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Dáil Speech on the Finance Bill 2012 – Wednesday 15th February

I agree with Deputy Nash that the more input there is from backbench and Opposition Members, the better the Bill will be, particularly if Deputies will be positive in their contributions.

When the Minister for Finance presented his budget, a constituent contacted me about mortgage interest relief. We pursued this matter and I was grateful the Minister took it on board as an amendment to the Finance Bill. It goes to show that when a Deputy has something positive to contribute to the Bill, the Minister is willing to take it on board. The issue related to first-time buyers who purchased a house towards the end of 2008 and got a deferred payment so they did not have to make their first payment until January or February the following year. It was felt those people would not get the benefit of the increase in mortgage interest relief but the thrust of the Minister’s speech was about those who purchased their houses between 2004 and 2008 and these people had purchased their houses then. In fairness, the Minister accepted that as an amendment in the Finance Bill. If Members have a positive contribution to make, the Minister will take it on board.

Two of our key natural resources are tourism and agriculture. In our earlier jobs initiative, we introduced a lower rate of VAT and reduced employers’ PRSI for new employees. That has had a positive impact on the tourism sector in that we have seen numbers increasing and more competitiveness in the hotel trade. There is much greater domestic interest from those taking short breaks in this country, a positive development.

I also welcome the reduction in the stamp duty rate to 2% for the transfer of farmlands to young farmers. It is vital that agriculture, a dynamic industry, is allowed to drive the economy. I remember in the 1970s live cattle being shipped out with no added value given to the product but now virtually every part of the animal is used, with added value being given to it. That sort of export is vitally important for our economy. I welcome that we now have in place a reduction in stamp duty for young farmers so lands can be transferred to them and it is vitally important to keep that dynamic industry going.

Deputy Wallace was involved in construction and there has been a reduction from 200,000 to around 100,000 people employed in that industry. I welcome the property incentive the Minister has introduced for commercial property. It is good there is a cut-off point in 2013. Section 23 development should have been cut off to prevent the situation that now exists where section 23 properties were built in areas that are rarely used. I welcome the Minister’s incentive for commercial properties and the fact there is a cut-off point for the scheme, although he may review it after 2013.

This is the first time I have spoken on the Finance Bill. It has been a long and difficult Bill to read but I have enjoyed participating in the debate and I will make further contributions on Committee Stage and beyond that.