The Order of Business is No. 1, statements on the Decade of Centenaries programme of commemorations, to be taken at 12.30 p.m. and to conclude not later than 2 p.m., with the contributions of group spokespersons not to exceed eight minutes, those of all other Senators not to exceed five minutes and the Minister to be called on to reply not later than 1.50 p.m.; No. 2, Health (Pricing and Supply of Medical Goods) Bill 2012 - Report Stage, amendments from Dáil Éireann, to be taken at 2 p.m. and to conclude not later than 3 p.m. if not previously concluded; No. 3, Animal Health and Welfare Bill 2012 - Report Stage, amendments from Dáil Éireann, to be taken at 3 p.m. and to conclude not later than 5 p.m. if not previously concluded; and No. 4, Criminal Justice (Unlicensed Money-Lending) Bill 2013, to be taken at 5 p.m. and to conclude not later than 7 p.m.
Order of Business
On 27 February I and my colleagues in Fianna Fáil tabled a motion of no confidence in the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, well in advance of his current travails. Anyone who has followed the debate with regard to the Minister's blatant misuse of privileged information would understand that no one in their right mind could stand over his actions, and it is beyond me how the Government can do that. No one believes his excuses or his reasoning, and many unanswered questions remain.
On 27 February, this House had what I felt was a very good debate on policing, this Minister's mishandling of law and order, the fact that he has presided over the Garda Síochána but has lost the confidence of the rank and file gardaí, closed more than 140 barracks and under-resourced the gardaí. We gave over a week's notice of that debate, as we are required to do, but on 27 February the Minister decided not to show up in the Seanad to take the debate. I said on the day that that was probably the starkest example of this man's arrogance and disdain for people who do not share his views.
In that debate I said I would submit a freedom of information request for the Minister's diary, which I did and which I have in my hand. On 27 February, when he could not be bothered showing up for a two hour debate here in Seanad Éireann, the Minister spent 45 minutes meeting with representatives of Responsible Retailing of Alcohol in Ireland. He then met with his private spin doctor, Mr. Tom Fabozzi, for another half an hour while our debate was ongoing.
He was not on Government business or doing any bilateral meetings because of the European Presidency. He did not meet anyone of any note who in my view would have excused him from coming here to take a motion of no confidence in himself. He did not even stand up for himself and his record and answer the points here. I have a copy of his diary for circulation and it is not the most extensive ministerial diary I have seen. There is no excuse for the Minister not being in the House on that particular day. Will the Leader seek from the Minister, Deputy Shatter, the reasons he did not see fit to come to the House on 27 February to answer a Fianna Fáil Private Members' motion? It is disgraceful.
It is not a matter for the Order not Business.
It is a matter for the Order of Business because it was listed business of the House. Our Private Members' motions come up only once every five weeks. The Minister was in the Houses and not engaged in Government business at the time. He decided he would not come in because he could not answer for himself. He was not man enough to come here to answer for himself on the day.
We have no control over what Ministers come to the House.
I have his diary.
We have no control-----
This is the big problem. The Minister has come to the House-----
Yes, I do.
On the Order of Business?
On the Order of Business. I propose an amendment to the Order of Business that the Minister, Deputy Shatter, come to the House because he has serious questions to answer which he did not answer in Dáil Éireann yesterday to anyone's satisfaction. I would also like to ask the Minister why he feels he does not need to attend the Seanad. I have his diary for 27 February, when he would not come to the House to reply to a Private Members' motion.
Will Senator propose the wording of the amendment?
That the Minister, Deputy Shatter, come to the House-----
-----and answer questions on how he felt it was appropriate to use privileged information on an individual to score political points. When he comes to the House I will also ask him, as a Minister who regularly attends the Seanad, why------
These are issues the Senator can raise during the debate.
This is important.
Perhaps, but it is a point that can be made during the debate. The Senator is way over time.
For a Minister to show such complete disdain for the House is something all colleagues should be concerned about.
I compliment the Chairman and the clerk of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Health and Children which held hearings in the Chamber over the past three working days. It was very good use of the Chamber. The hearings were comprehensive. I attended as a substitute member for most of the hearings, and many colleagues were also in attendance. We had very constructive engagement on the heads and scheme of the protection of life during pregnancy Bill. We heard very compelling arguments from the legal and medical experts who gave of their time voluntarily to give us the benefit of their expertise. We should all acknowledge this and how much it is appreciated. I look forward to the debate on the Bill which we are likely to have before the end of the session. I look forward to changes being made, in particular to head 19 on the criminalisation of those who seek to procure termination of pregnancy in the State. Concerns were expressed by people on both sides of the argument and people of various views about the level of the penalty and the way in which pregnant women and girls would be criminalised. We may see engagement on this.
I welcome the publication of the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill 2013. The Minister, Deputy Burton, proposes to introduce a new jobseekers' transition scheme which will be a progressive scheme to deal clearly with concerns expressed in the House during debates on social protection about changes to the lone parent's allowance which disadvantage recipients. The new scheme is extremely welcome. It will exempt lone parents from the full rigours of the requirements to be available for full-time work which apply to those seeking jobseeker's allowance but will allow lone parents access activation plans for return to education, upskilling and training. It recognises that many lone parents are not in a position to seek full-time work but would seek part-time work. It is a very progressive scheme and is welcome. I look forward to debating it in the House.
With regard to the Minister, Deputy Shatter, I am one of the many people who thinks he has questions to answer on the use of information concerning Deputy Wallace. I absolutely agree with this. I am glad questions were put to him in the other House yesterday and that he made a statement. I also understand Deputy Wallace has made an application for further investigation to the Standards in Public Office Commission, and this is appropriate and correct. As we all do, I look forward to seeing what the outcome of the inquiry will be.
I wish to discuss the report by US Senators Carl Levin and John McCain on the taxation habits of the Apple corporation in Cork. This is an extremely serious report of approximately 40,000 words and 152 detailed footnotes and references, and it requires a response from us. I will give the House a flavour of it presently. The Fiscal Advisory Council should examine the issues involved such as how corporations are taxed. There is a view in economics that too many tax lawyers and accountants are involved, that they are a dead weight loss, and what is required is a simple corporate tax system with a low rate across the board and no deductions or allowances. We have developed a tax lawyer and accountant industry which does not produce anything. There were some elements of this in the Finance Bill we considered. The Revenue Commissioners should respond to the issues also.
