Léim ar aghaidh chuig an bpríomhábhar

Dáil Éireann díospóireacht -
Wednesday, 15 Oct 1997

Vol. 481 No. 5

Taxes Consolidation Bill, l997: Second Stage (Resumed).

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

Before the debate was adjourned, I referred to the public servants involved in the preparation of the legislation. I compliment public servants on the way they deal with representations made by public representatives on tax matters. It is easier to deal with PAYE offices as the PAYE sector is the paymaster for all services and tax is deducted at source, unlike other sectors which have various arrangements with the tax office, for example, self-assessment.

There is a lack of flexibility under some arrangements, particularly when genuine errors are made. Although the Bill provides in Part 3, Chapter 2, section 39 for relief in cases where errors are made, there is inflexibility in some cases. In a recent case a company which employs many people agreed to pay the outstanding tax immediately it was brought to its attention. However, it was cautioned that it would be included in a future list of companies which failed or refused to pay their taxes. I do not understand the reason for this as the company agreed to pay the tax once the error was discovered.

The arrangement under which publicans must meet certain tax requirements before their licences are renewed is generally acceptable but there are exceptions. I am aware of a case where a publican who was ill could not renew his licence because his tax was not paid by the due date. He applied to have his licence renewed and made an effort to pay his tax but there was a strict interpretation of the time factors involved. Although he agreed to enter into a tax arrangement he has been unable to reopen his premises to help pay the tax bill which he has agreed to pay.

While there is a need for more flexibility in some areas we must be careful not to be too flexible in other areas. The PAYE sector has been very annoyed by recent cases involving former Members of the House in which no taxes were apparently paid or pursued. I would like the Revenue Commissioners to adopt a fair play attitude to people who genuinely want to pay their taxes and stay in business.

There are inequalities in the taxation system, for example, the tax on second hand clothing sold by charities. These charities which collect clothing, repair and clean it before selling it are required to pay VAT. However, VAT was already paid on this clothing when it was sold initially. In addition the profits made by these charities are taxable.

I have made direct representations on this matter but have not made any progress. I asked the Minister's predecessor to examine tax relief on corporate donations to charities. The Minister should consider using the tax code as an incentive to trigger off additional income for legitimate charities by corporate donations and perhaps put a cap on the figure so that it would be possible to quantify how much it would cost the Exchequer by way of loss of tax income.

Last night Deputy Perry in his maiden speech referred to urban renewal. I agree with him on the importance of this type of tax incentive to towns and villages that must compete with larger towns which already have urban renewal status. For example, the town of Tipperary is caught between two stools, with on the one hand Clonmel benefiting extraordinarily well from the urban renewal scheme, which is welcome, and on the other Limerick city which also benefits from that scheme. Those two areas receive special incentives and suck the life blood from the town of Tipperary which is unable to compete in the competitive world of industrialisation and the service industry. The town of Tipperary has great difficulties surviving and that is a major source of concern to the town's newly reformed chamber of commerce.

I put down questions to the Minister for Finance on the new scheme of urban renewal — there are no proposals for an extension of the scheme even though that was an election promise — and to the Minister for the Environment who has responsibility in this area. If towns such as Tipperary do not receive additional incentives by way of tax relief they will be unable to compete and will become dormitory towns. As an elected representative in that area I, with my parliamentary colleagues from south Tipperary, will fight against that. I would not agree with a regime such as that predicted by Deputy Deenihan who said that only towns of 6,000 people or more would get urban renewal status. Towns should be judged on their projects and plans for survival. That aspect, rather than the population, should be the deciding factor.

There are other anomalies in the area of taxation such as in the transfer of agricultural property. Under the farm retirement scheme a farmer who decides to transfer land to his son is taxed on every pound he receives from the transfer whereas if the property is transferred to any other relative the first £6,000 of income would be tax free. Transactions between fathers and sons, which are registered in the tax office, the land registry and solicitors' offices, are bona fide transactions and there is no reason parents should be penalised for transferring land to their sons.

