This week Social Justice Ireland published figures indicating that budget 2012 imposed the greatest income reduction on people who already had the lowest incomes. The poorest households experienced a reduction of 2% to 2.5%, while the wealthiest lost less than 1%. Regressive indirect taxes such as the increase in VAT, against which I argued in this House, along with cuts in welfare supports have disproportionately impacted the people who could bear it least.
Later today I look forward to welcoming the Taoiseach to the Chamber, as I know all of us do, and debating EU matters with him. One of the issues I wish to raise with him is Europe 2020, the European Commission’s growth strategy. Many Members will be aware that one of the main objectives of the strategy is to reduce the number people living in poverty in Europe by 20 million by 2020. The Commission’s social protection committee has highlighted that this poverty reduction target is not on track. The European Anti-Poverty Network stated this week that current approaches to economic governance are undermining this strategy. The Government here has recently revised downwards its poverty-target commitments under the programme. A change of approach is needed at EU and national level. We have had seven years of fiscal adjustment in successive budgets in which choices were made. Different choices within the confines of the fiscal discipline with which we are faced could have better protected those who are at most risk of poverty. Inclusive growth not only encourages employment, but also aims to achieve social cohesion, a phrase we have not heard often enough recently. I ask the Leader to invite the Minister for Finance to the House for a debate in the autumn on the Government’s anti-poverty measures and targets in the run-up to Ireland’s EU Presidency and also budget 2013.