Dáil debates

Tuesday, 4 October 2022

Defective Concrete Products Levy: Motion [Private Members]


8:30 pm

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I move amendment No. 2:

To delete all words after "Dáil Éireann" and substitute the following: "notes that:
— the Government continues to place the highest priority on improving Ireland's housing system and delivering more homes for all types of people with different housing needs through the Housing for All: Our Shared Future plan;

— the households affected by the use of defective concrete products in the construction of their homes deserve the necessary support to address the issues they face;

— a Government decision in November 2021, enhanced the comprehensive Defective Concrete Blocks Grant Scheme to support affected households, and also agreed to put in place a levy to contribute to the costs associated with the scheme; and

— details of the design and how the construction industry and developers will contribute to the levy will be outlined in the forthcoming Finance Bill 2022."

I thank the Deputies for raising this important issue that follows on from my budget day announcement. Let me begin by acknowledging the common ground that exists here this evening. There is the fact that the families and homeowners who have been afflicted by the trauma of seeing their homes crumbling in front of their eyes due to malpractice and reasons and factors that are entirely beyond their control deserve a response and help from us and for the State to play a leading role in the rebuilding of their homes, where appropriate, and in the fixing of the defects in other cases. That is what the Government is doing in bringing forward broad and comprehensive legislation, which was opposed by most of the Opposition, to try to address this issue. It is beginning with funding and then putting the resources in place to get this work done in the parts of the country affected by all the harm that mica has done.

As some Opposition speakers acknowledged, however, there are many other issues in our past or yet to come that will merit and need a full Government response to help homeowners and tenants with the defects in their properties. In the time ahead, the Government will have decisions to make in respect of other issues, such as apartment defects and how we support those who are living in homes that have been affected by other issues.

Where the common ground falters, however, is on the thornier difficulty of how, if the State is going to take on commitments of many billions of euro, that will be paid for. How will we find the money to respond to the future commitments we have without deprioritising the many other things on which this House, society and the economy want the Government to make progress?

I acknowledge that with any measure I bring forward, there are risks. There are also risks in the proposals that have been brought forward by Sinn Féin but the greater risk as a Parliament is to convince ourselves that we can make commitments regarding spending many billions of euro and assume for a moment that there are not trade-offs in that regard because at a point in time there may be a need to raise money to meet the future commitments we have for the citizens in our State who need a response from this State and this Government. That is at the heart of this levy.

I was very struck at hearing the first round of Opposition speakers from Sinn Féin and how little time they spent talking about the levy. They raised very many other matters and issues of great importance in making progress on mica and in fulfilling the commitments we have to homeowners who want and need a response from the Government. Many other Deputies touched on other issues which the Government will have to contend with and indeed offered views on the current mica redress scheme.

We were a fair bit into the speech of Deputy Ó Broin before he addressed the levy. The other Opposition Deputies who spoke on this important motion this evening touched on and addressed many other issues in the contributions with less time focusing on the levy. The reason for that is that the approach of the Opposition can be summed up here this evening by making the case and demanding that the State spend more on a cause and on issues that myself, the Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, and the Government acknowledges we need to do more on and are doing more on, but the Opposition, and mainly Sinn Féin, is calling on the State to do more and for the Government to spend more, but is against a proposal to do that.

I know that the retort from Sinn Féin will be that we are generally in favour of this, which I will come to in a moment, but are against the specifics. The problem with that approach is that it is ever thus with Sinn Féin. It is in favour of something generally but is always against the specifics of doing it. I had hoped that it would be different given the fact that Deputy Doherty welcomed this levy on budget day. I had also hoped that it would be different given the frequent Sinn Féin motions, including its most recent motion which called on the Government to: “ensure the [construction industry] contributes to the overall cost of [fixing this]”. Deputy Mac Lochlainn called on the: “industry [to contribute] to the overall cost of remediating defective properties.” There were many other points in time when that call was made.

If one looks at the measure the Government has brought forward which has a target of raising €80 million, we, of course, accept the risks that are there in that regard. The independent assessment we have done on the impact of this on construction is very different to the figures that have been quoted this evening. There is a potential cost of between €800 and €1,600 for a typical three-bedroomed detached house or €750 to €1,100 for a six-floor apartment block with a basement. I acknowledge that there are still costs and risks but they are very different to the ones that we have heard in the public debate so far. I emphasise again the point that the greater risk in all of this, with all of the commitments that the Government may yet need to make, is to suggest to the House or for the Opposition to indicate that we can make commitments for many billions of euro on issues that we want and need to make progress on, but to indicate that there are ways of paying for this that are not without risk or consequences.

I listened for clues from Sinn Féin this evening on how one would do this. On the one hand the party wants a bigger levy, one of €200 million. This is 2.5 times the size of what was proposed this evening.


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