We should ensure the PAYE sector, which is taxed at source, is aware of allowances that can be claimed such as health expenses and so on. There is a problem with capital gains tax in that where people inherited land, it is valued at the date of the introduction of the tax in 1974. I can understand why it was introduced and it would be part of our party policy to ensure this would be taxed.

However, this regime is now a disincentive for the owners of such lands to sell them for development. Such action is stymied by the tax, and the index linking is not good enough to indemnify owners against the huge escalation in property prices, especially in this booming economy which now has people prepared to invest.

A point was made last night by Deputy Ardagh and supported by Deputy Rabbitte concerning the taxation of stallion fees. This was examined by my party under the chairmanship of the Minister's predecessor, the late Deputy Joe Bermingham. A committee, of which I was a member, was established to examine the bloodstock industry, its contribution to the country's economy and the employment it created. It was agreed that this tax incentive should continue. It does not exclude the taxation of the profits of the bloodstock industry and stud farms as implied by the contributors. It only exempts the fee of the stallion.

I remind those who have raised this tax as a possibility and something worth examining that the cost of some of these stallions is astronomical. They are so expensive that it takes four, five or six people to buy them. It is a huge capital investment and the largest risk capital investment of all. The capital cost of insurance and the risks involved in the possibility of infertility are beyond our reckoning. People should realise this is a special industry with a limited number of people prepared to sacrifice and risk that kind of capital for the enjoyment and benefits which will accrue to the area in which they live. My constituency is fortunate to have many of these stud farms with stallions of the highest possible international repute. This system has existed for some time and was the subject of a critical economic analysis last year which the industry commissioned to examine not only this aspect of the industry but the contribution it makes to lifestyle in rural Ireland. If people have an interest in the bloodstock industry, they should read those reports.

If we interfere with this system, nothing can stop the movement of these animals to another jurisdiction where similar facilities are available or to another hemisphere. These animals are often sent to Australia and New Zealand in the off-season. We are fortunate to have stallions in Ireland with a worldwide demand for their services. Animals attending these stallions are transported from all over Europe into Ireland, creating jobs and economic drive. The number of animals attending each of these stallions is approximately 50. Twelve men are required full-time to care for them as they are normally stabled here. There is a continuing level of economic involvement in this country as a result of stallions. If we interfere with that, the owners of these animals, which are not all Irish, will move them to a jurisdiction where similar facilities are available. That would have disastrous consequences for employment in the bloodstock industry which creates employment in the racing industry which, in turn, gives so much enjoyment, employment and tax revenue to the State. The Minister understands the implications of this suggestion and I caution him against it.

The tax incentive does not interfere with the consolidation of European tax law, unlike corporation profit tax. The argument about the previous Government's efforts and agreement with their European colleagues on a 12.5 per cent rate and a political commitment to ensure the rate remains at 10 per cent is just reopening the problem. I heard the Minister for Finance say that the current proposal of 12.5 per cent is the one the previous Government adopted. Corporation tax at 10 per cent has been an incentive in attracting and establishing industry here and it is not good to promote it as something up for discussion because our European partners do not have the same rate. We were given it because we have certain disabilities. This is an offshore island and the only member of the European Union not linked by a tunnel or land to the Continent, so we need something to attract industry to set up here. It is dangerous to open this discussion in Europe where there is now no sympathy for us because we are doing so well. Our economy is booming as evidenced by the best ever economic statistics and all Members of the House and successive Governments can claim credit for various aspects of this improvement. We should try to retain some of the incentives which make us more attractive, otherwise we, as an island on the periphery of Europe, could lose out.

I put that in the context of the stallion fees because it needs careful consideration if there is a proposal it should be changed, which I hope it is not. If it were politically suitable to have changed it, we would have suggested it many years ago. We carried out our own investigation and my party agreed unanimously to the proposal of the late Deputy Bermingham that it would remain for the reasons I have stated.

