Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions

The Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Micheál Martin, has three minutes. I ask all Members to observe the limit of three minutes.

Last week, I met a parent on the doorstep in Tallaght and asked her about her basic issues. Immediately, she revealed her main concern was the significant burden and cost education was placing on the household budget, which admittedly was limited. I refer to the pressure owing to her children going back to school. More important, the pressure of paying a voluntary subscription to the school was real because it was made clear that failure to do so would mean her children would not gain access to textbooks and materials centrally procured by the school. The subscription had to be paid up front by the parent.

This illustrates that the ongoing cost of education and going back to school is genuinely growing. Schools have little choice but to raise funds voluntarily. We know from the Grant Thornton report of last February that the average Government allocation to schools for operating costs, amounting to €46,000 per year, does not cover the average expenditure, which is approximately €91,000. Lighting, cleaning, heating, insurance, equipment and printing add to the costs and increase the expenditure when running a school. Small and medium-sized schools suffer even more. DEIS schools, or disadvantaged schools, because they do not have the capacity to raise money, are particularly disadvantaged. They cannot fundraise.

The Oireachtas education committee, under the chairmanship of Deputy Fiona O'Loughlin, held valuable hearings in August on this subject. The Catholic Primary Schools Management Association made a presentation to the committee and stated unequivocally that the current model is unsustainable. It stated the issue is urgent and that many schools are running out of contingency funds and are running deficits. The chief executive officer of the Irish League of Credit Unions, Mr. Ed Farrell, told the committee that the league's annual back-to-school survey results showed a rise in the number of parents in debt due to back-to-school-related costs. Well over one third of parents in Ireland said they were getting into debt to cover back-to-school costs. In particular, the credit unions were worried about the prevalence of moneylenders and the degree to which they are giving loans to parents to try to get through this difficult period. Some 46% of parents said that the cost of going back to school was their biggest worry, and 67% said it represented a significant financial burden. Four in ten said they would not be in a position to afford new shoes for their children, while seven in ten said extracurricular activities would have to be cut.

One of the most effective ways to deal with this, among a number of measures, is to accept that the existing capitation grant is wholly inadequate to fund primary schools, particularly the small and medium-sized schools and DEIS schools. Does the Taoiseach accept that? Does he agree this must be a budget priority and that provision must be made for an increased capitation grant in the forthcoming budget, with a commitment to phased increases in subsequent budgets to try to reduce the pressure on parents who find their children's return to school presents a great difficulty?

I thank the Deputy for raising this important matter. It is raised very much in my engagement with parents as I go around the country and on the occasions on which I knock on doors. The cost of education can be an enormous burden on families. Often, these are the same families who bear the high costs of childcare, school transport and, in some cases, rising rents or a large mortgage.

Increasing capitation grants for next year is, of course, a budgetary matter. No budget decisions have been made as yet but I know it is a priority that Fianna Fáil has raised in negotiations with us on the budget. In the letter I wrote to the Deputy last month suggesting that we continue the confidence and supply arrangement through to 2020, I specifically listed this matter as one that should be included as part of a future arrangement, should Fianna Fáil choose to continue the confidence and supply agreement through to the summer of 2020, as I proposed. It is also included in the programme for Government.

It is always necessary to prioritise. We have a budget of €10 billion this year for education. It is the largest budget for education in the history of the State. That is making a difference. It means we have hired 5,000 more teachers in the past two years. It means we are building new schools all over the country and extending schools. It means we are developing technological universities, in Dublin and hopefully soon in the south east. It means we have more special needs assistants than we ever had in our education service. It means the pupil-teacher ratio this September is the lowest ever for children attending primary school. Therefore, we can see how the massive investment in education is making a real difference for children, their teachers and families.

I acknowledge that, because we had to focus on other areas, we have not been able to increase capitation. It is under consideration for this budget but Deputies should bear in mind that there are always competing priorities. Even the wealthiest countries have limited budgets and we have to prioritise within them.

Prioritisation is an important issue. When the population increases, we will have more teachers. Generally, because of the significant growth the number of children going to primary schools in recent years, there is a need for additional teachers because of the pupil-teacher ratio. That is a matter of fact; that happens. What has not increased in recent years in any shape or form, however, is the capitation grant. The cost of living is affecting people. Many parents who have children going back to school face higher costs. These individuals are not entitled to the back-to-school allowance or anything like that. They face a higher cost than others in society. Priorities, therefore, have to be targeted and focused. It is clear from all the evidence given to the Oireachtas education committee in August that schools are the end of their tether and are running deficits. Parents are under particular pressure. It is embarrassing for them if they cannot pay. The children come back from school and say the principal is saying they have to pay the voluntary subscription. If we were honest about it, we would say it is not voluntary. There is great pressure on parents to cough up.

