Seanad passes the Finance Bill
The Finance Bill will not go to the Dáil tonight after the Seanad passed the Bill by 30 votes to 20 without accepting any Opposition amendments.
The closest vote was on bank bonuses when the three Green Party senators voted against the Government on the Labour Party recommendation seeking to identify all bank executives, employees and contractors who had received bonuses from State covered institutions since the bank guarantee was introduced in September 2008. The provision was defeated by 26 votes to 25.
Earlier Senator David Norris withdrew a recommendation calling for all references in the Bill to spouses to include those in civil partnerships after Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said that the tax status provisions would apply retrospectively to couples in civil partnerships in legislation expected to be introduced in April.
Mr Lenihan renewed his criticism of the Green’s “extraordinary” constitutional view in effectively withdrawing from Government in November and said they would receive the “judgment of history”.
Green Party chairman Dan Boyle defended his party’s record and said it was “the right thing to do”. He said the passage of the Finance Bill meant the Opposition could avoid a “lot of the heavy lifting” if they formed the next Government and they should acknowledge that if not before the election, then afterwards.
The Seanad cannot make amendments to a "money" Bill but can make recomendations. Since none were accepted the Dáil does not have to be recalled to deal with the legislation.
The Seanad is now adjourned "sine die" or indefinitely and the Dáil will reconvene on Tuesday when Taoiseach Brian Cowen is expected to announce its dissolution and the date of the election. This is expected to be Friday February 25th but the last possible date is Wednesday March 2nd.
Earlier today, the Government won its first vote in the Seanad on the committee stage debate.
It defeated by 29 to 24 votes a Labour Party recommendation that within a month of the legislation being passed a cost-benefit analysis would be carried out of tax expenditure and the job creation benefits arising from the Act.
Labour spokesman Alex White said the measure was not a move against tax reliefs but an assessment of the benefit to the Exchequer and the tax foregone by the taxpayer.
Loopholes in the tax system should be looked at, he said, because “all sorts of imagination” was being used to avoid tax.
David Norris (Independent) said that one month would be a short time for such an assessment. He was concerned that tax reliefs could be “managed by clever accountants to do things that were never intended to”.
Seanad leader Donie Cassidy said before a scheme was even completed the Exchequer benefited to the tune of 40 per cent through PAYE, PRSI and Vat on schemes. An investment of €10 million in a hotel or leisure facilities immediately resulted in €4 million benefit to the taxpayer.
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan also rejected a Labour recommendation that the names of all executives, employees and contractors in State covered financial institutions who received bonuses between September 2008 and the amount of the bonuses be published. He said it had nothing to do with the Finance Bill. Bonuses had been dealt with in taxation. He said it involved a review of how bonuses should be dealt with.
The Seanad is expected to finish dealing with the Bill by 7pm. If any of the seven Opposition recommendations are accepted, the Dáil will return at 8pm this evening to consider it. Otherwise the Dáil will reconvene on Tuesday when Taoiseach Brian Cowen will announce the dissolution of the Dáil and the date of the election.
The second stage of the was passed in the Seanad by 28 votes to 21 yesterday evening.
Minister for Finance Brian Lenihan said during the Seanad debate on the Finance Bill yesterday that he found it extraordinary that the Green Party “couldn’t find it in their hearts” to stay in Government for an extra week to allow time for tax changes to civil partnership to be included in the Bill.
Mr Lenihan also said he regretted the speed with which the Bill had progressed through the Houses of the Oireachtas as he would have preferred a two-week debate rather than one.
The Bill is expected to be passed today after the committee and report stage debate. It was passed by the Dáil earlier this week.