The evidence given to the US authorities was from Apple executives who are named in the report. They stated they have negotiated a special corporate tax rate of less than 2%. Yesterday, the eminent economist Colm McCarthy stated we do not do this and asked where the idea came from, but somebody from the Apple Corporation stated it in evidence to the US authorities. This must be dealt with in a way which goes beyond soundbites. In three years Apple Operations International reported a net income of €30 billion but declined to declare any tax of residence. These hidden corporations are headquartered in Apple in Cork which claims to have negotiated a 2% rate with the Irish Government. It is quite damaging. Apple Operations International has the same mailing address as several other Apple affiliates in Cork, has no physical presence in any other country and did not pay any taxes. There is sizeable evidence of international tax evasion which requires a response from the Revenue Commissioners. It is necessary to confirm this 2% rate does not exist. It may have been adduced in evidence in the United States to get Apple off the hook, but we cannot have a tax system where individuals or corporations negotiate their own rates. Rather than soundbites, it requires a considered response from the Revenue Commissioners and the Minister for Finance. The wider issues, such as what principles should inform the taxation of corporations, should be referred to the Fiscal Advisory Council.
With regard to corporate taxation, this morning I heard Barry O'Leary of the IDA on the radio explaining clearly there are no special tax rates in this country for any individual. Tax rates are set on a statutory basis and the Revenue Commissioners follow these guidelines. Our corporation tax rate is 12.5% and we have agreements with 69 countries on taxation measures. Everybody must be careful about soundbites in this area because it is a serious situation. Apple employs 3,500 people in Cork and many other companies also have large employment bases here. It is a complex issue and a soundbite will not provide an answer. From having also heard the Minister, Deputy Bruton, on the radio, it is clear there are no special tax rates for any individual company or corporation in the country and our corporation tax rate is 12.5%. This is the message we should get out there clearly. Individuals and companies are taxed on income and it depends on what the amount of income is. Corporation tax is applied to a certain amount of income. There may be intellectual property based overseas, and this is a different issue for different companies.
The House should send the clear message that there are no special tax rates.
I wish to raise a separate issue. Last week, the National Council for Special Education produced a report on how our special educational needs system should be reorganised. It is an important report and the Minister is due to set up a working group to examine the issue. The House should discuss it at some stage so that Senators might give their opinions. Parents, teachers and the children in question have many views on the HSE's interaction with the Department of Education and Skills.
I second Senator Darragh O'Brien's amendment calling for the Minister for Justice and Equality to attend the House, given the pantomime of recent days since last week's "Prime Time" programme when the Minister regrettably used information that ordinarily should not have been brought into the public domain and does not form part of the normal day-to-day work of a Minister. This is not to defend the Deputy or to take the side of those promoting issues in the Lower House. However, receiving a briefing of this nature from the Garda is reminiscent of a regrettable era that is gone and that we do not want to see in this nation again. It is a concern that gardaí or the Garda Commissioner are holding files or sharing information of this nature about any Member of the Oireachtas, a celebrity, a television personality or anyone else. It is reminiscent of what we heard about J. Edgar Hoover in the US and the files that he kept on everyone whom he deemed a political adversary or potential danger.
What about Michael McDowell and-----
What about telephone tapping?
Senator MacSharry is quiet about him.
Has Senator MacSharry a question for the Leader?
He is quiet about Deputy O'Dea.
Senator MacSharry, without interruption.
Of all the matters that I expected to be heckled on, I did not believe this would be one of them.
Hypocrisy is always heckled.
I felt that the silence we were hearing from the Minister and most of his Cabinet colleagues on the issue would be continued in this House.
The Minister needs to discuss this issue in the House because people are entitled to know why such information is being passed around by the Garda, regardless of whether it was a throw-away remark during a briefing. I am concerned about it.
The Senator can make those points during the debate.
It has echoes of a police state. In the same diary, which the Leader of the Opposition solicited under the Freedom of Information Act, I noticed a meeting with the director of intelligence. One wonders who this individual is and whether it is he or she who shares information-----
The Senator has gone over time.
-----on Deputies and others who might be of political interest to the Minister.
Senator MacSharry, without interruption.
Perhaps he is just looking for easy copy for his books.
At my third attempt to pass a Private Member's Bill, I hope that the Government will be in a position to support the Criminal Justice (Unlicensed Money-Lending) Bill. Notwithstanding our need to question the Minister on other issues, I hope he will take the Bill.
Like many in Ireland, I am proud of the prominent role played by Google and Apple in our economy. I accept the statements by the Tánaiste and the Taoiseach that we comply with all of the OECD requirements and are not designated as a tax haven. However, an explanation of two statements is required. According to Apple's CEO, incentive arrangements that it was offered in 1980 factored into its decision to locate in Ireland. According to reports, Apple Sales International only paid an effective tax rate in Ireland of 0.05%, which is incredibly low. In terms of the extent of Government debt, the same considerations apply in Ireland as apply in the US. As such, a wider debate on the issue of tax policy would be worthwhile, in particular European tax policy in light of the fact that it is evolving.
I concur with Senator Bacik regarding the health committee's debate on the protection of life during pregnancy Bill hearings which were held in this Chamber for three days. Most would agree that it was a constructive debate. I welcome the commitment by the Minister of State, Deputy White, to consider some of the issues raised during the hearings, for example, the amalgamation of aspects of some of the Bill's heads, the criminal sanctions on women who avail of abortions and so forth.
I call on the Leader to give particular attention to one issue that arose. Many of the witnesses noted the significant issue of the lack of funding for obstetric services. Our excellent maternal death record has to do with the skill and expertise of professionals, not the level of funding for this critical service. Will the Leader invite the Minister for Health to the Chamber to discuss funding for obstetric services?