I thank the Minister for bringing this Bill to fruition. It is great work, its references are an assistance to us all and it will be appreciated by everyone involved in making the tax code user friendly.

I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Cullen, on his appointment to the Department of Finance. I hope he does not receive the same type of injuries he received when defending our honour in London some years ago. Keep the shoulder to the wheel but make sure it is not broken.

I welcome the Taxes Consolidation Bill. It was imperative that the Government consolidate income tax, corporation tax and capital gains tax. I especially welcome the structure of the Bill which has been divided under six headings and has a more simple approach to language. This is a first as we have had many Bills which were difficult to read and understand. It is imperative to introduce Bills in the area of tax law which are user friendly, simple and easy to understand, and that has happened with this Bill. It has been going on for a number of years and I compliment Governments, Ministers and, specifically, the draftsmen and civil servants involved in preparing this Bill. It will make it easier for tax law practitioners and the public to understand the complexities of the tax system.

This is a relevant time to debate this Bill given that Deputies Harney and McCreevy are negotiating our tax policy for the 21st century in Brussels. The political expediency of the Fianna Fáil manifesto in suggesting a retention of the 10 per cent rate of corporation tax has caused many difficulties. When Deputy Richard Bruton was Minister for Enterprise and Employment he said that corporation tax for both the manufacturing and services sectors would be increased to 12.5 per cent in the 21st century. Deputy O'Rourke, who was Fianna Fáil spokesperson at the time, stated she was against this policy and that Fianna Fáil would retain the 10 per cent corporation tax when in Government. That promise is now causing difficulties.

The services sector has paid high rates of corporation tax for many years. This showed a bias in favour of manufacturing industry. This was important for many years to attract multinational companies, increase exports and assist economic growth. However, we need to take a longer term view and introduce an economic policy which is fair to all sectors of business. The largest number of jobs created by the Celtic tiger have been in the services sector, despite the high rate of corporation tax. Deputies Harney and McCreevy have a difficult task but they should continue the policy begun by the previous Government of introducing a 12.5 per cent rate of corporation tax over the next ten to 15 years.

Corporation tax has been reduced in the past few budgets but there is a long way to go. Small businesses were pleased with the previous Government's decision to substantially reduce the tax on profits. They were also pleased by Deputy Richard Bruton's announcement that corporation tax would be standardised at 12.5 per cent by 2010. There are difficulties for the ongoing negotiations. Many people considering going into business or expanding existing businesses are unsure of future tax policy. Profit was a dirty word for many years and it was taxed to the extremes.

There has been excellent growth in service industries in Sligo-Leitrim during the past number of years, creating many jobs. Small businesses, including services, need Government backing and need to know what Government policy will be over the next few years so that they can plan for the future. The Government should state its policy as quickly as possible and I hope Deputies Harney and McCreevy will do so after the discussions in Brussels. In particular, I hope they will state their policy on corporation tax before Christmas. I assume there will be some indication of this, given that the budget will be announced in December.

Small businesses are doing particularly well but they have difficulty dealing with the number of tax forms issued by the Revenue Commissioners. One such form is the Intra EU Statistics Return. This sounds wonderful but anyone who imports over £140,000 of goods must return the form regularly. For instance, the form requires anyone importing goods from France to state the value in French francs and pounds and the weight of the items. I have received many complaints from businesses that this is another unnecessary form of bureaucracy. I do not know what the information is used for. The form must be returned to the Revenue Commissioners in Dundalk. If they do not receive it within a number of weeks, they contact the businesses and put them under considerable pressure. Businesses must also return this form to their auditors, incurring additional costs. I have not seen any information resulting from this form which is of benefit to Government or Departments. The Minister should examine whether this type of bureaucracy can be eradicated. The more overheads incurred by small businesses the more difficult it is for them to employ staff. We should provide businesses with an incentive to make a profit and employ as many people as possible. This is a negative rather than a positive bureaucracy. One way of solving this problem may be to increase the threshold from £140,000 to a higher figure so that only large businesses qualify. The figure of £140,000 is quite a small amount and should be dramatically increased.

