Wednesday, 15 December 2021
Finance Bill 2021: From the Seanad
I will speak to the three recommendations and I will keep it brief so that there will be lots of time for others.
Recommendations Nos. 1 and 2 provide for the extension of the existing rates of the EWSS until the end of January 2022 in response to public health restrictions which will impact the footfall in and revenue of businesses in certain sectors in the coming months. The hospitality sector is especially impacted. This extension is a common-sense measure and one that Sinn Féin called for on 30 November. The Government decided on the measure prior to the subsidy rates being cut on 1 December. This delayed response is to be welcomed. I note that the Minister performed a U-turn in respect of reversing the wage subsidy cuts, having announced on 3 December that he would provide targeted supports. Those announced proposals were consigned to the dustbin, with an admission that they could not have been implemented with the necessary speed. This is evidence of a lack of planning in the Department, particularly regarding the tailoring of supports over time to those sectors most impacted.
What we have now are economy-wide supports for what is, for the most part, a sector-specific issue. I remind the House that my colleague, Deputy Doherty, submitted an amendment 16 months ago to alter the EWSS in order that different rates of payments could be applied to different sectors.
This proposal was rejected on the grounds that one sector could not be prioritised above another. This justification was somewhat undermined by the roll-out of the CRSS months later, which only provides support to consumer-facing businesses and was therefore sector-specific for all intents and purposes. I ask the Minister and his Department to examine the possibility of tailoring the wage subsidy scheme to provide tailored supports for specific sectors. We will be supporting this recommendation given its overall objective to support employment.
Recommendation No. 3 provides for the extension of the CRSS. Given the impact of the latest public health restrictions on the night-time and experience economy this is a common-sense recommendation that Sinn Féin will be supporting to ensure that supports to that sector are provided to protect employment, businesses and livelihoods.