Minister insists no decision yet made on grants system
Any Cabinet decision changing eligibility for third-level maintenance grants will require legislation, Minister for Education Ruairí Quinn has said.
Mr Quinn said he was not in a position to provide details of the contents of the capital assets test implementation group report, to be considered by the Cabinet in the coming weeks.
“Due to timetabling issues, I cannot be more specific about a date at this time,” he said, adding that no decision had been made on the treatment of farm or other business assets, or on the setting of a limit on the value of assets to be included in any new means testing arrangements.
Mr Quinn was replying to Fianna Fáil spokesman Charlie McConalogue, who had asked about the implementation group and whether Mr Quinn was considering proposals that children from a farm with net assets of more than €750,000 would be excluded from maintenance grants.
Mr McConalogue said he would like a direct reply to his question, adding that the issue had been given wide coverage in newspapers.
“Where did the €750,000 figure come from, particularly for agricultural land?” he asked.
Mr McConalogue said there was media speculation the figure had been provided by Teagasc. “Is that the case and can the Minister give a breakdown of the figure?”
He urged Mr Quinn to be very clear because there had been a lot of contradictory comment from Government TDs and Ministers on the issue.
“Will he tell the House that he will not include productive assets for the self-employed?
“There is only one way to assess people’s income and that is to look at the real income.”
Mr Quinn said he was not in a position to answer the question in the way Mr McConalogue would like. It was part of the convention of collective Cabinet responsibility that he must bring proposals to Ministers in the first instance for their consideration.
While the issue was important, there were timetabling difficulties because of the approach of Easter and St Patrick’s week, with Ministers travelling abroad.
He himself was travelling today for nine days which meant he would not be at the next Cabinet meeting.
Mr McConalogue said the Minister had said on Newstalk radio that he wanted to reform the way in which student grants would operate and that until now there had been a bias towards the self-employed and the agricultural community.
Mr Quinn said manipulation of accounts was a feature of the past.
“It is less possible to do now, not because people have changed their ways but because the Revenue authorities and the taxation code are more stringent and transparent,” he said.