Tuesday, 15 December 2015
Appropriation Bill 2015: Second and Subsequent Stages
The usual practice before 2013 was that the Appropriation Bill went through without debate. I do not think there is any harm in giving us a couple of minutes to debate this Bill. While the Seanad is limited in terms of its domain over financial matters, there is nothing wrong with taking a look occasionally at some of the financial issues that come before Government. I agree with my colleague that the Bill is technical in nature. I would make two observations. One relates to the aggregate amount of the capital carryover which as the Minister of State said is €112 million, which represents less than 3% of the total capital programme of €3.8 billion. That is an incredibly low amount of money to carry over. Coming up to the end of the year, I hope Departments do not spend their time trying to hasten across the line certain projects, particularly as the limiting factor of time would have the potential to impact on cost. A larger amount of capital carryover would be more reflective of the realities relating to capital projects. In the context of overall Government expenditure in the region of €43 billion - including the €1.4 billion - we still have an incredibly small capital programme. I am aware we will be addressing that in the coming years but it is important to reflect on where we have come from in terms of the difficulties in repairing the country's economy and finances. We need to acknowledge that, from a capital perspective, we have taken a very significant hit in recent years in terms of the capital programme. As a Government, we have taken steps to address that but it will have to be a priority for this or any future Government in the years to come.
In the context of the purpose of the Bill, it is obviously a sensible measure designed to allow for a carryover into the early week of the new year, from 1 to 4 January 2016. I wonder whether our accounting measures could be adjusted in order that we are not obliged to put in place an Appropriation Bill to cover such a short period and having to go through the earlier signature motion and so forth. We have managed to change the tax date from, I think, 5 April back to 31 December and then to 31 October. Surely there must be a way of changing the way we set out appropriations where it is possible to have a residual sum carried over into the following year without the need to enact specific legislation on the matter.