Wednesday, 20 June 1956
Dáil Éireann Debate
Mr. Beegan: When I was speaking on this section last night, I referred to the taking of £500,000 from the Road Fund. I also spoke of the effect that would have on employment in this country and also of its reaction on emigration. I pointed out that 2,000 wage earners at £5 a week were being deprived of employment. That money was generally spent locally; every penny of it went into the pockets, in the first instance, of local traders and circulated within the country.
Consequently, I think it is a very grave mistake on the part of the Minister, at this or any other time, to do this, because, when the fund was created and increased for a particular purpose, it was made clear that no succeeding Minister should raid that  fund and take away from it for quite a different purpose. There is another thing about which we hear a lot at the present time and over a number of years—the flight from the land. I should like to point out to the Minister that the taking away of this £500,000 is no incentive to the people in the remote areas of this country to remain on the land, because it is denying them, to a very great extent, the amenities which they might otherwise enjoy and which are enjoyed in the cities in this country and outside this country.
Pleas are being made to the people to remain on the land; the flight from it seems to be a matter of grave concern, and expressions deploring the tragedy have been voiced not merely by politicians but by members of the various churches. At the same time, we all know that the country has got very much smaller in the past 50 years and smaller still within the past 15 years. There was a time when people were content to remain on their small holdings in the West and in the other remote areas of rural Ireland. At that time, many of them never had the opportunity of visiting even the capital of their own county, never mind to come to Dublin. During the years since, things have changed. Thousands and thousands of our young people, because of the attractions here in the city and because of the functions that take place in it, come here, and when they see the vastly different state of affairs and the greater amenities and facilities the people have in the cities, they will not be kept at home in the country.
For those reasons, I think it is a very retrograde step to take away this money which, in the first instance, was giving so much employment to people who were badly in need of it. We have heard appeals made by the Minister for Finance, and by anybody else who speaks with authority, for greater agricultural production. This is no incentive to greater agricultural production. I need not go to the Gaeltacht areas at all to point out isolated districts throughout the country in which we have very good farmers; but the  roads leading to their homes are in such a very bad state of repair that it is almost impossible to get any modern machinery into their places. I feel sure these people are prepared to respond to the pleas for increased agricultural production, but they are not in a position to buy the types of modern machinery that would give them some comfort and help them towards greater production. On the other hand, the owners of such machines, whom they would be inclined to employ, will not bring their machines over bad roads since they can stay on the good roads. These farmers also have difficulty in getting lorry owners to come to their places.
It is likely that the Minister will say I am talking about cul-de-sac or village roads. In my opinion, every road in this country at the present time should be regarded as a main road, if it serves at least three families. There should be no distinction at all, because all the roads are important now, since the mode of transporting fertilisers, lime and other commodities is by lorry. If agriculture is as essential as we are led to believe—and we really do believe it is—I think this reduction in the revenue of the Road Fund is very inconsistent with the pleas that have been made for greater agricultural production.
Many sections of the Finance Bill impose burdens on the people and on particular sections of the people, but, in my opinion, this is the most injurious section because it hits the wage earners and it also hits the agricultural producers. I cannot understand why the Minister ever thought of inserting this section in the Bill, or of going to the Road Fund as a means of balancing the Budget and for getting out of the financial difficulties which he says are there at the moment and have been coming on for some time. It is all right for his advisers in the Department of Finance to advise him: “Here is a pool of money that it is easy to raid”.
Mr. Beegan: It has always been pointed out that this was a ready source from which to swipe £500,000 or £1,000,000. That seems to be the procedure being followed now. It was different in 1952, I think, when the Minister for Local Government, with the sanction of the Minister for Finance, introduced a Bill that was a very unpopular one indeed as far as many sections of the community were concerned. Great play was made with it in the House at the time. The present Minister for Finance and his colleagues put all the obstacles they could in the way of its passage into law. They pointed out the injustice that it was and insisted on an assurance from the Minister that it would be used for no purpose other than the improvement of our roads. The Minister at that time gave the only assurance that he could give, that so long as he was Minister for Local Government, it would be used for no other purpose. It was a real blessing to the people because it held out hope to them that had been delayed so long, that all the roads in time would be brought up to a proper state of repair, thus giving the people the amenities to which, both as ratepayers and taxpayers, they were entitled.
That progress will now be very considerably hampered and obstructed.  Half a million pounds is a considerable sum of money and, as I said, it would provide 50 weeks' work for 2,000 wage earners at the modest rate of £5 per week. I have had experience over in the Office of Public Works of having hundreds and thousands of applications for minor relief schemes all over the country and the minor relief schemes, in the main, would give at most 12 weeks' employment. But here you have a fund which was giving at least 50 weeks' employment and that was a very welcome change from having only 12 weeks' employment in the winter period in different parts of the country.
The Minister is taking away from the people that 50 weeks' employment and there is no promise of any alternative employment. If there is to be alternative employment to absorb them, it should be stated. No reasons have been given to justify the injustice that is being perpetrated on what I could term the wages section of our people. There is no excuse given, other than the financial difficulty. We hear every Minister saying that this financial difficulty is of no concern to the ordinary people, that it is only a matter of copybook accountancy. Apparently it is copybook accountancy as far as the Minister for Finance is concerned now in respect of this section. If he is taking £500,000 away in order next year to show a reduction in expenditure and to be in a position to balance the Budget, that is a very poor form of economy, and this copybook accountancy is of more importance to the ordinary people than was indicated by a Minister, according to the Press quite recently.
I take it this is part of a well thought out plan, that this is the forerunner of a direction which, it is rumoured and generally believed all over the country, has been given by the Minister for Finance to every Department of State, that there should be a 33? per cent. cut in all Estimates and in the expenditure on all capital investment schemes and projects. If that is the position, then as regards all the slogans we heard: “Vote for the Coalition,”“Vote for Fine Gael,”“Vote for full employment, less emigration and better  times,” we may say that the people who have responded to those appeals have been fairly disappointed during the period in which the Coalition Government have been in office since 1954, but that they will be fully disillusioned very soon. If that is true, then the present Book of Estimates which has been submitted to the Deputies of this House is a faked Book of Estimates.
Mr. Beegan: I hold that this step is a very bad form of economy, if it brings in its train unemployment and emigration, as it is bound to do and that it is far from being consistent with all the appeals that are being made from time to time by members on the Government Benches. I should like to know what is the more useful type of employment which was hinted at by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Taoiseach yesterday evening. If there is a more useful type of employment, we should all be very glad indeed to hear of it. However, there was not much sign of alternative employment in the reply given to a question put down last week by Deputy Kieran Egan and myself regarding the development of the bogs around Banagher. We were told that Bord na Móna was quite free to change its plans.
Mr. Beegan: I am merely pointing out that there does not seem to be any hope of alternative employment of a suitable type for the people who are being deprived of employment as a result of this swiping of £500,000 from the Road Fund. Evidently the Government do not intend to carry out all the work which the people in that area were led to believe would be in full swing this summer. I did not have very high expectations of the Coalition promises as regards full employment, the stemming of emigration  and the provision of better times; even so, I never believed they would, in such a short time, succeed as well as they have in bringing the country to the verge of misery and bankruptcy, if we are not actually in it at the moment.
It appears now that the only plans the Government have to increase employment and to give us better times is to take advantage of every fund of this kind and collar every penny in order to have this copybook accountancy to present to this House at some future date, even if it means depriving thousands of people of employment and aggravating the emigration evil. The reason the Minister for Finance is doing this—otherwise, I cannot understand his motives—is so that he will be in a position to point out next year the great feat he has accomplished, how he has brought down national expenditure and how, as a result of what he has done in the previous year, he is able to balance the Budget.
If that is the only plan and the only policy, if the Government have any respect at all for the promises made during the 1954 election campaign and the allurements that were held out to the people, they should take cognisance of the direction they were given in the recent by-election in Laois-Offaly and clear out and make room for another Party to take over and stem the decay that is fast setting in.
Minister for Finance (Mr. Sweetman): It might be no harm if I intervened for a few minutes at this stage of the debate on Section 32. Deputy Childers, I must confess, made it very easy for me to intervene by his remarks yesterday. At least, he showed some appreciation of the reason, even though he disagreed with it, that was behind my action, unlike the last speaker. The position is perfectly clear, beyond question, that at the present moment there is not adequate capital available to do all the things that we might wish to do, without risk of further inflation. In those circumstances, it is obviously correct for the Government to adopt certain priorities. We, as a Government, differ from the Fianna Fáil Party  in that we think that, to the extent of this £500,000, there are other matters that require greater priority than the main and trunk road works on which this money would otherwise have been spent.
The issue that is before the House in this section is a simple issue. It is this: whether the House would prefer this money to be spent on what I would term polishing trunk roads or on productive schemes that will bring far more value to the national economy as a whole. This is not a question as between other productive schemes and the county roads to which references were made in the debate last night. In last year, 1955-56, we changed the trend and ensured that the trend for grants from the Road Fund would be away from main roads to county roads and, instead of a sum of £1.7 million that was given from the Road Fund in 1954-55, announced by our predecessors before they came into power, last year, for county roads, we gave a sum of £2,200,000 and this year for county roads, or by-roads, as they are called, in our part of the country, a sum of £2,400,000, that is to say, £700,000 more than our predecessors.