Urban renewal is also dealt with in this Bill and I wish to make the case for extending it to County Leitrim. It is the only county without a town with urban renewal status. The problem is that one of the guidelines states that no town with a population of less than 6,000 can have such status. This is a mistake as I have seen the great benefit urban renewal status can give to large urban areas including towns such as Sligo, Castlebar and Longford.

The Department of Finance and the Government should reconsider rural renewal status. Carrick-on-Shannon is the chief town of County Leitrim with a population of 2,000. It is finding it difficult to compete with towns like Sligo and Longford which have developed due to their urban renewal status. I do not see why small towns cannot be included in schemes. Inclusion would greatly benefit the economy of the area and the Government in terms of tax buoyancy and revenue. There are a great number of people living outside County Leitrim who, if given the tax benefits and incentives to invest in their county, would gladly do so. I hope in the budget and the Finance Bill the Minister for Finance will look seriously at allowing towns with a population of fewer than 6,000 to be included in the urban renewal scheme or a renamed rural renewal scheme to include towns such as Carrick-on-Shannon, Ballinamore, Mohill, Manorhamilton, Drumshanbo, Tubbercurry and Ballymote, towns which are finding it very difficult to compete with the larger urban areas which have received tax incentives. No one should be discriminated against simply because he or she comes from a small rural population base. Many of these areas have businesses and development plans which would benefit greatly from tax incentives.

I compliment the Government, the Department of Finance and others involved in producing this Bill. It is progressive and provides an example of the manner in which we should examine legislation from different Departments. It is user friendly and makes it easier for the public to understand tax law. It also makes it easier for tax practitioners to advise their clients. Pursuance of this type of consolidation would make our legislation more user friendly and relevant to the people we represent.

(Dublin West): The legislation before the House is the Taxes Consolidation Bill but what should be before us is a justice in taxation Bill. The tax system the Bill proposes to consolidate is manifestly unjust in its application. There is a huge discrepancy in the way the tax code bears down on PAYE workers as opposed to the big business element, financial institutions and the super rich. The discrepancy has been highlighted for many years but has not been addressed. It is an extraordinary and scandalous fact that nearly 20 years after the major tax marches of the PAYE sector in the late 1970s and early 1980s the proportion of income tax paid by the PAYE sector, at 85 per cent, is almost the same as it was then. In recent years PAYE workers, under the so-called programmes of national partnership including the present programme, find that their income increases are pegged at about 1 per cent per annum while there is no such restraint on profits. Against the background of the so-called Celtic tiger, profits are roaring ahead while the income of ordinary workers whose labour by hand and by brain make the profits, is being dramatically restrained while taxation levels remain at a punitive rate.

It is amusing to hear the leaders of the main parties in this House disputing what the Government is doing about corporation tax and whether it should be 10 per cent or 12.5 per cent. As far as major companies are concerned the reality is that for many years there has been an effective tax rate which is far lower than the face value tax rate because of the huge amount of loopholes and schemes and scams that can be employed by big business and financial institutions to save on their taxation bills. They have the resources to invest huge amounts into saving on taxation while, by contrast, the PAYE sector is hit for every penny. Is it any wonder there is such anger and cynicism among ordinary working people regarding the blatant double standards?

It is ironic that in recent weeks while the Government was claiming to be up front about investigating alleged corruption in high places, it resolutely refused to include a full-scale examination of the Ansbacher offshore accounts in the terms of reference of the Moriarty tribunal. It is clear to everybody that those accounts were used for widespread tax evasion. The Government refuses to investigate this matter. Why? Is the Government out to protect powerful individuals and businesses whom it knows to be involved in tax evasion equivalent to robbing PAYE workers, the State and society in general? Does the Government think it can have any credibility regarding taxation justice when it stands over this blatant cover-up of tax evasion?