I wish to raise the issue of the corporation tax paid by Apple in this State in the past ten years or more. It has not been clarified. In fact, quite the opposite is the case. Many questions need to be answered. Senator Clune correctly mentioned our 12.5% corporation tax rate, but the majority of multinationals are not paying anything like 12.5%. There is no effective corporation tax rate. This situation contrasts clearly with the taxes that ordinary working people are increasingly asked to pay, for example, property tax and indirect taxes.
Yesterday, Apple's CEO, Mr. Tim Cook, told the US Senate investigation committee that Apple had quietly negotiated a corporate tax deal directly with the Irish Government. The Government has a responsibility to explain how the CEO of a multinational company could make such a statement. If there was no direct negotiation with the Government or a Minister, we need to be told about the contacts between Apple and representatives of the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Finance. I will provide the facts quickly. Mr. Cook confirmed that Apple paid on average a 2% corporation tax rate in this State for the past ten years. In 2011, it paid a rate of 0.05%. It is not correct to claim that Apple's subsidiaries employ 3,500 people in Ireland. One of them employs no one and the other employs 250 people. Multinational companies are using this State as-----
The Senator would love to have a multinational in Waterford.
Senator Cullinane without interruption. Has the Senator a question for the Leader?
Some multinational companies are using this State in a chain of cash movements for the purpose of significant tax avoidance. The Government needs to clarify what arrangements are in place for Apple and other multinationals.
The Senator has gone over time.
There is a difference between having a corporation tax rate that is-----
I call Senator Healy Eames.
Please, there should be no conversations in the Chamber.
I agree that we held three excellent days of hearings on the abortion debate, to which the Seanad Chamber was appropriate. During the closing session yesterday, the Minister of State, Deputy White, gave a commitment that everything raised in the course of the hearings would be addressed and considered by the Government when preparing the full text of the Bill. Will the Leader ask the Minister of State to keep his word? The expertise at the hearings was second to none. Some of the experts outlined the dangers of unsafe practices when not proceeding on the basis of best medical science and advice. An expert in medical ethics confirmed yesterday that the State would be left open to liability if it did not proceed in that way.
That was my question. While I am grateful for the Minister of State's commitment, we want these concerns to be taken on board in the Bill. I have no difficulty with Senators Hayden and Bacik's comments on the relaxation of penalties on women who have abortions.
Although I support Senator Clune in calling for a confirmation that there is no special tax rates for corporations in this country, I raise a concern about the serious charge of international tax evasion. Where did that charge arise? The public needs reassurance about our tax rates. We need to have that cleared up and for that reason I support the call for clarification. It is a very serious charge and must be clarified for once and for all.
I ask that the Attorney General attend the Seanad, under Standing Order 56, so that we can get her views on the abuse of privilege and information on the part of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter. The Garda Commissioner also has questions to answer in respect of the information supplied, who gave him that information and the chain of supply of information. The behaviour of the Minister is a worrying development. People who have made accusations against the Garda, including public representatives who have done so in the public interest, are being targeted by the Garda and the Minister. In doing this, the Minister is sending out a signal to everybody, saying, "I can do this to you also". That is basically what he is doing.
That is a joke.
It is nonsense, just nonsense.
It is true.
The Minister, Deputy Shatter, is a very intelligent man-----
Is the Senator supporting the call for a debate?
This was no slip of the tongue, he did it with a purpose and we all know that.
Is the Senator supporting the call for a debate?
I support the amendment to the Order of Business.
I also ask the Leader to organise a debate on the corporation tax issue. Yesterday in the United States there was a very disturbing committee hearing on Apple and its tax affairs, and last week, in the House of Commons, there was a debate on the tax affairs of Google, with reference to Ireland. The British Parliament wants to have a spotlight focused on Ireland. I bring to the attention of colleagues the fact that $4 trillion is held in British offshore territories. Therefore, when other parliaments are discussing Ireland and its tax affairs we must recognise that our near neighbour, which is trying to focus on us, has more money in tax havens within its jurisdiction than any other country on the planet. When we have the debate we might take that into account.
I support Senator Barrett and other Senators on the rate of corporation tax that applies in this country. Most countries in Europe and throughout the world are laughing at us for having a rate of 12.5% but it is outrageous to realise that some companies are paying only 2%.
It is important that we find out how long this has been going on and if it is true that it was negotiated by the Government, I assume it was by the previous one, as Apple has been in this country for ten years.
It is important that we find out-----
It is important that we find out how much we are owed and what we are going to do about collecting it. As long as we do not do so, and as we continue to withdraw disability, domiciliary care and mobility allowances, we are making life difficult for people who want to get their disability allowance or invalidity pension. The way forward is to collect everything we are owed.
The point I really wished to raise relates to charities, a subject we have discussed in this House in the past. The sale of multi-charity scratchcards that goes on throughout the country is an up and running business. A person drops another person to a post office in Roscommon town, others to Castlerea, Ballaghaderreen and Boyle. I have known for a long time that not much of that money ever reaches the charity in question. This morning a friend of mine went to a post office in Roscommon town and was approached by one of these individuals to buy a scratchcard for €1, as were all the elderly people coming out after receiving their pensions. My friend asked how much of the €1 did the individual get for selling the card, and was told he got 60%.
Has the Senator a question?
I have. I have known for a long time that only 1% raised from the sale of these multi-charity cards goes to the charities while 99% is used to keep a business going. I have no doubt that in most cases many of the people selling the cards are likely to be on social welfare.
I call Senator Norris.
Will the Leader bring this situation to the attention of the Minister in question? Proper regulation must be put in place. It is ridiculous that 1% of money raised should reach a charity and 99% facilitate a business.
I shall resist the temptation to deal with any of the tempting morsels, such as abortion and the protection of human life during Pregnancy Bill, because people are so polarised. I will also resist the case of the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter, although I would be interested to know what other public figures he has felt free to smear in the last couple of years.