Along with an increase in the capitation grant there must be a restatement of the guidelines around that. Children are conscious of it. When I spoke to the mother concerned the children were in her presence as she told the story. It is a story many Deputies have heard. There must be an acknowledgement that the cost of living is a key issue and that giving tax cuts to the wealthy alone does not deal with it in a significant or substantive way.

I can assure the Deputy that, as was the case in the last couple of budgets, we will not be giving tax cuts to the wealthy alone. Tax cuts will be focused on those with middle incomes. We have already taken people on the lowest incomes out of the tax net altogether and we have relieved them of the burden of the USC, which Fianna Fáil imposed on them. Some 38% of the lowest earners do not pay any income tax. Now the focus will be on those on middle incomes. People on modest incomes of approximately €40,000 pay the highest rate of income tax on some of their income. We believe that is unfair. We stand over our policy of taking the lowest paid out of the tax net altogether and now focusing on those on middle incomes. I will defend that to the hilt because it is the right thing to do.

The Deputy is correct that the population has grown, and spending must increase in line with population growth. However, we have done better than that. If spending had only grown in line with demographics the pupil-teacher ratio would have stayed the same, but we have improved on that. That is why we have the lowest pupil-teacher ratio ever this September. There are also more resource teachers, 500 new guidance counsellors, 500 deputy principals to give schools better management, as well as junior cycle reform. In terms of prioritisation, we wish to prioritise the families who are struggling the most. We have reversed some of the cutbacks to the back to school clothing and footwear allowance that were imposed by the Deputy's party in government. We have not fully reversed the cuts but we are getting there in that regard. I have also introduced the school books scheme which has been of value to parents and we are expanding the school meals programme, which is very important particularly in DEIS schools.

As we speak nurses and midwives, members of the Irish Nurses and Midwives Organisation, INMO, are meeting to discuss pay and staffing shortages. The national executive of the Psychiatric Nurses Association is also meeting today to consider the recent report of the Public Service Pay Commission. For years nurses, midwives and their unions have highlighted the recruitment and retention crisis in the health service. They have proposed reasonable and responsible solutions to address it, yet there has been complete disengagement from the Government on the issue.

The Public Service Pay Commission report was supposed to independently analyse and assess the crisis, its causes and how to address the problems. However, as the report conveys, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy Donohoe, met the commission in October 2017 to emphasise that its work "is not a pay review nor can it be". It is clear that from the outset the Government was determined that a commission mandated to investigate both pay and conditions was to focus solely on conditions and to disregard pay. It appears as if it was determined to establish the conclusions of the report long before the work had even begun. In carrying out its international pay comparisons the report acknowledges the number of nurses and midwives who have chosen to work in Britain instead of Ireland. While acknowledging the fact that pay and conditions vary across England, the report failed to address adequately differences in pay between Ireland and London specifically, a popular destination for our nurses and where entry pay is more than €3,000 higher. A pay comparison that fails to address adequately one of the most popular destinations for our nurses is flawed.

Our nurses and midwives perform an invaluable service to patients in the health service and we should expect their jobs to pay well and to have high morale in their ranks. However, that is not the case. There is only one application for every four nursing and midwifery vacancies in the health service. In the meantime the Government does not wish to talk about pay, but that is the conversation that must take place. It wilfully ignores that this will only worsen the state of the health service and make it impossible to implement Sláintecare fully. All the while the bill for agency staff continues to spiral. In April, the Dáil passed a Sinn Féin motion calling for the introduction of recruitment and retention measures based on realistic proposals which would prioritise pay. It called on the Government to work with the unions to draw up a roadmap for pay equality and how that would be achieved for nurses and midwives, with an implementation plan to deliver pay equality within a short timeframe and not the eight-year timeframe the Government now proposes. Will the Taoiseach commit to acting and engaging with unions in order that nurses and other health professionals get a fair deal?

