Seanad debates

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Appropriation Bill 2014: Second Stage

 

Question proposed: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

1:05 pm

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I welcome the Minister of State.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

On a point of order, are paper copies of the Bill available? There is none in the anteroom.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

We will check with the Seanad Office.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It has been only passed in the Dáil and there were amendments.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The Bill was not amended.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I do not know that, but there were amendments. I will accept the Minister of State's word on that.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

We will check with the Seanad Office.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I propose we suspend until we have a paper copy of the Bill as it has just gone through the Dáil.

Photo of Darragh O'BrienDarragh O'Brien (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It is important we would have a paper copy of the Bill and that we suspend until we have it.

Photo of Lorraine HigginsLorraine Higgins (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I propose we suspend until 2.10 p.m.

Photo of Paschal MooneyPaschal Mooney (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Is that agreed? Agreed.

Sitting suspended at 2.03 p.m. and resumed at 2.10 p.m.

1:10 pm

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am pleased to introduce the Appropriation Bill 2014. This Bill serves two primary purposes. In the first place, the Appropriation Bill is necessary to authorise in law all of the expenditure that has been undertaken in 2014 on the basis of the Estimates that have already been voted on by the Dáil during the year.

The amounts included in section 1 and Schedule 1 to the Bill, to be appropriated for supply services, all relate to amounts included in the Estimates, set out in the Revised Estimates Volume 2014, voted upon by the Dáil in January 2014, as well as the Supplementary Estimates which have also been voted on in 2014.

Second, and of vital importance, the passage of the Appropriation Bill is also essential to provide a legal basis for all existing voted expenditure to continue into 2015. This allows payments including social welfare payments, salaries and pensions, and payments to suppliers for goods and services, to continue pending a vote by the Dáil on the 2015 Estimates.

In respect of capital carryover, under the rolling five year multi-annual capital envelopes introduced in previous budgets, Departments may carry over from the current year to the following year unspent capital up to a maximum of 10% of voted capital. Section 91 of the Finance Act 2004 made legal provision for this capital carryover by way of deferred surrender. Under this enabling legislation the normal requirement under the Exchequer and Audit Departments Act 1866 to surrender unspent moneys in a financial year to the Central Fund may be deferred in the case of capital moneys subject to a number of conditions. Among those conditions is that the unspent capital sums must be set out in the Appropriation Act by reference to the Votes concerned. The Appropriation Act determines definitively the capital amounts which may be carried over to the following year.

The capital carryover facility forms an integral part of the rolling multi-annual capital envelopes. The multi-annual system is designed to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the management by Departments and agencies of capital programmes and projects. It recognises the difficulties inherent in the planning and profiling of capital expenditure and acknowledges that for a myriad of reasons, capital projects may be subject to delays. The carryover facility allows for a portion of unspent moneys which would have been lost to the capital programmes and projects concerned, under the annual system of allocating capital, to be made available for spending on programme priorities in the subsequent year.

The amounts of capital carryover by Vote are set out in Schedule 2 to the Bill. It is proposed to carry over just over €79 million from a total capital programme of over €3.5 billion. This amount of €79 million is split across seven different Votes with the largest amounts arising on the Votes of the Departments of Transport, Tourism and Sport, Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, and Agriculture, Food and the Marine.

The liabilities in respect of the first payroll payments to staff and pensioners mature on 1 January and 2 January 2015 and form part of the supply services for 2015. However, as funding needs to be in place to ensure staff and pensioners have access to funds on these dates, Government Departments and offices will need to pre-fund their commercial bank accounts. Section 3 of the Appropriation Bill 2014 puts in place a mechanism to provide for advances from the Central Fund to the Paymaster General's supply account in December 2014. These advances are to be repaid to the Central Fund in January 2015.

The provision in the Appropriation Bill provides a clear legal authority for Government Departments and offices to have a credit issued in respect of the Central Fund, that facilitates the accounting treatment of salaries and pensions payable on 1 and 2 January 2015, as expenditure that comes under moneys voted by the Dáil in 2015, where the usual processes and mechanisms for voted moneys in 2015 will apply.

Section 15(1) of the Health Service Executive (Financial Matters) Act 2014 provides that from 1 January 2015, the Health Service Executive Vote shall cease to exist and the salaries and expenses and certain other services administered by the Health Service Executive, including miscellaneous grants, shall form part of the Vote of the Office of the Minister for Health.

Section 3 of the Appropriation Act 1999, as amended by section 4 of the Appropriation Act 2005, provides that funds in relation to certain excise duties on tobacco products be transferred by the Revenue Commissioners as appropriations-in-aid to the Health Service Executive. The amount involved is approximately €167 million. Incorporating the HSE Vote into the Vote of the Office of the Minister for Health requires that these receipts related to excise duties on tobacco products, be appropriated to the Vote of the Minister for Health with effect from 1 January 2015. This change requires a revision to section 3 of the Appropriation Act 1999 as set out in section 4 of the Appropriation Bill 2014.

The signed Act is required by the Comptroller and Auditor General for clearance of the end-year issues from the Exchequer.

