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Seanad Éireann debate -
Thursday, 2 Jun 1983

Vol. 100 No. 14

Finance Bill, 1983 [ Certified Money Bill. ]: Second Stage (Resumed).

Question again proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

You will be pleased to know that I have not got any substantial second wind just because we had a break and I am going to stick to my resolution to be comparatively brief. I had moved to a couple of specific points on sections of the Bill that I was seeking clarification on and I was hoping that the Minister might refer to them in his reply. I had raised the issue of the improvement in the provision for taxation of separated couples but the lingering problem that may remain is whether a separated couple would be able to apply for separate assessment. I was about to refer to a useful article compiled by Donal Dorcey in The Irish Times of 27 May 1983. There are two passages which set out the problem very clearly:

The Finance Bill gives separated couples a choice: to be taxed as if they were still living together, or to be taxed as single people but with recognition of maintenance payments. The system of taxing seperated people as if they were no longer married is to be ended.

One ironic anomaly remains under the first option: separated couples will not be allowed to claim separate assessment for income tax. Whether one or both are working they could be taxed by single assessment — as if they were two single people — or by joint assessment as a family unit.

The writer goes on to analyse the situation where there may not be a problem and then he deals with the area where the problem may arise. It is to that passage I want to refer and invite the Minister to comment on in his reply. I quote:

If only one of the partners is employed, then that partner gets the full allowances and tax bands for a married couple. In such a case, joint assessment raises no problem for a separated couple.

Nor is there much of a problem if their taxable incomes are exactly equal, provided they are on sufficiently good terms to fill out a tax return together and to agree on a division of allowances. In nearly all cases, of course, their incomes are unequal, so that one will pay tax at a much higher rate than the other.

How to divide the allowance to yield a fair result can cause argument. The system breaks down if both have incomes and are not able to agree on a joint tax return, or do not want each other to know their financial affairs. If they could agree to that extent, they would probably not have separated in the first place.

There is one method of tax assessment which all married couples with two incomes should adopt: separate assessment. Yet this method is not even mentioned in the advertisement published by the Revenue Commissioners in all daily newspapers after last February's Budget.

A spokesman for the Commissioners assured me then that separate assessment was not being abolished. He could not explain why it was not being advertised. The explanation appears to lie in the extra work the system entails.

Each of the partners completes a separate return of income and allowances. At the end of the year a balancing statement is drawn up by the tax office combining these two returns so that the couple will wind up paying exactly the same tax as they would under joint assessment. In most cases, this means that one of them is entitled to a refund.

But PAYE offices do not issue balancing statements unless they are requested. Since 1979, they have not even been issuing tax returns forms but simply continue taxpayers' allowances from year to year.

It appears to be for the administrative convenience of tax officials that separate assessment is still being denied to separated couples under this year's Finance Bill. Consequently, most separated couples can be expected to opt for single assessment and avail of the new provisions for allowances for maintenance payments, which take up a large part of the Bill and amount to nothing in real terms.

That is the kernel of the problem. I would like the Minister to clarify whether, despite the absence of reference to it in the advertisement in February, the separated couples can avail of separate assessment.

I welcome the fact that there is recognition of the particular difficulties and discrimination which existed prior to this in the case of separated couples. It is part of a legal neglect. It is a fair comment on our law that we are more and more seeing inadvertent, but nevertheless very serious difficulties and discriminations against couples who do not fit into the totally happy mould of a married couple living together with their family. Once partners are outside the context of a married couple living together they encounter all kinds of impediments and barriers in our legal and taxation systems. I welcome a step in the right direction and would like to have the position fully clarified by the Minister.

Another point I wish to refer to is in the section dealing with an issue which has received a great deal of publicity — the residential property tax. This proposal has generated the kind of outcry, parsing and analysis which is generally reserved for measures which are going to achieve a certain amount of effective balancing within our tax system. In other words this measure is going to succeed in taxing those who, both by reference to their income and family home, are, in Irish terms, in a substantially better position to pay that additional taxation. They are people who are very articulate and have access to the media and probably include a fair helping of journalists who will find themselves met with the liability to pay residential property tax. In my view, as a member of the Labour Party, it is a modest step in the right direction. It is, if one looks at it selectively and on its own, anomalous but if it is, as I believe it is, a constructive effort to bring more equity and fairness into the system, then it is a perfectly reasonable and acceptable measure. The reaction to it is only a comment on the overall inequity of access to the media in our society because those at the lower end of the scale who are suffering from far greater discriminations and deprivations simply do not have the airing of their problems. Poverty is not a matter that gets aired in the property columns of the newspapers and discussed at great length in editorials.

I support this measure in all its modesty and I would like to see a more comprehensive structure of equity in our tax system. I ask the Minister for specific clarification of an aspect of it which is of concern to me because I have learned through my spouse of the particular difficulties that a measure of this kind can pose for heritage properties in Ireland, for particular properties which, by reason of their historic, architectural, aesthetic value, are of particular concern to all of us. The heritage properties I talk about are on public access and are part of the rich heritage of all Irish citizens. There is in fact a provision in section 95 which is specifically geared to ensuring that the difficulties and needs of heritage properties are taken into account. Section 95 defines residential property but does not include an approved building within the meaning of section 19 of the Finance Act, 1982. This is a reference to a property which satisfies standards in relation to its importance from an historical, architectural and aesthetic point of view, which has been properly approved through the Office of Public Works and by the Revenue Commissioners, and is an approved building for those purposes. I understand from my own inquiry in the Office of Public Works that so far there are no approved buildings under section 19 of the 1982 Act, that the system, like all these systems, works rather slowly and although there have been some inquiries and forms filled, as yet there is no approved building as such, although it is my understanding a number of properties are anxious to achieve the status of being approved. Therefore, the question that I have to ask the Minister is whether the word "approved" is flexible enough to include buildings which will be approved in the course of this year and therefore which would be excluded, as is the intention, from the provisions of this Act. If, for example, they were approved in the latter part of this year, would they then be liable, as other occupants of properties which fall within this section would be liable as of next October, to pay the amount of tax for the year 1983? If not, is it possible at this stage to make a provision that if a property is either approved or is in the process of being approved, or would be approved before such date, say, April 1984, there would not be the liability for this particular residential property tax? The clear intention of the exclusion is to recognise the acute problems being encountered by the large publicly accessible heritage properties in Ireland. There is no doubt that we have to be very concerned about the number of properties that have been sold or lost to the Irish nation, even in the period of four or five years, and it is a matter of acute concern that a measure of this kind does not aggravate that situation, that the exemption granted will take effect from day one, and will achieve the purpose which the Minister sought by having that exemption in the Bill.

