Wednesday, 15 December 2021
Finance Bill 2021: From the Seanad
The Deputy makes a valid point. As the Minister is aware, I have been raising the issue of the moneys that were allocated to the stay and spend scheme and that have not been spent this year for a variety of reasons. The scheme itself was not a bad idea but because of the conditions that pertained for much of this year, it was simply not possible for it to operate in the way that it ought to have. I understand a recommendation was made in the Seanad yesterday to that effect. It is something the Minister might consider.
The employment wage subsidy scheme and temporary wage subsidy scheme were extraordinary interventions by the Government. It is to the Minister's eternal credit and the credit of the last Government that had hold of the ball when we were in that very difficult situation in March 2020. Great credit is also due to IBEC and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions for assisting in the development of the scheme. It was phenomenally successful, keeping people close to their employers and employed at a time when they could easily have lost their jobs. The scarring effect of losing a job at that time would have been inordinate for society and the economy.
The Minister knows that I have been arguing from the get-go for very strict social, economic, labour and environmental conditions to be attached to the disbursement of billions of euro in taxpayers' money to businesses that were relying on these schemes to keep people in work. Despite the various calls I made, amendments I proposed and questions I raised in this House, no such conditions were attached. I said consistently that we were outliers in the European context in attaching no social, economic or labour conditions whatsoever for qualification for the scheme outside of some minor thresholds applied by the Revenue Commissioners.
The Minister will have read the front page of The Irish Timesthis morning and the comments made by his colleague in government, Deputy Jim O'Callaghan. He expressed his concerns that a company that paid €1.8 million in dividends also received €1.8 million in wage subsidies through the Irish taxpayer, by coincidence. The interests of the taxpayer have not been looked after in that respect. No conditions were attached. When I was calling for conditions to be attached to the EWSS and previously the TWSS around no lay-offs, payment of no bonuses or dividends and in respect of companies registered in tax havens but operating here, I was given a deaf ear. The proposals were not entertained. How did this morning's article sit with the Minister? Does he regret not attaching conditions that would have prevented this kind of behaviour from happening in the first place? Is it something he intends to resolve?