Gabhaim buíochas le muintir na Mí as ucht an iontaoibh a chuir siad orm chun ionadaíocht a dhéanamh ar a son sa Dáil. Gabhaim buíochas freisin le mo theaghlach, mo chairde agus an lucht tacaíochta a chabhraigh liom. As this is my maiden speech, I thank the people of Meath East for placing their trust in me to represent them in the 31st Dáil. I also thank my family, friends and supporters who have assisted me greatly in achieving my ambition to do so.
Tonight we debate the abolition of the universal social charge, as proposed by Sinn Féin. Last night Deputy Adams stated our economy is in crisis because of the political choices which were made by a deeply corrupt political elite operating within a flawed political system. While I largely agree with Deputy Adams, it is for that very reason that no rash decisions should be made about any changes to taxation policy by the current, reforming Government. Through our programme for Government, we are committed to reviewing the universal social charge, the terms of reference for which are currently being prepared and on which submissions have been sought from Members.
Last night, Sinn Féin Deputies said they would favour the reintroduction of the former income and health levies, but only as an interim measure pending root and branch reform of taxation policy. In Fine Gael we do not introduce interim measures after only three weeks in power. Our plan is to do things correctly, fairly and efficiently the first time.
Once the review board is established, I will propose recommendations to ease the impact of the universal social charge for those most adversely affected, as well as ensuring a rebalancing of the tax system in order that high earners and investors would contribute their fair share in a progressive tax system. In my view, an economic and social impact analysis should also be carried out in recognition of the burden the universal social charge represents, especially on the incomes of the lowest paid. Any revised tax policy should be cognisant of such a review.
As a direct result of the reckless mismanagement of the economy by the previous Government, Ireland faces a profound economic crisis. The most important consequence of this weakness is job losses. The challenge that faces this Government is to develop a strategy that will allow for job growth. Job creation is central to any recovery and when we introduce our jobs budget, I believe we will address this issue head on. The creative measures laid out in our programme for Government will go a long way to putting us on the road to recovery. Examples include cutting the 13.5% rate of VAT to 12%, halving the lower 8.5% employer rate of PRSI, and providing additional resources for the national housing energy retrofitting plan.
The challenge facing this Government is unlike any other. Our economy and our politics have been shattered, but our people’s spirit has not. We have seen that in the hope that people have expressed during recent weeks. It is that hope and trust which encourages new Members like me to look to the future with a sense of confidence. We have a sense of hope that with the right plans, the right people and with a unified sense of purpose, our country will recover. I support the amendment to the motion as proposed by the Minister of State, Deputy Brian Hayes.