Dáil debates

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Other Questions

Programme for Government

4:25 pm

Photo of Frank O'RourkeFrank O'Rourke (Kildare North, Fianna Fail)
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38. To ask the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform to publish a costing of items in the programme for Government as soon as possible; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [13038/16]

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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The programme for a partnership Government sets out the ambition to build a strong economy and deliver a fair society. The programme identifies a number of policy challenges and for each of these challenges a clear, unambiguous, high-level ambition is also identified. Examples of these ambitions include meeting the target of building 25,000 new homes needed every year by 2020; creating 200,000 jobs by 2020, including, as Deputy Calleary noted, 135,000 outside Dublin; reducing waiting times in the health sector; and spending at least €6.75 billion more on public services by 2021 compared with 2016.

As stated in the programme, for every policy challenge, the new Government will ensure a balance is struck between addressing urgent priorities and engaging in long-term planning. As outlined in the programme, economic repair must be complemented by social repair. An essential foundation for delivery of this objective is sound public finances. Consequently, the Government is committed to boosting public expenditure in a sustainable way and will introduce budgets that will involve at least a 2:1 split between investment in public spending and tax reductions. In aggregate, the programme sets out a commitment to spend at least €6.75 billion more on public services in 2021 than it is spending this year.

4 o’clock

The Government is also committed to providing a cumulative €4 billion in additional Exchequer capital investment up to 2021, over and above the amounts in the capital plan. Specific proposals for these increases will be made to the Oireachtas in due course.

4:35 pm

Photo of Dara CallearyDara Calleary (Mayo, Fianna Fail)
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Can the Minister provide a date for when the costings for the various proposals within this large document will be published? Surely every Minister, now they are three weeks in office, has had a chance to establish the position. The only specifics in this document relate to housing. The document proposes year one actions and ongoing action but there is no consistency in it at all. It has all of the hallmarks of the circumstances in which it was conceived, namely, up against a deadline. Can the Minister give us a commitment that a costing document for all of the proposals, both those within this document and within the facilitation agreement Fianna Fáil has with the Government, will be published before the summer recess?

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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I too would welcome that costings document. It is quite extraordinary that we have a programme for Government that is so vague and where it is not vague, there are no costings with many of the proposals. The Minister mentioned earlier in response to Deputy Howlin that €6.5 billion of extra investment was being put aside by the Government for public services and capital expenditure. Some €3 billion of that is "standing still" money. It is to do with changing demographics and public sector pay. Therefore, in net terms, only €3.5 billion will be used to improve services. This information is in the document, which states the provisions are inclusive of public sector pay, which is the Lansdowne Road agreement, and aging or changing demographics. Therefore, in real terms, we will only see a €3.5 billion investment. That is perhaps why many of the measures in the programme for Government, which Fianna Fáil has signed up to, are not fully costed. I would welcome the bringing forward of the costings for the proposals as soon as possible.

Photo of Brendan HowlinBrendan Howlin (Wexford, Labour)
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I return to my original question as it is the most germane for those of us here to hold the Government to account. We are halfway through 2016, so what are the implications for this year's Estimates, for public expenditure and for the published revenue of the commitments made in the new programme for Government? Is the Minister saying there is no additional expenditure over what was signed off by the previous government to be borne this year? He should know, halfway through 2016, what the implications are for 2016.

Photo of Paschal DonohoePaschal Donohoe (Dublin Central, Fine Gael)
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I have already answered Deputy Howlin's question but I am happy to repeat my answer, namely, that I will be reviewing the Estimates published for 2016 in light of where we stand now and will bring a recommendation to Government in that regard. As soon as I have Government support and agreement on the Estimates for this year, I will bring them before the Dáil. I am also conscious that given where we are in the year and the need for the Estimates to be passed, it is important we do this sooner rather than later, particularly before we move into the budget process for 2017.

In regard to the costings for the overall programme, I have already provided the House with the cost of the total programme, €6.75 billion. It appears I cannot win with Sinn Féin. On one hand, it accuses me of spending too much on programmes it believes will not make any difference while on the other, it accuses me of not spending enough. It is a political choice to respond to demographics. It is what needs to be done but it requires spending taxpayers' money. There is nothing automatic about that choice; it requires the decision of Government.

As the Estimates are made available on a year-by-year basis to deliver the programme for Government, I must bring them to the House. I will do that and aim to do that with the 2016 Estimates very soon.