However, I very much hope there will be some coverage of another issue, namely, the fate of Seanad Éireann. I attempted to raise this at the convention forum which decided, democratically, it did not wish to accept it, after a series of very heavy interventions from the platform. If the forum cannot discuss us we should discuss it and the deliberate exclusion of the subject of the Seanad from the convention, in spite of the clear wish of the vast majority of Members that it should be discussed. The delegates believe it is not possible. We should discuss this exclusion because what we are talking about is the abolition of the Oireachtas. Once the Seanad is abolished the Oireachtas will be gone as we know it and will effectively be the Dáil alone, which is terribly dangerous. President Mugabe's first step when he took over in Zimbabwe was to abolish its Senate.
During the very brief debate that took place we were asked why we had never reformed ourselves. I can tell the Irish public why we never did so. I have been a Member of this House for 26 years. Every time there was a report on reform of the Seanad - including an all-party agreed report, tabled by me, as Members will remember - it was voted down on the instructions of the incumbent Government. The Government deliberately prevented the Seanad from reforming itself. It did not want it reformed and now it is holding us up. It targeted the university seats and even though it got a referendum through some 27, 28 or 29 years ago, which would have democratised further the only democratic element, namely, the university seats, it has never acted to do this. The Government does not want a reformed Seanad.
However, as a result of the Bill passed in this House, thanks to the bravery of Members on the other side, for which I compliment them, we now have a clear choice between abolition or reform. This is an extremely important matter, and particularly so because of this Bill, the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill. Under the Bill, the Government will take to itself, via Dáil Éireann, the right to impeach the President and to bring him or her before a committee of Dáil Éireann alone and dismiss him or her if it feels like it. It can do the same to the Supreme Court.
Yes, I am asking for a debate on this subject because of the very great seriousness of the implications of this kind of legislation. There was also a great deal of well-intentioned intervention from the forum platform. Things were said, one such being that it was gravely concerned about involving the convention in a current political controversy. Why, for God's sake?
The Senator can make those points during the debate.
The chairman said he feared this would have consequences for our independence. It most certainly would. It would show we were independent. Ms Nora Owen spoke to me and the chairman afterwards and said that at a crucial time in the Northern Ireland talks the two sides attending were presented with a rigid agenda by the two Governments. They decided to extend the agenda against the wishes of the Government and it was only that act that started the Northern Ireland peace programme.
He speaks the truth.
I call Senator Conway.
I, too, am concerned about the Apple situation and I agree with other speakers. This relates to both the integrity of our tax system and the integrity of our country abroad. We in this House and people all over Ireland benefit from the enormous advances in technology as a result of Apple, such as iPads, iPhones, and that type of thing. As a company, Apple has been ground-breaking in what it has achieved in the advancement of technology internationally. I am concerned by any proposal or suggestion that a 2% tax rate applies to Apple that is not applicable to other companies.
Irrespective of job creation and while acknowledging anybody who creates jobs, one cannot have a have a tax system that is not a level playing pitch.
I respectfully propose that the Leader would suggest that the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, should go to America to clear the record by giving evidence to the Senate committee. At the end of the day, the integrity of the country internationally is at stake. I have no doubt there has been some misunderstanding, given the Government's statements today on the 12.5% tax rate. The issue needs to be cleared up. If it means a senior Minister must travel to the United States to give evidence to contradict the evidence being given by executives from Apple to this committee, that must happen for the sake of the integrity of Ireland and the Irish tax system.
I propose an amendment to the Order of Business, that No. 37, motion 10 be taken without debate today.
I join the leader of the Fianna Fáil Party, the Leader of the Opposition, in requesting that the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, come to the House to answer all of the questions outlined by the leader that need to be put to him, including the low morale in An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces, the closure of Garda stations and Army barracks and political interference in the Judiciary. I would like him to come to the Seanad and not ignore it as he did on 27 February, when he was clearly in the House but chose not to come to face a vote of no confidence in him by Fianna Fáil. That was appalling and an insult to every Member, not only to Fianna Fáil Members.
I also ask the Leader when the commission charged with drawing up the local election boundaries will report to the Minister.
Everybody would like a discussion on corporation tax and openness and transparency. As Mr. Barry O'Leary, chief executive of the IDA, and Senator Deirdre Clune have said, everything we do is open, out there and transparent, unlike in some other countries. A debate on this issue, tabled many months ago, is taking place today in Europe. This story has been in the public domain and there is a concern about the erosion of the tax base in this country. I welcome a debate on the topic because it will show, as reported on"Today with Pat Kenny" this morning, that Ireland is boxing fairly and very cleverly. We are in a global moveable feast in which companies can move just like that. One must be open and transparent but one must be clever and fair when doing it. It would be most welcome to debate the issue.
I wish to raise the issue of openness and transparency in Government. The Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Alan Shatter, has been described by a very critical journalist as one of the best reforming Ministers that we have had in the Department of Justice and Equality. Such a comment from Mr. Vincent Browne is, I think, worth something.
That is some commendation.
It is a commendation. On the issue of discretion, when a politician, be it a Minister, a Deputy or a Senator, is stopped by a garda, there is a duty on them to be open and transparent. When Members call press conferences on issues, such as traffic issues, I want the committee-----
I want the committee that deals with ethics in public office to ensure that when politicians call press conferences on an issue, they should declare an interest if they have been in any way involved in that issue. They should be the first to come out and put their hands up, saying "I was involved too and the Garda used its discretion", be it Deputy Flanagan, Deputy Wallace or any Deputy.
This is not the place.
That is not the point.
The Garda Síochána is doing a brilliant job. I want to take up a point Senator Mark Daly made.
Hold on a minute. This is important.
No. I want to correct the record.
Will the Senator resume her seat?
Senator Daly said that people who make accusations are being targeted by gardaí.
Will the Senator resume her seat?
They are not being targeted. Deputy Clare Daly took a right turn and was stopped by a Garda in the course of duty. She was not targeted.
On a point of order, I think the Senator will know it is not appropriate for her to mention Members of the other House. She mentioned Deputy Clare Daly.
She took a right turn. She was not targeted.
It is not appropriate to mention names.
Senator Keane should resume her seat. I call Senator Leyden.
I thought she was targeted. The information was leaked. Do not defend corruption that has occurred.
Just for the record. The breathalyser test was negative and she was still arrested and was still brought in. The Senator should get her facts right. She was targeted and my concern is that Senator Keane will also be targeted.
