Written answers

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Department of Finance

Budget Consultation Process

Photo of Michael McGrathMichael McGrath (Cork South Central, Fianna Fail)
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168. To ask the Minister for Finance his plans to establish a budget office which would cost alternative budgets prepared by opposition parties; and if he will provide costings for the election proposals of all parties; the work being done to date on this proposal; his plans to have this office in place for the next general election; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14602/15]

Photo of Michael NoonanMichael Noonan (Minister, Department of Finance; Limerick City, Fine Gael)
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In responses to a recent parliamentary questions, I indicated that the establishment of an independent budgetary office should be considered in depth. 

This Government is very much in favour of initiatives that improve the quality of debate around budgetary priorities and the best allocation of resources. I also pointed out in my previous replies on this matter that it is a complicated matter and the work undertaken by such a body would have to be subject to strict terms of reference. In particular,  care must be taken to ensure that such a body does not supplant the role of Government and the Oireachtas through gaining, for instance, an effective veto power over proposals that it dislikes in purely economic terms. 

My initial thinking is that this office should be an independent statutory body. Its remit would include the provision of costings of alternative budgets on request from Members of the Oireachtas and the costing of election manifestos. Officials from my Department are currently reviewing this proposal which includes an examination of best practice internationally of independent budget offices, as well as other important issues such as resource implications and the legislative requirements. They are liaising with officials in the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with the objective of preparing options for consideration in the coming months.

Should the Government decide to pursue this, the next step will be to commence work on the legislative requirements to establish such a body. Given the nature and purpose of the body, I would envisage a need for an extensive consultation process.  

While I cannot commit to definitive timeframes given the exploratory nature of this issue, I would think that is unlikely that such an office would be established in advance of the next general election.

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