There is a further matter to which I would draw the Minister's attention in relation to section 19 of the 1982 Finance Act, that is, the fact that heritage gardens as such have not been included in the category of property which can potentially become approved for the purposes of section 19 of the Finance Act, 1982. There are heritage gardens, for example Powerscourt, where the building is no longer a building accessible to the public. It is only a skeleton of a building now, yet the gardens are an immense resource for our citizens and for visitors and they are very frequently visited. There are other very fine gardens which are not necessarily part of any substantial architectural property as such. The studies that have been carried out in this country and the work of bodies like the Irish Heritage Properties Group and the Heritage Trust have shown that it is through fiscal measures of this kind that we can, and must, preserve and conserve our architectural and historical heritage. It is utterly vital that we do that and the benefit of so doing is to ensure that there is full access for citizens, educational groups and people who want to learn more about the skills of Irish craftsmen or Irish horticulturists, or the way in which the particular structures were erected. I would be grateful if the Minister could clarify that point.

My final comment on the Finance Bill is on the more general area. It is a specific urging that the kind of measures we have seen — this one and a measure which we will deal with shortly in relation to the charges for local government services — should be seen, communicated and discussed in the context of an action programme for the disbursement of the revenues collected. The worst aspect of the present discontent about the high level of taxation is a feeling that it is not geared to a sufficiently radical plan of action to redress the very serious problems which face us as a nation, and in particular and specifically, the problem of recognising the irreversible trends in employment and of devising a structural scheme which would ensure, apart from the level of commercial and industrial jobs which may become available, that we provide a constructive and worth-while future for our growing young population and that that involvement is recognised as dignified, is given status, security and binds the young population in their allegiance, loyalty and commitment to this State.

The necessity for a strong and radical plan of action to cope with our present economic difficulties is of the utmost urgency because at the moment what we are seeing is a very negative disintegration of our social cohesion and an oppressive leaning on the national psyche. We do not respond well to being done down and to being burdened. As a nation we respond to inspiration, to vision, to challenge and to a hope that the tough measures being taken are leading on in a planned, coherent and concrete way to a better future for ourselves and for our children.

The real characteristic of this Bill is that it has eroded the confidence of the Irish people. No incentive is built into it for production. It is merely what I would call a mathematical exercise. There is a fear and a frustration felt by taxpayers, not alone the existing taxpayers, but the 90,000 small farmers who will be brought into the tax net. My main criticism is the subtle and serious divisions it has caused between our PAYE sector, our self-employed and our social welfare recipients. If a son or daughter is a PAYE taxpayer the first people they are going to look at are the self-employed and the social welfare recipients. They think the budget is being used as a smokescreen to cover tax avoidance and tax evasion. The PAYE sector feel they are getting less money in their pay packets because of social welfare recipients and the self-employed. It has been admitted from both sides of the House today that a person could get £100 a month less in his pay packet as a result of this budget. The most serious aspect is that our youth could take to crime — and such a step is not far around the corner because the number of unemployed young people is almost at breaking point. Crime is the most serious thing I can see coming out of it. I cannot see the division between the PAYE versus the self-employed and the social welfare recipients being healed as a result of this Finance Bill.

I heard the Minister say accountants have been in touch with him recently. This is a decade for accountants. Never before did we have an age of accountancy. The reason for this is the additional taxes under different headings. If a person has a sizeable business he will require a financial expert to deal with the taxes, to keep up with PAYE, pay-related and the various measures and returns he will have to make. These budgetary measures will not produce the finances he expects from the extra taxation imposed under the different headings. I do not think there is any balance in the budget.

Less balance than there would have been in Fianna Fáil's——

We are not in Government and we are not responsible. We will take responsibility——

Fianna Fáil are not responsible——

——any time we are in Government. I will let the people judge the Minister on his merits and on his programme, and they will give a fair assessment. There is no job creation in this budget. Curtailment of services is the keynote. If he curtails services he reduces the numer of job opportunities. Cutbacks increase fees to county councils and increase fees for attendance of ACOT instructors to the fanning community. There has been a cutback in school transport, the farm development services and the farm modernisation scheme. I do not know how the Minister will quantify the amount of money from Brussels that has been lost as a result of the discontinuation of the farm modernisation scheme. The agricultural industry need a capital injection. Since last February under the farm modernisation scheme we have been getting grants on a pound-for-pound basis for agricultural development. I am not able to quantify the amount of money we will lose, but perhaps the Minister will put a figure on it. Not alone have we lost money but we have stymied development. Many farmers are not applying for farm development schemes or programming their future because of the discontinuation of that scheme. That is unfortunate at a time when we need development.

No progress has been made in the eradication of animal diseases. There is a go slow because sufficient money for accelerating that scheme has not been made available to the Department of Agriculture. We were supposed to have a disease-free herd by 1983, but in my view we are far behind that target.

Western drainage is almost at a standstill; this budget will result in cutbacks in housing, health and job creation in CIE. There will be no replacements when people retire, and all this against a background of almost 200,000 unemployed. That is the Coalition's programme for development. We have had a population explosion of half a million over the last decade. We should build into our budget and into the Finance Bill a development programme that would provide employment for people on the unemployment register, and provide all the necessities for the many school children who will be coming onto our rolls. There is also a curtailment in the capital building programme. There is no capital development in this Finance Bill which is to give effect to the budget.

I want to speak about the small farmers, the 90,000 people who have been brought into the tax net. Medical card holders will be asked to pay tax under this system.

Read the Bill.

Mr. O'Toole

I have read every bit of it. Widows and old age pensioners are included in that 90,000. These people are frustrated by this measure. They will have to make returns, and fill up this screening form which will decide whether they will have to pay tax. If a medical card holder or a woman in receipt of a widow's pension, has a small holding in the west, receives a cattle headage payments grant or a sheep subsidy will these pensions and grants be taken into account? The only way such a person can get off the hook is by filling in this screening form. Most of the small farmers in my area go to the post office to pay their rent and their ESB charges. They do not have phones. Their ordinary day-to-day financial commitments are paid either through the bank or through the post office. They have no system of accountability. They know nothing about accountability. These are the people who are frustrated as a result of bringing these 90,000 people into the tax net.

We did not bring them in. The farmers brought themselves in.