Senator Daly, please resume your seat.
The Senator should withdraw the presumption that it is appropriate to handcuff a Member of the Oireachtas after they have not been found guilty.
I did not say that.
That is not relevant to the Order of Business at all. Neither are the comments of Senator Daly relevant to the Order of Business. I call Senator Leyden.
I would like to second Senator Diarmuid Wilson's amendment to the motion. I agree with the views of Senator Deirdre Clune on the contribution that Apple makes to the Irish economy, with more than 3,500 people employed in Cork. I think we in this Chamber should invite Apple chief executive, Tim Cook, to this House and ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Eamon Gilmore, to outline the situation. As a former Minister of State with responsibility for trade, I led delegations to the United States to meet major corporations. Under no circumstances was an offer made on the tax rate except the 12.5% corporation tax rate. No such offer exists. It is totally untrue. The then IDA CEO was Mr. Padraic White, one of the finest chief executives ever in that position.
I negotiated the deal in which Heineken came to Cork and bought Murphys. It was a very difficult deal because at that stage inflation was at 17% to 18% and interest rates were such that there was a major difficulty in Cork. We could not offer Heineken anything less or more than 12.5%. When all the major companies came to Ireland, such as Google and Intel, which was negotiated by the then Minister, Mr. Des O'Malley, me as the Minister of State with responsibility for trade, and Padraic White, we did not offer them 2%. There was no such offer.
Is the Senator looking for a debate?
Yes, I am. When a member of the American Senate would try to downgrade this country in irresponsible comments, as they did yesterday, it is very important that this House, a democratically elected House whose Members can speak for this country, should refute them. The Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, who currently holds the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, should fly to the United States, go to the Senate and make a statement to it. The truth is the truth. This is a very serious allegation. Ireland is neither a tax haven nor a tax shelter. Ireland is fighting for survival and this is an effort by certain elements in countries around the world that are jealous of our success in attracting all the multinational firms through the great work of the current chief executive of the IDA, Mr. Barry O'Leary, and former chief executives. I mentioned Mr. Padraic White.
It is very important that we would have a debate in this House. I ask the Leader of the House to arrange a very early debate, tomorrow if possible, if the Tánaiste is available to come and explain the situation. Let us show the files. The files are there and they are open. This is serious. When I hear Members of this House making points about Google, Apple and such companies without being conscious of the fact that Steven Paul Jobs co-founded that company, as a person who was then a Deputy and Minister of State in 1980, I know the facts of the situation and I can state categorically that I never had any authority to deal with tax rates.
The Senator is making a Second Stage speech.
I beg to differ with Senator Leyden.
It is not unpatriotic to ask people to pay tax. In fact, it is the contrary.
It is not what we said.
We pursue people in this country if they are overpaid social welfare payments.
Believe what is said.
I spoke to members of a family last week which received a small tax rebate and a year later, the Revenue Commissioners decided it was an overpayment and sent debt collectors after them with penalties. The issue has been discussed in Europe for some time and Ms Nessa Childers, MEP has brought it up when speaking about tax justice. We are the envy of Europe and the UK with what was regarded as a very attractive 12.5% corporation tax. Maybe I naively thought that this tax rate was being paid by multinationals but it has been proven otherwise. It not just Apple, as the issue involves Starbucks, Google and Facebook. Of course, we welcome the jobs but are we saying we will have the jobs but the companies do not have to pay the 12.5% tax rate? The effective rate apparently being paid by some of the multinationals is-----
Does the Senator have a question?
We need the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation or the Minister for Finance to come to the House to clarify the effective rate of tax.
They might educate the Senator.
We will be paying a double whammy as the issue will not go away. The G8 will address it in Fermanagh next month.
They will be really jealous too.
The Senator, without interruption.
We will lose jobs and tax. The effective rate of tax in this country for ordinary workers is 51% for anybody earning over €35,000. Are we to say that multinationals are not paying their fair share? All we are seeking is the 12.5% rate to be paid on profits. There is nothing wrong or unjust about that and it should not jeopardise foreign direct investment into the country. We should not be afraid to stand up and say that.
An tseachtain seo caite, bhí muid ag plé na géarchéime a bhaineann le cúrsaí fodder. Gheall an Ceannaire dom go bpléadh sé an t-ábhar seo leis an Aire. Will the Leader give us an update on the headway made on the fodder crisis and the transport issues discussed last week? I do not believe the problems have been fully alleviated.
I concur with Senator Whelan's comments. We do not always agree but we do on this occasion on his stance on the Apple issue. We seem to be comparing apples and oranges. In the next couple of weeks the Government intends to put its hands in people's pockets to take property tax from wages at source but it does not seem too worried about Apple not paying the full 12.5% corporation tax. There might be a rate of 12.5% on paper but it is not being collected. That is not just a Sinn Féin statement but one being made by the people on the street and on "Morning Ireland" by an international observer. It was made in a US Congress committee yesterday and it has been made by numerous governments and EU parliamentarians. We need a debate on the issue and it is important to find out what deals have been done over the years. What Government did the deal with Apple over the years and what rates have been paid over recent years in this State?
Any Government should be commended on that.
Why was the company not paying the full 12.5% on profits?
That is propaganda.
The Senator would know all about propaganda.
Sinn Féin will never get into government with that ideology.
Senator Ó Clochartaigh, without interruption.
We saw what Fianna Fáil did when it was in government. We saw what happened during the Celtic tiger.
Sinn Féin will never be spoken about-----
Senator Ó Clochartaigh should be allowed to speak without interruption.
Sinn Féin has the-----
There is no talk about taxation-----
The Senator, without interruption.
We can see there is consensus, and through the Fianna Fáil years there was a consensus-----
Certainly, and I am asking for a debate. Is it possible to invite the chief executive officer of Apple or the head of its local operations to speak in the House on the issue?
It is good to see Senator O'Brien in his usual seat. What would the Opposition do without the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter?
We would do a lot better.
Is there a question for the Leader?
Of course. The Cathaoirleach knows I always have a question.
We would have to see the files.
