Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy-Rae has made an impassioned plea about the effects of soaring fuel costs on ordinary families.
Speaking in Dáil Éireann yesterday, the Kerry Deputy and Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform of Ireland, Michael McGrath, debated possible measures that could be implemented to tackle the ongoing cost of fuel rises.
Healy-Rae opened the debates saying “I am glad to get the opportunity to raise the issue of the cost of fuel, which is impacting on everyone on the road, whether it is the man going to work in the car, the mother taking children to school or the man filling up his lorry to transport goods or filling a construction work vehicle.” He continued saying, “Kerry is far away from everywhere and is impacted more than many other places.”
“The increase in the cost of fuel is massive. The pumps along the road tell the story, with prices at €2.15 or €2.20 a litre. People are at their wits end trying to stay on the road.”
He said “The Government is taking almost double in tax now from fuel than it did 12 months ago. Surely it is time to give back some of the extra tax it has taken to the people on the road? They need it to stay going and October is too far away. There is talk of mini-budgets and emergency budgets, but the Minister has said the normal budget time is when it will be dealt with. These are not normal times. People are paying to try to stay on the road and fill their cars or other vehicles. They are not paying normal prices now.”
“The Government is not aware of how serious the matter is and how people are suffering. People must travel on long journeys to work from Kerry and they are paying massively to fill their cars and try to stay going. These are not normal times and in rural Kerry people cannot travel without a car or some type of vehicle. They are paying more and suffering more. I am asking the Minister to act now and give them back a sizable amount of the extra tax the Government has taken.”
Deputy Michael McGrath replied saying, “The Deputy makes a valid point that rising fuel prices have an impact across the board. They affect private citizens in households, of course, but also private enterprise such as contractors, farmers and the delivery of public works contracts.”
Continuing he said: “We have made a number of interventions as a Government and we have already spoken about the reduction in excise, which comes at significant cost. Initially it was €320 million until the end of August and it was extended to budget day so the total cost now is well over €400 million. That is the reduction in excise on petrol and diesel.”
McGrath claimed that the government had provided “extra resources and extra money was paid to school transport providers” , ‘to ensure school transport services continued up to the end of the year’ adding, ‘We were concerned that for many of them it was simply no longer viable to continue providing what is an essential service. We introduced a special scheme of support for hauliers with which I know the Deputy is very familiar.”
“On the price of fuels at the pump, the levers open to the Government are limited. We could reduce VAT, which is set at 23%, but we would have to do that on everything. Almost half of economic activity is levied at the 23% rate of VAT. A 1% reduction amounts to €500 million per year. That is the truth when it comes to VAT. We have already made a reduction in excise, and with diesel it is the case that when the excise reduction is combined with the diesel rebate scheme, we are at the minimum allowed under the minimum tax directive in the European Union.
We do not have that many options when it comes to reducing the price at the forecourts, which is primarily determined by wholesale prices. The exchange rate is unfavourable currently in respect of the strength of the dollar relative to the euro.
There are challenges but the Government will examine all the matters in the period leading up to the autumn,” he said.
Healy-Rae replied, by asserting that the Minister had “not given much comfort to people who are struggling out there today.”
“I accept and acknowledge what the Government has provided already but it is just not enough. The Minister must admit that the Exchequer has taken in a massive increase in taxation. In the past two weeks alone,fuel prices have increased by 20%. That is coming out of people’s pockets. They are on the road and trying to pay for the fuel. I recognise what the Minister said about hauliers but to qualify for that scheme, one must have a haulage licence. Hauliers who are just supplying goods for themselves do not have a haulage licence and they are not benefiting.”
He continued, “Again, I say there are people travelling long distances going to work, putting petrol and diesel in their cars, and the Government will have to do more for them. They cannot wait until the budget. The Minister only gave farmers 2 cent off the price of green diesel. God almighty, it is €1.60 and €1.70 per litre today. They are trying to keep going and provide fodder and food for people all over the country. The Government must do something for them. The Minister talks about addressing this in the budget but it must address the kernel of the problem now, which is the extra tax being taken by the Government. There is wriggle room to do something for these people. I am begging the Minister to do something for those people.”
“Give them vouchers. Do something for them,” he said.