions, carers and those with a disability who are, therefore, likely to be long-term recipients of social welfare is that they have no capacity to go out and find a job or to work extra hours. This is an issue I wish to take up with the Minister and his colleague, the Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection. Allowing carers to work more hours each week can result in their income exceeding a tax threshold. This happens when budgets include increases. I want to hear from the Minister that he or his colleague has proposals to address this differential. Everything counts for people on low incomes. They have to budget much more carefully than a Minister for Finance does to ensure they are able to afford the absolute necessities.

The ESRI made a point about this budget and its regressiveness. It noted that while there are losses across the board, the loss for those on top incomes is about 1% but the loss to lower-income households will be about 3%. That is a real black mark against this budget. The Minister has inverted expectations about fairness and equality so much that his budget will have a much worse effect on the less well-off than on people at the very top of the income scale. I remind him that a large number of less well-off people are in work. They are the people who get up in the morning, whereas many wealthy people do not even have to get out of bed. Many do need to but because many do not need to, we do not know if they get out of bed. The Government has employed certain rhetoric about people who get up and are active all day, every day. I note that this applies to most pensioners, carers and people with a disability, whom the Government has ensured will be left further behind.

The Minister positioned the budget around taking account of Brexit and a no-deal situation. We have had a very extensive discussion about a no-deal outcome in this country. We know that outcome may result in significant increases in the prices of certain foods, particularly manufactured, compounded and processed foods brought into Ireland from the UK. Many of these foods form a significant part of the diet of people on the lowest incomes. They are available in the major supermarkets where families and individuals do much of their grocery shopping. Despite this, in building the budget around Brexit the Minister seems to have entirely forgotten the argument about the price increases to which families are likely to be subjected.

The tax and benefit thresholds have not kept pace with inflation. Lone parents and pensioner couples have lost out most and according to the ESRI the targeted measures have not gone far enough. I have seldom read a more devastating analysis by the ESRI of any budget of the decade since the crash than the one it wrote on this budget. Assuming that we end up with a soft Brexit or better still - we all agree on this - with no Brexit, it is astonishing that the Minister targeted his measures in such a regressive way.

The Labour Party put forward alternatives. It is extraordinary that the banks in Ireland will pay no tax for the foreseeable future. We had the bank levy at the insistence of my party and, in particular if I may say so, of me when I was in government. I insisted on it and eventually won the case with the Minister's predecessor, Deputy Noonan. Those were in the days when the banking system was barely returning to recovery and profitability. The banks have been improving year by year recently. They are fattening themselves up, presumably to sell themselves off to international buyers. It is astonishing that the Minister did not consider increasing by a significant amount the bank levy. Banks should pay corporation tax. There should be a limit on the losses allowed for tax. Notwithstanding the losses they have available, they should be required to pay a minimum rate of corporation tax in each financial year on the profits that they generate. I got one of the Minister's predecessors, the late Brian Lenihan, to agree to that. It is a very simple measure and the alternative is the bank levy. I am really disappointed that the Minister did not review that. I could write down and post to the Minister all the excuses the banks will make as to why they should make no tax contribution on the €1 billion-plus profits that they are now earning. Some of them have gone over the individual mark on an individual banking basis.

In terms of a just and equitable tax system, it is deeply wrong that Fine Gael refuses to address the issue of asking validly for an appropriate contribution from the banks. They collapsed because of their behaviour and who bailed them out? It was the people of this country who pay PAYE tax. Who took salary cuts? It was the people in the public service who took the salary cuts. We welcome the banks being in recovery but we want every penny back or as many pennies of it as we can get.

We want it because the bank crash that they caused has ended up impacting negatively on our health service and housing. There is a series of requests for the further development of higher education in particular, which is one of the reasons we attract so much foreign investment. We need investment in primary education so that our children can go on and be successful in school, college and apprenticeships. We need more investment in preschool education because, as the Minister knows, notwithstanding the rather tepid additions he has made in preschool education this year, which are welcome but still need to be worked out, we will still have one of the highest net childcare costs in Europe.

I see the Minister smiling. Inevitably the childcare providers will use the modest improvements in the supports for parents with children in preschool and childcare facilities simply to charge extra fees. The newspapers have reported that when parents see an increase in support for childcare, there is an almost automatic reaction that childcare prices will rise. As I am sure the Minister is aware, our childcare costs are among the highest in Europe. The subsidy is now turning out to be an incentive to the childcare providers to increase prices. In terms of classical conservative economics, it is a subsidy gone wrong. We need to look at a State childcare model like primary education, which is provided by the State and the people who are qualified to work in that sector receive decent salaries appropriate to their qualifications, recognising their skills and the importance of this sector for young children and babies.

I raised the minimum wage on budget night. The Minister for Employment Affairs and Social Protection had essentially decided - and said so in her budget press conference - that the increase in the minimum wage was to be parked until we were sure about Brexit. For the people who get up in the morning and go out to work, it was appalling for the Government to suggest that an increase of 30 cent per hour for people on the lowest wages would be parked while people earning between €75,000 and €1 million would get a tax benefit. Where is the justice, equality or progressiveness in that? I cannot find any of those in the budget.

Last week, we had the international day for the eradication of poverty and the previous week we had the budget. We know that 780,000 people in Ireland are living in poverty, which is about one in six, including 250,000 children. Of those 780,000 people, 100,000 are in work and suffering from poverty. Some 700,000 people are on healthcare waiting lists and over 100,000 households are on waiting lists for social housing. The country has crisis after crisis.

On the night of the budget I described it as a tale of two budgets, one for the rich - the high earners, the developers and those at the very top of our society - and one for ordinary people, including those 780,000 people who suffer from poverty. The budget and the Finance Bill before us entrench that deep inequality and the poverty that exists in our society.

This is now the fourth budget and the fourth Finance Bill by this Government. Social Justice Ireland has done an analysis of those four budgets cumulatively. It stated:

Our analysis points towards the choices and priorities the Government has made. Overall these choices have given least to single welfare-dependent households and those on the lowest earnings.

In The Irish Times just before the budget came out, there was a similar analysis dating back to 2009. It involved case studies of people at different income levels, with different family situations and so on. The punchline was:

Worst of the bunch, however, is our low income worker, earning €22,000. She has seen her effective tax rate soar by 42 per cent since 2009, bringing her already low income down by €77 a month.

That compares with 2009. The accumulation of successive budgets that have favoured the wealthy at the expense of the rest has copper-fastened that situation and position with regard to inequality. Nothing in respect of this budget summed matters up better than the idea that as a result of Brexit, workers are going to have to wait. The very lowest paid workers will have to wait for a wage increase whereas the developers who will benefit from the help-to-buy scheme, the landlords who will benefit from the increase in the housing assistance payment and the rental accommodation supplement payments and the very highest earners who will continue to benefit from the massive SARP tax relief aimed at them will not. That sums up the discrimination in the Government's approach.

I will go through some of the sections now but we will go into them in more detail on Committee Stage. SARP is a very extreme, gross example of that very class-biased approach of the Government. It is very bluntly and nakedly a tax break for the richest, highest earners. To explain it to people who may not have heard of it and would certainly never dream of being eligible for it, in order to qualify a person has to be a foreign executive who has come here and be on an income higher than €75,000 a year. The relief extends up to an income of €1 million a year. If a person happens to be fortunate enough to be paid €1 million a year, he or she will benefit to the tune of €130,000. This represents a giveaway of public money on the part of the State. That €130,000 could be spent on many other things, for example, public transport, healthcare, education and, most importantly, housing, but the Government has chosen to give it to someone who already gets €1 million gross a year. It is an incredible tax break paid by the rest of us and by ordinary working-class people to those at the very top and it cost €9.5 million in 2015 and €18.1 million in 2016. As a result, the indication is that it is on an upward trajectory. That so much money will be given to the highest earners in our society is utterly scandalous at a time of so many social crises. It is scandalous that when one in six people is living in poverty, the Government would choose to persist with and extend that tax break for those already extremely wealthy people.

Another very good example of the neoliberal nature of the budget is the help-to-buy scheme. The Government in general and the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government in particular are always at pains to emphasise that his approach to the question of housing is not at all ideological, that it is extremely pragmatic and that he is just doing what will help resolve the crisis. The persistence with the help-to-buy scheme demonstrates that this is not the case. I accept that the Government believes it to be the case and that it is not informed by ideology when doing these things but the very decisions it makes in defiance of the evidence or in the absence of evidence to support its approach suggest that it is utterly blinded by the neoliberal ideology in which it believes and by the vested interests of developers, etc., who benefit from those policies. After the money in the help-to-buy scheme passes through the hands of a certain section of first-time buyers, it ends up in the hands of developers. That is how it is going to work.

There is a reason that the Construction Industry Federation lobbied extensively for the scheme's introduction and then lobbied for it to be extended. It did not do that because it is a lobby group for first-time buyers. That is evidently not the case. The federation is a lobby group for construction companies and developers. The reason it did what I have outlined is that it thinks this will artificially sustain prices to the benefit of the balance sheets and profits of those entities. This will be €100 million a year that will find its way into the pockets of developers. It is based on an ideological view of supply side economics that will somehow incentivise these people to deliver more by continuing to give them more money. Its operation for the subset of potential first-time buyers who can avail of it is extremely inequitable. It does not help any ordinary person who is trying to buy a house because it pushes up prices and makes houses less and less affordable. The average price for a new three-bedroom house in the greater Dublin area in 2018 was €330,000. Due to the loan income rules, a couple or individual seeking to purchase would have needed a household income of approximately €85,000 to afford that. Even in the context of the Minister's definition to the effect that €240,000 is the figure which represents what constitutes affordable housing, people would require household incomes of more than €60,000. Affordable homes do not exist in most cases. What about the 50% of workers who earn €30,000 or less a year? They are simply not able to avail of the scheme. It is not the lowest paid who have any chance of availing of this money, it is the middle and higher income earners. However, the money then ends up in the hands of the developers in any event.

