Thursday, 22 September 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
96. To ask the Minister for Finance if his Department will undertake an analysis of budget 2023 to ascertain whether it is a progressive budget in terms of its redistributive effects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [46199/22]
The programme for Government provides a commitment to develop processes that will study and advance social solidarity and equality of opportunity and look at how we can bring forward measures that are better for the ecology and environment of our country. In accordance with this commitment, my Department undertakes an analysis of the distributional impact of the main tax and welfare measures in the budget. The analysis assesses the impact of these measures on weekly equivalised household disposable income, by level of income and across different household types. As such, it takes account of different household sizes and compositions.
The short answer to the Deputy's question is "Yes". A distributional analysis of budget 2023 will be undertaken and published on budget day. It will include a new budget document on quality-of-life indicators. The publication will also include analysis of the progressivity of the tax system, green budgeting, equality budgeting and well-being metrics. The distributional analysis will be undertaken using the ESRI’s SWITCH tax-benefit model, which will be used to analyse the impacts of direct tax and welfare measures. This will be combined with analysis from a model jointly developed by the Department of Finance and the ESRI to examine the impacts of indirect taxes. I confirm again to the House that the budget the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform, Deputy McGrath, and I will present on Tuesday will aim at responding to the cost-of-living challenges that we know so many are facing at the moment and will build on the measures implemented earlier in the year.
The Minister will have to agree with me that we cannot have social solidarity or equality of opportunity alongside gas and electricity disconnections. The Commission for Regulation of Utilities, CRU, told the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Environment and Climate Action this week that there will be a moratorium on disconnections this winter. With five days to go before the budget, my office is receiving a lot of queries on this. The question we are being asked again and again is whether this moratorium will extend to prepay customers or customers who use other metered utilities. Prepay accounts for approximately 10% of the market, so this is a key question for up to 200,000 households. Will the Minister outline what is the position on this?
I welcome the necessary clarity given by the CRU around disconnections during what will be a challenging and difficult winter for many people. The Government will play its part in trying to help them. Deputy Barry asked me a very detailed question, which he knows sits with the Minister for the Environment, Climate and Communications, Deputy Eamon Ryan. If the Deputy had wanted an answer to the question, he could have let me know he intended raising the matter and I would have been equipped to answer him now. I am not, however, because the responsibility for this matter sits elsewhere. What I will do is contact the Minister, Deputy Ryan, later this morning to get the information the Deputy seeks.
I ask that the information the Minister gets from the Minister, Deputy Ryan, be made public today. There is a lot of concern out there about this issue. It is five days to the budget. It is true that the Minister does not have responsibility for energy but as the Minister for Finance, I would have thought he would have known the answer to that question at this point. We had the situation during Covid with regard to gas that whereas previously an allowance was made that people could go €5 over the limit before there was a disconnection, this was increased to €100 in the course of the Covid crisis. I am presuming and hoping that similar measures have been put in place this time around. I accept that if the Minister is not in a position to clarify the question this morning, he will, I hope, be in a position to clarify it to a large number of people out there who are asking questions before the end of today.
I absolutely appreciate how important this issue is to many households. I also have many constituents who are in the circumstances the Deputy described. I welcome the indication given by the CRU yesterday regarding the support that will be available to households that struggle during a winter in which they are worried about bills increasing. I am sure the CRU or the Department of the Environment, Climate and Communications will want to bring clarity to the matter Deputy Barry is raising. I am not sure it is up to me to make that information public but I will certainly raise the issue with them and I will definitely bring the material back to the Deputy.