There cannot, therefore, be any question that the choice here is between the type of productive work to which we will put this fund or county roads. It is the choice between main arterial trunk roads and the type of work that we regard as having infinitely greater priority for our capital programme. Let me stress that again —for our capital programme.
This money is not being transferred for the purpose to which Deputy Beegan referred, for the purpose of balancing the Budget. It is being transferred, not to any fund that has anything to do with the current Budget at all. It is being transferred for capital purposes and the issue that the House has to decide is a simple one: if the amount of capital that we could so spend is limited because of the inflationary forces that are around us, is it better for the national economy that it should be spent on main trunk roads or on other productive purposes?
Mr. Childers: I did not say the most. I asked the Minister whether he had made any calculation. He heard my speech. It was a speech of a technical character. It did not raise a particular issue. I did not say they were the most productive.
Mr. Sweetman: I do not want to misinterpret the Deputy. Quite frankly, the implication I got from the Deputy's speech was that he regarded roads as being one of the most productive forms of capital expenditure, or one of the most productive forms of expenditure on which capital was at present being spent in the national economy.
Mr. Childers: I put it the other way round. I said that increased expenditure on maintenance might succeed in doing what the Minister wanted to do in another direction. It is quite a different way of doing it.
Mr. Sweetman: I differ from the Deputy categorically on that. I think that if, because of the inflationary forces that are around us and because of other circumstances, it is necessary to limit capital expenditure to a particular sum, it is far better, for example, that we should take this £500,000 from main trunk roads and utilise it for ensuring that we can carry on the arterial drainage programme on the standard to which it was set rather than that it should be utilised for main roads, that it is better that the land project, the work of getting the land itself back into full heart and full fertility should be done rather than it should be deprived of the £500,000 that is going to the capital fund in this fashion.
Similarly, if there had to be the limitation of capital expenditure, it was better that it should be taken from the Road Fund in this fashion than that housing grants should be cut by £500,000; it is better that it should be utilised out of the capital fund to ensure that there would be some drainage work done under the Local Authorities (Works) Act rather than  that it should be spent on main trunk roads. I think the capital fund expenditure would be better utilised on forestry than on main trunk roads to the extent that is included in this section.
Those are the choices. I was told by members of the House last night that I would find it difficult to defend this section. I have no difficulty whatever in defending the section on that basis in any part of the country at any time. Let me be quite clear in relation to what Deputy Beegan said. The decision is mine, my recommendation to the Government, not that of any official or adviser. The decision which I recommended to the Government and which the Government accepted shows that we as a Government have a proper conception of the proper priorities in regard to productive work that will inure to the benefit of the national economy.
We have had too often too little consideration given to the end and the aim of our capital programmes. Spending money on capital projects gives employment at the time at which such expenditure is carried out, but unless it creates permanent assets that will inure to the benefit of the national economy in the future, it will not build up our country and prevent emigration and ensure that we will have a better standard of living. On the contrary, it will mean a dissipation of our resources and it will mean that in the long run we will be worse off rather than better off. It is for that reason I have been harping continuously, inside the House and outside it, that the real test in relation to our capital expenditure must be the productive value which will inure to the economy as a whole when such capital expenditure has been completed and not merely the passing benefit that will arise during the spending of the capital sum in question. That is the basis upon which we test our priorities. On that test, I have no doubt whatever that the country will feel, as I feel, that it is better that this money should be utilised for some of the purposes I have mentioned rather than the purposes  for which it would otherwise be used on the main trunk roads.
Mr. MacCarthy: I submit to the Minister that the transfer of this £500,000 from the Road Fund is a matter of grave local and national concern. These moneys are, after all, the fruits of a tax imposed on users of the public thoroughfares in order to put those thoroughfares into such condition that they will serve the transport system of the country and provide against wear or damage to vehicles.
Local authorities and the community generally are concerned at the ever-increasing tendency to put on local charges and local rates burdens which should be carried by the Exchequer. This is an example of that ever-increasing tendency. This money is collected for a specific purpose. That money will now be diverted and local authorities, in order to provide against the unemployment that may occur as a result of increasing wages, increased costs of transport and increased expenses in the provision of machinery for the improvement of roads, will have to put these charges on to the local rates in their respective counties and districts.
First of all, they have to meet this road tax. Then they must make provision for the roads and they must provide against unemployment. On top of all that, they will have to meet an increased petrol tax. They are paying in three different directions for a particular service. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Government last night compared figures. The results of his comparisons are contrary to the personal knowledge that every member of a local authority has as to the trend. Everybody knows that the funds available to local authorities run out by Christmas. A problem arises in relation to unemployment then on the roads from that until the new rate is struck. Comparing figures now with what the position was a few months ago serves no useful purpose because the results are contrary to the weight of evidence of members of local authorities who deal with these problems.
At the moment, there is considerable  unemployment because sufficient money is not available to meet the charges on the roads and to relieve the unemployment that will occur because of increased wages, and so forth. Now people must receive a decent wage if they are to meet present-day costs. Last year we had to provide from local rates something in the region of £33,000 to meet increased wages. If that £500,000 were available, we would not have had to put on the local rates an extra £33,000 to meet increased wages.
Unfortunately the Exchequer is not satisfied even with that. Petrol has increased in price as well. Anyone using a motor vehicle has now to pay an increased road tax, an increased rate and an increased charge for petrol. The increased petrol tax ought to be sufficient for the capital purposes the Minister has in mind. One pound spent inside a fence may be worth £4 spent outside the fence but, at the same time, we must put the roads into proper condition. When there is a special fund for that purpose, the proceeds of that fund should be devoted to that purpose. If the money is not used in that way, an additional charge is thrown back on the local rates. We are up against that, year after year, in our local authorities. That seems to be conveniently forgotten. No account is taken of it. I would emphasise that point to the Minister. The Road Fund should be used for the purpose for which it was established.
The labourer is worthy of his hire. We must meet the increased cost in wages. We must meet the increased costs of providing up-to-date machinery. It is our aim, by the use of suitable machinery, to get more work done for the same amount of money, employing the same number of workers. That is the only advantage that machinery can have for us. We all know that our roads are not up to standard. The people are calling on the local authorities day after day to improve the roads. We must use modern machinery to do that work and we must try to get more work done for the same amount of money, with the same labour content. Local authorities are alarmed at the rising  rates, and rightly so. Counties that face their responsibilities and ask their ratepayers to take on additional responsibilities and see that at least the same amount of work is done and that their labourers are paid a decent wage are the counties for which that increase has to be provided. If it is not provided by the Exchequer from the Road Fund, then the local authority rates have to provide it, or they have to put the men on the dole, and the Exchequer will have to pay the dole.
What kind of a system is that? Is it not upsetting the whole economy of the country and discouraging the local people who prefer to work rather than have to draw the dole and so on? Is the main aim not to keep the people employed on useful work? This policy is operating against what is best for the community. If you are putting an additional 1/- or 2/- on the rates to meet these charges when you already have funds collected from taxes to meet the same charges, then you are doing an injustice to the ratepayers and the community generally. If that money is not provided by the ratepayers, then you are doing an injustice to the workers because you are depriving them of the employment they should have.
The position of the road workers now and for the past three months is extremely hazardous and their chances of employment are very low. The result is that they are thrown back on the dole and such things. A man coming home after earning his week's wages is a better man in every way, and his family have pride in the fact they are contributing something to the national welfare and to the upliftment of the State. That is a better policy than to fall back on a continuance of this policy of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Mr. Bartley: I do not think there is any cogency whatever in the Minister's statement. His memory cannot be so short that he forgets the case which he and his colleagues made when the road tax was increased a few years ago for the purpose of servicing the roads. There were so many pleas made, both on behalf of the motorist and also for the benefit of county councils and road  authorities, that they elevated the payment of road tax on a motor car into a contract between the central authority and the owner of the motor car—a contract of such a kind that it would be almost a criminal offence for any authority, central or local, to apply this money to any purpose other than roads. So far did they go with the argument and so many guarantees did they ask from the Minister for Local Government at the time, that the members of the Fianna Fáil Party who listened to these arguments taking place across the floor of the House were convinced that, when this Road Fund had done the greater part of its job and when a lesser amount of money would be required to keep the roads in their newly improved state, from that point on, it would be immoral to collect this high rate of motor taxation and that the motorists would receive a reduction in their motor tax.
I do not think the Minister forgets that that is the case they made: that the only justification for motor taxation at all was the fact that every penny received in respect of it would go into the roads. They did not even classify the public roads for this expenditure. One felt that, if the main roads had been serviced, they would be in favour of applying the produce of this taxation to all the other roads used by the owners of motor vehicles.
I do not know whether one is permitted to speak about comparative sources of employment, because the money is being transferred to a capital fund. But let me say this about employment: I think, even viewing this matter on that narrow issue, I would say in reply to what the Minister has just said that, in view of present circumstances and in view of the information revealed by the recent partial census, the best expenditure at the moment for the purpose of influencing the trend of emigration would be this widespread expenditure on roads all over the Twenty-Six Counties.
I had a question down some time ago to the Minister for Local Government asking that he would specially arrange that county councils would be permitted to resurface their county roads at their existing widths. He pointed  out that his predecessor had provided that these roads should be widened where necessary to 18 feet before any such dressing or resurfacing took place. I put this request to him in the nature of a question because of the very many representations that were made to me in my constituency by motor owners who have to use these roads. Very many of these roads are in a very bad condition, and what has been happening in recent years is that the increase in the number of vehicles using these roads has aggravated that bad pot-holed condition. The result is that the eventual job will be more costly when the county councils come to tackle it.
