Further leaks can not be ruled out - Noonan

 

THE MINISTER for Finance Michael Noonan has said he cannot rule out future leaks of confidential information between the government and the troika, because of the amount of documentation required by Europe to secure Ireland’s bailout funds.

Mr Noonan’s comments follow the disclosure of sensitive information in Germany about his plans to increase VAT by 2 per cent in next month’s budget.

At the official opening yesterday of the Tierney building at the University of Limerick, Mr Noonan would not comment on speculation about possible cuts to social welfare and child benefits insisting no final decisions had been taken yet.

However he said he went public on his plans to raise VAT by 2 per cent because it was “quite obvious”.

“I did that because there was uncertainty and too much speculation and rumours and you couldn’t be going around pretending that you didn’t have that in your head when it was quite obvious that was what I was going to do,” he said.

Mr Noonan insisted the agenda for next month’s budget was not being forced by Europe and said he knew from conversations with other Ministers here that they were willing to accept the VAT hike as the best way of achieving targets for this year.

“But it’s not being directed by Europe. Europe would be quite happy if we substituted for an equally robust tax measure so there’s a misunderstanding that the agenda is being forced by Europe.

“What Europe required was advance notice of a list of possible tax increases which would achieve the target and they were checking them for their robustness, but they left it open to us to bring up an alternative list if they were equally robust

“The budget is in our hands not in the hands of Europe,” the Minister said.

When asked if he was satisfied there would be no further repeat of a leak of confidential matters between the Government and the troika, he replied: “I can’t give you a commitment that there won’t be leaks in the future because to get the money that we require, a lot of documents are generated and they are all over the European countries so we can’t control what happens them once they leave our hands.

“On this occasion the European authorities asked for a prediction of what we would be doing in the budget because effectively they are not deciding what cuts we make or what taxes we increase but what they are concerned about it is that what we are doing will be adequate to fill the gap,” the Minister added.

Mr Noonan said a lot of documentation had to be generated and sent to the finance departments of the various member states before we got our money from the IMF.

“We are generating documents all the time and our colleagues in Europe have to be discreet . . . in general terms if things go to governments they are usually confidential, if things go to parliaments well there are 40 members on the committee and somebody says there’s a good story here, off we go.

“It happens in the Irish parliament too,” he said.