I move amendment No. 13:
In page 8, subsection (4)(b), line 22, to delete “Pact.” and substitute the following:
“Pact, and the attainment and retention of fiscal responsibility and international evidence on the problem of fiscal imbalance.”.
The Bill is a fiscal responsibility Bill and we have set up a fiscal council. I have a little less confidence in the bodies mentioned by the Minister of State. They were all in place when we got into this trouble, hence we need a new institution. The NESC represented the Secretaries General of approximately six Departments and the social partners and I would hate to rely on it for much advice as we move forward trying to address this problem. The same could be said of certain other institutions, including perhaps the ESRI, which told us the banking crisis was manageable.
We got into trouble to such a degree between 2008 and 2010 that we need this new institution. Therefore, I would like it to comment on these issues. The council has been set up under the umbrella of fiscal responsibility and should comment on anything it wishes to in order to retain fiscal responsibility in this country. For instance, we might say the IMF has a cheek advising us on the health service, but if it genuinely believes the way we run the health service has contributed to the problems we are all trying to address, it should be entitled to say that. It may not look for funds to reorganise the health service, but if it sees problems, it should be able to point them out.
We know the problems it saw. The regulatory capture of the Exchequer by the banks on that notorious evening, the success of lobbying by various groups, such as construction and banking, poor appraisals of capital and the health case it is concerned about. When the IMF is gone, will the impetus it has given to the Minister of State and Ministers Howlin and Noonan to speak out be gone? Will they continue to be able to say to the Minister for Health, for example, that they are sorry, but compared to what they are trying to do to run the country, with a 60% debt to GDP ratio and unable to borrow more than 0.5%, they require the problems of the spending Departments which have a proven track record of attracting the annoyance of the IMF during our rescue period to be addressed. Issues such as stealth taxes and so on must be addressed. We must also address weaknesses in monetary policy, such as that we spoke about earlier with the Minister for Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, Deputy Bruton, namely, the vast increase in lending outside manufacturing and agriculture. To retain the fiscal responsibility status to which we all aspire requires the fiscal council, as the guardians of that, not to be bound by the fact that other institutions, like the Central Bank, the ESRI and the NESC, did not do their job. That is why we have set up this new institution, the fiscal council. Having the contrarian view, as described by the Minister of State, would be viable. I recall an article in The Sunday Business Post some weeks ago by two former assistant secretaries in the Department of Transport, Pat Mangan and John Lumsden. We need that contrarian culture, but we do not have it.
How are we to ensure all the mistakes we made do not happen again? If the fiscal council can help us, as the independent voice described by the Minister of State - which we support - let it speak out, rather than have a lawyer go through the Stability and Growth Pact saying the council cannot say anything about the health service because it is not in the pact agreed by 27 other countries or whatever. Instead, we should say: "Yes, it is addressing the Irish situation." It is about time certain lobby groups and certain successful cases of regulatory capture had in fact a contrary voice to assist the Cabinet in bringing the country to solvency and keeping it there. Whatever forces undermine that, it is a good idea if the fiscal council can give them a lash, particularly since some of the other watchdogs were asleep and did not bark during critical periods. Hence the need for this Bill.