No man has attended more to detail or answered more questions than the Minister. Those opposite have generated much hot air this morning and it was a bottle of smoke. I know they are good at smoke and daggers, or smoke and mirrors-----
Why was he speaking to the director of intelligence?
Is there a question for the Leader?
I have one, of course. This man has dealt with everything. He went into the penalty points issue in great detail, and that was what the investigation was about. Those opposite do not want to accept such facts for a reason I do not quite understand. I will name nobody but many people came to that matter without clean hands. The Minister did and he dealt with it in detail. I believe everything was answered but the Opposition does not seem to think so. I am sure he will deal with any questions in an appropriate forum. I know the questions were planned before coming today, and I notice co-ordination in the colour of ties and shirts on the Front Bench.
Is there a question on the Order of Business?
The Senators' request for today is totally unnecessary. There is nothing outstanding and they are being totally unreasonable. I will not say they are being childish, as we understand adversarial politics. This is the greatest load of baloney when there are so many budgetary and fiscal problems to deal with.
The benefits of sport in many ways cannot be underestimated and last weekend, the tourism benefit arising from the two French teams playing in the rugby final gave much life to the city. Sport can also bring a benefit in peaceful co-existence in many ways, and I will make an example of what happened in Israel recently. Israel has an organisation that sponsors soccer between Israelis and Arabs, and the competition has been going since 1924 and particularly since 1997. The competition last week was threatened by Fatah in Palestine, as death threats were made against any Arab people who played in the soccer match. The project is sponsored by the European Union and is well supported as part of the United Neighbours project. Nevertheless, the efforts to bring people together in Israel have been damaged very severely by these death threats.
We have heard much criticism of Israel over the years but we do not hear much criticism in this House about Palestine. In this case, it is not Hamas but Fatah - the more moderate group in Palestine - that issued death threats. It would be worthwhile to draw the attention of the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade to the matter. We have the EU Presidency and we can make it clear that there are times when we do not approve of such occurrences.
This afternoon there will be a briefing in the audio-visual room on the provision of further services for children with Down's syndrome. I have listened to the comments about the level of corporation tax being paid and it occurs to me that everybody in this and the other House would support the provision of extra services for children with Down's syndrome, although the question is always from where the money will come. In my book it is simple. If corporation tax is set at 12.5%, we should collect that amount; it should be no more or less. We should collect what we set out to collect and if that is not being done, the reasons should be outlined. I listened this morning to the chief executive of IDA Ireland on "Morning Ireland" and I was not convinced by his answer that the rate set out is being paid in all cases in this country. I remain to be convinced and we need a debate in the House, with the Minister before us to clarify the matter. I call for that debate.
I am amused at my colleagues in Fianna Fáil who show such great concern for Members of the Oireachtas and members of the public. In 1932, on assuming power, the party's first leader set up the G2 intelligence unit, which in its first year put together 1,000 files on ordinary citizens in this country.
That party is now showing its concern.
I have refrained from commenting on the issue with the Minister for Justice and Equality until now as I felt the gravity of the incident depended on the source of the information. I am appalled that the Garda Commissioner passed on politically sensitive information.
The politicisation of the Garda Commissioner's office raises serious questions for the Garda Commissioner as well as for the Minister. The Minister should attend the House and make a statement. Ultimately, people will have to be held accountable for what happened. That is a very bad turn of events.
On the taxation issue, the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, made a very good case on the radio this morning, but I agree with Senator Barrett. It is important that there should be a formal response to the findings of the US Senate on this. We can defend the position. Our autonomy and independence gives us the position to decide our own taxation situation and this should not be interfered with from outside.
I attended the hearings of the Joint Committee on Health and Children over the last three days, as did other Members here. A number of Members commented that we got a lot of very valuable information, particularly about the dangers that normalising suicide could have, especially for young males where suicide rates are well above what we would wish them to be. It was unanimously agreed by all the medics who came before us that abortion is never a treatment for suicidality. I was appalled, but not surprised, that a very prominent Labour Party member of the committee clearly informed us that abortion would not be a treatment, but of course the Bill was not about that-----
The Bill will be introduced shortly.
-----but about women having the choice to get an abortion.
We are on the Order of Business.
Finally, can I just-----
Senator Walsh is over time.
On the Down's syndrome issue, 90% of Down's syndrome babies in Britain are aborted.
That is the fourth issue Senator Walsh has raised this morning. He is over time.
It would be appropriate to extend our sympathies to the people of Oklahoma who have lost so many people over the last number of days, particularly to the parents of the school children who lost their lives. It puts in context our difficulties as parents. They pale into insignificance when we see what the people of Oklahoma have had to endure in recent times. There has been much talk about taxation and I will not go down that route because I am sure the Leader will accede to a request for a debate on our corporate tax but I want to raise a taxation issue that is of grave concern to many small towns around Ireland.
With the forthcoming abolition of town councils, many towns, including my town of Ballinasloe, the traders are very concerned that rates, which are considerably lower than rates in the county of Galway, will increase as a result of the abolition that the county council will decide to increase rates in the town areas. At a time when town centres are struggling and many businesses are closing we must do everything possible to protect our towns. There should be a fundamental review of commercial rates in this country. They should be linked in some way to turnover or profitability. I would like the Minister to come into the House for a debate on the future levying of rates in towns following the abolition of town councils. I will be seeking an assurance from the Government that there will not be an increase in rates as a result of the abolition of town councils. It is such an urgent matter and is of such grave concern to so many towns throughout the country that we should have a debate on it at the earliest possible opportunity and I ask the Leader to organise that.
I remind my colleagues that during the last Senate the then Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Michael McDowell, very frequently visited us here and he was won over, by the standard of the debate, to the view that the Senate should be maintained.
That is correct.
On numerous occasions on the Garda Síochána Bill I forcefully said the Garda Síochána should be separate from and totally independent of Government because there is a temptation by Governments to misuse the police service. A tremor went through this country when the Minister for Justice, Equality and Defence, Deputy Shatter, made his recent comment. I believe he never intended to say it, and it slipped out. There are very serious consequences for the people of Ireland. I would feel very vulnerable personally if the Garda Síochána and the Commissioner - yesterday we heard it was the Commissioner - give information on citizens. It is a very dangerous situation and we need the Minister to come in here and explain his position.