The tax amnesties of 1987 and 1993, which wrote off £1,000 million in taxation due to the State from super wealthy individuals and big companies, have been the source of endless cynicism and anger among PAYE workers, the backbone of the tax paying public, the tax compliant self employed and small businesses. This does not surface in the media and perhaps the Government is not aware of it, but the contrasts and double standards are being played out every week in District Courts throughout Dublin. Hundreds of decent tax payers are dragged in front of the District Court for arrears of water charges which have now been abandoned as a discredited double taxation. Incredibly the names of some of those householders are being entered in Stubbs Gazette for the grand sum of £210 in an attempt by the local authorities to intimidate and frighten these decent taxpayers to pay the arrears of what they resolutely fought against as an unjust double taxation.

The Government should be aware that at ground level — perhaps it does not reach into the hallowed chambers here — there is huge anger about these double standards. Every week people are dragged before the courts while the Government is refusing to investigate an account totalling £38 million where it is probable that millions of pounds owed to the State, in due taxation, would be found.

I warn the Government and the main Opposition Party, Fine Gael, that these issues will break cover publicly in the course of the two by-elections shortly. Working people will take their anger out on the main parties who are protecting the unjust tax regime. It is time the ordinary PAYE workers elected far more representatives to the Dáil who would stand unashamedly full square with them rather than in the camp of the big business sector, the financial institutions and the super-privileged. Unfortunately the main problem has been that the parties in Government — Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats — and the main Opposition party, Fine Gael, represent the most powerful and wealthy sections. Undoubtedly the huge contributions they receive from those sections influence taxation policy in the State. Tribunals have been set up to look at corruption but it may go unnoticed that some of the normal political activity between business and politics deserves to be looked at in an entirely different and more critical way. I have no doubt the financing of the political parties by powerful vested interests is in the minds of the political parties when it comes to the formulation of budgets and Finance Bills and they will not want to transgress unduly on them in regard to levels of taxation, levies etc.

It is time the leadership of the trade union movement acted directly on behalf of the hundreds of thousands of its members who are extremely dissatisfied with the unjust taxation system. Justice in taxation will have to be found by the PAYE workers and the compliant self-employed mobilising their own people power directly to bring to bear on Government and on the major political parties that they are not prepared to be ignored while the Taxes Consolidation Bill is being discussed. By direct trade union action rather than the cosy partnerships, which have badly let down the PAYE worker in regard to wage increases and justice in taxation, there has to be mobilisation of the movement and far more people in the Dáil who represent unashamedly the PAYE sector, as opposed to the most privileged sectors. Those are the principles of taxation justice that should be involved rather than simply a consolidation of the taxation regimes which are manifestly unjust.

I thank Deputies who have contributed to this important debate. I hope I will be able to deal fully with the various points raised by Deputies. I concur with the general welcome for the Taxes Consolidation Bill and the efforts of all involved to bring this important legislation to the House in such a short time.

During the past 24 hours there has been much comment on corporation tax. As my colleague, the Minister for Finance, made clear on Monday, we are dealing with Brussels on the basis of the notified decision of the previous Government in May last to bring in a single low rate of 12.5 per cent on trading income from 2006 in the case of all companies, except manufacturing, and from 2011 in the case of manufacturing. The Tánaiste and the Minister for Finance were in Brussels yesterday to discuss a number of points on the introduction of new rates which the Commission has raised. Deputies opposite are fully aware that there are many eyes looking at our tax regime which, unlike the position in several other member states, is fully transparent and, thus, completely defendable. The Minister at ECOFIN made it clear he would defend Ireland's interest and the House can be assured he will be doing just that in our current discussions with the Commission. As far as the Government is concerned nobody on this side is talking about a 15 per cent corporation tax rate, nor is anybody in the Commission.