If the Minister—he referred to the Local Authorities (Works) Act and I take it he views it as capital expenditure—had transferred this £500,000 for that purpose, possibly he might be able to make a plausible case that the money was to be expended for a purpose for which, in the main, road taxation is imposed; but I do not think he can make that case in respect of arterial drainage or of any of the other desirable projects which are progressing around the country. Quite apart from the question of employment there is a pressing need in this regard, and I am speaking particularly for the areas which do not benefit so much from the industries set up by private enterprises through the creation of this capital fund or other methods, areas which do not gain so much by the expenditure on arterial drainage and which have not benefited so much even from rural electrification as have other areas. These certainly could have benefited very much by a continuance of expenditure at recent levels and, in fact, by an increase in it.
The previous Government were very much alive to this necessity when they established the fund known as the Tourist Road Development Fund. I was very much surprised and, I must say, disappointed when I heard the Minister for Local Government speak about autobahns for plutocrats.
If there has been a sort of objection created to expenditure on that type of road, it can only arise from the fact  that the job undertaken by Deputy Smith, as Minister for Local Government, has in fact, been very largely achieved, but I do not think even the Minister for Finance will agree that it has been completed. In any event, even if it has been completed, for the reasons that I have stated, the checking of emigration in the remote areas, the improvement of the county roads and generally in those western areas the aiding of the tourist industry by the improvement of the roads leading to resorts, then all these arguments would still be sufficient to make a good case for the retention of the Road Fund at its income level.
Deputy MacCarthy has referred to the difficulties of local authorities in providing all the moneys necessary for the public services which they administer. These difficulties are greater to-day than they have been at any time since the end of the war. In reducing this fund by a sum of £500,000 the Minister is still further accentuating these difficulties.
Personally, I think that the Minister will have to give some reasons other than those which he has stated to induce the public generally to accept that the conditions which induced him and his colleagues a few years ago to make this fund almost a sacred contract between those who pay motor taxes and the Minister for Finance no longer exist. He will have to adduce some better arguments to satisfy the public that those arguments no longer hold. It is a complete volte-face on his part to adduce now that the requirements of capital for industry generally are a sufficient justification for raiding a fund that had so very special and inviolable a character as was represented a few years ago.
I cannot quote exactly the words used by the Minister and his colleagues but I have a very vivid and distinct recollection of the enthusiasm, the vigour and the punch which they put into the case at the time against increasing the taxation in the first instance, and if in fact there was any case for increasing it that its purpose should be the one and only purpose of improving the main roads. We now  on this side of the House are availing of this the first opportunity since that increase in taxation to hold the Minister and his colleagues to the case which they then made. We are making it our case for the purpose of deciding this issue.
Mr. Childers: I must say I was glad to hear the Minister try to throw a faint murky light on the problem of raising capital for various State construction schemes this year. It is good to know from him that at least we face not merely a copybook problem, as suggested by the Minister for Defence, but a real problem. It makes it very difficult for members of the Opposition, such as myself, to hear the Minister for Finance say he has regretfully had to take £500,000 from the Road Fund for other more urgent capital purposes and when I go down to my constituency at the week-end and have to deal with the Minister for Defence, to be told that it is a copybook problem, that it can be easily managed and that it is not really the concern of the ordinary man. So we find it rather hard on this side of the House. We would have to recognise whether or not the cause has been the general treatment of financial problems by the Coalition Parties since the war.
If we have a shortage of capital at least we can consider what the priorities are but it is very hard for us to consider what they are when we have the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government waving £500,000 of external assets before the people week after week without mentioning the liabilities we have incurred to other countries and the Minister for Defence saying it is merely a copybook problem. Now we have the Minister for Finance saying that he prefers to carry out arterial drainage schemes to polishing the main roads. I agree with him. We would all prefer to do that. That is what he meant by the grant of £500,000 from the Road Fund to the local authorities. I think myself it is a gross exaggeration. Furthermore we find it still more difficult to discuss this question of the £500,000 from the Road Fund when the Minister for Finance said in his Budget speech that the  people of this country will have to save at least twice as much as last year in one form or another if he was going to get through any important or notable part of the construction programme. At the same time, we have the copybook theory from the Minister for Defence down in County Longford. We understand from the Minister that capital is short. He has a list of priorities in his mind which he really has not given to the House. We have to consider the whole question in that light. I understand that the contribution from the National Development Fund is also being cut. So we are really dealing with £1,000,000 cut on the Road Fund. In relation to this £500,000, the amount contributed from the National Development Fund which was wholly towards county roads, other roads and some special employment schemes, has to be considered. This has all to be considered in the light of the amount spent by the State in one form or another.
Mr. Childers: I could not find the reference as to how exactly it was spent. I only found the total expenditure from all sources last year. I could not get the figures at short notice for these purposes. I am arguing from the particular standpoint of whether it is a good form of economy, even in relation to any priorities in the use of capital. There is absolutely no evidence that the Minister for Local Government, of any Government for that matter, ever indulged in some really keen thinking on the cost of poor communications to retail prices, export prices and the cost of exporting our produce. As far as I know, no one has ever done it. We regarded road expenditure far too much on a county to county basis, on a sentimental basis, on a basis involving immediate employment. I think, now that capital is  scarce, it is about time the Minister for Local Government started inquiring. That has been carried out in other countries. The results have been published. The effect of poor communications on roads causing damage to vehicles is well known and accepted.
I do not mean merely roads in a shocking condition, but roads that create vibration of a continuous pattern. It is about time we started some investigation of that kind. I am not arguing that we should stop arterial drainage in order to carry on the work of the roads. I am arguing that we ought to have more information from the Minister for Finance as to why he places the expenditure of £500,000 in a low capital priority. He has not given me convincing technological arguments. I do not think he has given any members of the House proper arguments or even an idea of priorities to enable us to debate this question properly.
There is a very good labour content in road work, whether it is roads repaired by machinery or otherwise. It gives employment to people who in many cases are not skilled in any other form of work. For that reason, we are concerned with this matter. There is also the human approach to this problem. It is perfectly ridiculous for a Minister of the present Government to quote figures in respect of unemployment. In connection with that matter, we had some member of the Opposition yesterday—I forget who— citing unemployment figures that no longer have any meaning whatever, and this in spite of the fact that we know there is a smaller number of people to be employed on the roads this year on account of the reduction in the grant.
People are emigrating so rapidly that they leave practically within 48 hours of losing their jobs. There are many cases known to us personally where people do not wait even 24 hours to get on the boat to take up a job that is waiting for them. In Great Britain, there has been a continuous scarcity of unskilled and semi-skilled labour for construction work, and skilled labour for housing and construction  work of all kinds. For heaven's sake, let us be realistic in this House. With the recent census before us, it is ridiculous to start citing unemployment figures. There is a rapid shift to Great Britain, if anybody loses his job. There are exceptions, of course. For instance, people are prevented, through family circumstances, from leaving the country and they have to stay with their parents.
Let us be frank about the matter. Any reduction of expenditure involving the use of semi-skilled labour on the roads is bound to give rise to some unemployment and will result in emigration. That is part of our problem. The Minister has told the people to save as much as they did in 1955. It is impossible for them to do that without affecting the content of employment in this country, and, whether it is necessary or not, it is impossible to do it.
We are living in a world of half-truths at the moment because the Government is composed of Ministers who disagree with one another in regard to their approach to this problem. As a result of that atmosphere, we are not given a proper category of priorities in connection with the capital scheme and we are not given a full appreciation of the facts in regard to the necessity for savings in order to continue any of our construction work. We are debating in vacuo. Whether or not communication expenditure comes within a high, middle or low priority, the Minister for Finance has not made it much clearer to us to-day.
Mr. Finlay: Arising out of what Deputy Childers and some of the other Opposition speakers said about this section, it seems to me that their attitude is similar to that expressed by an English politician over the past fortnight about people in general. They are in favour of general economy and in favour of particular expenditure. That is precisely the problem that is before the House with regard to this sum from the Road Fund.
Deputy Childers spoke with much truth about the question of unemployment and the drop in employment which any reduction in road works will  create. If we are to tell the whole truth about this matter, we must consider whether there would not be a similar reduction in employment if we cut off some other capital project financed by the State at present. It seems to me that if you cut out one capital project, there will be an abatement in employment in that case.
It is true that the question of communications does have an effect and probably a more subtle effect than is generally realised, on costings, not only for internal distribution, but for export as well. As a person who travels around the country, it does seem to me that whatever the effect is it must be at its minimum at the moment in regard to the main roads. If the purpose of this reduction was to reduce the amount of work done on the secondary or smaller roads, then one might be gravely concerned with the question of distribution costs, particularly distribution costs in regard to the export of agricultural products.
Again, as one who does a lot of travelling on main roads throughout the country, I can say they are at the stage for this year, in most parts of the country, where a reduction of work on them is not going to have any appreciable effect in hindering, obstructing, making more costly or slowing up the distribution of goods of any description. If that is so, the Minister has made out clearly the case for this reduction.
