Thursday 22 March 2018

Michael Noonan considering Oireachtas budgetary service independent of Government

Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Finance Minister Michael Noonan. Photo: Gareth Chaney Collins
Colm Kelpie

Colm Kelpie

Finance Minister Michael Noonan is considering an Oireachtas budgetary service that could cost proposals from opposition parties and individual TDs.

Mr Noonan said the proposed service should be independent of the Government and Department of Finance.

Opposition parties welcomed the proposal, which was raised in the Dail today by Sinn Fein’s Pearse Doherty.

Mr Noonan said he was coming around to the idea that the proposal should be considered.

“But it is a complicated matter, and should be subject to strict terms of reference,” Mr Noonan said.

“It should be within the ambit of the Oireachtas Commission. It should be another unit of the resources available to the OIreachtas and it should be independent then of the Government and the Department of Finance.

At present, the Department of Finance will cost individual items contained in an alternative Budget presented by an opposition party, but it doesn’t calculate the overall impact of the package.

In an interview with the Irish Independent last year, Fiscal Advisory Council chair John McHale proposed that an Oireachtas costing  service should be established, separate to the Fiscal Advisory Council.

Mr McHale, an economics professor at NUI Galway, said it could be similar to the services provided by the Congressional Budget Office in the United States.

He said it would potentially strengthen the role of the Oireachtas and enhance the policy making process.

Mr Noonan said today that the service could be provided by the Fiscal Council, but be believed that it might detract from its mandate.

Mr Doherty said consideration of such a service was long overdue.

“I think it should be more than just budgetary costings, it should also be policy proposals. If there is a proposal, we should have the option of having an independent analysis of costings as to what that would mean,” he said.

Fianna Fail’s finance spokesman Michael McGrath also welcomed the proposal.

 “To remove any suspicion of political contamination, it would be better if that was done from outside the Department of Finance. So I think the minister’s suggestion of doing it under the umbrealla of the Houses of the Oireachtas Commission is well worth examining,” he said.

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