In relation to the performance of the economy, vis-a-vis budget day forecasts, as Deputy Noonan said the revenue forecasting is not an exact science. I assure him, however, there is no systematic under-forecasting — all relevant information available is input at the time. The Department of Finance had one of the strongest growth forecasts of anyone for 1997 with a post budget GNP volume growth of 5.5 per cent compared to the average of seven other reputable public and private sector forecasts of 5.4 per cent. Everyone in the House will agree that the extra revenue buoyancy is simply reflecting the sheer pace of economic activity. Employment and activity generally are much stronger than envisaged at budget time. This is the reason more revenue is coming in. The proof is available in the substantial falling numbers in the unemployment figures and the tremendous growth on the employment side. When Deputies comment on extra revenue coming in they should examine what is really happening in the economy: it is not an increase in intake from existing taxpayers, it is a growth in the number of taxpayers in the employment market and a decrease in unemployment.

The Government has already indicated that the extra revenue this year will be taken into account in framing tax reliefs in the 1998 budget. I have noted the comments by Deputy Higgins. I assure him the philosophy underpinning the Government's approach to budgetary strategy is to seek to ensure, where benefits can be given, that all sectors of society would be the main beneficiaries.

Deputy Noonan responded positively to the philosophy of running budget surpluses in time of plenty and made a number of interesting remarks on how we should plan our budget strategy in the next few years. We are at one in regard to the need to plan on a multi-annual basis on budgetary matters. This is the way the previous Government proceeded. It is unfair to criticise the Minister on the Estimates process because he is proceeding on the same basis as previous Governments. It is the Government's function to decide the Estimates and present them to the Dáil. In regard to the address by the Secretary General of the Department of Finance to the former Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs, it is open to the committee when it is reconstituted to invite the Secretary General to appear before it again. The committee should issue such an invitation if it deems it necessary.

Deputy Rabbitte spoke of the need to balance taxation with the need to ensure proper funding of public services. He also set out his party's priorities as to how tax reductions should be implemented. The Government is conscious of the need for balance in this area and to secure benefits for taxpayers. Its proposals will be revealed on 3 December and I am sure I will be forgiven for not revealing them now. It is important to note that the Taoiseach, when Minister for Finance, was to the fore in implementing innovative and imaginative taxation polices that, without question, have lead to the economic growth we are enjoying. They contributed significantly to the decrease in unemployment and the corresponding growth in employment figures. Fianna Fáil's track record in Government should leave people in no doubt as to its ability to deliver where it matters.

Deputy Rabbitte also referred to the reliefs in the tax system and the purposes they serve. I have no difficulty reviewing reliefs to ensure they are properly targeted. Having been a member of Government, he will be aware of the difficulties in withdrawing reliefs once given. He will also be aware that the last major reduction in tax relief occurred in 1992 as part of a tax reform package.

Deputy McDowell sought greater distribution of information to taxpayers. I am pleased he raised that point. Revenue has made great progress in building a relationship with its customers, in producing readable leaflets and in providing information contact points for taxpayers. It has firm plans to do more in that regard. In the past few years it has endeavoured to make information available in an efficient and understandable manner.

The question of consolidating customs and excise law was also raised. This is old legislation. Customs law is contained in the EU Customs Code which consolidates that law. Revenue has made a start on bringing together excise law and may be able to consolidate blocks of excise law in future Finance Bills. Revenue is also examining VAT and capital taxes, a matter that was raised at a meeting of the former Select Committee on Finance and General Affairs. We can take great heart from the progress made in the Taxes Consolidation Bill and be confident we have in place the capacity, the people and the mechanisms to deliver much more in terms of consolidation legislation.

Deputy Ardagh spoke of the need to simplify forms and procedures. Revenue is working closely with representatives of small firms to further reduce red tape where possible. It has received an award for its progress which is unusual in the case of Revenue. This demonstrates the sea change in the past few years and the drive in Revenue to ensure all systems meet the highest possible standards and that best practice applies.