There is no use in the Fianna Fáil Party coming into this House, as they did on the Budget debate, howling to high heaven about expenditure and creating as much panic as they could about where money was to be got for capital as well as for ordinary supply services and then coming in here on a specific section of the Finance Act and saying: “Here is a case in which the difficulties of obtaining capital have been recognised. Here is a case in which in one sense an economy has been effected and the whole question of priorities clearly recognised, but we do not like it because it affects employment and because we have a general vague notion about the desirability of keeping the main roads in good order.” If they are going to face up to this in  a general way and if their attitude with regard to the provision of capital, and particularly with regard to the priority of capital, is right, then if they believe that this is one of the Government expenditures which should come before some other capital projects which are maintained or which have been increased, let us hear about it. These capital projects are for everyone to see. They are in the Estimates, as well as the amount of them, and the comparison is there between this year and last year. If any Deputy believes this is a particular capital project which comes in priority to some of the others which are being maintained or which have been increased this year, that is a matter for serious consideration by the House.
It does not seem to me to assist the debate, and certainly it does not seem to assist the consideration of this section, for Deputies opposite to say: “We do not like the reduction because, as a solitary instance, it causes some reduction in employment, and, looking at it as a solitary instance, there are advantages to be got from expenditure on main roads.” Of course, one of its by-products and advantages is a certain amount of employment. If somebody points a finger at some other capital project which is being undertaken this year on the same scale or on a larger scale than last year and says: “I believe the last”—and it is the last —“£500,000 to the Road Fund for main roads ranks in priority to that scheme in the national interest”, that argument is worthy of consideration, but that argument has not been put forward.
The Minister has made a case for this section and for the realisation that the question of capital priorities must be kept in front bearing in mind the fact that he has not touched the amount of money that will be spent on county or secondary roads. In point of fact, the policy of this Government has been to increase that work and particularly in proportion to the main roads. The state of the main roads at present seems to justify the view that some reduction in expenditure on them this year would be the least harmful  way of reducing the capital expenditure of the State.
Mr. P.J. Burke: Like my colleagues, I wish to protest against the Minister's decision to take £500,000 out of the Road Fund. When he was speaking about the £500,000 an hour ago, the Minister tried to point out that it was not national progress to improve our roads. I hold it is. I hold that it is very important to have good roads. We have too many prairie tracks in this country yet. We need to go ahead with spending more and more money on our main and trunk roads before we shall get our roads into any kind of condition at all. They are talking about the main roads here. We have over 10,000 miles of main roads and the main roads that have been referred to and that have been put into a reasonable state of repair would be only about 680 miles out of the 10,000. That is a very small mileage, out of the 10,000 miles of main roads, to be repaired.
Down the country you see crosses and statues and various other monuments at dangerous corners where men and women have been killed. Surely, if this House does anything about removing dangerous corners, thus saving life, we shall at least contribute something worth while to the nation. There have been misrepresentations about the position. The Minister said he does not want to polish the main roads. If you go off the main road at all, you will find yourself in a prairie track, in a lot of the counties. As recently as last Sunday, I was down the country and I went off one of the main roads. I was afraid I would break a spring in the old car while I was off the main road, and that is the position with everybody else.
We were up against this question before. The Coalition Government cut the Road Fund on another occasion by £2,000,000. When we resumed office, we found that the roads had deteriorated considerably. It is important to national progress that we should have good roads. Furthermore, the Minister could easily allocate some money towards the minor roads, the  very minor roads and the cul-de-sac roads which we still have. A very strong case can be made for their improvement. Surely any intelligent person can appreciate the difficulty which farmers experience in having to bring machinery and farm produce along these roads. The state of some of them is shocking. I spoke on this matter on the Vote for the Department of Local Government and I asked the Minister if it was possible to allocate some money for the improvement of these cul-de-sac roads and very minor roads because their present condition is placing the farmers concerned at a great disadvantage.
We have heard the foolish remark about polishing a certain section of our roads. Only 680 miles out of 10,000 miles of main roads have been touched. The remainder are in a shocking condition. I do not want to mention any particular roads just now. My principal reason for intervening in the debate is to protest against the decision of the Government on this matter. It is a completely retrograde step to interfere with the Road Fund.
Not alone did the previous Minister for Local Government try to improve the roads, but we had a special development fund from which he gave liberally for road improvement. We shall have to continue that for a considerable number of years before our roads are in any proper condition at all. We are anxious to encourage our tourist industry, to improve it and to bring people to our country. I do not know of any better way of encouraging people to visit us than by saying that our country has the name, at least, of having good roads. We want tourists. They will help to solve our adverse trade balance problem. They have helped us since the tourist industry first started here and we want them to continue to visit us.
Considerable work was done on tourist roads as a result of the Act which was passed by the Oireachtas. Until the passing of that Act, we had a number of tourist roads which were prairie tracks. It was wise to give an allocation towards the improvement of roads in those parts of the country where the scenic beauty is such as to  attract visitors. Now, the Minister for Finance comes along and says we do not want to polish main roads. We have only about 680 miles of main roads which are in any moderate repair out of a total of 10,000 miles of main roads.
Mr. P.J. Burke: I will bring the Parliamentary Secretary along a number of roads in my constituency, not far from Dublin City, where you would want a pilot to walk in front of you to guide you along them.
Mr. P.J. Burke: I deplore the step that has been taken by the Government in robbing the Road Fund of the money that should go into the roads. As other speakers have said, motorists or owners of motor vehicles are faced with higher taxation, insurance and wear and tear costs and I feel that they should at least get reasonably good roads on which to travel. I can point out a number of  reasons why the Road Fund should not be interfered with. I can mention that we still have a number of dangerous bends on roads throughout the country and even in my constituency. People have been killed as a result of these bad bends. I am not going to say to this House that people have not been killed on the straight roads but more accidents happen on dangerous bends. I am sure the House will agree that a number of people, both men and women, are still being killed as a result of dangerous bends. I feel the House has a responsibility to try to eliminate the cause of these accidents and that can only be done by removing those bends.
From time to time we were told what Fianna Fáil was to spend, including so much money on roads. We looked upon that as national advancement and felt it was our duty to see that we should have good roads in the country. As regards our ordinary county roads, the cul-de-sac roads, and other roads, we have yet a long way to go before they are improved even to the satisfaction of those who live beside them. It is easy to stand up in this House and say that Fianna Fáil wanted the roads for the special touring cars but that is a misrepresentation of the facts as they were put before the House. This misrepresentation is going on all the time. We had to listen to that when we were trying to encourage tourism and when we were told that the hotels we were fostering were white elephants. We have to cope with the same criticism here to-day but so long as I am here, I feel bound to voice my opinion as to what is right for the country. I do not want to play any political game. I could go a long way if I began to remind the Minister and his Party and the people who make up the inter-Party Government about their promises, but I will refrain from that on this occasion. I am dealing with this problem simply and solely from the national point of view, and it is in the national interest that we should carry on with the improvement of roads and eliminate loss of life. We  should try to ensure as far as possible in the future that people are not killed because of dangerous roads.
From the point of view of employment, road work is also of great national importance. I understand that the spending of £500,000 in a year would give employment to approximately 1,600 workers. That, in a situation where we have heavy emigration, would be of considerable help. We have heard the Minister and those who support him, speak about arterial drainage and about the Local Authorities (Works) Act. What about productive schemes, they ask? We are all anxious to have productive schemes but we are also anxious that other schemes should go on. I was very sorry when the Minister made this decision because I had seen the effect of the decision of the previous inter-Party Government when they cut down the road grant by over £2,000,000. As a matter of fact there were so many springs broken on roads down the country during the last period of the inter-Party Government that it would take at least three years of Fianna Fáil Government to restore the roads, even partially, to their previous condition.
Are we now to revert to that policy? We are told this money is wanted for other essential purposes. I think the best thing the inter-Party Government could do would be to open up canals and get the people to travel by them because, apparently, the Government does not like to improve the roads at all.
If we are to have it stated here that to improve roads as other advanced nations do, is not national work, I feel it is a deplorable attitude on the part of the Minister for Finance and the members of the Government. It is bad from the country's point of view and also from the employment point of view that this fund should not benefit the people for whom it was created and who apparently need its benefit very badly.
Mr. A. Barry: Apparently the moment the Government changes in this country, pot-holes appear in the main roads. I do not agree with  Deputy Burke and I think a number of his colleagues on the other side of the House do not agree with him either. I believe we have spent far too much money developing the major road systems of this country, money out of all proportion to the resources of the country in which we live. The main road from here to Cork is a magnificent affair now, and one could really drive eight cars breast for three-quarters of it. I do not think that is necessary. They have cut it straight through from horizon to horizon, taken off enormous corners, removed hills and eaten into very valuable agricultural land, and I am not sure that we want it at all.
I am quite sure that if the ultimate cost of extending that kind of system to all the road lengths about which Deputy Burke speaks became known, the people would turn and rend us if we were to spend that money. Many people for years have been objecting to this enormous and lavish expenditure on the roads. The word was borrowed from another language— autobahn—but it is the word which perfectly describes the kind of thing our engineers are constructing now with the active support of the Custom House. I drove over 2,000 miles in Italy last summer and most of the main roads there would take two buses abreast, one passing the other. They are narrow roads mostly; and when we talk about our tourist industry and compare the Italian returns from tourism, I think the Italians have proved that it does not require enormous road widths or any enormous autobahn to bring tourists along. In fact, if anything, I think that the great wide road is an ugly and horrible-looking thing in our landscape and it certainly is not necessary.