Mr. O'Toole

The same case was made here by the Minister for Social Welfare that the PLV system has been found to be unconstitutional. That is what the Minister means. I do not go along with that. Some day that will be questioned in a much higher court than the High Court. The Minister is changing over from the notional system to the accounts system for the supplementary allowance people were getting to increase the productivity of their small holdings. I do not think that is constitutional. Money for cattle headage grants and sheep subsidies should not be accountable because they are a disadvantaged area supplement. They should not be taken into consideration but the Minister is providing that they will be taken into consideration in assessing the incomes of small farmers in the west of Ireland and throughout the country. Under this Bill most of them will have to pay tax and they may also be medical card holders. They may be widows or old age pensioners who own their own little holdings.

These are the people the Minister has frustrated. They will have to go to an accountant. He may not be an official accountant, but they will have to go before him to have their forms filled in and will have to pay for the filling in of these forms. Time will tell whether they are in the net, whether they are taxable. The Minister's guess is as good as mine. I assure him that they will have to go to an accountant for financial advice on how to get out of the plight they are in at the moment.

I want to talk about the small farmer who has his wife and family working round the clock. He will be assessed on his income, notwithstanding the fact that he works a seven-day week, 24 hours a day at times, at lambing time, at calving time if he has a dairy herd. If the Minister assesses him on his working hours that is all right, but if he assesses him on the income he derives as a result of this input by himself and his family, he will not be assessed on equal terms with the man who works a five-day week. That disincentive to that family unit will have a disastrous effect on the economy of this nation, and on the production of farms like that unit. From surveys today it appears that cattle and sheep numbers have been dropping considerably at a time when we should be giving incentives to production.

Increases in prices for alcohol, petrol and tobacco have not the effect the Minister thought they would have. Figures out today show that from January until 25 May the amount recouped under these three headings was £111 million as against £115.5 million in the same period last year. This must prove to the Minister that increased taxation causes a drop in consumption and does not bring in the amount he felt it would bring in. These three commodities are over-taxed. They are taxed to the extent that there is a reduction in employment. I know many licensed premises owners who are not opening their premises until 6 o'clock or 7 o'clock in the evening. I asked them why and they said: "We do not have to pay staff. We do not have to pay for heating. We do not have to pay for lighting". What they would make during the day would not justify them in opening. Many owners of licensed premises have ceased to open their premises at 10 o'clock in the morning. Along the Border where there is an imbalance between the price of petrol and drink trade is almost at a standstill. This continued policy of increased charges will put many small traders along the Border out of business.

Production is not mentioned in the Finance Bill. There is no realism about production, and that is something we need at this time. As I said at the outset, the budget was a mathematical exercise to collect tax. That is how I regard it. It is not like the old traditional budget.

How much more tax would Fianna Fáil have collected — £150 million? Where would they get it?

We may not have collected the tax in full. We would not go about collecting it in one year. We had a programme, "The Way Forward", which had a developmental plan enshrined in it. We put that to the people and it was rejected. We did not get the opportunity to put it into operation. That was the purpose of "The Way Forward". It was a development plan to create jobs and to create a balance. In this budget the Minister has not got that balance. For that reason it will not have the effect the Minister thought it might have. The end result will be failure, and possibly for the tax evasion people jail and heavy penalties which were not the norm in this country. I believe that people did not try to avoid paying tax except through carelessness. That will happen more often in the future because of the many taxes they will be required to pay. Unless they go to accountants they will not be able to have their taxes processed. You would need to be well aware of the tax system if you have any kind of a business. The Minister will be remembered as Richie Ryan is and perhaps Gorgeous George as well. I can assure him that he will be remembered after this budget. It will not have the desired effect.

I should like to make a few comments on the Bill and I promise I will not delay the House. I know the Minister is anxious to resolve our problems but the cure may be worse than the disease. I realise he is anxious to achieve high levels of Government revenue to cater for the growing population and to ensure tax equity.

I would like to refer to a paragraph from his speech in the Dáil. It is important that I give the reference as I was chastised before for not doing so. As reported at column 417, Volume 342 of the Official Report the Minister said:

I recently described the farm profile form as being like a radar screen where the profile itself would be the sweep, and in particular cases the sweep would identify cases where there might be a tax liablity. These cases would then be further examined by tax inspectors...I consider that the profile fully meets the Government commitment to a system which will deal simply and fairly with the large number of small farmers newly liable for income tax.

That means the tax inspectors will be calling on the farmers and asking them to submit audited accounts.

The Senator should read the rest of that.

The general opinion is that fanners will have to get audited accounts to ensure that they do not pay more than they should pay. We have the standard of assessment of accounts or the production unit accounting system. Farming organisations have already said they should have a choice as to whether they should have to employ an accountant. We are all looking for an equitable system. Everyone should pay their fair share of taxation. Farmers are a vital productive community and should be given a choice.

Each year the Agricultural Institute through a scientific survey calculate the net income earned on a large number of representative farms. This is called the farm family income because it recognises that the efforts of several members of the family are involved in earning the income. The family farm income is calculated for the different enterprises — milk, tillage, crops, cattle, and so on — in different regions to take account of varying soil types and for different sizes of farms. For example, in 1981 the Farm Management Survey by the Agricultural Institute showed that the average family income for all full-time dairy farmers was £145 a cow. Of course variations up and down would occur for different regions.

The agreed Fine Gael-Labour Programme for Government published in December 1982 makes reference to the replacement of the poor law valuation system. Because of the poor law valuation decision this system of taxation is being introduced. The poor law valuation system currently used as a basis for assessing many farmers' eligibility for certain Benefits and liability for certain contributions must be replaced. It will be replaced by a system based on standard results per enterprise and per region taken from the Farm Management Surveys carried out by An Foras Talúntais. These gross results would be adjusted to take account of capital depreciation, interest payments and other factors, in order to calculate the taxable income.

At this stage we are rushing into a system which I doubt will be fair and which will be a disincentive to production. That is my opinion, and it is definitely the opinion of the farming organisations.

They said to the contrary. They have all accepted the profile.

Would the Minister not think they should be entitled to a choice? I did not hear that they have all accepted it. That is a matter for debate. The Minister and the Government must ensure that farmers are not taxed to such an extent that there would be a disincentive to production. Increased production in the agricultural sector is vital to our economy. The input of the family into production should also be taken into account.