There is no evidence that the scheme works to deliver more housing. Britain has a similar scheme and the Tory Government has agreed to wind it down in a few years' time. This is partly because of a study which demonstrated that half of those who availed of the scheme said they would have bought the houses in any case and did not need the scheme to buy them. Therefore, there is a massive deadweight. It demonstrates the ideological blinkers on the Government because surely, if so-called pragmatism is the logic for its housing policy, it would take this money and build houses. That is the simplest, most direct way of resolving the housing crisis, as opposed to giving the money to a subset of potential buyers and passing it on to developers and hoping that this will result in more homes being built.

That same ideological view or commitment to free market economics and the idea of nudging people into better behaviour through market incentives is expressed in the Government’s carbon tax. The Government’s credibility or any semblance of credibility it has on the environment is even less now two weeks on than it was on the night of the budget because, while trying to claim a concern about the environment and that it is in some way in line with those who were protesting for radical action to stop climate catastrophe, it has pushed ahead with a plan for one of the biggest liquefied natural gas, LNG, terminals in Europe, at Shannon.

This is an investment of massive amounts of public money in fossil fuel infrastructure that will be with us for decades and will create an incentive to continue to rely on fossil fuels when we need to be transitioning rapidly to a net zero carbon economy by 2030. This is not just any fossil fuel. It is one of the dirtiest fossil fuels - fracked gas - with all of the health implications of that and the greenhouse gas effects of methane in particular. Therefore, there is less credibility than there was two weeks ago in the Government's claim that the carbon tax is about it being environmentally friendly. It is not. This is a regressive tax. It is about hitting working-class people hard. The Government accepts it is a regressive tax, as do the ESRI and those who are well off. Those who are well off will not notice the increase in the carbon tax over the next number of years, whereas for those who are less well off, it will impact a significantly greater portion of their income.

The fundamental point is it does not work. The evidence internationally shows it does not work. A study of 19 different jurisdictions concluded that it would take 110 years for it to have any substantial impact in the change that we need. Nobody, in particular none of the scientists in the 97% of scientists who understand and recognise the human impact in terms of climate change, believes we have 110 years to turn the situation around. We have only ten years to do so. The idea that we can rely on these market mechanisms to work their way through over a long period of time is utterly ridiculous. We need an entirely different set of policies and to break from that free market ideology. Fundamentally, we need a planned economy to pivot away rapidly from the fossil fuel-based economy that we currently have towards a zero carbon and renewable-based economy that we need as part of a green new deal with socialist policies.

Section 41 deals with the diesel rebate scheme increase for road hauliers. For average households there is no rebate on the carbon tax, but for hauliers there is a rebate on it in a circumstance where transport accounts for 20% of emissions in Ireland, with 25% of that amount apportioned to the freight industry. A haulage tractor uses approximately 1,500 l of fuel in two to three weeks, which is approximately the same amount used in an average home per annum. Rather than giving a rebate on carbon tax to the haulage industry, we need to invest in electrifying the transport of goods and move the transport of goods onto rail in particular wherever possible. This is the way to achieve a serious cut in emissions as opposed to putting the burden onto working-class people and then paying the money back to hauliers.

Tax avoidance was a striking feature of the speech of the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, on the night of the budget. He made the point that the Government, very strangely, had discovered that there was a lot of tax avoidance going on through Irish real estate funds, IREFs, and similar schemes and that Revenue had identified that some IREFs had engaged in aggressive behaviour to avoid tax, as if that was a surprise. These schemes were set up to allow these people to avoid tax. Ireland is a tax avoidance hub, which is the reason there is €2.4 trillion worth of shadow banking activity here. Ireland is one of the biggest shadow banking hubs in the world and one the biggest tax avoidance centres in the world. The property corporate landlord sector is set up in a manner that facilitates massive tax avoidance. A representative of the UN wrote to the Irish Government about this and the impact in terms of human rights and the preferential tax treatment that was given to them. It is bizarre that it is presented in any way as being a surprise to the Government that there is massive tax avoidance taking place. It is at the very heart of the Government's capitalist developmental model.

While I welcome the moves in a number of different respects to close off some of these loopholes, there is a strong element of shutting the door after the horse has bolted. There are new tax loopholes being taken advantage of by these companies. Many of the former section 110 investors have moved on to investing in qualifying investor alternative investment funds, QIAIFs, and Irish collective asset management vehicles, ICAVs, and again are able to avoid paying tax on a massive scale. For example, the Davy Irish Property Fund, which has €2.5 billion worth in assets, made a profit of €190 million last year and paid zero corporation tax. The contrast between the treatment of the corporate landlord sector; high earners who can benefit from the special assignee relief programme, SARP, foreign earnings deduction, FED, and other schemes; the banks who continue to pay incredibly low rates of tax of, on average, about half the headline rate of corporation tax, with many banks, in particular Barclays, Royal Bank of Scotland, RBS, and Crédit Agricole, in reality paying less than 2% in corporation tax; and the treatment generally of working-class people and those on the lowest wages, who did not get an increase in basic payments in terms of social welfare and wages, or those whose increase in the minimum wage has been postponed, sums up the approach of this Government, which is to go with the neoliberal ideology that the market has to solve everything and we have to incentivise these people by funnelling the money to them in the hope that it will trickle down, when in reality the money under this system and the ideology and policies the Government pushes always flow upwards to those at the top who do not have to pay tax on most of it.

Budget 2020 needed to be a dynamic, proactive budget to protect the incomes of our people facing the challenge of Brexit and climate change actions. In the event, two weeks ago, the budget was a regressive imposition on huge cohorts of society, effectively cutting the real incomes of families and citizens on social protection and those in lower-paid jobs. Despite the concerns repeatedly expressed by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and civil society agencies like Social Justice Ireland, and the regressive increase in carbon tax, there was no attempt to widen the tax base and lessen Ireland's serious tax dependence on the corporation tax being paid by a small number of multinational companies. As Deputy Michael McGrath said earlier, 45% of it is paid by just ten companies.

Despite much good work being done by the Department of Finance in the tax strategy group papers, for which we thank the Department, there was no effort whatsoever in budget 2020 to address the huge cost of tax expenditures to the Irish Exchequer, excepting the Minister's effort to address the very serious and growing risk from the hard Brexit that has now been approved in principle by the UK House of Commons. Budget 2020 was largely a non-event. The Finance Bill 2019 before us is a fairly similar exercise, which despite a number of major insertions into the tax code, does nothing to ease the tax burden on lower-income citizens and families or address the medium and longer-term sustainability of corporation tax and the ongoing large annual leakage from national revenue through tax expenditures.

Almost one third of the Bill concerns a new Part 35A of the principal Act to reform the provisions on transfer pricing in section 26 and a new Part 35C to implement EU Directive 2016/1164 on hybrid mismatches in section 30. Transfer pricing refers to aspects of inter-company pricing arrangements between related business entities and includes inter-company tangible and intangible property transfers and finance transfers. The changes on transfer pricing are being introduced to bring our tax legislation into line with the 2017 OECD transfer pricing guidelines, and this new Part 35A of the principal Act will apply from 1 January 2020.

I understand that Irish transfer pricing rules currently apply to trading transactions that are chargeable to tax under Schedule D class 1 or class 2 of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. The new rules respond to reforms proposed in the Coffey review of the Irish corporation tax code, which is welcome. The new section on transfer pricing also follows on from the Department of Finance feedback statement following the earlier public consultation. Of course, the OECD 2017 transfer pricing guidelines in section 26 replace the existing 2010 guidelines. The new section extends the transfer pricing rules to cover cross-Border non-trading transactions. It removes the pre-July 2010 exemption for grandfathered arrangements and extends the rules for national capital transactions.

It is to be hoped the new rules will bring less bureaucratic transfer pricing documentation to SMEs. It has to be asked, however, what real impact this modernisation of transfer pricing rules will have on increasing tax flows to the Exchequer. Is it expected that companies will utilise further tax avoidance measures around transfer pricing? Other Deputies referred to this. It is like a cat-and-mouse struggle the whole time with some of these companies. I note for example that the budget 2020 tax policy changes report published by the Department of Finance with budget 2020 gives a yield of only €10 million in a full year from both the transfer pricing and anti-hybrid rules changes. That is a very small sum in the context of the massive flows of money in these companies.

The new 11-chapter amendment in section 30, inserted into the principal Act after Part 35B, concerns hybrid mismatches and also further implements EU Directive 2016/1164 of July 2016. This is the EU anti-tax avoidance directive, ATAD, and the aim of the new anti-hybrid rules is to prevent arrangements that exploit differences in the tax treatment of a financial instrument or entity under the tax codes of two or more jurisdictions to produce a tax advantage in the so-called hybrid arrangement. Associated enterprises are defined as holding a certain percentage, 25% or 50%, of the shares, voting rights or rights to profit in another entity or if there is another company that holds that percentage in both entities. Companies included in the same consolidated financial statement, or where one entity has significant influence on the management of another, will also be considered associated companies under the new Part 35C of the principal Act.

The new chapters 7, 8 and 9 of this Part on tax residency mismatches, on imported mismatch outcomes and on so-called structured arrangements seem valuable innovations into the Irish tax code. We will get a chance to discuss them further on Committee Stage. Will the senior Minister confirm that all the specific situations set out in ATAD, which goes through very specific situations, are now covered by the new Part 35C? The new rules apply especially in fund and financing structures when companies make payments that give rise to a tax deduction in Ireland, but no other country taxes the associated receipt by reason of hybridity. The types of mismatch outcomes that may arise seem very complex and may be difficult for the Revenue to police when they come into effect after 1 January next year, given that hybrid financial instruments are broadly those that are treated as debt in one jurisdiction but as equity in another. The hybrid entity is often seen as opaque in one jurisdiction, often in our jurisdiction, but transparent in another.