Absolutely, we always engage with unions. That is the reason we have a public sector pay deal which was agreed less than a year ago. That deal runs for the next three years and it applies to all public servants in the country. It provides for pay increases every year for the next three years at a total cost to the taxpayer of €400 million last year. We made that agreement after engaging with unions and we intend to honour it. We certainly hope all the unions honour the agreement they made with the Government and Irish taxpayer. The agreement runs for three years and all public servants will receive pay increases every year. There are over €400 million worth of pay increases for public servants next year, which is about as much as we can afford. We do not wish to repeat the mistakes of the past and to start borrowing money to pay for pay increases. That is illusory. It would mean going back to the cycle of pay increases followed by pay cuts down the line.

The Public Service Pay Commission report is worth reading, and I am sure the Deputy has read it. It is based on facts and puts forward solutions. Those who are not interested in point scoring or exploiting industrial relations issues will find it very informative. It is independent, incidentally. It was not written by the Government or a civil servant or anybody in the Department of Finance. Anybody could make submissions and many people did so. The report sets out the facts. One of those facts is that the number of nurses working in the public health service has been increasing year on year for the past three years. It shows that pay is comparable with the UK and Europe and that Ireland has a high number of nurses per bed relative to other countries. These are the facts, not my opinion. They are set out in black and white in the Public Service Pay Commission report. The report also points out that many countries are struggling to recruit and retain nurses because there is an international shortage of nurses. Pay measures alone will not change that. Just as there are Irish nurses in Australia and the UK there are nurses in Ireland from the UK, Spain, India and all parts of the world. Those are the facts in the report.

One of the most pertinent facts we should not deny, because it is set out in the report and in the OECD figures, is that Ireland has more nurses per head of population than most countries in the world. It is in the top five or six. If one reduces the number of nurses per bed it is even higher. Any reforms must involve changes to how we deploy our nurses to ensure nurses are used in appropriate roles. For example, in Ireland nurses are doing jobs that would be done by theatre assistants or scrub technicians in the United States and we have nurses doing jobs in outpatient departments that would be done by other grades. Reform must involve those types of changes. Of course we are willing to engage on that type of reform. That is what Sláintecare is about, reform and not more of the same. If more nurses, more pay, more beds and more of the same was the solution we would be improving the health services now. We do not need more of the same but a different approach.

The Taoiseach is not contesting the fact that there is one application for every four nursing and midwifery vacancies in the health service. That is a fact too. The fact is that we train what are said to be the best, brightest and most capable nursing and midwifery staff and then we lose them, specifically to London, Canada and Australia. When one makes a pay comparison one must benchmark the pay rate here with those destinations. Nurses and unions have said loudly and clearly that there is an issue with pay. There is certainly an issue with pay equality and then there is the broader issue of pay if we wish to recruit and retain staff. The Sláintecare report will gather dust on a shelf somewhere unless there are the resources, human resources and the capital to make it a reality.

The report is being considered by the real experts. As we speak, the nurses are gathering in Croke Park and they will take a view on this report. In light of this, will the Taoiseach honour the motion passed by the Dáil, which called on the Government to engage with unions on the issue of pay and to do so in real terms in order that we can recruit and retain the best and, thus, deliver a first-class health service?

I can guarantee that the Government will engage with unions on pay and terms and conditions and on co-operation with the reforms that are necessary to bring about a better health service. It is because of engagement that we have a three-year pay deal with all public servants to increase their pay every year. The sum of €400 million has been set aside for next year alone for increases in pay for our public servants. Two pay increases will be made next year. It is because of engagement that we have negotiated with the Irish Congress of Trade Unions a pathway by which we can equalise the pay scales of those public servants recruited after 2012. As the Minister for Finance, Deputy Donohoe, often states - and he is right - there is only a set amount of money. We have set aside approximately €400 million for pay increases for public servants next year. There is a point at which if we go beyond that, we either have to take the money out of public services, new schools, new hospitals and away from new medicines or borrow it and then pay later. This is not the responsible approach. The Sinn Féin approach will always be to back any demand of any interest group for anything they seek-----

-----but that is not the approach of Government or what is in the interest of the Irish taxpayer or people who use our public services.

So, the Government will not be backing it.

It is ten years since Ireland's economic collapse. When the economy collapsed, Ireland's tax base was exposed as fragile and narrow. Ten years ago, tax receipts fell by 30% in one year. This did not happen by accident. For a decade, Fianna Fáil had riddled the tax system with all sorts of tax breaks and bought popularity at budget time by cutting personal taxes to a level far below those of other European countries. The property boom meant that windfall tax receipts from stamp duties and VAT brought in the necessary cash for public spending. This all ended with the economic collapse, leaving Ireland unable to pay for basic public services such as schools, hospitals and the Garda. We all know the history because the people of Ireland suffered and endured it. It is not clear that the current Government has learned the lessons of history. I am determined that we will not return to a situation where our basic health and social services are vulnerable to collapse because our tax system is weak.