The Minister should realise that, unless he devises a simple method of assessing a farmer's taxable income, he is imposing on the section of the farming community who do not have a taxable income an auditing expense of sizeable dimensions which the farmers can ill afford. Surely there must be somebody who can devise a fair share of taxation production. Are the Government so far beyond hope that they cannot wait, in their panic, to see what the overall situation will be in putting the country back on its feet? The Government should not rush into making decisions which will be unfair to the farmers. The farmers form a very sizeable section of the self-employed. The idea that they are retaining vast hoards of money that could be put to Government use is ridiculous.

On the question of the taxation of farmers it is important to make the point that these taxes must be considered in the light of bringing about equity in the entire taxation system and that farmers will play their role in bringing about that equity. The State must bear in mind the matter of incentives for production. Failure to provide incentives for the expansion of agriculture would lessen the importance of agriculture to the Irish economy. It is most important that, whatever taxation system is imposed, we do not have a lack of incentives to production. I appeal to the Minister to consider on future occasions imposing a fairer system of taxation on the farmers. The Minister has made several amendments. I welcome the fact that he reduced the rate of VAT on motor repairs to 5 per cent.

The youth of today are most vulnerable especially in the society we are living in. The voluntary organisations who are catering for our youth need every help and support. An association of which I am very proud to be a member, the Gaelic Athletic Association, are playing a vital part in developing our youth, especially in providing physical recreation and other amenities so necessary for the development of youth. In these times of vandalism and drug abuse, it is important that the work of these voluntary organisations is helped and not hindered in attracting our youth, so that they will develop in the proper atmosphere to ensure that they grow up to be a credit to the community. The Gaelic Athletic Association and other organisations, through their promotion, and especially the GAA in the promotion of the game of hurling, are of immense value to our present day youth. Recently a former Taoiseach, when he was unveiling a memorial to the great hurler, the late Christy Ring, asked how could we commemorate him. He said: "First of all by ensuring that hurling, that noble field game that is truly ours, is cherished and developed to strengthen the fibre of our people. Next year, the centenary of the GAA will, I hope, see special attention being paid to hurling so that the hurley will be seen right through the land in the hands of our young people".

Imposing a 35 per cent VAT rate is definitely hindering the promotion of this fine game. It must be recognised that the GAA are doing great work in promoting hurling. They are catering for our youth to prevent vandalism and drug abuse. After VAT at 35 per cent, a £5 juvenile hurley will sell at £6.75. The Minister might say that he could not abolish tax on hurleys because he would have to do the same for other sports goods, but he has done so on other commodities. Hurling is different. You can buy a hurley and it can break in a couple of minutes. Representations have been made to the Minister by the association to consider removing this tax completely, or at least reducing it. It should be removed completely, because it is a great hindrance to the association in their work to promote this game among our youth. As we approach the centenary of the association next year, it would be nice if VAT were removed from hurleys so that the association could commemorate their foundation without this penal imposition on them in promoting this ancient game of hurling.

Any organisation working voluntarily for the development of our youth should get help and should not be hindered by such things as VAT on commodities which they need. I hope the Minister will keep these matters in mind, especially the provision of an equitable system of taxation for the farming community, and for everyone. Voluntary organisations, such as the organisation I mentioned, should not be hindered by the imposition of VAT on things which are not luxury goods. Hurling is not a luxury as far as I am concerned. It is a necessity and other games are a necessity for the development of our youth.

I doubt that there has ever been a Finance Bill that did not come in for some share of criticism. I doubt that there is any way of producing a budget and a Finance Bill based on it which will not in some of its aspects displease some groups, or worry other groups, or make people feel they are being got at in some way or another.

This year there has been a certain accent on dealing with the problem of tax evasion. I am bound to say that those who have criticised this year's Finance Bill for its alleged effects on incentives, for its alleged effects in terms of intrusion on privacy, have, by accident or design, themselves given rise to the very feelings they claim come from the provisions of the Bill. We have heard it here this evening. In relation to the farm tax, for example, a number of the comments might as well have been made without the Bill having been read at all, without any consideration having been given to the discussions we had in Dáil Éireann, and without any consideration having been given to the discussions that went on with the interested groups before the budget was drawn up, in the first place, and before the Finance Bill was even published.

I take that as one example. It is one example of many, where it seems to me that the normal process of adversary politics has been distorted to create the very effects people claim some of these measures would have. That is a great pity, because it seems that much of the time that is being spent in debate on these measures, which are important in themselves, which are important in their objectives, is spent not in discussing the effects of the measures but in making claims and counter-claims about the effects of what it is said the measures are, without any direct reference to the measures themselves.

The same goes for the provisions in relation to farm taxation, provisions in relation to tax evasion, provisions in relation to property tax, and a number of other provisions. I invite Senators on that side of the House to reflect, and to ask themselves whether they are not creating the very problems they claim are inherent in the Bill. They are running a very real danger of cultivating a degree of hysteria which is not at all warranted by the provisions of the Bill before us. I will come back to that in relation to specific measures. It is something we can get back to in even more detail when we come to look at the individual sections.

There is no doubt that this year's budget was a difficult one. There is equally no doubt that this year's budget was, in many respects, a less difficult one than the one promised last November by our predecessors in office. I want to get this point out of the way at the very beginning of my remarks, because it is a very interesting one, and one to which I would like to hear some answers, not perhaps this evening but over the next few weeks. This budget we are talking about, which is being implemented by the provisions in this Bill, will produce a current budget deficit of £900 million, give or take £1 million or £2 million.

We were told the programme published by our predecessors in office was the way forward and that would have resulted, we are told, in a current budget deficit of some £750 million this year. I had the honour of being told I have an obsession with figures, and I understand that the Leas-Chathaoirleach likened me yesterday to a robot. It was very kind of you to do that, but if I am a robot and if I am obsessed with figures, the obsession would have been magnificent had I been trying to get the other £150 million of which Senators on the other side now disclaim all knowledge. Where could they have got £150 million? We should consider that. Where would they have got £150 million in extra taxation? Let us ask ourselves that. I shudder to think what we would have to do to personal tax-free allowances to get that amount of money, what we would have to do to farm taxation to get that amount of money, what we would have to do to any part of our taxation system in order to produce that much extra revenue. Perhaps it would have come on the expenditure side and we would have been talking about taking another £150 million off the Public Capital Programme, for example, off our housing programme or our infrastructural development programmes, or perhaps out of current spending on education or on health services.