If this decision of the Minister indicates that there is now a trend towards a more modest conception of our road needs in this country, that alone is a very desirable and good thing. I do not care at all about the proposals made by many Deputies that we have many dangerous bends and that they should be removed. I think that we should put bends into some of our roads at least. They were safer when  they were narrower, because people drove more carefully.
If you get a man arriving at one of our cities after driving 100 miles from another city on a very fast concrete surface, the moment he enters a place where there should be, and would be in other cities, a speed limit, he is a dangerous driver. Having driven for 100 miles at a great speed, he has not the same concept of safety as would have a driver who had only done a short journey. A lot of accidents take place near the end of long journeys on fast roads. It is a great thing to see that proper priorities are being recognised by this Minister, and that one of the last down on our list is that kind of road that we have had under construction in this country in the past ten years.
Mr. Maguire: This question as to the expenditure of money on roads so as to make them better roads appears to appeal to those who advocate that the roads are necessary merely for the purpose of expanding the interests of tourists and to modernise their convenience. Otherwise, there is not a general demand from the community for big expenditure on the roads, which are at present in very good condition generally. If the problems of this country can be solved by expanding our roads and making what is already good better, then the solution to our whole economic problem is very easy, and the Government should surely have concentrated very much, if that problem can be solved, on more and more expenditure on the roads.
My point of view is that we are just short-circuiting the whole problem and evading the whole issue by discussing here and there the question of how much money should be spent on the roads and how many men can be employed thereon, without regard to the results. If tourism is our problem and our aim, then I suggest that, however desirable it would be, what is of still greater national importance and a much greater step towards solving our economic problem, is to keep the people we have at home at home, and stop this flow of emigration. People at home working, however meagre  their lives may be at home, are a national asset, and their families are the same, and the loss of these cannot be replaced by any temporary gain we may secure by the inducement to additional tourists to spend a few months or a few weeks of the year in our country, and thus provide foreign currency for the State, and provide, of course, more employment for the men who are preparing these luxurious roads.
My own impression is that the Government should tackle this problem, not in an isolated way, as a unit and as a matter of expediency, but as part of the whole economic problem of the country, and see how far are our transport needs catered for, and how far that can be done to the best advantage of the whole community and in the most economical way. We have different forms of transport here. We have the canals, to which one Deputy has already referred; we have the railways, which are in a very precarious position. The State is paying for the maintenance of all those. Are all those forms of transport actually needed? How many of them, if any, can we discard, and save expenditure in that way?
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The Deputy may not discuss all forms of transport on this section. The section deals solely with the transfer of £500,000 from the Road Fund to another fund. It does not open the way to a general discussion on transport.
Mr. Maguire: I think the decision could hardly have been made to introduce this section as an item referring to the Road Fund, and try to separate that from all the other forms of transport which we have to take responsibility for.
Mr. Maguire: I assure you that I will not transgress very far afield at all. I will keep as near the facts as I see reason to do so. I will not delay you, Sir, or the House, if I refer in a general way at the opening of my speech to what I consider should be the direction in which this proposal to allocate a certain sum of money to one form of transport should be considered. I think I have a right to draw conclusions and parallels as to where it might be saved in another direction, or not spent at all. A general survey of our entire transport would be the first essential to the Government in spending so much money on those roads as has been done, as well as in the new proposals.
Mr. Maguire: I have not the least intention, if you allow me to proceed, of transgressing beyond what is reasonable to a discussion of this section. I think I am entitled to draw a parallel, and if you make the case that, say, £500,000 or £5,000,000 is a sum of money belonging to the State and being spent in a certain direction, I am entitled to suggest that you should reconsider spending it in other directions in which I feel the expenditure would bring better results.
Mr. Maguire: I have no intention of doing it, but if I discussed the wellbeing of this State, whether I mentioned it or not, agriculture being the foundation of the State, I must include, by implication anyway.
Mr. Maguire: It is a State fund, and accordingly is subject to criticism by any Deputy in this House. If I am not allowed to proceed further on that, all I can say is that we do not get a chance here of discussing a conception from the broad national point of view when discussion arises.
Mr. Maguire: From the Road Fund, right, which is a State-controlled institution. Reference has been made here by previous speakers to the fact that the removal of bends on the roads would make a great improvement as regards accidents. That has been a disputed point, and evidence has been submitted by experience from statistics to show that, in reality, it is not a safeguard against accidents. If that be the argument on which we base our claim to extend our present system of roads, the removal of all bends, then I think we should have an inquiry to see was it justified, because, in my limited way, I have seen reports where that is no advantage. What is undoubtedly a useful form is to spend more money on the by-roads, which are really a disgrace and a terrible indictment of our system of encouraging the rural population to remain at home.
While it is very desirable to have a good trunk road, it is more desirable to have a good road over which our  poorer people must travel from their homes to churches, towns and schools. The majority of those people do not use motor cars. Their feet, their horses and traps and their bicycles are their only mode of conveyance. If that be the general demand—and it is the predominant demand—from that section of the community, then it is our duty to see that we produce for them roads that they can use so that they can enjoy the ordinary amenities of life by securing for them at least a clean foot in travelling over those roads by their simple mode of transport. To that extent, I am opposed to spending so much money on improving what is already a very excellent service. I am talking about the transport vein—the main roads used for the immense heavy traffic of the motor car.
The rural community may not have much money but they are a great national asset. Every penny Governments can spend on them will be of benefit to the country. As I have already stated, by spending more money on the rural community we would be concentrating on keeping our own people at home and, accordingly, on building up our real national asset. In that way we would be doing work of much greater national importance than by advertising the good condition of our roads from town to town and from city to city.
I see a certain advantage in devoting limited expenditure to the improvement of our main roads since it gives a certain amount of employment to workers engaged on improving such roads. However, if the only proposal in that direction we have is the drawing of money from our ratepayers and taxpayers to give work on main roads —an already good service—then we are bankrupt of ideas. The State is bankrupt in planning if it cannot provide ideas which would be more practical and more productive. Roads are not productive. They are an asset in their own way, but they do not produce anything. There are other things which could be improved with greater national benefit. Other things such as land and industry, where workers produce something, should be improved upon in the national interest. When  we begin work of that kind we will have reached a stage of practical progress; we will be producing something in the way of national wealth. If we keep on spending money on schemes such as those we indulge in at the moment we are paving our way to a final act of ruin. Having heard so much about the present state of our finances and the necessity for increased production, I thought that the Minister would have indicated in a more general and detailed way such as this section indicates, some means by which money taken from the ratepayers, taxpayers and others for the improvement of undertakings of a practical nature——
Mr. Maguire: Not very much. I am getting to the foundation of things, which is important. If I were to submit matters fundamental to the general economy, it is not £500,000 we would be discussing on this section; I would like to see it £50,000,000. I should like to speak about the system adopted by the Government in the giving of grants to county councils. Grants are made available for the improvement of roads on condition that a local contribution of a specified amount will be made by the county council. When a grant of, say, £5,000, £10,000 or £20,000 is offered to a county council it is conditional on the council raising a certain amount locally. No grant will be given without the undertaking that a local contribution of a specified sum will be made available.
County councils are in debt because this inducement is held out to them year after year. They are induced to make contributions beyond their capacity to meet in the ordinary way. The employment given is more than offset by the staggering result of having to pay excessive rates. I think these conditions should be withdrawn by the Government. The Government should not seek to tempt the poorer counties by the holding out of this bait and saying: “If you give £1 the Government will give £2.” The maintenance of main roads is a matter entirely for  the State. Such work is beyond the capacity of county councils.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The section is very simple: it deals with the transfer of £500,000 from the Road Fund to the Capital Fund. It does not give the Deputy the liberty he tries to enjoy in this debate.
Mr. Maguire: I am sorry. That is all I wish to say. I hope the Government will learn from the discussion that the demand for the improvement of minor roads is general here in the House and throughout the country. From the distribution of money from the Road Fund, local authorities should get a much bigger proportion for the improvement of these roads which would, in turn, improve the amenities of the people in rural Ireland and help to keep them at home.
Mr. P. Brennan: I think the members of the House who are also members of local authorities will agree that the greatest problem facing local authorities at the present time, for a number of years past and for a number of years to come, is the question of roads—to try to deal with the problem of the ever-increasing demand for better roads, particularly in respect of county roads. It is only natural that we on this side of the House should protest in the strongest possible terms against the Government's action in extracting from the Road Fund the sum of £500,000 which could be well spent on county roads throughout the country and which could be giving very useful employment.
The Minister entered into the discussion this afternoon to explain the Government's attitude in connection with this matter. He outlined the policy of the present Government in regard to roads generally. He informed  us that since the present Government came in, their policy was to give greater grants for county roads, and I think he mentioned an increase of something like £700,000. But the Minister did not tell us that there was a substantial reduction in the grants made available to local authorities for improvements to main roads. The net result of the juggling that went on is that local authorities to-day are receiving less money by way of grants from the Government than they did under the Fianna Fáil Government.