Tax lobbyists are seeking cuts to income taxes, with comparisons being made with personal tax levels of ten years ago. From my perspective, income taxes in 2008 were excessively low. Government spokespeople have suggested in the last week or ten days that the local property tax should no longer be linked to property values, which totally undermines the logic of a tax on assets and undermines the economic benefits of such a tax in dampening the growth in property prices. This Government is now, I believe, embarked on the same process of driving down income tax. From what we have heard in terms of the kites that have been flown over the past ten days, its focus is almost entirely on the top 20% of income earners. Reports from the Revenue Commissioners make it crystal clear that only the top 19% of taxpayers pay any tax at the higher rate, which means over 80% do not. Yet the Taoiseach insists on calling this 19% of taxpayers "the middle", as he did again today. They are not "the middle". The Taoiseach obsesses about the marginal rate of income tax. I remind him that I was directly involved in the negotiations in respect of which the Taoiseach referenced Fine Gael having taken the lowest paid workers out of the income tax system. The Labour Party insisted on that. I negotiated directly with the Minister for Finance. Fine Gael's plan was to reduce the top rate of income tax but by agreement, we took the lowest paid out of the universal social charge. Despite that almost all north-western European countries have higher rates of personal income tax than Ireland, the Government is talking about reducing income tax. My point is there is a real risk of repeating the disasters mistakes of the past.

Will the Taoiseach confirm that only the top 19% of income taxpayers pay tax at the marginal rate at present and will the Government confirm its intention to strengthen rather than weaken the overall tax base of this economy in the forthcoming budget to ensure we provide decent and sustainable public services into the future?

The Deputy raises some valid points. In respect of our tax base, ten years ago we relied heavily on stamp duty, tax revenues from capital gains tax and tax receipts from the property sector. Now, our tax base is much more broadly based. We have a local property tax which, unpopular as it may be, has broadened our tax base. We also have a sugar tax and a carbon tax and as such we have a much more broadly based system than we had ten years ago. The area of vulnerability is corporation profit tax. In the past couple of years, we have had a windfall in terms of big increases in taxes from big companies. We cannot make long-term spending commitments with this money because we cannot be sure it will available to us in a year or two. While I acknowledge the issue the Deputy raises, it is important to make that the point that we do have a much more broadly based tax system now. If there is a vulnerability, it is not around income tax but corporation profit tax and whether we will be able to take in as much money from corporations in two or three years' time as we do now.

The Deputy also mentioned that there are a lot of people talking about a return to the low taxes we had ten years ago as if ten years ago, pre-crash, was somehow normal. This applies to other areas as well. There are people talking about a return to the pay levels we had ten years ago and to the house prices we had ten years ago, as if ten years ago was normal. If we return to the pay levels, house prices and low taxes we had ten years ago we are heading for another crash. This Government needs to be responsible and to try to contain the increase in house prices, the increase in demands for higher pay and the increase in demands for lower taxes. If people think that what we had in Ireland ten years ago was normal, we are heading for another crash. This Government will be responsible and make sure that does not happen on any of those levels - tax, pay, spending or property prices.

On income tax, I can assure the Deputy that our plan is to raise more from income tax in 2019 than we will in 2018. This is largely due to increasing employment and higher incomes and not due to rising taxes. We do not intend to cut the marginal rate. Our focus is on average incomes. The average person in Ireland working full-time, excluding students, earns approximately €44,000 per annum, some of which is subject to tax at the higher rate. I believe people who earn €40,000 or €50,000 are "the middle". The Deputy may say they are in the top 19% and that they are the rich.

When one factors out part-time workers, students and pensioners the average person in Ireland working full-time, the type of people we all know and meet every day, earn €44,000 per annum.

I know a lot of people who earn a lot less.

Those people pay tax on some of their income at the highest rate. That is the anomaly and that is unfair. People on middle incomes who get a pay increase, an increment or do overtime lose more than half of that income in income tax. I do think that is unfair and it is something we want to change. We cannot do it in one go but we will do it in this budget, the next budget and the one after that if we are given the opportunity.

