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Taoiseach Enda Kenny orders ministers not to comment on Budget 2013

TAOISEACH Enda Kenny has ordered ministers not to discuss the Budget.

Government sources confirmed that both Enda Kenny and Tanaiste Eamon Gilmore warned colleagues at today's Cabinet briefing not to comment publicly about potential tax hikes or spending cuts planned for Budget 2013.

"The Taoiseach and Tanaiste made it very clear to ministers at Cabinet today," Government sources confirmed.

Transport Minister Leo Varadkar and the Tanaiste clashed yesterday after the former called for public service pay increments to be deferred.

He said he acknowledged that increments - which include special allowances for certain public sector workers such as doctors' rent supplements - are protected by the Croke Park Agreement.

However, he said provided core salaries remain untouched, increments were a grey area and that deferring their payment could save the Exchequer up to €200m.

Mr Gilmore later said it would be better if Government ministers did not wake up in the morning with fresh views on budgetary matters.

While Mr Kenny refused to confirm what exactly was discussed in Cabinet, sources confirmed ministers have been given orders to keep quiet.

"I would never comment on what happens at a Cabinet meeting," said Mr Kenny.

He said every minister would be fully engaged in the process of preparing for a "difficult Budget".

"The Budget will not be drafted in public. It's the responsibility constitutionally of the Cabinet to deal with this," Mr Kenny went on.

"Clearly we want discussions where they are appropriate in committees and in the Dail itself."

Elsewhere, Mr Kenny confirmed a new Personal Insolvency Bill will be published this Friday in a bid to help homeowners in mortgage distress.

The legislation, first announced earlier this year, provides new ways for struggling borrowers to reach an agreement with their bank to help manage debt.

The idea is to introduce measures that help people settle their debts outside the courts, which could prevent further repossessions.

The legislation also allows for people who have been declared bankrupt to be discharged after three years - as opposed to the existing 12-year period.

"These are very important and significant times," said Mr Kenny, as he announced that Cabinet had approved the text of the Bill.

"There have probably been few occasions since the great land wars when the Irish people felt so stressed or so anxious about their homes or future security."

Meanwhile, Mr Gilmore said the Bill was evidence of how much progress the Government has made in supporting householders in mortgage arrears.

But he insisted much work must still be done in tackling the problem.

"We're not there yet but we do have important progress to report," Mr Gilmore added.