I do not agree with my colleagues here in that I like strong Ministers. Deputy Shatter is a good Minister but on this occasion he has to clarify his stance. We also need the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, to come here and clarify the transparency of tax rates that the American multinationals are paying in Ireland because overnight we could lose 150,000 jobs. I am shocked at the Sinn Féin ideology spelled out here this morning. We constantly hear Senator Cullinane talking about how no jobs are created in Waterford. Would he not love to have a multinational based there? They did not hold onto Waterford Crystal themselves.
The Senator is over time.
The people in Waterford did not mind it enough. It was probably that ideology that put Waterford Crystal out of business.
It was Fianna Fáil, I think.
There is an undercurrent in this conversation, not so much in this House but in the media, that the Garda is somewhat corrupt. We should be very clear. The Garda is one of the very few police forces worldwide that is unarmed and it should have our support and not be bad-mouthed.
I raise the issue of US Senator Carl Levin's intervention with his Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations in the United States and the US Senate. We should have an all-day session in the Seanad to explore and discuss this. We keep hearing about the Seanad being relevant. The Seanad should invite US Senators Levin and John McCain to come here. We should take this opportunity to explore and inform them what we do. Our rate of tax in this area is a legitimate rate. If other countries are losing business because their rates are too high, they should also recognise that fact. It was Disraeli who said a lie will get half way around the world before the truth gets its boots on. We need to get our boots on.
I am a little surprised at the uncharacteristically intemperate attacks on the Minister Justice and Equality and Defence, Deputy Shatter, by the leader of the Opposition and others given that he has been a frequent visitor to this House. On his last Bill, the Employment Equality Bill, he played particular tribute to one of Fianna Fáil's Members, Senator Averil Power, on her contribution. If he is to have to resign or anything like that a raft of former Ministers should be indicted for reckless endangerment or depraved indifference.
Have you a question for the Leader?
I would say that he did not-----
I asked the Senator to be brief. Has he a question for the Leader?
Fianna Fáil looked after Dundalk very well.
Rumours were that my telephone was tapped for a long time and I did not like that.
So was mine.
Some seven tonnes of toxic waste was seized yesterday by the customs and the Revenue Commissioners at a saving of €8 million to the State. Could the Leader ask all parties to be here tomorrow for the statements on diesel laundering by the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes-----
-----and that all parties would stand up for the Revenue Commissioners?
The Senator must resume his seat.
It is important that we come back to reality. We are paying out €50 million in social welfare every day. That is the reality. Since we started here this morning, €2.5 million has been paid out in social welfare.
Has Senator Colm Burke a question to the Leader?
It relates to Apple and the contribution the company has made. Apple is not only paying 12.5% corporation tax. It is also paying commercial rates, VAT and all of the other taxes. The company also pays ESB when it purchases electricity. It pays for the employment it provides. If Senators want to have a debate on this matter, let us have a debate but let us also take into account the contribution that this company is making, particularly in the Cork area, and all like companies are making in areas around the country. It is important that we put it into perspective as regards the contribution they make.
I will touch slightly on the matter relating to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter. Senators should revisit the series "Love/Hate" to see the real issues in criminal activity in this country-----
I call Senator Noone.
The Minister is not in it, is he?
-----rather than spending the time here discussing this issue.
Senator Colm Burke should resume his seat. I call Senator Noone.
It is about time the Senators came back to reality.
I support the other Senators on the issue of Apple. Clearly, the reputation of Ireland is at stake. It is timely. We are lucky that the Taoiseach is coincidentally in Europe today. He will be able to make statements on the issue and, hopefully, clarify the matter, as has been done by this Government in the more recent past on many other issues, so that our reputation can be corrected, restored and enhanced.
I support the call of Senators for a Minister to travel to the United States. It is unrealistic to think that any US Senators will come to this House but it is within our gift to send one of the Ministers to the United States to clearly state the position.
The fact is we are the envy of many of our neighbours. We do compete on tax grounds. However, the CEO of Apple made other important points as to why the company does business in Ireland. It is not only on tax grounds, and we need to highlight those points. I refer to Ireland's educated workforce, proximity to Europe and advantageous location even when it comes to the Middle East and the rest of the world. It is not only on tax grounds that we compete and we need to remember that. Given that there are so many multinationals here creating employment, there is no benefit in us bashing our tax system, which has been a reason, but not the only one, to get investment here. My understanding is that our tax system is transparent. I would welcome a debate on it here in this House in the near future so that we can dispel any view of Ireland as a tax haven.
Senator Darragh O'Brien raised the question regarding the Minister for Justice and Equality, Deputy Shatter. The Minister went into the other House yesterday and explained the position in his statement. With regard to the points that have been made by the Senator regarding the Minister's presence in this House, I can assure him that the Minister has practically attended every justice Bill, and there have been many such Bills. Deputy Shatter himself has come in here to deal with the vast majority of those Bills, and that should be acknowledged.
Senator Darragh O'Brien specifically mentioned a Private Members' motion. If he can recall, his party had two Private Members' slots during February following a swop with another group. The Senator is referring to the debate on 27 February which, he will recall, was similar to the debate of his party on 6 February, three weeks earlier. During that debate, the Minister came into this House and answered all the questions and the allegations that were made against him for two and a half hours on Private Members' business. As the Senator will be aware, it is normal that two hours are allocated for Private Members' business. The Minister had come in here three weeks previously and answered all the questions. It is most unfair for the Senator to suggest that he did not attend the House personally to deal with a matter which was dealt with three weeks previously.
It was a motion of no confidence.
It seems to be the way they carry on their business on the other side of the House, tabling a similar motion three weeks after another one.
It was a very different motion. It was a motion of no confidence.
The Minister has been criticised by many, but he has answered specifically the questions that were raised. The Government published a detailed report from the Garda on the fixed ticket charge and the penalty points system on Wednesday last. The Government was committed from the outset, when serious allegations were made, that they would be fully investigated and there would be the maximum transparency. These reports have now gone to the Joint Committee on Justice, Defence and Equality, which can hold oral hearings if it deems it appropriate. They have also gone to the Garda inspectorate. These matters will continue to be investigated. I have full confidence in this reforming and excellent Minister, who has been in this House on practically every occasion that he has had legislation to deal with.