Last year the Parliamentary Budget Office, PBO, produced an interesting briefing on tax expenditures in Ireland, briefing paper 13 of 2018. This was in response to requests from a number of members of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, including me and Deputy Boyd Barrett, for more information and consideration of the massive cost of tax expenditures. Indeed, I raised this very issue with the Taoiseach on Leaders' Questions shortly after he took office. I think it was the first time I did Leaders' Questions with him. The Parliamentary Budget Office report called for a definitive list of benchmark measures and tax expenditures that are in effect in Ireland. The PBO also asked for alternative measures for estimating the cost of tax expenditures given the underlying inherent weaknesses in the standard revenue forgone method, which I think the Department is still using. The final revenue forgone methodology incorporating behavioural effects and the introduction of different policy measures were advocated, rightly, by the PBO, which also asked that the data provided by the Revenue Commissioners and the data of the Department of Finance be consolidated, notwithstanding general data protection regulation, GDPR, and privacy considerations, in respect of the cost of tax expenditures.

While there has been some improvement in the review process for tax expenditures by the Department of Finance, the PBO and the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, of which I am a member, have also called for systematic ex ante reviews of all tax expenditures to assess their appropriateness and planned implementation. However, there is no such detailed ex ante evaluation for changes in this Finance Bill beyond the cursory estimates in the budget 2020 tax policy changes document. We do not know what a lot of these measures are going to cost or what kind of revenue they are going to bring in. On base erosion and profit shifting, BEPS, implementation for corporation tax, that document estimates the anti-hybrid rules changes and the reforms of transfer pricing together as worth just an additional €12 million to the Exchequer, as I said earlier.

A key criticism in the PBO report on tax expenditures is that, once enacted, tax expenditures are not subject to regular parliamentary debate and scrutiny, unlike directly voted expenditure, where we can keep coming back to areas like health and housing. The cost of these tax expenditures is massive. The PBO estimates the cost at €4 to €5 billion per annum in 2014 and 2015 and at more than €5 billion in 2016. The research and development tax credit alone was costed at €670 million in 2016 at its last review; capital acquisitions tax, CAT, agricultural relief cost €141 million in 2017; and film industry relief cost €88 million in 2015. In the same year, relief supporting business cost €559 million and the cost of tax expenditures relating to share-based remuneration cost almost €74 million in 2016. These are massive expenditures by the State. My colleague, Deputy Connolly, drew attention yesterday to an elderly woman waiting for five hours on a trolley and ending up on the ground in great distress for many hours. These are incredible expenditures in the context of what is wrong with health and housing.

This Finance Bill anticipates some of the serious difficulties for business as we face into some type of Brexit, and it looks like the Brexit on the side of England, Scotland and Wales is going to be a very hard one. However, the costs of benefit-in-kind in section 5; the special assignee relief programme, SARP, in section 8; the key employee engagement programme, KEEP, in section 10; the living city initiative in section 17; distributions in section 22; and scientific and certain other research in section 24 must be closely invigilated. The budget 2020 tax policy changes report estimates the cost of all of these more or less together as being €80 million in total in a full year. Where is the breakdown on these tax expenditures and on the exact cost of these reliefs being rolled over into 2019? Deputy Paul Murphy has just spoken about SARP, a very unfair expenditure that is being rolled over to December 2022. It is hoped we will have a new Government by then. When the impact of direct taxes, such as the increase in carbon tax from €20 to €26 per tonne of carbon dioxide emitted in section 44, is examined, the Department of Finance is able to come up with a very precise figure of €130 million in a full year. Likewise, the introduction of a nitrogen dioxide charge in section 49 is estimated to bring in €25 million in a full year.

The Irish financial crash under the austerity Government spawned our current desperate homelessness and housing crises and the arrival of the vulture property companies, which were welcomed here by the former Minister for Finance, Deputy Noonan, who told us that vultures perform an essential task in the ecosystem by picking the carcass clean. In this case, however, the carcass comprised vulnerable Irish citizens and households. The Department of Finance prepared a valuable briefing on real estate investment funds, Irish real estate funds, IREFs, and section 110 companies in July 2019, as part of the tax strategy group papers. Deputies are grateful for all the work the Department has done in this regard, which has helped to inform us when we approached this Bill and has informed the work of the Committee on Budgetary Oversight and the Joint Committee on Finance, Public Expenditure and Reform, and Taoiseach. This explained the evolution of real estate investment trusts, REITs, as quoted companies and collective investment vehicles to hold rental property, which started in the United States in the 1960s and has now spread to more than 35 countries, including something like 14 EU countries, based on the principle that only the distributions are taxed.

The Kenny-Gilmore Government introduced a very pliable tax regime for these vehicles in the 2013 Finance Act. I refer to Part 25A of the Taxes Consolidation Act 1997. Section 23 of the 2016 Finance Bill introduced a new tax regime for funds that hold IREF assets. During 2016 also, issues arose with the use of section 110 structures to avoid tax. Sections 28 and 29 of the present Bill, on REITs and IREFs, seem very small, positive steps to making these entities contribute a bit more fairly to the Exchequer, although the changes in the 2019 Bill for both REITs and IREFs seem to yield only €80 million in a full year. REITs will also be subject to tax where they claim deductions for payments that are not wholly linked to their property rental business.

As indicated in budget 2020, IREFs will be subject to tax at 20% on certain deemed income. I presume further details on REITs' and IREFs' tax returns and compliance measures will be available to us on Committee Stage.

Section 60, which inserts a new section 31D into the principal Act, seems an important, useful anti-avoidance measure since stamp duty of 1% will apply where court-approved schemes of arrangements are used in acquiring Irish companies, including REITs. Given the increasing shift to private renting sponsored by this Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil Government, this Finance Bill, like every Finance Bill since the State was formed, clearly shows these parties relentlessly working on the side of the massive property and developer industry, which has such powerful allies in the media and across the professional classes.

Will the day ever come when supernormal profits from this grotesque industry will be clearly and fairly taxed in a Finance Bill? Section 66 in Part 6 of the Bill introduces the new Chapter 3A implementing the mandatory automatic exchange of information in relation to reportable cross-Border arrangements. The new clause 3A inserts EU Directive 2018/822 of May 2018 amending Directive 2011/16/EU into the Irish tax code. This also seems a welcome improvement to the principal Act. EU Directive 2019/22 is colloquially known as DAC 6 and imposes new obligations on intermediaries or taxpayers who enter into certain cross-border arrangements. It facilitates the exchange of information between the tax authorities across the European Union and the intention is to detect and deter aggressive tax planning and tax avoidance with an EU cross-border context. Perhaps the Minister will expand on the role of intermediaries and hallmarks on Committee Stage.

One point I wish to mention, which I mentioned earlier at the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, is that when most legislation comes in here, Deputies receive a full and detailed background briefing on it. The only Bill on which we do not appear to receive such a briefing from the Library and Research Service or so far from the Parliamentary Budget Office is on the Finance Bill, which is a 120-page document. Perhaps that is something that the Ceann Comhairle, when he gets a chance, could take up on our behalf.

The Taoiseach, Deputy Varadkar, continually held out the prospect of tax improvements for ordinary taxpayers during the run-in to budget 2020. Of course, tax bands and credits are almost completely frozen in budget 2020 and this Finance Bill. The increase in the home carer credit to €1,600 in section 3 and the earned income credit to €1,500 in section 4 are very welcome, as is the one-year extension of the reduced rate of USC for medical card holders. The other Chapter 4 income tax improvements, including the training allowance payments, other education related payments, and certain pension reliefs are also welcome. In general, however, relief for income tax payers on lower and middle incomes is totally lacking in this Finance Bill. This reality clearly shows the Government's intention to make ordinary taxpayers and social protection recipients pay for the Brexit uncertainty and crisis and for climate action remedial measures, despite all the talk about dividends from hypothecated taxes and so on. There is no word of that in this Bill.

As report after report of the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council has urged, net policy spending can be significantly increased in desperately needed areas like health and social housing. This Fine Gael-Fianna Fáil regime, however, has resolutely set its face against measures like significant taxation of the property industry. In my budget submission to the Minister, I advocated, for example, an increase in the vacant site levy to 25% to deter land hoarding by developers, which would realise more than €100 million a year, and a 43% tax rate on earnings above €100,000 per annum, which would bring in nearly €400 million to the Exchequer.

A fortnight ago, the well-known economist, Mr. David McWilliams, cogently explained in The Irish Times that "taxing the ultra-wealthy makes economic sense". Mr. McWilliams referred to estimates and data on the wealthiest cohort of Irish society. Both the European Central Bank's Household Finance and Consumption Survey, HFCS, and the Credit Suisse Bank give revealing insights into wealth in this country. The European Central Bank's HFCS shows that the top 5% of the Irish population owned almost 38% of all Irish wealth and the top 1% owned an extraordinary 27%. That would also include land, valuable assets, stocks, shares, etc. Mr. McWilliams reports that a sliding wealth tax of between 0.5% and 5% on the top 1% or 5% of the population would yield a minimum of €2 billion, that is, putting 0.5% on the top 1%, up to an incredible €20 billion for the Exchequer, if 5% is put on the top 5% of the population, who control over a quarter of our wealth.

We had that discussion several times at the Committee on Budgetary Oversight, with the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and the Minister. There are resources and it is coming to a time, astonishingly even in countries like the United States, where legislators are beginning to think seriously about returning to the kind of wealth tax and high-income regimes that we had right down to the Thatcher and Reagan period, where the wealthiest in society, those who can most bear the cost of providing a decent, humane health system, providing housing for those who need it, and providing public transport, where those people who have those resources can make a bigger contribution. Such a wealth tax would truly broaden the tax base but there will never be such an initiative in a budget or a Finance Bill in this country until we remove both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil from the leadership of Irish Governments.

I am happy to speak on this Bill, which seeks to give effect to the taxation changes announced on budget day. Section 2 of the Bill provides that the reduced rate of universal social charge for full medical card holders whose individual annual income does not exceed €60,000 will be extended for a further year until the end of the 2020 tax year, which I welcome. We know from the ESRI that income tax, including the universal social charge, is the largest individual source of tax revenue in Ireland, accounting for more than 35% of the total. Thus, fluctuations in this source of revenue have a significant bearing on the total tax take.

As the Minister was at pains to say, the budget and Finance Bill were framed with an eye or two looking over our shoulder at what was happening across the pond in England regarding Brexit. Nonetheless, I believe the budget lacked any form of imagination or real effort to look after ordinary people or families.

