Wednesday, 2 June 2021
Ceisteanna - Questions
The Deputy does actually. He says nothing is being done and he ignores the very substantive allocation of resources to protect jobs and to create jobs. I must put that on the record. There is a variety of support schemes. The Minister will continue to work with all those involved in the arts and music industry because we realise it has been severely hit and needs help and support. We are very committed to doing that. A number and variety of schemes have been provided.
There will be a new youth employment charter for young jobseekers; 50,000 education and training places are being rolled out; €114 million is being provided to SOLAS for a recovery skills response programme; and there is an action plan for apprenticeships extending to 2025, which will increase the number of apprentices registered to 10,000 per annum by 2025. So far, the response to the grant for the apprenticeship incentivisation scheme has worked very well and we have had a significant increase in apprenticeships, which is what we want. We want more of that.
It is a very extensive and good plan. The recovery and resilience plan we have submitted to Europe is good. It is good on the green economy, which again has been dismissed by Deputy Paul Murphy and others. It is good on education and work activation, which is important. I know, as I have experience of this. As far back as when I was Minister for Education and Science, we ran an 18 month technician training programme with Intel, Hewlett-Packard and other companies, where they provided a six months internship for people after 12 months in institutes of technology. People who were long-term unemployed got satisfying, lifelong careers from such an interventionist programme.
A range of such programmes is now in place to help people reorient and get new jobs. It is an action-focused plan, which will yield results. It will also yield results in terms of infrastructure. The investment in education is quite significant and takes up a large share of the recovery and resilience element of the funding and also the broader measures the Government is taking in particular to get people back to work and to get people opportunities in employment. As I indicated, we will work with musicians.
In terms of Deputy Paul Murphy's question, as Taoiseach I do not intervene in planning applications around the country, nor can I operationally interfere with the Environmental Protection Agency's assessments in respect of specific proposals and applications. I know it is a major issue of concern for people in the region, but the idea that I can individually go in there and just stop something is a classic overly simplistic presentation by the Deputy. He knows that full well.
In response to Deputy McDonald's question about the social dialogue unit within my Department, we are engaging, not just with the LEEF, but as I said yesterday I had quite a lengthy and very constructive engagement with the environmental pillar, for example, in respect of issues pertaining to climate change, climate change legislation and the circular economy. I am meeting shortly with the agricultural pillar. I have also met separately with Social Justice Ireland. What we need is delivery right across the system – delivery in housing at every level. The one thing that is holding us back is constant analysis, re-analysis and second guessing of this project and that project. We need action at all levels. I cannot understand how it is taking three and four years for housing projects to get through councils and then they get voted down again and they get delayed for another three years, all the while people shout and roar in here about a housing crisis.
The same applies right across the board in terms of getting things moving, for example, on climate change. We are against property tax and carbon tax, yet we want funding to do X, Y and Z all of the time. There are always equations. There is revenue and there is spending. The carbon tax is ring-fenced to deal with fuel poverty, for example; it is also ring-fenced to enable environmental projects in farming and it is also there to retrofit housing, which ultimately in the long term will help families with their fuel bills. However, that funding must be raised and ring-fenced if we want to really put meat on the bone of climate change. Sinn Féin and the far left will oppose all of that because they are opposed to tax on this, that and the other. I do not know where they think we are going to broaden the tax base to sustain real change in climate and housing. They are against everything and they oppose everything, and they keep calling for more and more spending. What is being presented consistently by Sinn Féin and the far left in this House day in, day out is economically incoherent. They cannot have it both ways all of the time, in particular in a situation when people do it differently when they are in government.
Deputy Kelly referred to the EWSS. Its fundamental objective is to protect jobs at the moment, and it has done that very effectively. It is a generous scheme as well. Many have commented on its effectiveness. We are establishing a commission on welfare and taxation to deal with the issue the Deputy identified in terms of PRSI. We do need to move to a situation where if someone is made redundant that there would be a pay-related dimension to that and he or she would not suffer a huge reduction in salary.