Senators Bacik and Healy Eames raised the hearings of the Joint Committee on Health and Children. I am not going to get into that debate - as I have stated, we will have the Bill coming before us at a later stage - but I compliment the Chairman and all concerned on the dignified manner in which the hearings were held in this House over the three days.
Senator Bacik also welcomed the Social Welfare and Pensions (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill which will be discussed soon in the House.
Senator Barrett and the vast majority of Senators raised a report on comments made at US Senate sub-committee hearings about Apple and taxation. I want to make it clear, as the Taoiseach, the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Deputy Gilmore, and the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Richard Bruton, have said, that Ireland does not do special tax-rate deals with companies. That is the position. We do not have a special extra-low corporation tax for multinational companies. Ireland's tax system is statute based and there is no possibility of individual special tax-rate deals for companies. That is the clear position of the Government.
In addition, in December 2012, Ireland became one of the first countries in the world to sign an agreement with the United States to improve international tax compliance and implement the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act 2010. This type of agreement is now being hailed as an international standard for the automatic exchange of tax information.
That is the position as it stands. We have nothing to hide. There is total transparency on our corporate taxation system. Rather than-----
They are jumping on the bandwagon.
-----talking down the country and jumping to conclusions about US Senate sub-committee hearings, taking them as Gospel and making allegations,-----
-----the sooner one looks at the exact position as it is, the better.
Running down the country.
Senator MacSharry spoke of Private Members' business and that will be dealt with this evening.
Senator Hayden raised the lack of obstetric funding in the health service. The health service has a very large budget. I will ask the Minister about funding for obstetric services.
As for Senator Healy Eames's point on questions regarding the Minister of State, Deputy White, I have no doubt as to his bona fides and the points she raised can be raised when that Bill comes before the House. Senator Daly stated "People who have made accusations against the Garda ... are being targeted by the Garda". That is an outrageous comment from a Member of this House. It is absolutely outrageous and constitutes an attack on the Garda and the work it does. Senator Daly should consider his statement and perhaps tomorrow he might withdraw that statement he has made to the House.
It is not true of all gardaí but the evidence is clear in the case of Deputy Clare Daly.
Senator Cummins, without interruption.
Senator Norris should note Senator Daly did not clarify his comments. Senator Kelly spoke on the amount of money charities are getting from the sale of tickets and so on. We had a debate in this House on enforcing the Charities Act and I presume Senator Kelly was present to make those points at that time. If not, I certainly will bring it to the attention of the Minister. I note Senator Norris's comments on the Constitutional Convention. I suggest Members discussed the Bill on the Seanad comprehensively last week. As for the Houses of the Oireachtas (Inquiries, Privileges and Procedures) Bill he mentioned, I am sure it will be discussed in early course in the House.
Senator Wilson proposed an amendment to the Order of Business to the effect that No. 37, motion No. 10, be taken without debate and I propose to accept that amendment to the Order of Business. Senator Ó Clochartaigh again rightly raised the position of the fodder crisis. Members had a debate in this Chamber with the Minister present last week and the Minister will be present again today to discuss a relevant item, namely, the Animal Health and Welfare Bill. I am sure the Senator and other Members who wish to raise this issue can do so at that time.
Senator Quinn spoke on how sport can bring peoples together and on the United Neighbours project, which I recall was commended in this House a number of years ago. It is an excellent project and should be supported and those who threaten the bringing together of peoples should be condemned in this House. I am sure all Members will agree to Senator Mullins's proposal to extend sympathies to the people of Oklahoma who saw their homes and so many lives lost because of the devastation caused by the recent tornado. The Senator also called for a debate on the review of commercial rates and I certainly will bring that matter to the attention of the Minister for the Environment, Community and Local Government, Deputy Hogan.
The vast majority of the other Members who have spoken made reference to the Garda, the Minister, Deputy Shatter, as well as to attacks on the tax regime. Senator Jim D'Arcy also advised Members of the debate tomorrow on diesel laundering and the 7 tonnes of toxic waste that were seized by customs officials yesterday. I am sure Members will have a comprehensive debate with the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes, on that issue tomorrow. I do not propose to accept Senator O'Brien's amendment to the Order of Business.
Senator O'Brien has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That a debate on the use of privileged information by the Minister for Justice and Equality be taken today". Is the amendment being pressed?
- Barrett, Sean D.
- Cullinane, David.
- Daly, Mark.
- Leyden, Terry.
- Mac Conghail, Fiach.
- MacSharry, Marc.
- Norris, David.
- Ó Clochartaigh, Trevor.
- Ó Murchú, Labhrás.
- O'Brien, Darragh.
- O'Donovan, Denis.
- O'Sullivan, Ned.
- Quinn, Feargal.
- Walsh, Jim.
- White, Mary M.
- Wilson, Diarmuid.
- Bacik, Ivana.
- Bradford, Paul.
- Brennan, Terry.
- Burke, Colm.
- Clune, Deirdre.
- Coghlan, Eamonn.
- Coghlan, Paul.
- Comiskey, Michael.
- Conway, Martin.
- Cummins, Maurice.
- D'Arcy, Jim.
- D'Arcy, Michael.
- Gilroy, John.
- Harte, Jimmy.
- Hayden, Aideen.
- Healy Eames, Fidelma.
- Henry, Imelda.
- Higgins, Lorraine.
- Kelly, John.
- Landy, Denis.
- Moloney, Marie.
- Mulcahy, Tony.
- Mullins, Michael.
- Noone, Catherine.
- O'Keeffe, Susan.
- O'Neill, Pat.
- Sheahan, Tom.
- van Turnhout, Jillian.
- Whelan, John.
- Zappone, Katherine.
Senator Wilson has moved an amendment to the Order of Business, "That No. 37, motion 10, be taken without debate." The Leader has indicated he is prepared to accept this amendment. Is that agreed? Agreed.