The question of main roads has been dealt with here by a number of Deputies. A substantial amount of work has been done on main roads in my constituency, even since the present Government took office, and I am 100 per cent. behind the Department in their efforts to improve the main roads in County Wicklow and other parts of the country because, by doing so, they are helping to save the lives of many people. A number of corners have been taken off the main Dublin to Wexford road in County Wicklow, but there was one which remained for some time. The result was that some 18 months ago two people lost their lives. I do not think that even the sum of £500,000 would justify the loss of two lives occurring because we did not take off the corner, or because we did not widen a road as it should have been widened.
Modern transport and modern cars are built for speed and they will speed. Therefore, the duty of the local authority and the Government is to try to make the roads a little more safe than they have been. If the manufacturers of cars build them in such a way that they will travel faster than they did heretofore, then the only thing we can do is to meet the situation by improving the standard of our main roads. I am fully behind any improvements that are taking place in my constituency and I think I can say the same for any improvements I see throughout the country. As I said, however, there is an ever-increasing demand by the ratepaying community for better county roals. As far as Wicklow is concerned, we have availed of every opportunity and of every  grant possible to improve our county roads and I think we can claim to have done as good a job as any other county in Ireland; but there are many more miles of roads in my county which need to be put in a passable condition, many miles of road which are the responsibility of the local authority and which are classed as public roads, not to mention the number of roads that are not yet classed as public roads, the by-ways and the boreens. There is a difficult problem facing local authorities at the present time and I believe the Government are wrong in transferring this money.
It is very hard to understand the attitude of the Labour Party, in particular, in regard to this matter. When they attend local authority meetings, they are for ever making demands for increases in wages. Quite recently, we had a demand from trade unions for an increase in road workers' wages in my constituency. That is one of the reasons why I stood up here to express my views on this question. It is very hard to fathom the Labour Party. When they go down the country, they expect or demand increases in wages for their union members; notwithstanding that, they come up here and support the Government in reducing the grants that are made available to local authorities.
Mr. P. Brennan: I am saying it is very difficult to understand the attitude of the Labour Party in this regard. When the Wicklow County Council was striking the rate last year, in an effort to keep up the standard of employment and to maintain the same mileage of reconstructed roads, they increased the rates by 10d. in the £. Nevertheless the members of the Labour Party in the Government and supporting the Government are allowing the Department of Local Government to reduce our grants substantially. None of the  Deputies from that Party made any attempt here to justify or to give any reason to the House, or the general public, for their attitude in this regard. It is all right for trade unions to make demands for increased wages, but they are in a good position as far as Wicklow is concerned because we have a member of the Cabinet who is a member of the local authority in that county and other members of the Dáil who are members of the trade unions concerned, and these people could have used their influence with the Government to see to it that we would receive increased grants. Even at this stage, if I got any guarantee that we would get an increase in our grants for this year, I would certainly have no objection to giving an increase in wages to road workers——
Mr. P. Brennan: The question I am dealing with is the robbing of the Road Fund and the Labour Party allowing it to be robbed. They are the Party concerned. As far as the Fine Gael Party is concerned, we would not expect anything from them but the causing of unemployment, if possible. That has always been their policy, but we were expecting something more from the Labour Party and I have yet to hear a member of that Party standing up to justify their action in this regard.
Mr. Blaney: The position before us this evening seems to be that we have been spending too much money on the roads and that that position must stop. Having listened to that argument being used in that way, we can rightly ask the members of the Government whether it is true that our roads are too good or, on the other hand, whether, taking another side of the picture, we have over-employment in rural Ireland at the moment. We can also ask whether or not the people paying taxation on motor vehicles to-day are paying too much or too little.
If the people in Government to-day were to be consistent—of course, it  would be too much to expect that they would be at this stage—with the views they expressed when the road taxes were increased to their present level three years ago, when they deplored the increase then levied on the people using the roads, to-day, instead of the Road Fund being raided and the money put to other uses, the Government would be relieving the road users by reductions in motor taxation to the tune of £500,000. Apparently, they do not intend to do that. Rather do they intend to use this money for some other purpose. Despite the platitudes that were uttered here by the Minister for Finance a short while ago about all the various worthy capital uses to which this £500,000 will be put, I am still trying to find out exactly to what capital uses he intends to put this money. To my knowledge, he has not given any concrete plan as to how this money will be spent. He has been beating about the bush in regard to this matter but he has not given any concrete evidence that the money which is now being taken unjustly from a fund which was for the upkeep of the roads will be put to better use.
During the course of his recent contribution to the debate the Minister gave the House to understand that the financial position of the country is such that it is better to use this money for some unspecified capital development than to use it for capital development on roads. Despite the fact that it must be a very grave financial emergency that brings about this pruning of the Road Fund, colleagues of the present Minister for Finance in the Cabinet are stamping around the country telling us that this does not matter, that there is no real crisis before this country at the present moment and that all the talk going on is purely political propaganda emanating from and disseminated by Fianna Fáil in order to bring about the fall of this Government.
In the past week the Minister for Defence made a speech that will live for quite a long time, not for any good sound sense that it contained but for the bunkum that can be read into it. He indicated, as already stated from this side of the House earlier this  evening, that this matter of £500,000 taken from the Road Fund is purely a bookkeeping matter and is of no concern to the ordinary people. On the other hand, if we do not like to lay too much weight on the financial pronouncements of the Minister for Defence, we can take the example of the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government, Deputy O'Donovan, last night in the House. With his educational background, he should say something worth listening to and his opinions should carry some weight in these matters. He also said that we were not really in any great financial crisis.
If we can take the word of the Minister for Defence or of the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy O'Donovan, that there is no financial crisis to bother the ordinary people of this country, why is the Minister for Finance tearing his hair trying to find money and being driven to such straits that he must take it from the Road Fund, a fund that was established in 1953 by the then Minister for Local Government and which was not to be touched for any purpose other than for the upkeep and maintenance of roads? That was an undertaking given in this House by the then Minister for Local Government. It was given inside the House and outside the House. That word was maintained until the present year. To-day that promise has been broken by the present Minister and Government.
We want to know is there a financial crisis? Does the Cabinet agree that there is a financial crisis or can we have one member of the Cabinet saying that there is a crisis and another few members going in the other direction and saying that there is none? Is there any solidity about this Government? Do they ever sit down together and decide once and for all that there is a crisis or that there is not? Can we not expect from them some agreed statement in regard to our financial position? Surely that is the least that we can expect at this stage from a Government.
Mr. Blaney: I want to know, and I think I am entitled to know, so is every member of this House and so are the people outside, have we to-day a  financial crisis of the magnitude that demands that the Road Fund should be raided to the extent of £500,000 when throughout the country, on the western seaboard in particular, there are roads over which it is impossible to pass at the moment, which are supposed to serve the people in these regions? Is the raiding of the Road Fund justified unless a financial crisis of huge magnitude faces us? Are we not entitled to know the position? Are we not entitled to ask, and to get an answer in a reasonably short space of time, whether this Government is represented by one, two, three, four or five different spokesmen? Will we have a statement denying the suggestions and statements of the Parliamentary Secretary last night and of the Minister for Defence during the last week, that there is no financial crisis?
Mr. Blaney: Very good, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. Getting back to the debate that took place here last night, in which the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government stated that on the average, the cost of reconstructing a mile of county road was £1,500, I contend that as a matter of figures, that statement is inaccurate, but, taking the figure as given and applying it to the position as we now find it, assuming that £1,500 is the average cost per mile of reconstructing county roads, is it not true that, as a result of this cut of £500,000 and the other cuts of £790,000 already made, 850 fewer miles of county roads will be reconstructed in this coming year?
Is it not true that on the average every local authority throughout the Twenty-Six Counties will reconstruct 30 fewer miles of roads in the coming 12 months? Is it not also true that as a result of this cut and the other cuts already applied, 5,000 fewer men will be employed during the coming 12 months in regard to this matter alone? Is it not true, in addition, that as a result of the increase in wages and capital costs during the past year, and particularly during the past few  months, that, on top of the 5,000 fewer we will employ because of the financial cut before us now, we will also have a reduction of 10 to 15 per cent. in the employment content on our roadworks during the year?
I come back again to the figures trotted out here last night by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government; he read out statistics giving the number of unemployed in rural Ireland. Surely the number of unemployed in rural Ireland is not the straight answer to the problem? The main feature is the number employed. It is true that thousands of people have become unemployed as a result of the action of this Government and, if those people do not appear on the unemployment register and in the returns of the Central Statistics Office, so much the worse; the reason for their non-appearance is because they are no longer in the country but have been forced to emigrate. Enough of these quick answers to all our problems. Enough of these figures that appear to prove that black is white. That is not sufficient. I come from a county which has been worst hit of all counties.
Mr. Blaney: The 850 fewer miles of roads that will be reconstructed and the 5,000 fewer men we will employ are represented in the £500,000. In addition to that, the £800,000 National Development Fund which will not come to us this year must also be taken into account.
Mr. Blaney: I quite agree that the figure given here is £500,000. Surely, this burden is being placed on the ratepayers and this sacrifice must be made by the workers who will lose their jobs and who will have to emigrate. Surely, that position is being aggravated by the deliberate diversion of this £500,000. Surely, that is a good argument and a cogent reason why this £500,000 should be restored to the Road Fund, even at this late stage, so that the last straw may not be placed on the camel's back in the way of increased costs on the ratepayers and increased unemployment in the country as a whole.