I want to speak about the broader health-related measures being introduced. The Minister is providing for a €25 increase in the weekly income threshold for GP visit cards and a 50 cent reduction in prescription charges from €2 to €1.50 for all medical card holders over the age of 70. There will also be a €10 reduction in the monthly drugs payment scheme threshold from €134 to €124. All these moves are welcome even if we believe far more ambitious movement could have been made on each of them.

I ask for some clarity on whether funding has been considered that would enable us to waive or reduce the fees for accident and emergency care for children who suffer from conditions which necessitate regular attendance at hospital accident and emergency units. This is very important because if one has a sick child who is prone to becoming seriously ill quite quickly, one needs to be able to access accident and emergency units and have these charges waived. We had a situation where a 74 year old woman was knocked off a trolley by a drunk. Something has to be done about these people, who are drunk, on drugs or whatever, causing mayhem and bedlam. We have to pay security to try to protect our front-line staff, who must be protected. We will have to consider taking those people elsewhere. I have an idea where I would send them, particularly if they are repeat offenders. They take up Garda, security and everyone's time. The terror they perpetrate in the accident and emergency unit, in the hospital and on the patients, young and old, is not acceptable. We should not be pussyfooting around this issue and we should deal with these people. They are repeat offenders who do not seem to care what kind of mayhem or bedlam they cause. They may be hell-bent on damaging their own lives. I am not saying to lock them up and throw away the keys. What I am saying is that we need to protect our accident and emergency units which are under extreme pressure and we should deal with the people we need to deal with.

When I raised this matter with the Minister, he said that the Health (Out-Patient Charges) Regulations will continue to insist that the charge shall only be made in respect of the first occasion the service, such as where a child goes to an accident and emergency unit, is provided in respect of each episode of care.

It is not. There is no clarity. They are being charged. I would like to see budgetary discretion in terms of a full waiver for those who simply cannot afford the fees. If they are that sick, they have to go to an accident and emergency department.

The Minister announced that an additional €84 million will be provided for mental health services in 2019, bringing the total available funding for mental health to €1 billion, representing an increase of 9%. Deputy Healy is in the Chamber and will be speaking afterwards. He will realise the mental health service is appalling. For several years, the full budget has not been spent where it was supposed to be. Very little of the €1 billion must be making its way to Tipperary as the county is still without a single residential psychiatric bed. Our crisis house is still not being provided for adequately. There have been many promises but we cannot live on promises. We cannot live on the wind. The people of Tipperary are entitled to some mental health services, just like any other place in the country. It is a scandal that we do not have any place for patients to go. When they have a psychotic episode or feel bad, they have to go to an accident and emergency unit. We cannot even get a seomra. There is not even one 8 ft by 8 ft room in a hospital accident and emergency department. There are 40 new modular units but we cannot get one of them for those who are not allowed to sit in an accident and emergency department, with the associated trauma and triaging. For their own health and sanity, they must be allowed to be in some place that is less stressful, busy, noisy and devastating. There are cases of individuals who were sent away from accident and emergency units and sadly ended up in the grave. Accident and emergency services are not able to cope. We lost our psychiatric services in St. Michael's in Clonmel. We lost St Luke’s before that. We need some service. Lipservice is all we are getting.

The Minister of State at the Department of Health, Deputy Jim Daly, is doing his best but his best is not good enough because he cannot deliver. He is frustrated. It is accepted in all the HSE areas that we are short of at least 12 to 15 long-stay beds. We do not have a single bed. We are sent to Kilkenny. It is a case of saying, "To hell or Kilkenny." It used to be, "To hell or to Connacht." Kilkenny cannot cope with the numbers from the south east. In north Tipperary, patients are sent to Ennis, bypassing Limerick. We are almost in Connacht at that stage so the phrase "To hell or to Connacht" is very apt for this Government. It does not care about the people. It must look out for them because they are the most vulnerable and the ones who need care. All they may need is a small bit of counselling. As Dr. Alan Moore and others have stated, if we could provide the 24-hour specialist nurse service, much of this could be avoided. Patients could meet the specialist nurse, who would understand their predicament and be trained to deal with them. I am told the staff are ready, willing and able and have been accepted for the job but there is no money to pay them. Where is the €1 billion going? The Government is playing a trick of the loop here. It is too serious for that, especially when mental health is concerned.

I understand from the Minister that the total funding for the National Treatment Purchase Fund will be €75 million in 2019. This must, however, be seen in the context of the 564,829 patients who were waiting for a hospital outpatient appointment at the end of July. This represents an increase of 4,578 by comparison with the figure for June, according to the data from the National Treatment Purchase Fund. Has the Government any shame? Is it totally shameless? The number is growing continually but the Government claims credit in the Dáil for what it is doing with the economy. If it cannot look after the people who are sick, God help us. As I understand it, the proportion has increased by 10.4% year on year, with 511,675 patients on the list this time last year. Since the start of 2019, an additional 48,667 patients have joined the waiting list. This is incredible and beggars belief. Each figure represents a real person with real health issues. This is absolutely scandalous, especially when we consider that the 2019 capital provision for health will amount to €670 million next year.

Individuals in need of HSE home care are waiting more than two years in some cases. It is reported that pensioners are now finding it more difficult to access home care than a decade ago. One million additional hours were announced in the budget but they will go nowhere. They will not even keep us standing still. We need 3 million. The problem now is that we cannot get staff to provide the care because they are fed up of being burned out and running around the country in their own cars trying to get from Billy to Jack to Ned to Tom to Mary in the same two hours, devoting perhaps 20 minutes or half an hour to each. The staff in my area are doing their best but they just do not have the go-ahead. Where a package has to be approved, there is no clarity. There is a recruitment ban and the Government is hiding behind it. This has been confirmed previously through an investigation conducted by Care Alliance Ireland. Care Alliance Ireland's executive director, Mr. Liam O'Sullivan, has estimated there is a gap of 18%, or 4 million care hours, between what is needed and the service people receive. What are we doing to the people who built up this country and gave us all the bloody breath that we can breathe and gave us a living here? What were we doing celebrating the 100th anniversary of our sovereignty with the Ceann Comhairle in January? My goodness, it is shocking. What has the Minister provided in this Bill that will prevent this awful situation from getting worse? We pay lipservice to carers. Families need them. They free up hospital beds.

I am relieved that the Bill provides for the continued extension of the young trained farmer stamp duty relief, but only until the end of 2021. This relief provides for a full exemption on stamp duty on transfers of farmland to certain young trained farmers. This exemption from stamp duty is designed to encourage the transfer of farmland to a new generation of farmers with relevant qualifications. The transfer may be by way of gift or sale. Getting younger farmers involved and keeping them interested are badly needed. In order to be eligible, the farmer must be under the age of 35 on the date of the deed of transfer and must also have attained one of the necessary qualifications. That is fine. The young trained farmer must also spend not less than 50% of his or her normal working time farming the land and retain ownership of the land. In my county, Tipperary, they cannot do so because a to-hell-or-to-Connacht policy is being operated.

In my budget submissions over the past five years, I have asked the Government to impose a massive tax on the conglomerates, one of which is in the horse industry in my area. We have a wonderful horse industry that we are very proud of. The conglomerates must not be allowed to buy every perch of land. In my area, a conglomerate is buying everything the size of the carpet in the Chamber. This gives no chance to any young farmer. Admittedly, the conglomerates will throw money at communities and support the GAA and soccer clubs but this is false economy because if we do not have farm families and people living in the area to support the villages, we will be wasting our time. We will not have schools or the numbers to make up teams. We will not have any living. Those concerned have fenced the lands, bulldozed ditches and trees and fenced people out. A snipe would not get through. In the days of the old landlords, the farmers and the workmen got milk and all kinds of food going home. Not a snipe would get through. There are security gates with flashing lights. Three or four massive combine harvesters roll in and security is hired to mind them. The Government is in hock with them and supporting them. The members of the Government were all bussed down to Mallow when they took over in 2011. They were brought over around Coolmore and looked after for two days. The conglomerates have deep pockets and the members of the Government are inside them but, my God, the people are waiting to see them.

The Deputy should be careful.

I am being very cúramach. This is fact.

The Deputy is straying.

I am not straying. The Government was straying when it was brought down. The conglomerates always had Fianna Fáil in hock but it is now Fine Gael. It is a case of Tweedledum and Tweedledee and of saying, "To hell with the ordinary people."

I accept that after the budget last year, the Minister introduced some additional measures in this area that were not announced on budget day. We live in hope for these. In this context, I wish to note, in particular, the legislative provisions that deal with bringing the young trained farmer stamp duty relief and the stamp duty farm consolidation relief into compliance with the EU state regulations that apply to them. We are aware that income averaging allows eligible farmers to calculate their taxable income as the average of their income in the current year and the previous four years, on a rolling basis, thus smoothening their tax liability over a five-year cycle. We understand the effect of the weather in this regard. I live in Tipperary in the Golden Vale, where we grow a lot of good spuds, thank God. We are able to dig them at present but we saw the floods in the midlands and elsewhere where we would not expect them. Income averaging is required because of incidents such as storms.

We know the damage that was done by previous hurricanes to our horticulture industry, which is huge in south Tipperary. We must allow the issue to balance out.

It used to be the case that certain farmers were not entitled to avail of the income averaging regime because they, their spouses or their civil partners earned other incomes off farm. The amendment announced by the Minister, Deputy Donohoe, last year extended the scheme to such farmers, with averaging only applying in respect of farm profits. I welcomed this. The measure increased the number of farmers who were eligible to avail of the scheme. We need to see far more of these kinds of support, especially in the post-Brexit scenario. I have already tabled amendments on some related matters and I hope to return to them in more detail.

I made a budget submission. The Government can crow and say I did not bother or offered no alternative, but I made some simple suggestions. For example, I called for the introduction of a tax on land of over 750 acres. Who in God's name needs 750 acres of fertile land to make a living? Two hundred acres should be good enough for anyone, but I set the level that high to see if I could put some manners on the conglomerates that are gobbling up our land and destroying our economy and, worst of all, rural villages and our way of life.

