Seanad debates

Thursday, 16 December 2021

Social Welfare Bill 2021: Second Stage


10:30 am

Photo of Jerry ButtimerJerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister. This is important legislation, in that it gives effect to an expenditure increase of €558 million, which is an extraordinary amount. I thank the Minister's officials and her departmental staff for their courtesy to us. Two thirds of the budget spend is on protecting core rates of social welfare. In light of what we are trying to achieve as a society and a Government, social welfare is about social cohesion, solidarity and the redistribution of income. If ever we had solidarity from a Government or a Department, it has been during Covid-19. I commend the Minister on the many initiatives she has taken and the support she has given to many sectors of her Department.

We have not done enough for a number of groups. Senator Black has mentioned the live entertainment industry but I wish to refer to travel agents, who have been affected profoundly by the rule changes around Covid-19 and the curtailment of international travel. I believe that, since the summer, passenger numbers on aeroplanes have decreased by 50% with 30% no-shows at airports. This is a significant reduction, even accepting the pressures of Covid. Our travel agents need support now more than ever. They have become somewhat invisible in the latest Covid developments.

I commend the Minister on her involvement with another group, namely, the hospitality sector. My colleague, Senator Maria Byrne, and Senator Casey tabled a recommendation to the Finance Bill but it was not reached because of the time allotted. It addressed an anomaly that could have a significant impact on hotels around the country whereby they might not be able to qualify for the EWSS despite seeing a 30% reduction in their monthly revenues during the period covered by the extended scheme from 1 January to 30 April of next year. The hoteliers to whom I speak in my city and county of Cork tell me that this is a serious anomaly that could affect the livelihoods of thousands of people.


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