I should also point out that as a result of this £500,000 cut each local authority will lose approximately £46,000. Added to that is this sum of £790,000 which we will not get this year. Now the Minister earlier gave us very good reasons why this £500,000 should be taken from the Road Fund and one of the reasons was that the whole trend of disbursement of the Road Fund to local authorities was changed by the present Government last year. He, and other speakers to whom I listened, maintain that, because more money has been applied to county roads, everybody should be happy. Despite the argument put up by the Minister and his colleagues that we are getting more money now for county roads than we got under Fianna Fáil, the fact remains that the total moneys disbursed during the past year, plus the moneys allocated for the present year, are less now than they were under Fianna Fáil. At the same time the Road Fund, as a result of increased taxation on vehicles, has greatly increased. That is a fact and no amount of quibbling will change that fundamental fact.
Nevertheless our county councils and local authorities are getting less in the  aggregate from this Government than they got from Fianna Fáil and Fianna Fáil had much less money at their disposal out of which to give these grants. That is one fact that emerges quite clearly out of all this. There is no point whatever in saying that, because Peter robbed Paul, Paul has got more money this year and all of us should dance in glee around the House.
The finances of this country have gone into a tailspin and that tailspin is causing the Government to do things that should not be done, things which cannot be justified. Reducing the grants from the Road Fund will not get us out of this economic tailspin. The real answer is that some of the crew in this Coalition plane, in the throes of a tailspin at the moment, should——
Mr. Blaney: ——whether or not they have their parachutes on, bale out. Those who have parachutes should jump; those who have not should take a chance at crash landing, go to the country and get their answer there.
Mr. Blaney: Politically it would be a bad move to crash land on the hills up there at the moment. Deputy Beegan challenged the Minister here to-day. Whether or not it was a direct challenge, it did bring the Minister to his feet. Deputy Beegan stated that it had come to his knowledge that a directive had gone out from the Department of Finance to other Departments telling them they should cut down their capital programme for the coming year by 33? per cent. Whether or not that is true, Deputy Beegan and I would like to know what the position is. The Minister did not refer to the very serious position when he had an opportunity of doing so.
If that is true, where will we find employment for the people who should be employed on these new capital development works? Where will we find employment for the road workers  who are new being disemployed because of the cut in the road grants? Will they have to join the thousands who have already left the country over the past two years? Will they find themselves in the same boat? If that is what the Government have decided is the answer to their present problem, then the best thing they can do is get up here and state that that is their policy. Do they believe that the best way to maintain the people in their present standard of living is by reducing the population and that, with a lower population maintaining the same production, we will be able to maintain that lower population in their present standard? If that is the solution, the sooner it is put into words by the Government the better it will be.
The Minister also mentioned when talking that we on this side of the House did not have a proper conception of the matters governing our financial and economic position to-day, and that it was because of our lack of conception we were making these attacks on his policy from this side of the House. Let the Minister be quite clear on it; we are not under any misconception in regard to the present financial position of the country.
Mr. Blaney: We are under no misconception about that. We know the country is in a difficult position, to say the least of it. We know that unemployment is becoming greater, and it is being added to by the particular item we are dealing with. We want the people on that side of the House to realise that we are not doing as they did when they were here and we were the Government—we are not criticising merely for the sake of criticising and obstructing. That is not our line, and it cannot be taken from anything that has been said that that will be our line.
Mr. Blaney: If the Deputy from Wexford has something useful to say, we shall be delighted to hear it, but it will be the first time I ever heard anything useful from him since I came into this House.
Mr. Blaney: Again during the Minister's contribution, we were given to understand that the main roads are not a very productive part of our economy. That, of course, is a matter that could be debated from now until the cows come home and we would be no wiser. But the view of many of us on this side of the House is that, due to the present mode of transport and the ever-increasing use of it, the roads of our country definitely must be maintained or otherwise we may find ourselves facing very great losses in the near future.
We are not—and I speak now for my own constituency where I have some knowledge of the roads—spending sufficient money on those roads at the present time to maintain in reasonable repair the good work already done and, at the same time, to try and do a little of the work that remains to be done. In other words, the roads we have reconstructed in the recent past will deteriorate unless we spend more in maintaining them than we are at the moment. We will not be able to make any progress on the absolutely huge total of county road mileage, which we must try and bring into passable condition, unless we spend this money and try in some little way to keep our population at home.
This is one of the things that is adding to their quick run out of the country—the lack of proper roads into the more remote parts of our country. I take the Parliamentary Secretary to task for the statement he made in the House last night that the worst county roads were to be generally found in the Midlands——
Mr. Blaney: Then all I can say is that the Parliamentary Secretary cannot have wandered very far from Dublin. If he would, he would find that there are roads along the counties of the western seaboard, and even more inland and nearer to Dublin than that, and, if he or any of his colleagues stumbled into them in the dark at night-time, they would probably be lost in the pot-holes.
Mr. Blaney: The usefulness of the speed tracks in County Kildare will only be fully realised by the Minister when he is getting out after the next election. He will be able to go all the faster, and so much the better.
Mr. Blaney: It may not be very original but it is likely to be very true. The truth of a statement rather than its originality is the important thing. I think the Parliamentary Secretary should try and amend in the near future his statement that the Midland roads are the worst in Ireland. While I agree that there are bad roads around Leix-Offaly, where the Parliamentary Secretary and his colleagues got bogged down not so very long ago, at the same time if they go further West, further North or further South, they will find on the back roads and by-roads there that, not alone will they be bogged down for a little while, but they will be bogged down for good and will never get out of them. And that applies politically and otherwise.
Mr. Blaney: The Party represented by our friend Deputy O'Leary at the moment has been, and are justified in, looking after the interests of the unions responsible for having them here. But what should be made perfectly clear to the workers and members of those unions—the rural workers of this country and the urban workers as well—is that we have an item here which, taken by and large, represents the biggest source of employment outside of agriculture. The Labour members are quite justified in looking after the interests of the workers engaged in that particular employment; but when we have them to-day going around the country looking for increases for those people and, at the same time, coming into this House and voting less money for the payment of those people, then it is about time that Deputy O'Leary and his friends got red necks and got out of this House altogether.
Mr. Blaney: Not alone would I like it, but it would be a very good job for the country generally at the moment. The Labour Party, if they were consistent—but, of course, like their friends in the Coalition, they cannot be consistent: it would be inconsistent for the Coalition to be consistent—and if they wished to maintain workers' wages on a par with the increasing cost of living to-day, then the last thing they should do in this House is contribute in any way towards the reduction of Road Fund grants to county councils for they must meet the bill and pay those people.
Mr. Blaney: Remember that the reduction in the money being given to our local authorities will have the direct result of putting 5,000 people out of employment for an entire year. Let us also realise that during that same period, basing the cost per mile of reconstructing county roads on the figure given by the Parliamentary Secretary last night, £1,500 per mile, we will do 850 miles less reconstruction on our county roads for the coming year than we would have done if the grants had continued at their existing level.
Those are two factors we must remember. We must also remember that, in addition to the drastic reduction at a time when unemployment is rising—despite the fact that our people are fleeing the country and that one of the reasons they are doing so is the lack of the proper roads into their homes—taking all those things into account, we must also add a reduction of from 10 to 15 per cent. in the labour content and amount of employment that will be given this year on roads as against the figures for last year. These figures discount entirely the figures given here last night—the figures not of how many are employed to-day as against how many were employed this time 12 months ago, but the number of people unemployed to-day and registered as unemployed. I must discount that sort of argument entirely.
That is purely confusing the issue and it was brought in, I take it, for that purpose, because the Deputy who brought that in can handle his figures, I am quite sure, and handle them very well. But he should not be allowed to mishandle them in these circumstances and confuse the issue to the extent that people are given to understand that there are in fact no unemployed resulting from recent increases in the cost of road materials and in wages, brought about by the increased cost of living, or no reduction brought about by reducing the Road Fund grant to the county councils. That is entirely wrong and a complete misconception of the whole situation.
The real picture is that we are getting less money, that materials are  costing more and that we are going to do fewer miles of road in the coming year than last year. We are going to employ many thousands fewer and contribute to the flow of emigration. That is the picture; £500,000 plus the £700,000 from the National Development Fund added together, gets that net result.
I want to say that the tailspin in which the Government now find themselves is something which they can quickly remedy. If there are some elements who will not bale out, the other members should fire them. All in all, they will be doing a good national service if they all baled out and went to the country in a general election, when, I have no doubt, they would get their answer to this question of disemployment. In fact, they will be told that the money they have taken from the payers of motor tax in this country has not been used for the purpose to which it was pledged and therefore they have broken their word and taken this money for other purposes, about which we know nothing.
Parliamentary Secretary to the Government (Mr. O'Donovan): This debate has struck a rather different note from that of yesterday. One would think from the manner in which the speakers on the opposite side have attempted to justify the money which was expended year in, year out, on these main roads and, at the same time, have suggested that they are still in very poor order, that this was a country the size of France. Deputy Burke said that he did not want to make political capital out of the matter. I will have to come into the House some time when Deputy Burke is making a political speech.
Mr. O'Donovan: This road was to be completed at a cost of £1,500,000. A considerable part of the work was  done and the cost works out at £100,000 a mile. As anybody is entitled to do, I made an estimate of what would make a reasonable road. I made an estimate as to what it would cost to take away a number of corners and widen the road on the left hand side where there was plenty of room to widen it, because of a ditch about eight feet wide which continued for miles. I estimated that the cost would be £250,000, about one quarter of what was actually spent on the part which was completed. The question which arises is whether the road as reconstructed is safer than it was before reconstruction. I think the accidents on it in recent months prove conclusively that it is not safer.