Some of the measures that I asked for in my pre-budget submission included supports for business and the self-employed, such as reverting the hospitality VAT rate to 9.5%. Changing it last year was a retrograde step. Another measure would be the introduction of a corking or capping tax on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets and multiples. I made this suggestion in 2013 to the then Minister for Social Protection, Deputy Burton, and over several years to the former Minister for Finance, Brian Lenihan, God rest him. I pleaded and begged. We know the damage that the proliferation of cheap alcohol is doing to young people and the other problems it is causing. This has nothing to do with pubs. Through the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Deputy Ross, the Government has tried to close all of the pubs and has nearly succeeded. It is choking them even though they are VAT payers, rate payers, employers and so on. The Government has quenched them because it was afraid that the Minister would pull out of Government and the rest of its members would lose their good jobs. The introduction of a capping tax on the sale of alcohol in supermarkets is a no-brainer. It was not done in the 2013 budget even though Deputy Burton assured me that it would be. She was not the Minister for Finance, but I asked her the next day what had happened. She told me that, unfortunately, the supermarket lobby was more powerful than the vintners' lobby. It is not about lobbies, nor should it be, but it is with this Government. It should instead be about people's lives and the damage that too great an availability of alcohol is causing.

In my submission, I suggested the retention of the current excise duties on diesel and petrol and the application of the lower VAT rate of 13.5% to the tyre industry. The then Government was warned about this issue when Deputy Kelly was Minister, but he would not listen.

I have suggested the expansion of social protection payments and benefits for the self-employed - we welcomed the start of this last year, and tús maith, leath na hoibre - to ensure that they are sufficiently supported during times of illness or low income. They are the people who put their money where their mouths are. They have sleepless nights trying to get paid for jobs, including design jobs. They are employers who have good staff they want to keep on. They need to be supported when they are sick. When the crash came, everyone got supports except them. The Government had no sympathy for them at all. I have suggested the introduction of a working family payment to ensure that social welfare schemes supporting low-income families do not discriminate against the self-employed and farming families. This is a basic human right.

I had called for an increase of 25% in local roads funding in 2019 and the extension of the local improvement scheme, which we fought for in the programme for Government. Roads in Tipperary and all over the country are gone to pot.

I have called for the introduction of VRT relief on vehicles purchased by community and voluntary groups, which are numerous and do great work in the form of meals on wheels, collecting people to bring them to hospital appointments and so on. In connection with this, there would be an examination of the VAT rates applied to vital lifesaving equipment. The current situation is a farce. Communities collect money for lifesaving equipment, and most villages have two or three units, but they must pay 23% on them. That is a disgrace. People are giving money voluntarily, money on which they have already paid tax. They are working people - farmers, business people, etc. They are being charged VAT again. It is scandalous.

I have called for measures to fast-track the construction of new social and private housing, but that will not happen because Fine Gael fundamentally does not want to build houses for the people. "Let them eat cake." That is what Fine Gael says. Let them go to hell. It has been proven. Fine Gael has made announcement after announcement. I sit on the housing committee and am sorry I ever went near it. If we could build houses with papers and reports, we would have mansions for everyone. Fine Gael does not want to build houses. There is something in Fine Gael's psyche that says, "Let them go to hell". At least Fianna Fáil when in power always built houses for ordinary people, but Fine Gael will not do it.

I have called for the development of a new co-ordinating unit within the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation to work with communities on developing co-operatives in order to keep vital local services in place and retain and develop vibrant local enterprises.

The living city scheme has been hijacked. The Government encouraged owners of shops and places that had closed down to renovate and let people live in them. This was meant to do two things - reduce the housing list and create living town centres - but the Government has abandoned the initiative. The Minister for Rural and Community Development, Deputy Ring, is announcing money for everywhere from Bohola to Knock. Once a scheme is in Mayo, he will give it money, but there is not a pingin amháin for places in Tiobráid Árann like Cluain Meala, Carrick-on-Suir and Durlas Éile.

Fine Gael has been found out, though. The game is up. The people are waiting for it inside the voting booths with the pinn luaidhe. There will be no double voting, calling for six votes and nod-and-a-wink voting for others. One by one, they will cast a cold eye over Fine Gael through the privacy of the ballot box. The Minister of State can nod all he likes, but he will be nodding like Deputy Danny Healy-Rae-----

Deputy, please.

I am just saying that the people are waiting in the long grass for Fine Gael. Why would they not be? Fine Gael has never had any interest in the little people, na daoine beaga. That it is supported and kept in power by the Deputies beside me is a shocking state of affairs. We have no Opposition when it comes down to it. Fine Gael has been found out. In the privacy of the ballot boxes, the people will get rid of the posh boys - the Taoiseach, the Minister for Housing, Planning and Local Government and the Minister for Health, Deputy Harris. I have not even mentioned the scandal of the children's hospital. My new grandchild, Cathal, was born last Sunday night. I welcome him into our family. I am delighted that he is well. No grandchild of mine will ever get into that hospital. It is the biggest travesty ever perpetrated under this Government's watch. It is going on and going on and the hole is getting bigger and bigger. Government members will be lucky if they do not all find themselves inside it, bulldozed over and forgotten about. They will be a bad thought in people's memories and nothing else. They do not deserve any good thought because they do not respect the electorate and their mandate. They think they can just bulldoze through. I am surprised that Fianna Fáil gives them the nod every so often under the umbrella of Brexit. I do not know what will happen if Brexit gets solved.

I thank the Deputy.

The whole lot will fall down and there will be a big rupture in the pipe. The confidence and supply agreement will blow up through the dome of the Chamber. That is where it is going to go.

Thank you, Deputy.

We will get Deputy Kelly after the Deputy. Deputy Kelly will sort him out.

Deputy Mattie McGrath has been in great voice tonight. We will now hear from Deputy Healy, followed by Deputy Cahill. We are definitely getting the Tipperary perspective on affairs tonight.

That is a fair statement, but my perspective might be a little different from some of the others.

Budget 2020 and the Finance Bill are the structure, framework or scaffolding, if one wishes, that creates, continues and supports a deeply unequal society in this country. What we have in them is socially unfair and socially divisive and deliberately increases the rich-poor divide in our society. Even the ESRI has described the budget as regressive, which is something unusual for the ESRI. It means that the budget and the Bill discriminate against middle-income and low-income families and social welfare recipients. Social Justice Ireland is even more scathing in its analysis of the budget.

The provisions of a Bill often show what the Government of the day supports, but what is not contained in a Bill can also be informative. The main element that is not in this Bill is a wealth tax. There is absolutely no such tax. Very wealthy people in this country get off scot free. Ireland is the eighth richest country in the world and Irish super rich individuals are "awash with money". We heard that phrase from a former Minister, Ms Mary Harney, a long time ago. They were awash with money then and still are today. They have made billions of euro from the crash and the selective recovery. The Minister for Finance has not taken a ha'penny in tax from their obscene wealth.

Almost 4,000 children are being irreparably damaged in their formative years in emergency accommodation in this country, which has the fifth largest number of ultra wealthy individuals per capita in the world according to a recent study.

A total of 2,055 super-rich people in the State have wealth in excess of $30 million each. They do not pay a ha'penny tax on that. The study shows there are 421 super-rich individuals per 1 million adults in the State. That puts us ahead of countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan. The only places ahead of us are tax havens like Hong Kong, Switzerland, Luxembourg and Singapore. We also know from the study that the top 10% of wealthy individuals in this country own 58.4% of all wealth; the top 5% own 46.4% of all wealth; and the top 1% own 27.3% of all wealth. The economist, David McWilliams, wrote in The Irish Times: "Imagine we decided to introduce a sliding wealth tax of between 0.5 per cent and 5 per cent on wealth, on the top 1 per cent". We would, he said, take in a minimum of €2 billion and a maximum of €20 billion by charging 5% on the top 5%. These are large sums of money and it would be a significant tax but the Government does not have a policy of taxing wealth. It taxes the ordinary middle and low income persons, and even social welfare recipients, but it refuses to tax people who are extremely wealthy.

The SARP costs €28 million. In 2017, a total of 1,084 persons availed of the scheme, 31 of whom were millionaires. Individuals gained up to €130,000. The banks that we bailed out, which now make huge profits, pay no tax but the ordinary individual - the middle class person, low-income families and social welfare recipients - is forced to bear the burden of taxation in this country. On the other hand, we know that life on low income is the norm for large numbers of people in Irish society. CSO data tell us that 760,000 people live below the poverty line, including one in every five or approximately 230,000 children in the State. Likewise, some 110,000 people who work live below the poverty line. In spite of that, people with huge wealth pay no wealth tax. We have a society that is divided straight down the middle. It is divided by deliberate Government policy, not just by this Government but by previous Governments as well.

The Bill, like the budget, makes no provision for indexation of tax bands and allowances, which means that PAYE workers will pay more tax next year. Social welfare recipients received no general increase, which means they will be less well off next year. That is at a time when very wealthy people simply do not pay their fair share, and are not asked to pay their fair share. That has to stop. This country is divided unequally and deliberately by the Government and previous Governments.

On climate action and carbon tax, the evidence is clear and irrefutable that climate is changing owing to human activity. The Government seemed to recognise that in declaring a climate emergency earlier this year, but it has proven that it is not to be trusted because it has taken no meaningful action to avert the crisis. What the Government has done is similar to its inaction in dealing with homelessness. It is cynical of the Government to declare a climate emergency and then to take no action whatsoever. There is no doubt its climate action plan lacks real credibility. Its decision to block further debate on the Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 for the duration of this Dáil by invoking the money message procedure is an ill-founded and undemocratic abuse of parliamentary procedure.

