11th December 2002
FF broken promises hurt the weakest
Speaking on the Social Welfare Bill 2002 in the Dáil Sinn Fein TD Arthur Morgan said:
``In the Programme for Government this government promised: ``We will complete our announced programme of multi-annual increases in Child Benefit and ensure that the combined value of child support is increased in line with our commitment under the National Anti-Poverty Strategy. But of course that was before the election.
``The Minister's predecessor, at the announcement of the 3-year Child benefit package told us that ``¤330 million had been allocated for Child Benefit increases in each of the next three years∑¤25 and ¤30 increases in Child Benefit with similar increases in 2002 and 2003.
``I could spend my entire speaking allocation reading into the record the array of promises broken by this government on social welfare but I would like to acknowledge some promises they kept.
``They kept their promise to cut Corporation Tax to 12.5% giving business in this state over ¤300 million. That sum would be almost enough, in one-year, to pay the entire planned three year increases in Child Benefit.
``They kept their promise not to raise taxes for the well-off and while seeing Fianna Fáil and the PDs live up to any promise is a pleasant surprise perhaps they might have considered raising taxes to fund the desperately needed investment in tackling poverty, in addressing our infrastructure deficit and in repairing the several hundred disaster areas that the Minister for Education likes to refer to as primary schools.
``The cuts in the school building programme and the continuing underinvestment in our primary schools mean that parents are going to be faced with ever increasing demands on their resources to help keep the schools of this country going.
``One of the benefits parents depend on is the Back to School Clothing and Footwear Scheme. While the increase to ¤150 for secondary students is welcome the decision not to change the rate for primary school students is unbelieveable.
``Is Minister McCreevy so out of touch that he thinks ¤80 goes anywhere these days in paying for uniforms, shoes, runners for PE, textbooks and all the rest of it that any child going to school needs before he can even get started.
``The people who rely on social welfare for support, who weigh up every penny before spending anything, are the people most reliant on the good work done by the community and voluntary sector and it is that sector that has been gutted by the Minister.
``I listened to Deputy Conor Lenihan speaking this evening on the Social Welfare Bill, though ranting might have been a better word for it. He kept repeating that the tiny social welfare increases were so small because the money wasn t there. He said it again and again and again like a small child who hopes if he wishes hard enough for something to be true, it will be.
``The Minister for Social and Family Affairs knows well, even if her backbenchers do not, that the money was there. This government had a choice. No-one forced Minister McCreevy to do anything that he did last week. He made choices and those choices clearly show where the government has its priorities. He could have raised the money. He could have increased taxes to fund badly needed investment in public services. He could have closed tax loopholes.
``Minister McCreevy had the same choice that is before every Finance Minister and he acted no different to any of his predecessors. He did everything he could for the well-off and he took everything he could from the poor.''
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