I welcome the Taoiseach's acknowledgement of the vulnerability of our tax base but all of his actions and all of the kites being flown in recent times undermine that. The Taoiseach spoke about sustainable house prices. There are no sustainable house prices. In many parts of the country, house prices are back to the unaffordable level we had during the boom. The issue is that people's incomes have not recovered, such that they are worse off in terms of affordability.

What is demonstrable now is the priority for our economy must be to invest in quality public services. This is what all of the people want. The Government proposes to give a marginal tax break to 19% of taxpayers. There will be no benefit for 81% of taxpayers. A marginal tax break for 19% of taxpayers is not a tax break for "the middle". I am sure that if asked directly, that 19% of taxpayers would prefer to have that money invested in health and education.

I ask for that to be the priority as the Government approaches the budget, rather than falling into the notion that everything can be done at once and that it can give tax breaks and invest in quality public services at the same time. The Government cannot do both if it is going to have a sustainable economic policy.

The Deputy and I are not as far apart as he may think or wish people to believe. There will be three priorities in the budget coming before the House in two weeks. The first priority is that it be broadly balanced and that we do not repeat the mistakes of the past by ramping up spending and slashing taxes when the economy is strong and doing well. We will reduce the deficit and our national debt will fall as a percentage of gross domestic product, GDP. The first principle is to be prudent.

The second priority is investment in public infrastructure and services. We will increase spending on public infrastructure and services by €3.4 billion next year at least. There will be a 25% increase in capital spending on new homes, healthcare facilities, schools, transport infrastructure and broadband. Anything more than that would probably drive up construction inflation and would not allow us to build any more.

The third priority is that there will be a tax and welfare package which will put money back in people's pockets, not just middle income tax payers but also pensioners and people on welfare. While we have not signed off or agreed on the budget as yet, I firmly hope that it will be the budget that finally reverses the cuts made to weekly welfare payments made by a Government in the past.

On 30 August, the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Deputy Naughten, admitted that the Government's climate mitigation plan was not working. Earlier in the summer, the head of the Climate Change Advisory Council, Professor John FitzGerald, said that we are off course and heading rapidly in the wrong direction. At last week's Joint Committee on Climate Action meeting, we asked for the Secretary General of the Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to appear in advance of this afternoon's committee meeting and if we could see a first draft of the plan that the Government has to present to the European Union by Christmas, only to be told yesterday by the secretariat that no such plan exists yet. Ms Marie Donnelly, a former Irish civil servant in the European Commission set out a vision of how we could turn this into an opportunity for our country at last week's meeting. By being ambitious and going for a zero-carbon Ireland, we could create jobs and opportunities right across the country. We have to have the draft by Christmas but in truth this is a question for Deputy Micheál Martin as much as for Deputies McDonald, Howlin and every other Deputy in this Dáil because the final sign off on this new climate action plan, which is the one we have to do, will not be agreed by this Government but by the next Government towards the end of next year.

My question is whether we are able to make the leap that Ms Donnelly set out. We have done it previously. In the late 1950s, we went from a closed economy to an open economy and Fine Gael played its part. The Taoiseach's party appointed Dr. T.K. Whitaker before Fianna Fáil and supported Seán Lemass when the Dáil at that time collectively set our country on a new course. That is the scale of the historic moment that we are in now and we must organise ourselves in the next 16 to 18 months. Then we must repeat it for the subsequent six Governments because the reason that Whitaker and Lemass were successful was that there was a stable political agreement in this House to invest in education, join the European Union, set up the Shannon tax free zone and so on.

That level of co-operation, ambition and joint effort is needed and the people are ready for it. They are good at tackling climate change; they just need some leadership, help and support, which this Dáil must provide. In going green, which we can do as an island, it will be 40 shades of green. We must change everything, including our transport system, energy system, food system and business system. Work must be done in Killybegs, Galway, Shannon, Waterford, Cork, Drogheda, Dundalk, Belfast and Derry to turn them into ports that will bring us energy from our seas. It will happen on every street where we change them from the current car-dominated streets to greenways such as the one in the Taoiseach's area of Blanchardstown which I am sure he knows. It is a beautiful cycle path and we need those in every area so that our children can cycle to school and do not have get asthma growing up. Similarly, instead of looking at the future of farming where the average age of a farmer is 67, let us be bold and ambitious and pay them properly for storing carbon and reduce the average age of farmers in ten years to 37. This is the front-line of this global challenge, which is the biggest that humankind has ever faced. We should engage Bord na Móna to retrofit our homes, double the size of the company and start immediately storing the peat in the ground. We need to make that level of a leap.