The debate on this Bill and the debate on this year's budget are lacking a very important part of substance because Senators on the other side of the House and their colleagues in the other House have failed to say one word about where they would have made up the difference, how they would have found their way forward, if indeed it was a way forward. I remember many years ago when one of our very large neighbours in the East launched a new programme. It was called then the great leap forward and one of the weekly newspapers had a picture of the then chairman on the cover and the motto they put underneath it was "the great leap sideways". I wonder which way we would have been going if we had to find another £150 million in taxation or in reductions in expenditure. The kind of criticism of this budget and of this Finance Bill that we have heard from the other side to me totally lacks credibility because it makes no reference whatsoever to that particular difference.

Could I point out to the Minister that we are not a homogeneous mass over here and that if he wants to talk about Fianna Fáil I would prefer if he talked about Fianna Fáil.

I beg the Senator's pardon. I clearly got the message from his remarks earlier on that he is unambigously in favour both of more expenditure and of more taxation. I accept that the Senator is in a special category.

On a point of order, it is the usual tradition here that Senators on both sides of the House are complimented for their contributions. I resent very much that the Minister should single out the Fianna Fáil people here. We have made contributions and we believe them to be concrete and constructive.

I accept the Senator's remarks but I have been trying to find a reason why I should either compliment or not compliment Senators on that side of the House for the contributions they have not made. That particular one has been very important. It is a big gap in the debate.

The anti-evasion measures in this year's Finance Bill have come in for a great deal of attention. Much of it has Been exaggerated in terms of the claims that have been made in relation to the effects this will have on the taxpayer. An examination of the measures will show very clearly that the taxpayer who is paying his taxes, as the vast majority of our taxpayers are, making returns more or less — I say that advisedly — in time in the proper form, has absolutely nothing to fear.

It has been made very clear that the measures are aimed at those who, intentionally and deliberately, set out to reduce their tax bill by delay or by concealment, by not revealing the total amount of their incomes, and who know quite well what they are doing when they start out on that road. I would think, on all sides, that we would agree that we need to take measures to deal with that particular problem, to deal with the people who know what they are at, who know what they set out to do and whose purpose is not to make the contribution that the rest of us make almost without questioning the reason why.

I am not pretending that any of us particularly enjoy paying tax or that any one of us would rush out and volunteer to pay tax. It is human nature to feel that taxation, however fair we might think it is, is an extraction that we do not particularly like, but the vast majority of us, in all walks of life, and however we pay our tax, whether it is through PAYE, as self-employed persons or as contractors or any of these activities, pay our taxes, more or less willingly, more or less grudgingly, but we do it according to the accepted form. The people we have in mind in the anti-evasion measures in this Bill are the ones who deliberately set out not to do that. To say that the vast majority of our taxpayers, who adhere to the rules and who pay their taxes, are in any way under threat from these measures is not only a gross exaggeration but I would consider it quite an insult to the vast majority of taxpayers who have nothing to fear and who conform, broadly speaking, to the best of their abilities to the requirements of our system.

Senator Smith described the Bill as punitive, negative and unimaginative. Those were the words he used. They are words that have been frequently on the lips of those on that side of the House. I must say that I find them rather glib. When we go into the discussion of the particular measures in question we find that there is no intention of being punitive. As I have said, as far as tax evasion is concerned we are setting out to deal with a problem, widely recognised, of people who deliberately set out not to pay their taxes, to defraud the rest of us, to defraud the community. I do not think we can regard a Bill that does that as punitive or negative.

This Bill gives effect, as has been pointed out, to the provisions of this year's budget. This year's budget aims to do several things. One important thing that it aims to do is to start us back on a course which will get us away from the biggest single financial problem that we have today, that is the simple fact that one-third of all of our tax revenue this year will not be available for any constructive purpose in our own country, for the benefit of our people this year because we have to use it to pay the interest on our debts. We cannot use it to build a single new school, we cannot use it to build a hospital, we cannot use it to build a road, we cannot use it to provide health services, we cannot use it to provide social welfare benefits.

One pound out of every three of our tax revenue is just not available to us this year. If we were not to take action on that this year it would not be just one pound out of every three next year or in a couple of years time. We would gradually lose control over more and more of our revenue, over more and more of the income produced by our own people. That is the objective that we have. That is why we want to reduce the total borrowing requirement and the current budget deficit, not from any concern with books, not from any concern with balancing the figures, but out of a real concern to regain control of the fruit of our own labours, to regain control over our own tax revenue so that we can use it in the way that suits the needs of today's population and particularly of our young generation coming up, of tomorrow's population, so that we can use more of our revenue to provide for the needs of our young people.

Senator Smith called it unimaginative. That is rather an easy word also. The kind of imagination that is required to envisage a situation if we did not regain control of our finances is fevered, to say the least. What would happen if we were talking about more than one-third of our revenue that escapes our control, that we cannot use? That is where you need imagination. I would rather not have to put my imagination to the test to see if it could stretch out to encompass that kind of situation. I do not mind being unimaginative if it means that I take the kind of measures that are going to avoid getting us into that kind of situation, that are going to avoid a continuation of that particular problem.

What it boils down to is that we are recognising — and this is becoming increasingly the case throughout our community — that there is a direct link between the total amount of public expenditure and the total amount of taxation we have to levy on our community. At the end of the day we here in this country are the only people who can pay for the services and the investment we want. We can bide time by borrowing, but we still have to pay for it. We must decide ourselves where our priorities lie, particularly as between the levels of service we want today and the provision we want to make for our young people. This year's budget, and therefore this year's Finance Bill, represent a first step towards redressing that balance, a first step along the road making it possible for us to make the kind of provision for our young people, for the coming generation, we all want to make. It is in recognition of that that we are taking the kind of steps we have set out in this Finance Bill.

Senator Smith spoke of a provision in the Bill frightening money out of banks and building societies. Which measure was he talking about — there are two he might have in mind — and we will have a specific discussion on these when we come to the sections? There is one provision giving a choice to building societies. Under present legislation we have a very convenient system of collecting tax from our building societies. We have a composite rate of tax that is paid on the interest payable on building society deposits. It was set up some years ago with the proviso that the amount of tax collected under that system, as far as we could make it, should be the same as the total amount of tax that would be collected; were that system not in operation — in other words, the same as the total amount of tax that would be collected if we required every depositor in a building society to make a separate return of the amount of income he or she received in interest from that society. The intention was to find a convenient arrangement under which we would get the same amount of money as we would get had we full disclosure of all the interest paid by building societies on their deposits.