We have arrived at a situation where in spite of both partners working, a couple cannot afford to buy or build a house. The formation of a family is generally a key tenet of sustainability. The Government's response to that state of affairs is to introduce a further tax, namely, a carbon tax. The carbon tax discriminates against low and middle income families and those living in rural areas where people have no alternative but to drive to work. Thousands of people in my constituency of Tipperary travel to neighbouring counties every day to work in places like Limerick, Shannon, Waterford, Dungarvan, Galway, Athlone, Carlow, Kilkenny and Cork city. Just as many travel to work within the county. People from outside the county also travel to work in the county. There is no alternative mode of transport for them. The carbon tax is a tax on ordinary workers who are trying to do an honest day's work and must travel by car as they have no alternative. The Government's answer to transport in Tipperary and right around the country has been to allow public transport, including the public bus service, to be cut. Many people travel to work from Carrick-on-Suir to Kilkenny. There is no public transport for them because the Government allowed the bus route to be closed. It has done the same right throughout the country. If there was a credible climate action plan, we would have significant public transport right across the country. We would have a network of public transport. We would not be cutting bus routes but putting new buses on new routes. We would be introducing more Local Link buses and upgrading the rail lines, for instance, the Limerick to Waterford rail line in my constituency, rather than having them always on the point of closure. We would put modern trams on the lines to bring people to work across the south of Ireland, from Limerick to Waterford.

The carbon tax is simply a money-raising exercise. It does nothing for climate change or climate action. It penalises low and middle-income families and people who have to drive to work. The proposed increase in carbon tax by €6 per tonne, eventually to go to €80 per tonne, is simply unacceptable and it will be the straw that breaks the camel's back. It will be like the water tax. The Government would do well to consider that situation.

The area of health is deeply distressing, especially mental health. I refer specifically to the situation in Tipperary, both north and south. The Fine Gael-Labour Party Government closed the acute psychiatric unit in Clonmel so now those people suffering from mental illness who require admission to-----

I think the Deputy is wrong.

I am right. It was closed by Kathleen Lynch, a Minister of State in the previous Government.

I think the Deputy is wrong.

I am right. We took that case to the High Court and indeed to the Supreme Court. The former Deputy Kathleen Lynch, who was a Minister of State, closed it. She told me and the deputation in this House that the closure of the unit was not set in stone but in blood. The Minister of State, Deputy Kehoe, can take that for absolute fact. People who need inpatient mental health facilities in south Tipperary have to go to Kilkenny, to a unit that has been prosecuted by the Mental Health Commission. Those in north Tipperary have to go to Ennis. It is outrageous. There is significant concern about it and lives have been lost. It is time to bring back those beds to Tipperary. I commend the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Daly, who was certainly helpful in that regard, but we need action quickly to bring those beds back to Tipperary.

The Minister for Finance, in his budget day speech, spoke about how the new HSE management had reduced the overspend considerably. He never mentioned the fact that that saving, as he called it, was due to the fact that there is a moratorium on the appointment of staff, meaning that thousands of posts are vacant across the health services. I refer to three specific posts that are vacant in Tipperary. We were told last July that they would be filled by now. There are two posts in the child and adolescent mental health service, CAMHS. The candidates were interviewed, the appointees were notified and are awaiting a date to take up their posts, but cannot take them up because of the moratorium. We are waiting for clinical nurse specialists in the emergency department to deal with patients attending it with mental health difficulties. It is time for that moratorium to be lifted and posts such as the one I mentioned to be filled urgently.

There are various other issues in this Finance Bill and budget, including housing and education. I refer in particular to the lack of social welfare increases. The fact is that social welfare recipients, including pensioners, will be worse off next year to the tune of €168. They will be less well off by €3.22 per week. This Government could not even see its way to giving the €5 that it gave last year. That is completely unacceptable and outrageous. Very poor people with very little income are paying the price for Brexit and climate change. Inflation next year will be 1.3%, as set out by the Minister. That means that every social welfare recipient and every pensioner will be €3.22 less well off next year. In a very wealthy country with very wealthy individuals, that is a disgrace.

This is a Brexit budget. We in Fianna Fáil agreed to three budgets under the confidence and supply agreement. Because of the situation in Westminster and the UK's decision to exit the EU, we have had to allow this budget through the Dáil. It has been a bitter pill for us to swallow because we are very unhappy with much of the performance of the Government in recent years in key policy areas. We look at our television screens and see the chaos and instability in Westminster. The saga moves on. One thinks there will be a deal one day and then not the next day. The impact of a no-deal Brexit on our economy and on Government finances cannot be underestimated. It is for that reason that Fianna Fáil will allow this Finance Bill to pass. We have acted extremely responsibly in allowing this to happen. It is not easy for us because this Government is failing in so many key areas.

Various independent expert bodies have predicted up to 60,000 job losses and a hit of €6.5 billion to the economy. The political ramifications for the peace process could be immense. Fianna Fáil has ensured that budget 2020 will support the sectors and industries that will be most impacted by a crash-out Brexit, including agrifood, tourism and small and medium enterprises.

I want to talk for a minute about the €100 million package given out before the local elections to try to boost Fine Gael performance in those elections. Today alone, three farmers rang me and said that while they had applied under this €100 million package, they were withdrawing their applications because of the stringent conditions attached to the scheme. More than 14,000 farmers would have been eligible to apply for that €100 million scheme except for the various conditions the Minister attached to it. I have never before seen such a stringent scheme, designed to keep farmers from trying to recover the losses that they have incurred because of the Brexit uncertainty.

One man contacted me who, because he was not quality assured or in GLAS, was excluded from applying for this scheme, even though his land is designated and he is in a hen harrier area with all the restrictions that brings.

A total of 13,200 dairy farmers had cattle that were eligible for the scheme, but again the Minister saw fit to exclude them with discrimination that has never been seen before in an aid scheme. The end result of all these various discriminations the Minister put in place was that we failed to distribute the €100 million. At most, €78 million of that money will be distributed to farmers who have suffered substantial losses in the period from September to May. There has been no scheme announced and, unfortunately, cattle prices have dropped by 30 cent to 40 cent per kilogram since the cut-off point of the middle of May. We have had no scheme announced to try to replace some of those huge losses farmers have incurred in that time. We expect the Government will bring forward a scheme in collaboration with Brussels to ease some of these losses. When the next scheme is designed, I hope it is not as discriminatory or unfair on farmers as this one was. Farmers suffered significant losses from being kept out of the scheme.

I mention health and the performance of the Government on health. Like the previous speaker, I will focus on mental health and on the complete lack of mental health services in County Tipperary. A young lady comes to my constituency office who has tried to commit suicide on three occasions. Her psychiatrist recommends a specialist course for her. That course is available in Limerick, but because she has a Tipperary address, she is excluded from gaining admittance to that course. It is hard to imagine that in the 21st century in this country, a person's address can exclude him or her from admittance to a mental health course, and she urgently needs that course. The mental health budget the HSE has for my area is for the mid-west, but people in north Tipperary and Clare are deemed to be second-class citizens and are deprived access to courses available to people with a Limerick address. I do not begrudge the Limerick people who have need of these services as well, but it is impossible to comprehend why Tipperary and Clare people cannot get on the waiting list for these psychiatric courses. We have no psychiatric bed in our county, and it is a large county.

As has been said, the St. Michael's unit in Clonmel was closed in 2012 by the previous Government, of which Fine Gael was a part. We have had numerous promises that it will change and Tipperary will get extra beds. I was elected to this House in February 2016, and shortly after being elected we were promised we would get a Jigsaw project in Tipperary. Nearly four years later, we are still being told it will come next spring. Next spring will definitely come but I am not sure the Jigsaw project will come to Tipperary, because after so many false dawns, I will only believe it when I see it. A Jigsaw project will not solve our mental health crisis in Tipperary and the lack of services, but at least it would be a start, and it would be a cornerstone on which we could build and try to improve our lack of mental health services. A mental health clinic in my town has a catchment area of 34,000 people, but there is no psychiatrist or occupational therapist in that clinic. It is a clinic in nothing but name. It is another symptom of the complete lack of resources we have for mental health.

Before I leave the issue of health, Tipperary people constantly have to go to the two most overcrowded accident and emergency departments in the country, namely, South Tipperary General Hospital and University Hospital Limerick. Both of them are chronically overcrowded. There was a great fanfare about the 1 million home care hours that were announced in the budget. They are welcome and they are a help, but we had more than 7,000 people on the waiting list on budget day, and if they were given three hours apiece, it would exhaust that 1 million home care help hours. We need lots of things in the health service. We have thrown an awful lot of money on it in the recent past without reducing the waiting lists or improving the quality of service. In the short term, we have to focus on home care support packages, primary care, and trying to keep people out of the accident and emergency departments and in their homes. That is the only way to avoid a catastrophic situation this winter. Our county is at the poor end of resources and we are left chronically short on health resources.

For the past nine years, this Government and the previous Government have announced numerous schemes to build houses but they have singularly failed to do so. One of the most heart-rending pictures we have seen in recent weeks was of a five year old boy on the streets of Dublin eating what food he had off a cardboard box. It was heart rending. Homelessness has not been tackled by this Government and, unfortunately, the figures continue to increase. Even people in reasonably good jobs are not able to get on the property ladder. Our figures for home ownership in this country have dipped below the European average for the first time ever. Again, that is testament to this Government's lack of ability to build housing. It is a serious indictment on our society that a couple in reasonable jobs cannot get on the property ladder, get a mortgage and afford a house. On social housing, again this Government has failed miserably. Unfortunately, the lists grow longer and longer. Even in a rural county like Tipperary, I have people coming into every clinic I have saying they have been on the housing list for so many years. It can be a lengthy period and I feel futile sitting behind the desk as there is no point in giving them false hope because this Government will not get houses for them.

We will take the usual criticism from Sinn Féin and others for allowing this budget to pass, but we will not take lectures from Sinn Féin on it. It sat idly by for two and a half years, and failed to give the nationalists a voice in Westminster at this crucial time in history. It has allowed seven votes to sit idly by for crucial votes in Westminster and there has been a lack of sittings in Stormont. The electorate will give its opinion of Sinn Féin when the opportunity comes in the near future. Its lack of responsibility in taking its representation at this crucial time in both parliaments is a sad reflection of the way it views the people who voted for it at those respective elections.