I ask the Taoiseach in the spirit of collaboration to follow the example of those who appointed Whitaker. We need a Whitaker today within the public service and we need a Lemass in every party to get agreement on this climate leap we need to make. Is the Taoiseach willing to make that leap to think about everything and think big about how we write this new plan together by Christmas?

I am not entirely clear what the Deputy's question is. I will await the report from the all-party committee, which is being ably chaired by my colleague, Deputy Hildegarde Naughton. On the Government's commitment to climate action, it is important to put the kind of initiatives that the Government has committed to on the record of the House. We do not need an all-party agreement to make the commitments that we have made. Under Project Ireland 2040, the largest single bloc of investment is in climate action to the tune of more than €20 billion in investment in infrastructure that will allow us to tackle climate change. We have confirmed that Ireland will become one of the first countries in the world to ban the use of smoky coals, for example. Moneypoint will be taken off coal in 2025 and we will be one of the first countries in Europe to come off coal as a means of generating power. We will take peat out of electricity system by 2030, if not before. From next year, any new buses that are added to our bus fleet will be either low emission or zero-emission vehicles. The first few will arrive this year and we will buy no new ones from the middle of next year other than low emission or zero-emission vehicles. We have agreed to begin electrifying more of our railways, including the Maynooth and Kildare lines. When BusConnects is looked at, it is not just to do with busses; one quarter of the programme relates to cycling because along those high quality spines and bus lanes, there will be space for bikes as well. The Deputy is right to acknowledge the enormous investment that this Government has put into greenways, not just in my constituency but also around the country in places such as Waterford, and there will be many more similar investments. We also have plans to retrofit public buildings and homes to make them more energy efficient. We have the new renewable electricity support scheme to deliver an additional 3,000 to 4,000 megawatts of renewable energy and we have renewable heat as well. We have a pretty good plan but we need to implement it. We also need the co-operation of the Opposition in doing so and perhaps even some encouragement and acknowledgement as well.

I would love to stand up here and give encouragement and acknowledgement but maybe I should have been more clear. The Government's development plan sucks when it comes to climate action and it will not do the job. We need ambition that goes way beyond what the Taoiseach has just set out. We also need political support. I support the BusConnects project but we all know in this House that it is politically dead in the water at the moment because the real story there is that we will take the cars out of our cities and move towards car sharing and public transport. We should have the level of ambition where we will turning Dublin city into Copenhagen and the Government's plan does not do it. It is the old model of more roads with 63 big motorways and more sprawl.

The Taoiseach said that we are taking the peat out of Ireland by 2030 but that is not good enough because there will be no peat left by 2030. The Taoiseach should listen to all the advice that has been offered to the Joint Committee on Climate Action, which says the Government has to stop the peat production now.

The Deputy would like that all right.

In the privacy of the national economic dialogue, the rural people were saying to us that they are sick and tired of the peat economy being dug up. We cannot even get the workers to do the retrofitting we need and the scale of the retrofit-----

The Deputy is raving; that is wrong.

That is what I heard and I was at that meeting. The scale of the challenge and what I am looking for is for us to agree with Professor John Fitzgerald when he said that we should spend €5 billion retrofitting our social housing so that we end fuel poverty. Let us do that and provide €30 billion in financing for retrofitting every other home so that it generates its own power and has an electric charging point. We should move to this new economy with skill and élan just as California and Jeremy Corbyn are talking about doing.

The Deputy must respect the House.

Will the Taoiseach change his development plan because it will not work in terms of the climate?

The Deputy should not take advantage.

The Deputy is a very excitable gentleman, is he not?

It is kind of important.

That is unnecessary.

The Deputy can be passionate but he can also be measured and logical.

Does the Taoiseach understand passion?

I encourage the Deputy to read Project Ireland 2040 because I would love to know where these 53 big motorways are going.

It is 63 and national roads.

I can absolutely guarantee there are not 63 motorway projects-----

And national roads.

-----in Project Ireland 2040. The Dublin-Cork motorway, the M20, the Galway ring road and a few others need to be done. I may be totally wrong but I highly doubt that as things are going all the peat will be gone by 2030. There is a lot of it out there.

I remind the House that we are moving on to questions on promised legislation and not Topical Issue matters.