What has happened since that measure was announced? Has it frightened money out of building societies? I invite Senator Smith to look at the inflows into building societies, which in the first four months of this year were over 30 per cent higher than for the first four months of last year. I would invite him to look at what they did with the money. According to figures supplied by the building societies themselves the number of mortgages written for second-hand houses in the first four months of this year was 40 per cent greater than the corresponding figure for last year. The number of mortgages written for new houses was just over 3 per cent greater than the total number written in the same period last year. I do not think that is evidence that money is being frightened out of building societies. I would ask Senator Smith and others who made this point just to consider that evidence and ask themselves whether in making that kind of claim they are not going to bring about the kind of result they claim to see happening but which is not in fact happening.

The other measure to which the Senator might be referring is that in the Bill — and again we can discuss it when we come to these specific sections — which provides that where there is reason to believe that a taxpayer is not disclosing all of his income, and that in particular he is not disclosing an account he might have in a financial institution, a Revenue Commissioner may apply to the High Court and, on satisfying the High Court that he has reason to believe that that is the case, get a direction from the court to the financial institution. I would invite Senators to reflect on the number of cases in which that might happen and to ask themselves seriously if that kind of examination will be the kind of thing that will make a lot of small savers all over the country ask themselves whether they are secure. I would make the point — and I think it is a reasonable one to make — that the vast majority of small savers all around the country, whether their money is in bank accounts or in building societies, will quickly conclude, when they see what is involved in this, that it relates to very different kinds of people. Certainly it does not mean small savers. It certainly does not mean the kind of people who are now being frightened by the predictions that they should be frightened and who are now being frightened by the kinds of statements that are totally unjustified when compared with the measures being referred to.

I come now to the subject of farm taxation on which we have had some discussion here this evening. I would ask Senators to consider why it was necessary this year to make a new provision in relation to the taxation of farming income. Some short while ago a group of farmers decided they would contest the constitutionality of the PLV system as a basis for taxation. We all know that there was a threshold, that people whose rateable valuations were over £40 came into the tax net. They then had to produce accounts in the form decided by the Revenue Commissioners. A case was taken in the High Court and that court decided that the use of PLV for that purpose was unconstitutional. I shall not go into the reasons because there are people here better qualified than I to say that. But the terms of the decision made it quite clear that we could no longer use the level of PLV to distinguish between one person and another and to use that distinction as a means of deciding whether or not that person should come into the tax net.

Why did the Government appeal to the Supreme Court?

That being the case it was necessary to find a means of replacing that. Indeed, the Senator knows quite well where that appeal is because it was taken by a different administration. We had to find another means of distinguishing between farmers in order to decide who had to pay tax and who did not. In particular we had to find a way that would not be attacked as being unconstitutional, that would be effective, that would allow us to decide who should be in the tax net and who should not. Therefore, we have a situation now in which 90,000 farmers who up to now were outside the tax net have to be brought into it, and have to be brought into it as a result of a case taken by farmers themselves. And we must if we can do it, find an efficient, cheap, and administratively convenient way of doing that.

The passage that I think it was Senator Kiely read out from the Government programme was one approach to it. I am very familiar with that passage because I wrote it myself during the summer of last year. I put a certain amount of thought and work into it. At that time it seemed to me that that was a reasonable way of going about the job. But I am bound to say that, whether it be a vice or a virtue I do not know, I do not like freezing my thinking at one point in time. I am bound to say that it did occur to me afterwards to keep on wondering if there might not be a better way of doing it; and we found it. I would say to the Senator that that is creativity, that he should try it some time.


The Minister, without interruption.

I should like to say why it is better because that is important when we are discussing this Bill. It is a new departure in our tax system. We have found a better way. That particular solution, as well as the other solution which has been referred to — the production unit accounting system — is a notional system of taxation. What happens in a notional system? You ascribe an income level to people on the basis of certain criteria. You find that people whose incomes are below the average if they are taxed on the basis of the average results will be systematically over-taxed. As Members of this House know, that is probably the case with regard to many people in the west of Ireland. A notional system could produce a situation where those in the west would be systematically over-taxed and I am not so sure that Members of this House would want that hung around their necks. There would also be the situation where people whose incomes were above the average would be systematically under-taxed. I know many people would be happy to see that happen but I do not think it would be the proper action for me to produce such a system.

We have had notional systems before. Many Members will agree that the experience of notional systems, both on the ground and in the Revenue, has not been the happiest. Many people would not want to go back to notional systems for different reasons. That was why I thought we should adopt a different system if we could find something better than the notional system.

We found something better than the notional system. The farm profile form which we have produced and which will be going out to farmers in the near future is a simple form. It asks for simple information that can be provided by the farmer himself without having to hire an accountant to fill it in. I think Members would agree that most farmers know how many acres of land they have, how many cows and bullocks they have and how many sheep they have. They know how many haysheds they have built in the past ten years and most could tell nearly to the last penny how much they paid for them. That is the kind of information that will be asked in the farm profile form. That will be returned to an inspector of taxes. He will examine the form and if he finds, on the basis of the information in the form, that it is likely that Farmer X has a taxable income, then we will send him the simplified form and we will start in the same way as is provided for in the current tax system.

Senator Kiely or Senator O'Toole reminded me that I had recently made a few remarks about accountants. However, the Senator did not finish the remarks. The representations made to me by accountants have been to the effect that I am putting them out of business by bringing in a tax system that does not require all the farmers to produce audited accounts for the purpose of paying their income tax. I am quite happy about that. I do not want to put an excessive burden on the farming community or on the Revenue Commissioners to operate this tax system. Obviously it will come in on a phased basis. There is no secret about the fact that we will not get to the point of being able to send out 90,000 farm profile forms this year. We will start at the top of the list.

I am conscious of the difficulties experienced not only by farmers but by other small business people in providing some of the information requested of them. I think Senator Kiely forgot to read out of the Government's programme that for that reason recently I set up an inter-departmental group which is inviting submissions from people in the small business sector and in the farming community. If they have suggestions to make as to how their tax accounting can be simplified, they can make them. We will all be happy if we can find a simpler and more straightforward system of tax accounting for small businesses. It is not in anyone's interest to make the system heavy and difficult to operate. If Members of this House have ideas on the subject — and one or two of them seem to have — perhaps they would let us have their suggestions for a simplified form of accounts that will achieve the desired objective.

Senator Lanigan has an interest in the simplified accounts. He referred to the PRSI contributions of employers. He said he thought our rate of contribution to PRSI must be one of the highest such rates in Europe.

The Minister was not here when I gave the figure of 11.61 per cent——

The Minister should be allowed to continue without interruption.