The recruitment of 700 extra gardaí has been announced in this budget. Law and order is becoming a major issue in both urban and rural Ireland. County Tipperary is 140 km long from top to bottom. The Commissioner saw in his wisdom that it was not large enough to be an area on its own, and he recently decided to join it with Clare. In doing so, he decided to take the headquarters out of Tipperary and put it at one side of the new area in Ennis. Over the past four to five years, and I have asked numerous parliamentary questions on this subject, we have failed to get our fair share of resources from the extra recruits who come out of Templemore. We have 345 Garda personnel available for active duty in Tipperary. That includes superintendents, inspectors and sergeants, all the way down to gardaí.

Three weeks ago in Roscrea, there was a serious disturbance in the middle of the day. Approximately 30 people were involved in a serious row. There were two gardaí on duty in the town at the time. How two gardaí were expected to deal with a situation such as this is beyond me. Carrick-on-Suir is another sizeable town. When the Garda shift goes out in Carrick-on-Suir tonight two gardaí will be on duty. We have had a complete lack of resources to tackle the drug issue. Unfortunately, drugs are becoming a huge issue in every village and town throughout the country. There is a complete lack of resources. While we welcome the 700 extra gardaí, a lot more are needed. This time around I hope Tipperary is not left short when the new gardaí are being distributed.

Teaching principals have launched a campaign over the past two years to get one administrative day per week off to deal with the huge amount of paperwork they have. Many of them are in rural schools that have established autistic units in recent years. The paperwork they must now do is absolutely enormous. In north Tipperary alone this year, five principals have retired early because of the pressure of work. A total of €7 million would have allowed these teaching principals one day per week off for administrative duties and a rota between five rural schools would have worked extremely well. Despite intensive lobbying by these principals the budget passed without addressing the issue. It is a serious failure. It was something that could have been done for rural Ireland and it was not a huge ask. The amount of money that would have been required was not immense.

We hear that areas involved in tourism are seriously worried about the effect of Brexit on that industry and the number of visitors coming to the country. A total of €40 million has been allocated in the budget to try to protect tourism against the worst effects of Brexit. Our largest number of visitors comes from our nearest neighbour, the UK, and a lot more needs to be done in this area to protect one of our natural industries, which is hugely important to many areas of the country.

Fine Gael prides itself on being a party of prudence but it has presided over budget and capital mismanagement on a colossal scale since taking office. It spent at least €6.3 billion in excess of budget ceilings. It has also watched over the shambles of the national children's hospital and the national broadband plan. This evening, the Labour Party had a Private Members' motion on which I spoke with regard to the national broadband plan. This is another disgrace that shows the lack of commitment to rural Ireland. We are no nearer having broadband in rural areas than we were when the Government took office eight or nine years ago. It is an essential resource in modern Ireland. If rural Ireland is to have any hope of being economically vibrant then broadband must be available. Unfortunately, it is as far away as ever.

The effect the children's hospital is having on other projects throughout the country is immense. Our Lady's hospital in Cashel has been promised capital investment for a number of years but it has been delayed again and again. The people of Tipperary are convinced it is because of the huge overspend on the national children's hospital. The Government is very good at spinning. It makes an announcement that a measure will be introduced but it does not say when and we definitely hear two or three announcements before it happens. It has budgetary tricks, such as introducing something late in the year so it will cost less but then the full year cost leaks into the base for the following year's Estimates. This trick has been identified by the Irish Fiscal Advisory Council and it is no way to manage the budget.

The national broadband plan has yet to be signed and it will cost more than €3 billion. The worst part of all of this is that we will not even own the infrastructure. I remind the House that in 2016 Fine Gael promised us it would abolish the universal social charge at a cost of €4 billion a year but when it got into office this was quickly forgotten. What will we do when, hopefully, we will be framing the next budget in 2020? We will advocate multiannual funding for health, an independent health budget office to verify health costings and demographics and an increase in local authority spending discretion from €2 million to €6 million, which would allow local authorities to build social housing without the endless red tape we have at present. It would allow up to 30 homes to be built per project without going through the time-consuming four-step process. We would have a shared ownership scheme for home owners to reduce the upfront cost of a new home and we would fully commit to A Vision for Change and ensure the money allocated to mental health is spent. More than €25 million was left unspent this year. As I said earlier, given the crisis we have had in mental health it is a serious indictment to allow this money remain in the budget unspent.

Tá áthas orm go bhfuil deis agam cúpla focal a rá faoin mBille Airgeadais. Caithfidh mé a rá nach bhfuil an oiread sin ann don ghnáthdhuine. Ba mhaith liom a laghad is atá sa Bhille a thaispeáint. Is féidir liom an lúcháir i measc na hoifigigh sa Roinn Airgeadais, nuair a fuair siad leithscéal gan rud ar bith a thabhairt do dhaoine i mbliana, a shamhlú. Is é sin go díreach a rinne siad. Ar ndóigh, má dhéantar socrú faoin mBreatimeacht, beidh an chúis a bhí acu gan aon rud a thabhairt imithe. Sa chás sin, agus an leithscéal a bhí acu imithe, tá amhras orm go n-úsáidfaidh siad cáinaisnéis eile le bheith croíúil leis an bpobal, go mórmhór iad siúd atá i ngannchuid. Ní dóigh liom go bhfeicfimid é sin. Idir an dá linn, tá costas gach rud ag dul suas. Ag an am céanna, níl aon soláthar á dhéanamh dóibh siúd atá ag brath ar ioncam leasa shóisialaigh.

The devil is always in the detail and great illusions of generosity can be created but when we actually examine the effect we see these magnificent gestures are actually not what they appear to be. Section 3 of the Bill increases the value of the home carer credit from €1,500 to €1,600. Of course, what is involved is a tax credit and not money so it does not apply to anybody not in the income tax bracket. However, we will accept that since it is an income tax credit the Government is not trying to help that group of people anyway. Let us look at what is involved and the largesse the Minister has just handed to those in the tax bracket. By definition, the home carer tax credit means people are in a one-income family. For those in this bracket who have a 20% rate of tax it is an extra tax credit of €100 a year.

For someone on a tax rate of 20%, the benefit will be slightly less than €20 a year. That is less than 40 cents a week. What a magnificent gesture.

We find the same sleight of hand for the earned relief. I cannot understand why the same earned relief as is already available to PAYE workers in the amount of €1,650 a year was not extended. The threshold for earned relief was increased from €1,350 to €1,500. That is an increase of €150 per annum in the credit. If one is paying tax at the rate of 20%, it means an extra €30 a year which is 60 cent a week. If one is paying tax at the top rate of 40%, it means an extra €1.20 cent a week. When I was young, there was a saying, that "All that glisters is not gold". This budget, when it was announced, gave an illusion of being gold but when take home pay is increasing by 30 or 40 cent, people will ask if that is all they got.

Another reality of what is being cleverly done, year after year by this Government, is the erosion of the true value of the tax credits. The €1,650 employee credit and personal credit, and twice that for the married credit, has been the same since 2010. Every year, there is an inexorable 2% erosion of that as incomes go up. There is a domino effect whereby those who were not paying any tax are now paying some tax without the Government appearing to raise any rates because the value of money is dropping. Those who were in the 20% rate are now moving into the 40% rate without corresponding relief. The Government is therefore increasing the tax rate inexorably without appearing to do so. In other words, to stand still there would have to be a cost of living increase every year in tax bands and credits, otherwise the Government is collecting more tax. That effect can clearly be seen in the income tax take every year.

I must criticise the Government for not honouring its commitment to eliminate the universal social charge, USC. We have made our tax system incredibly complicated for the ordinary person to work out. People who have to fill out tax forms, want to calculate their tax liability and verify they have worked it out correctly would need a degree in mathematics to do so. I have, from the very beginning, believed that, as the economy grew, we should have eliminated USC systematically from the bottom up. The 0.5% rate that raises €60 from every taxpayer who is earning more than €12,000 probably raises considerable money but it puts people earning €12,000 a year into the tax bracket. I know there are well-to-do people who believe that everybody should pay taxes but everybody does pay taxes. I know nobody who lives in this country who does not pay taxes. Those earning little money pay tax on everything they buy, including excise duties. The only thing such people do not pay is income tax and it is a nonsense to take income tax from those to whom we give social welfare and family income supplement because they cannot afford to pay it. It is about time we got away from this nonsense that some people are exempt from taxes. We know that those on the lowest incomes tend proportionally to pay more indirect taxes than others.

The carbon tax was raised and Fianna Fáil has supported that. That carbon tax was meant to be ring-fenced for reinvesting so that those who would be hit by it disproportionately would find they were compensated in other ways. The Minister made a fuss about giving an extra fuel allowance, which is good for those on fuel allowance, but, as I have pointed out time and again, those who are in houses with poor thermal qualities, the old who are in their houses all day and must heat them all day and those in the Travelling community who live in mobile homes and caravans that are very hard to heat will bear the brunt of this carbon tax and nothing is being done for them to deal with those issues. Trying to get the special heating allowance that used to be available from community welfare offices through the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection requires the filling of an eight-page form since this Government came to power.

The public bus services provided by the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport to rural Ireland are abysmal. The Minister says he has no responsibility for anything. The lack of a bus system forces people to use motorcars. I would have thought a proportion of the money would have been used to reduce fares so that the fare per kilometre in rural areas would be the same as urban areas. The Government should also have granted money to provide services on the main radial routes, particularly out of towns with large employment in hospitals and third level institutions, until 10 o'clock or 11 o'clock at night instead of cutting off services at 6 o'clock which means people must leave work or their place of study earlier. Nothing was done with the pot of money the Government has suddenly raised to allow people reduce their carbon bill in areas the Government says is very carbon dependent.

There is a provision for food supplements in this Bill whereby a VAT rate of 13.5% is to be introduced. My understanding is that arose from a ruling by the Revenue Commissioners that food supplements are not food and, therefore, should not have been zero-rated for VAT in the past. I also understand that this matter is being challenged in the courts. I further understand that the introduction of a rate of 13.5% will mean, under EU rules, that we cannot go back to a 0% rate. Why did the Government not defer this matter until the courts had given a ruling as to whether food supplements are food or not and were or were not correctly zero-rated for VAT? It seems to me that, for whatever reason, money raising or whatever, the Government wants to positively hit these people with a tax rate of 13.5%. The Government will say it was generous in not applying a tax rate of 23%. My counter to that argument is that the Government could have applied a rate of 9% but there was no need to apply any rate until we get the result of the court case.