Deputy Reynolds referred to EU statistical forms being technical. I will examine the nature of the forms to which he referred, but the aim is to remove red tape and to ensure matters are dealt with simply and efficiently. Deputy Ardagh also referred to the marginal rate of tax of 40 per cent on income just above the income tax exemption limits. This special rate of tax is necessary for technical reasons to prevent those who exceed the exemption tax limit from losing out if they go back to the ordinary system of tax allowances. I agree the rate is high. The last decrease in the rate was made by the Taoiseach as Minister for Finance when he reduced it from 48 per cent to 40 per cent. This matter is kept under review and I am sure the Minister for Finance will take it into account in his overall strategy.

The Deputy also made a series of cogent points about capital allowances for hotels, computer software, film relief and so on. While I have noted these points, they can be more appropriately dealt with in the Finance Bill, 1998. It was also suggested that a non-statutory index could be considered as part of Revenue's notes for guidance project. While I cannot make a firm commitment on this matter because Revenue is anxious to produce the notes for guidance document as soon as possible, it will examine the matter. As those notes will be valuable to all concerned, their production will be a priority when the Taxes Consolidation Bill is enacted.

The notes for guidance will follow the format and style of the recently published Notes for Guidance on the Finance Act, 1997. The notes will contain suitable cross references and signposting to the relevant operational instructions and precedents relating to the consolidated legislation the Revenue Commissioners are required to publish under the Freedom of Information Act, 1997. By "precedents" I mean details of the various responses the Revenues Commissioners have made in recent years to requests for guidance on the interpretation of tax law.

Deputy McDowell raised the question of an ongoing or updated CD ROM to reflect annual changes to the Act. We do not want further consolidation of tax law to take another 30 years. We should consolidate the law at least every five to ten years. A number of commercial publishing firms are involved in tax publications, including one that issues an updated version of the tax codes annually following enactment of the Finance Bill. The gap between consolidation can be covered by such publications. The changes in each year's Finance Bill will be prepared in such a way that they can be readily slotted into the consolidation framework. That may answer many of the concerns raised by Deputies. Future finance Bills will be designed to facilitate the easy updating of tax consolidation legislation. That will go a long way towards ensuring the body of law in that single Act continues to be a reference point.

I was glad to hear the welcome all speakers afforded the Bill and the commitment to facilitate its speedy passage through the House by the principal Opposition speakers, Deputies Noonan and McDowell. There is nothing new in it and nothing has been left out. That should allay any fears Deputy Noonan may have had. The Bill should not be held up by reopening issues which have been fully debated. I sensed Deputies considered the Bill had been dealt with and are anxious to pass it and put it on the Statute Book. I hope I have responded to most of the points raised by the Deputies.

Deputy Ferris raised a number of points about the bloodstock industry. I know he has an interest in that area, but he can rest assured nothing will be done by the Government to deliberately damage the continued development of any sector through use of the tax laws. When one gives reliefs and they become part of the currency of usage it is hard to remove them, but there is no suggestion of anything like that happening.

I did not agree with much of what Deputy Higgins said. One must be careful and circumspect when levelling allegations in the House. They are not helpful and they did not conform to the tone of this debate.

I thank all the Deputies who participated in the debate. I heartily congratulate the officials involved from Revenue, my Department and the private sector who put the Bill together in a short space of time. The cost of this was a fraction of what it might have been if it was contracted out solely to the private sector to deliver. It is worth noting our officials have the capacity to deliver great value. I commend all of them and everyone involved in preparing the Bill.

Question put and agreed to.

(Carlow-Kilkenny): In accordance with Standing Order 131 the Bill with the concurrence of both Houses will be referred to the standing Joint Committee on Consolidation Bills. I understand the motions of referral will be moved shortly.