Noonan warns against ‘rush’ on budget reforms

Finance Minister Michael Noonan has cautioned against “rushing” into a referendum on lifting constitutional constraints restricting opposition TDs from passing money bills.

Speaking to a new Oireachtas budgetary committee, Mr Noonan said the Government will decide and release a summer economic statement next week.

It will shed light on the ‘fiscal space’ or money available for tax cuts and spending for October’s budget and 2017.

Mr Noonan told the committee that

a “better-informed Dáil will be better placed to scrutinise budgets”.

The change is part of the system of ‘new politics’ that has been agreed by the Fine Gael-led minority government.

He said the first opportunity to study details around the budget would be next week.

The ‘summer’ economic statement, an update on Ireland’s fiscal position, will go before Cabinet on Tuesday and later be published.

The details will give the Government and public the latest estimates on the scope for the 2017 budget, the committee heard.

“The pitch will be lined on which the game will be played,” Mr Noonan said.

There will also be a two-day conference, later this month, known as the national economic dialogue, involving employers, trade unions and advocacy groups. Furthermore, tax papers for different sectors and areas will then be released by mid or late July, the committee heard.

The committee, though, earlier privately debated legal advice it has received which states that there are constitutional constraints preventing opposition TDs proposing financial measures or spending.

Advice given to the budgetary committee, seen by the Irish Examiner, says: “The rules requiring that a financial resolution be moved by a member of Government or the necessity for a Money Message signed by the Taoiseach are constitutionally necessary.”

The advice suggests only a member of government can move any financial resolution. Constitutional change, it is suggested, would be needed to allow TDs propose a measure involving any cost to the public purse.

Mr Noonan told the committee this was correct, compared to other democratic countries. If decisions around the budget were left to a committee, one might not be decided, he warned.

He also warned about any “rush” to a referendum to empower opposition TDs to have a role in deciding the budget or financial bills.

Instead, the minister said he and the Government would be willing to take on board recommendations for the budget.


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