Our rate is one of the lowest in Europe. I do not know who can take credit for that but that is the case. There was some discussion of the improvements brought about——

Will the Minister give the rates of employment tax levied in other countries in Europe?

That would be more appropriate on Committee Stage.

Reference was made to a number of changes made in the Bill during the course of discussions in the Dáil. One of the changes was in relation to the rate of VAT on hotel accommodation. I am bound to say this was one measure the Government considered to be justified on the grounds that there is a particular situation here, namely, that it amounts virtually to an export industry in many ways. The Government considered that if there was a way in which we could treat it like an export industry we should do that. Of course the measure we adopted does not go the whole way but it goes some of the way. It will help in some degree to relieve the problem that arises in an industry of that kind from our present levels of taxation.

We had another case in relation to the motor industry where we found a way of reducing VAT on workshop services. That is a different type of measure. Its distinguishing feature is that it is self-financing in that we have compensated for the loss of revenue on the VAT side by an increase in the rate of excise duty on new cars. I commend that measure to the House as being an imaginative approach — if Senator Smith will allow me to use that phrase — which redistributes the weight of various kinds of taxation on a particular industry in a way that will allow those who are legitimately registered in the industry to even up the conditions of competition between themselves and those who are not registered. For that reason, the measure commended itself to the Government and to the industry. Incidentally, I compliment them on the imagination they showed in putting forward the solution. Of course, it should not be regarded as a precedent for any other sector where the same possibilities do not present themselves.

Senator O'Leary regretted that we had introduced a new rate of income tax of 65 per cent. I know that he is very much aware that I am rather regretful about that myself, but in looking at a measure like that we come back to the basic equation of which we cannot lose sight when we are talking about a budget or a Finance Bill. We must cover our expenditure from the revenue that we can raise and in raising the revenue we must have regard to where it is to come from, to the ability of people to make that contribution and to the contribution that will be made by that new tax band which is going to be made on the whole by people with higher incomes. In the circumstances in which we find ourselves the Government consider that it is reasonable to ask people at higher levels of income to make a somewhat higher contribution than they have been making up to now.

I want to go into some remarks that are attributed to Senator Lanigan in my notes. I could not be here during all of his remarks, and since he was perhaps rather sensitive about remarks I made earlier, I will discuss it with him later on and perhaps we can come to those remarks on Committee Stage.

Senator Lynch during the course of his remarks asked if Revenue could not take a more sympathetic approach to small family businesses where for one reason or another things had been let slip a little in relation to the provision of tax returns. I will come back to that because it is important to be clear on this. Section 94 of the Bill deals with the approach to revenue offences. I want to make it absolutely clear, as I have done already in Dáil Éireann, that first of all that section does not invent new offences but it provides for new penalties in cases where, as I have said, there is clear, positive intent on the part of the taxpayer to defraud. It provides for penalties which will be applied in the more serious cases and where the size of the offence makes it one which we should sanction heavily. In our existing legislation we already have provision for penalties in relation to tax offences and those penalties will continue to apply in the smaller cases. However, we have already in our system a degree of tolerance of the situation of small businesses which I think is perfectly normal and which possibly has resulted in giving people the idea that perhaps they can be a little lax and creates the very kind of situation about which Senator Lynch spoke. I take the point that he made that on the whole it is a difficult enough matter to run a business and there are so many prescriptions to which one must conform that it would be very useful if our tax administration could adopt the most open and helpful approach possible to dealing with people who are, after all, trying to fulfil their obligations, and to the extent that it is possible we will certainly do that. We are engaged at the moment — as I suppose Governments are constantly engaged — in efforts to improve the administration of our tax system, to streamline it and make it more effective, and as part of that I will take up consideration of how we can make the system, and encourage the people who work the system, to be more open and helpful with people who are trying to conform to their legal obligations.

Senator Higgins expressed some reservations about the social impact of measures in the Bill and he asked about the effect it would have in terms of its redistributive effect. I would point to two aspects of the Bill and ask him to consider them. The first I mentioned already a few moments ago, the introduction of the 65 per cent tax rate which will have its own effects on the distribution of taxation. I would ask him to consider also the effects of the measures that we are taking on tax evasion and avoidance because they also will have an effect on the distribution of the tax burden in the community. Both would have a very positive effect in relation to redistribution.

He also asked — and other Members of the House have referred to this — where the concern was with planning. This brings me back to one of the central features of the budget and of the Government programme. I am glad to see that there has been such a wide readership of the Government programme. Members on all sides of the House will have noted that there is a commitment in the Government programme to phasing out the current deficit over a specified period. That is the central part of an approach to planning. It is one of the objectives that we must set ourselves.

The second part of that concern is shown in the decision taken some time ago by the Government to set up the national planning board, who will have as their function the drawing up of proposals relating to a medium-term economic and social plan for our economy. We have done that very deliberately because we did not consider particularly that the document drawn up and announced shortly before we came into office provided an adequate basis for a medium-term plan because it contained aspirations without policies rather than the kind of policies that we need in order to direct our efforts to meeting the very real problems that we have which must centre around a feature of our society to which Senator Ryan drew particular attention, that is our high dependency ratio. Therefore, we have set up a national planning board who will advise the Government on the elements which should be included in a medium-term programme and when we have the suggestions from the planning board we will marry them with the more general budgetary targets so that we can match our resources with the kind of programme that we need to deal with our social structure and our economic requirements.

Senator O'Donoghue, I understand, adopted a fairly positive approach to the provisions of this year's budget and to the Finance Bill, but he pointed out what he seems to regard as an inconsistency, if I understood correctly what he said. He seemed to see an inconsistency between the concern with the more strictly budgetary aspects of the measures that we have taken and the concern with employment. This brings me again to one of the central features of our problem, one to which I referred in the very early part of my Budget Statement on 9 February. In the normal course of events a responsible Government who found themselves dealing with conditions of recession and conditions that were producing unemployment and pressure on real incomes would try to compensate for that by increasing the level of public spending.

Equally, if a Government found themselves in a position with a strong recovery in course with employment and levels of output recovering, they would normally tend to respond to that by reducing the current deficit. Since we have run large deficits for so many years the option is not open to us now to increase total expenditure in order to try to deal with the effects of recession because we do not have the resources from which to increase current spending. It would be unwise to borrow those resources because, as I said earlier, we would be hanging an even greater weight around our necks for future years. We are in a situation where Government intervention in a general way in the economy is almost forced to be of a kind that reinforces the cycle rather than going against it. That is probably the most dramatic part of our economic problem today and one with which we must come to grips as quickly as we can in order to have any hope of getting back to a condition that would allow us the normal reactions that Governments should have to deal with the situation created for them by the external environment.