Under Article 25.2.1° of the Constitution the President may not sign a Bill earlier than the fifth day after the date on which the Bill is presented to him. However, there is provision in Article 25.2.2° whereby, at the request of the Government with the prior concurrence of Seanad Éireann, the President may sign a Bill on an earlier date than the fifth day mentioned.

In view of the urgency of this Bill, the provision in Article 25.2.2° is sought, and a motion to this effect is placed before the Seanad. Such an earlier signature motion has also been sought in relation to the Appropriation Bill in previous years. Crucially, the passage of the Appropriation Bill and its signing into law will allow the payments required to deliver our public services to continue in 2015, allow for our public servants and many social welfare recipients to be paid on time in January 2015 and in the period before the Dáil approves the 2015 Estimates.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank the Minister for setting out his position. We all realise the effects of the Appropriation Bill. It almost has no effect because it is recognising the reality of what has happened already this year.

It has a very important role, because it is the only opportunity that Seanad Éireann has to demonstrate whether it has confidence in the Government. There are precedents where senates around the world have opposed an appropriation Bill.

I will oppose the Appropriation Bill 2014, not on the basis that we are trying to stop wages being paid, or - - - - -

Photo of Tom ShehanTom Shehan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

No pensions to be paid.

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Senator Byrne without interruption.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

It is a matter of showing confidence in the Government. We have no confidence in the Government, as it is making a complete hames of things. It is quite extraordinary to see how we are rushing in all sorts of legislation before Christmas. We will discuss the third or fourth water Bill. The first water Bill came in before Christmas last year, but was full of mistakes. Now we have another water Bill, because of political mistakes.

Photo of Tom ShehanTom Shehan (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

This is the Appropriation Bill we are discussing.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Yes. This Bill covers the whole range of Government expenditure. What else does a Government do only spend money? Effectively the Government functions by taking taxes in and spending money.

What happened years ago, was that we had days of debate on all aspects of the Government's work.

1:20 pm

Photo of Michael MullinsMichael Mullins (Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

At least we do not have to worry about paying the bills this year.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The Government does not seem to be too worried about the bills for Irish Water because the income coming into Irish Water will be only about €25 million. The Government seems to be happy enough to get as far as the EUROSTAT test, which with a bit of luck, touch wood, will be all right. That seems to me the way the political leadership of this Government is operating at present.

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

During the time of the Fianna Fáil Government it was more accurately described as the "Misappropriation Bill".

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Senator Byrne without interruption, please.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

When some of the Senators opposite were members of the Fianna Fáil Party, we were creating thousands of jobs every week.

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

If that is the biggest insult that Senator Byrne can think of throwing at somebody, that he or she be a member of Fianna Fáil - - - - -

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Senator Byrne, without interruption.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Some other people who shall remain nameless, who were members of the Fianna Fáil Party were doing quite well at that time. Perhaps if they had stayed things would have been different.

Photo of John GilroyJohn Gilroy (Labour)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I am highly offended.

Photo of Thomas ByrneThomas Byrne (Fianna Fail)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

The former members, and there are at least two that I know of, are on the other side.

We have too much rushed legislation. My colleague, Deputy Fleming, raised serious concerns in the Dáil. The Bill was not even presented to us whether it was passed or not by the Dáil. I do not follow the proceedings in the Dáil, and the bill was presented to us late.

We are not happy. The public is not happy with the way the Government is doing its job. The Labour Party broke so many of its promises, the Fine Gael Party seems determined to slice up Irish society into small sections and to pit one section of society against the other, instead of bringing everyone together, saying that we are all in this together and let us muck in. We on this side have no confidence in the Government. The Appropriation Bill is the only mechanism possible for the Seanad to express confidence in the Government. I have no confidence in the Government and on that basis this party will be voting against the Appropriation Bill 2014 for the first time ever in this House.

Photo of Simon HarrisSimon Harris (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

I thank Senator Byrne for his engagement on the Bill. Obviously I disagree fundamentally with the way he has set out the position, but I do not intend to get caught up in a debate on other legislation that is before the House and will be coming back before the House later this afternoon. I think it is extremely important that we pass the Appropriation Bill 2014 to ensure that on 1 and 2 January jobseekers get paid and those in receipt of disability allowance and those depending on the non-contributory State pension also get paid. Nurses, gardaí and teachers must also be paid. Suppliers and SMEs right around the country are dependent on being paid by the Government.

Members of this House and the other House have the luxury of being paid from the Central Fund, but those whom I have mentioned do not. It is essential that we pass the Appropriation Bill, as the Senator quite rightly said, it has often been passed without debate. I am pleased to have had an opportunity to debate it in the Dáil and Seanad.

I recommend its passage together with the earlier signature motion to Seanad Éireann.

Question put:

The Seanad divided: Tá, 33; Níl, 10.


Tellers: Tá, Senators Paul Coghlan and Aideen Hayden; Níl, Senators Ned O'Sullivan and Diarmuid Wilson.

Question declared.

1:30 pm

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

When is it proposed to take Committee Stage?

Photo of Paddy BurkePaddy Burke (Cathaoirleach of Seanad; Fine Gael)
Link to this: Individually | In context | Oireachtas source

Is that agreed? Agreed.