The provision should be removed from the Bill and the matter put in abeyance until there is a court decision as to whether it was legally correct that the rate was 0%. If that had been done, I understand that under EU law it could be left at 0%.

The threshold for capital acquisition tax, which is applied where a parent leaves money to an immediate family member, is to be raised from €320,000 to €335,000, an increase of €15,000. While I am sure it will be welcomed by all those inheriting such a sum of money, it is not as large a sum as it appears because the rate is 33% and it concerns what would probably be a once in a lifetime payment. Nevertheless, we have to welcome the increase because with house prices going through the ceiling, more and more people will inherit a little extra money, many of whom will use it for their family members.

Ar ndóigh, má táimid ag caint ar an gcáinaisnéis, caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil an-díomá orm gur tugadh i bhfad níos mó airgead do na háisíneachtaí forbartha taobh amuigh den Ghaeltacht ná mar a tugadh uair amháin eile d'Údarás na Gaeltachta. Is cosúil nach bhfuil meas madadh ag an Rialtas seo ar Údarás na Gaeltachta as an obair a dhéanann sé, agus nach bhfuil aon tuiscint ag an Rialtas ar an tábhacht go mbeidh fostaíocht ar fáil sa Ghaeltacht le go bhfanfaidh na daoine ann le go mairfidh an teanga. Tá sé dall go hiomlán ar seo. Tá mé cinnte go bhfuil mo chomhghleacaí, an tAire Stáit, An Teachta Kyne, ag déanamh a dhícheall, ach níl sé sách maith. Ní léir go bhfuil aon spéis ag an Aire Cultúir, Oidhreachta agus Gaeltachta, An Teachta Madigan sa scéal - dúbh, bán ná riabhach - ná tuiscint aici ar an tábhacht a bhaineann leis an nGaeilge agus leis an nGaeltacht. Ag am go bhfuil bród ag muintir na hÉireann i bhfad i gcéin astu féin, as a mhuintir agus as an áit ar as iad, is léir nach bhfuil an bród céanna ag an Rialtas. Tharla go raibh mé i Meiriceá faoi dhó i mbliana. Bhí mé le gairid i Montana, áit a bhfuil cúrsaí Gaeilge ar bun istigh san ollscoil ansin, agus tá an-spéis ag daoine inti - agus lucht Éireannach sa scéal - agus iad ag foghlaim na Gaeilge agus ag teacht ar ais go hÉireann. Arís ar ais, ainneoin an méid dea-thoil a chothaíonn sé sin ar fud an domhain d'Éirinn istigh i cuid de na hollscoileanna is iomráití ar domhan agus ainneoin an méid caint a dhéantar ar an diaspora ar fud an domhain, ní léir gur fiú leis an Rialtas forbairt a dhéanamh ar an gcomhcheangal seo.

It has always amazed me how little we spend on our indigenous culture. While I am interested in all cultures and believe that opera, art and forms of cultural expression should be promoted, we should always keep in mind that one culture - Irish culture - is unique to this island. We may have spread it throughout the world but we remain its wellspring. Irish dancing, Irish music and the Irish language are great identifiers for us. No Minister has ever been sent abroad to engender more business for Ireland, not least on an Enterprise Ireland mission, and not used these unique identifiers to get our message across. Every time a Minister does the hard sell of goods abroad, he or she will use Irish music, dance and imagery, but still we refuse to make the investment in one of the greatest natural resources we have, namely, our culture. I do not know whether it is because it is intangible, but there cannot be a Minister in the Government who has gone abroad without saying to himself or herself that he or she had never realised the economic potential of culture with which to do business.

The investment in the Irish language in the budget was abysmal. There was an additional €1 million in capital spending for Údarás na Gaeltachta. When the additional administrative costs are removed, there is virtually nothing for the Irish language, but still we boast that we promote our heritage. It might not seem to be a matter for the Finance Bill, and it is not, given that I can find no reference to anything cultural therein. It is shocking.

I am glad to have the opportunity to speak on important matters relating to the budget. The first is my displeasure with the increase in carbon tax. As everyone knows, we have paid carbon tax for many years and it is just another tax for hard-pressed motorists. As the Minister of State will know, people in rural Ireland need a car and cannot move anywhere without one. The days of walking or cycling to work are over. It is not economically efficient because time is now so valuable. Let us remember all the drivers travelling to work, mothers taking their children to school, and youngsters going to college, apprenticeships or whatever. We in rural Ireland cannot move anywhere without a car. In places in the west such as Glencar or Cahirsiveen, the next stop to the west is America and people must travel east for everything. Even to visit a hospital in Cork, it takes two and a half hours to travel from Cahirsiveen or Dingle, and there is no other way of doing it because there is no public transport, no train or bus, at the time one might want it. While buses may travel around the ring of Kerry at certain times of the day, perhaps serving the larger towns, they do not serve rural areas such as Valencia Island or Ventry. In all the remote places in between, such as the Black Valley, to travel to Kenmare it can take three quarters of an hour of solid driving. While much of the driving may be in second or third gear, drivers must be on their marks to complete the journey safely because there are turns and bends. It is possible to make good time on the journey but there is no other way of getting into or out of such places. The same is true of the Pocket in Glenmore, which is so remote that it is two and a quarter hours from Cork city. It is nearly the same distance to Killarney or Tralee, to which people must travel if they want to do simple tasks such as renewing their driver licence. It is a day's work. The Minister of State is smiling but-----

I am thinking that if the Deputy could go faster we might finish the debate by 11 p.m.

The Deputy will probably have a second go at the debate tomorrow.

We will see. Tomorrow is another day. People are outraged by the increase because petrol and diesel are expensive enough. People do not agree it will have any beneficial effect on the climate because as many people know, the climate has changed throughout the ages and will continue to change when we are long gone. Whether there is carbon tax after our time, the weather will still change. We will still have extremes of weather in different ages or decades as we have throughout history. History has proved this.

I wish to comment on the reality of diesel engines versus electric engines. A new Euro 6 engine emits 35% less CO2 per tonne than an electric car. That is the engine on a new articulated three-axle tractor unit with a three-axle trailer. Engines are so modern now and emit so much less carbon. It has been proven in tests that this engine emits 35% less CO2 than an electric car.

There are still many questions about electric cars. For instance, how much carbon is emitted in the manufacture of the battery and its disposal when it is finished with? Its lifespan is supposed to be seven years but it may not last that long. Those batteries cost €7,000 to €8,000 to replace. The car is worth so much less before an owner even thinks of getting rid of it. An electric car's resale value is so much less than that of a diesel car. Diesel cars are now so efficient and streamlined. They emit much less than before.

Farmers were hit again in this budget. The increase in stamp duty will affect any farmer who wants to buy an extra bit of land. As the Minister of State knows, a farmer cannot stand still; he or she must produce more. It is very hurtful to farmers that every year the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine returns money to the Exchequer. That is wrong. It should not be happening and we are very disappointed by it. Farmers are asking for simple things. They say it would be a good idea to give exporters €20 per head to help them to export cattle. If we do not continue to increase the export of cattle, we will play into the factories' hands. They are bad enough as it is. They are only paying €3.20 or €3.30 per kg. That is not good enough. Suckler farmers are on their knees. We have heard the television reports. There is proof that many more farmers will get out of the market and reduce the number of suckler cows.

Despite throwing huge sums of money into health our country still has major deficiencies, for example, with regard to home help. The fair deal scheme has still not been sorted out for farmers. As far as farmers are concerned, it is a lousy deal. Just as with any other person, all that should be assessed is the value of a farmer's house. However, the Government still insists that the full value of the farm must be assessed as part of the fair deal scheme. That is totally undemocratic and unfair. Farmers feel they are paying for the fair deal for other people.

Regarding housing, I asked again for the housing list income cap to be increased. People have been thrown off the housing list in Kerry when their income exceeded €33,600 per year. I am talking about a family with three children. That is wrong. The family income supplement puts the recipient over that limit. It is ridiculous that families who need social welfare to survive are being thrown off the housing list. It is totally unfair.

Last week a damning Mental Health Commission report revealed major deficiencies in the level of mental healthcare provided to patients in Kerry. I will outline some key findings. Just two poorly staffed rehabilitation teams serve a population of 689,750 people in Cork and Kerry. The relevant health strategy, A Vision For Change, states that a minimum of seven is needed. While 70 nurses are required according to A Vision for Change, only six are available. Our mental health system in Kerry is not properly funded. Suicide figures have dropped nationwide but they have not dropped in Kerry. We have too much of it. People are hurt and families are torn apart by it. Like everyone else, I know there is no adequate mental health service in Kerry. I refer to the beds in University Hospital Kerry in Tralee. People are waiting on trolleys in the accident and emergency department. Beds have been closed in Dingle. Half of the beds in Kenmare community nursing unit are closed. Killarney Community Hospital is at capacity. We hope the new hospital will be built there in the near future.

Pensioners were left behind in this budget. For as long as I can remember, there has always been some increase for pensioners, the old people who have served this country well. Only for them we would not be here. Many of them gave blood, sweat and tears to put food on the table and provide for their families. The Government found raising the carbon tax to be no bother in the world but old people were not given any increase. It is very unfair. I regret that the Government took this route with respect to elderly people who deserve better. They are really hurting because the Government did not give them the increase they were all genuinely hoping to get.

It appears that the carbon tax will pay for redundancies and compensate workers at Bord na Móna in the middle of the country. That facility was an asset that was creating energy but the Government is closing it down and has flooded the bogs. Other options are open to the Government if it is serious about carbon. How many developers throughout the country have planning permission for solar panels but are waiting for a package that will pay them for providing energy?

I must interrupt Deputy Healy Rae. We have reached 11 p.m. so the House needs to adjourn. We will resume in the morning when the Deputy will have almost seven minutes.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 11 p.m. until 9 a.m. on Thursday, 24 October 2019.