I apologise to the House if my remarks are somewhat scattered but they are more or less in the order of the interventions during this debate. Senator Hanafin asked about the residential property tax. He wanted to know if the provisions of this Bill would mean that the Revenue Commissioners could enter one's home at any time they chose, have a look around and see what they could find. Of course, that is not the case. Again, when we come to the section it will become clear that that is very definitely not the case because the conditions in which the Bill provides for any kind of a visit to a household require that there be a disagreement as to the valuation that is put on the house and specify that one of the means that might be used to resolve the disagreement is the sending by the Revenue Commissioners of a qualified person to value the property. There is not in any sense a provision in this Bill that provides in any general way for an intrusion into the privacy of the home. For those who are afraid that that might happen I invite them to consider that particular provision of the Bill. For those who have considered that provision of the Bill, I invite them to stop frightening people by saying things that simply are not borne out by the provisions of the Bill itself.

Senator Ryan put some words into my mouth. He had the impression that I was making the claim that equity equals cuts in public services. That, of course, is not the case. I think he was referring to the fact that I remarked in my introductory speech to this Stage that in our circumstances part of the concern with the equity of our tax system arises from the volume of taxes: the heavier the total burden of taxation the more concerned people will be with equity. That is one statement with which it would be difficult to disagree. The other statement, which Senator Ryan tacked on to that and got a rather erroneous equation, is that in our present circumstances to talk realistically about substantial reductions in taxation, we must look at reductions in expenditure because I do not think there are vast areas where new forms of taxation will raise large amounts of extra revenue. I should like to make the point to Senator Ryan that I was not making that equation and to the extent that any of his other remarks about the Bill were based on that I would ask him to reconsider them.

It has been said that the provisions of this Bill suggest that profit and enterprise are not good things and are to be criticised or penalised in some way. That is a gross exaggeration and is not borne out by anything contained in the Bill. I ask Members of the House to consider what is behind that. Are we criminalising profit when we say that we want to stop tax evasion? I do not think so. You do not have to make large profits to evade taxes, neither do you have to be in a situation where you are making no profits. If you are not making profits there is not much incentive to evade taxes in the first place. They are two completely separate and distinct things. There is always an incentive to make a profit. There is always an incentive to get on with whatever business there is in hand and I cannot see how the feeling that people who are evading tax are going to be brought properly into the net is in any way a disincentive to making profits. It is a disincentive to evading taxes but I do not think that any Member of this House would say that making profits equals evading taxes. That is not the view that most of us have and it is certainly not a view that underlies the provisions of this Bill.

Senator Robinson asked some questions about the taxation of separated spouses. We can have a more detailed discussion about this on Committee Stage, but where separated spouses follow the provisions set out in this Bill the separate assessment provisions can and will apply. There is a technical point in that but it is covered in the provisions of the Bill. With regard to the other question raised by Senator Robinson about the heritage properties and particularly about the gardens, the gardens are covered in the Bill on page 80, lines 33 and 34. The passage in brackets provides for gardens, but we can discuss that in more detail on Committee Stage.

In conclusion, I wish to take up one or two of the more general points that have been made. Again, I ask Members of the House to consider what foundation there is for some of the claims that have been made. It has been said — and it is as well that we should confront this — that the provisions of this Bill have eroded confidence. That is the kind of claim that is made with the normal hyperbole of political discussion of a measure like this. What has actually happened? The provisions of this year's budget, far from eroding confidence, have increased confidence in our economy and in our ability to manage our affairs both here and abroad. It is particularly important for us that confidence abroad in the Irish economy should be strong, because it is very clear that we are going to need inflows of funds and investment from abroad in order to carry out the kind of programme we want to carry out. I am glad that at this stage of the year we have pretty well completed our foreign borrowing programme for this year and are now in a position that from here on we will be able to make provision to start laying the groundwork for next year's borrowing.

That is a very strong indication of the positive effect of this year's budgetary strategy on confidence in this economy. We can see it within our own economy also. It is a very positive response to a very wide perception that budgetary policy has now been taken under control. There has also been a positive response to measures that we have taken since then. I give one example, which has been criticised, that is our course of action taken in the recent realignment of the EMS currency, which again has met with a positive response in the agricultural sector, in industry and will certainly show up in export performance. Far from, as is claimed, having dented confidence, our budgetary strategy — which, after all, is the basis of this Finance Bill — has tended to build up confidence and shown both people here and those with whom we deal abroad that we now have a very determined programme based on getting our destinies under our own control again and putting our own people back in control of more and more of the income that they themselves produce and a part of which they provide for the running of the country.

Question put.
The Seanad divided: Tá, 26; Níl, 13.

  • Browne, John.
  • Bulbulia, Katharine.
  • Burke, Ulick.
  • Connor, John.
  • Cregan, Denis (Dino).
  • Daly, Jack.
  • Dooge, James C.I.
  • Durcan, Patrick.
  • Ferris, Michael.
  • Fleming, Brian.
  • Higgins, Jim.
  • Higgins, Michael D.
  • Hourigan, Richard V.
  • Howard, Michael.
  • Howlin, Brendan.
  • Kelleher, Peter.
  • Lennon, Joseph.
  • Loughrey, Joachim.
  • McAuliffe-Ennis, Helena.
  • McDonald, Charlie.
  • McMahon, Larry.
  • O'Brien, Andy.
  • O'Leary, Seán
  • O'Mahony, Flor.
  • Quealy, Michael A.
  • Robinson, Mary T.W.


  • de Brún, Séamus.
  • Ellis, John.
  • Fallon, Seán.
  • Fitzsimons, Jack.
  • Hillery, Brian.
  • Honan, Tras.
  • Kiely, Rory.
  • Killilea, Mark.
  • Lanigan, Mick.
  • Lynch, Michael.
  • O'Toole, Martin J.
  • Ryan, Eoin.
  • Smith, Michael.
Tellers: Tá, Senators Cregan and Ferris; Níl, Senators de Brún and Lanigan.
Question declared carried.
Agreed to take Committee Stage today.

Before we commence Committee Stage, I wish to inform the House that the recommendation in the name of Senator O'Leary has been ruled out of order on the grounds that it would involve a potential charge on the revenue.

I presume it would be out of order for me to ask a question on that?