Mr. O'Donovan: That remark is typical of Deputy MacEntee and of the absurd things he says in the House. If there are “pubs” around Dublin, they are not principally on the main roads, once you leave the city.
Deputy Burke referred to the desirability of improving main roads and referred to some of them as prairie tracks. I wonder if he has ever seen a prairie road? It is not a road at all, but merely a dirt road with a track made by the vehicles passing over it. This is the kind of debate we have had on this matter.
Deputy Childers maintains that his original speech was wrongly interpreted by the Minister for Finance, that he made a speech of a technical character. It was the strangest technical speech I have ever heard. If he attempted to make a technical point, it was that, by improving the  roads, you would get an increase in agricultural production.
Mr. O'Donovan: I am glad that Deputy Kennedy said “hear, hear”. The only way he could get employment in County Westmeath was on the roads. If he cannot do better than that, then he should go home. If he cannot think up some better suggestion than to give employment on the roads in County Westmeath—one of the finest agricultural counties in Ireland— he should go home.
Mr. O'Donovan: The Deputy's Government should have attended to the county roads in Westmeath which was one of the counties I referred to in the Midlands as having roads worse than the roads in the West. I was challenged by Deputy Blaney as to why I thought the county roads in the Midlands were worse than those in the West. The stone on the western seaboard is old red sandstone which is far harder than the limestone in the Midlands.
Mr. O'Donovan: The only place where I have seen the county roads looked after well was in the far reaches of West Limerick. They were good there. Deputy Blaney asked me a number of questions and that is my real reason for getting up. One question he asked was: Is there a financial crisis, yes or no? The answer to that is no; there is not a financial crisis. Is that definite and specific enough? The Deputy asked another question—a typical question which, I take it, was  a creation of the Deputy's own mind. He asked whether the Minister for Finance issued instructions to the Departments that the capital programme this year was to be cut by 33? per cent. The answer to that is no. The amount of money provided for the capital programme this year is the same as last year, as the Minister said. It is something of the order of £44,500,000—a far bigger sum than was ever provided by the Party opposite when they were in office.
There were all kinds of side winds on this section which is purely a transfer. It is a raid on the Road Fund. It is not an air raid, as Deputy Blaney seemed to think it was when he spoke about baling out and going into a tailspin. It is a raid on the Road Fund. As I said last night, that money is but a transfer to the capital fund to finance something in the region of 2 per cent. to 2½ per cent. of the capital expenditure this year. I do not think the money could be put to a better purpose and Deputy Blaney knows that as well as I do.
Mr. Corry: At a county council meeting in Cork on Monday last, practically every member of the Labour Party—they are not here now—was very loud in complaints about the manner in which labour had been cut down and about unemployment. Quite rightly, these members wanted to know the reason. If there is anything more contemptible than that a Minister for Finance should raid the Road Fund, which is what is now taking place, I am not aware of it.
In previous years, despite protests, the Road Fund was raided. In 1952 we got a guarantee from the Minister that the Road Fund would not be raided again while he was Minister, and it was not. I can understand every manoeuvre that is being made at the present moment to find out where the Government can lay their hands on money. There is no good in the Parliamentary Secretary telling me anything else. Here we have the Party that raided the C.I.E. funds and borrowed from them. Here we have the Party which raided the E.S.B. funds and  borrowed from them. Now they have come down to the last tack.
On 13th June last, I asked a few questions in the House. I was endeavouring to get a picture of how matters stood in regard to roads generally and in regard to finance generally. When I sat opposite, I argued that a large proportion of the money got by taxation on petrol should go into the Road Fund, instead of going into general taxation, because every single gallon of petrol used on the roads tends to cause deterioration of those roads. Every extra gallon of petrol used means extra cost to the ratepayer in the upkeep of these roads.
I am not concerned about the main roads. I would not care a hang, if they were never there. They are too darned good, but I am concerned about the roads used by the ordinary farmers and ratepayers and the condition of those roads. Generally speaking, the main roads are lovely, but what do you find the moment you leave them? Pot holes and water tables in some instances two or three feet above the centre of the road, and, in a large number of cases, in the centre of the road.
I asked the Minister if he would state in respect of each of the years 1950-1951 to 1955-1956 the revenue derived from (a) petrol taxation, (b) customs duties on mechanically propelled vehicles. The revenue derived from petrol in 1950-1951 was £3,630,972. In 1952, when we got the guarantee from Deputy Smith, it was £4,483,002. In 1955-1956, that is, last year, it was £7,557,552. That is an increase of over £3,000,000 in petrol taxation. One would think that the Government that got £3,000,000 extra in that manner would be fairly well satisfied with themselves and would say they would at least leave the Road Fund go towards the upkeep of the roads which are being damaged. They did not. The net receipts of customs duties on mechanically propelled vehicles increased from £1,164,915 to £1,825,100. That was an increase of over £600,000.
Mr. Corry: I am quoting from column 176 of the Official Report, dated 13th June, 1956. The receipts from motor vehicle duties increased from £2,838,380 to £5,097,068 in the same period. That was a further increase of roughly £3,000,000 from motor users from 1950 to 1956. The motor user, who is also a ratepayer, had all that money taken from him. He gets back a portion of it in the Road Fund. The balance, some £5,000,000, is thrown in here to swell the coffers of the Exchequer and to be put to other uses.
There has not been a roads meeting in Cork County for the past number of years when we have not had, meeting after meeting, deputations complaining about the condition of the ordinary county roads. Every branch of Muintir na Tíre and of every organisation in the country is, meeting after meeting, complaining about the condition of the roads.
Then we are met by another breakout on the part of these people this year by a further raid on the Road Fund to the extent of £500,000. I cannot see any justification for it, to be quite honest about it. I cannot see any justification for a Government, whose revenue has been increased by taxation on petrol, and by the extra petrol used, by over £4,000,000 a year in five years, to come back now to raid the Road Fund again. Every penny in the Road Fund could usefully be spent in endeavouring to repair the damage done to the roads by the use of the extra amount of petrol reflected in that extra revenue got through petrol taxation, and more with it. A few years ago we were advocating that part of that petrol taxation should go into the Road Fund each year to help to make up for the additional expenditure which would be necessary on the roads as a result of the extra traffic on them as reflected by the increased sales of petrol as well as by the increased revenue from petrol taxation. Undoubtedly, the roads are being starved.
The ordinary farmer who has to take his crops to market finds that, in a large number of instances, the lorry  which he hires to take his beet will not go off the main road because of the condition of the county road into his farm. Then he has to get his tractor, trailer, horse and butt to cart his beet to the main road before the C.I.E. lorries will come to take it. That is the condition of affairs that is at present prevailing with about 80 per cent. of the farmers growing beet in this country. Even the lorries drawing the milk will not go into those roads for the same reason. Then we have what to my mind is a disgraceful manoeuvre by a Government who are at their wits' end to-day to find the wherewithal to hold them there in office over the holidays. That is all that is bothering them—to know if they can last from now until Christmas.
The Parliamentary Secretary stood up and told us there is no financial crisis. I was at a meeting last Monday at which we discussed the reply which I got here to a question in regard to housing grants.
Mr. Corry: The absence of our share of that £500,000 in Cork County this year will mean a large amount of unemployment on our roads. It will mean that the men, about whom the Labour Deputies were complaining last Monday as being out of employment, will have to continue to be out of employment. That is hitting at the poorest section of our community, at the ordinary road worker on our roads. They are the people who will suffer in the first instance. People in the engineering and other grades are safe enough: they will have their salaries even if no men are employed. The ordinary road worker, however, has no guarantee of continuous employment and he is the man who will suffer. He will be hit by this.
Instead of coming at this stage and cutting in on the Road Fund, I think the Government would have been well advised to take some of these extra millions which I was informed here a fortnight ago had been collected from the motorists and hand that money out to the local authorities for spending on the roads. You cannot have four or five times the traffic over a road that was there four or five years ago and expect to maintain that road with the same amount of money. The road will be in such a condition that no motorist will travel over it and the ordinary farmer and ratepayer will be unable to take out his produce. I admit freely that he has no bother once his produce is out on the main road because he can get it the rest of the way all right. However, a considerable number of farmers are three, four and five miles from the nearest main road and they are the men who will suffer and are suffering at the moment by reason of this action by the Government.
We can all see the attitude which is adopted here, even by the Minister for  Lands last week, towards the agricultural community who are endeavouring to have the roads repaired for them and put in some kind of order—roads for which the Land Commission were responsible. All of us can see what is happening all round us in that regard. I remember when Deputy Smith made that statement in this House. Every Deputy who was here at the time, and who now sits over there, stood up and cheered it. One would expect that ordinary Deputies would have a right to expect some continuity of policy in regard to roads. It is impossible to prepare any roads programme, unless there is some continuity of policy. Instead of that, we have this shabby method of endeavouring to stave off the evil day by watching and saying: “There is money—grab it.” I do not know what Deputies over there think of it. I am sure they are as much ashamed of it as are the Deputies of the Labour Party who have cleared out and left the benches there idle again, while the question of whether the road workers in their respective constituencies will be employed for the next 12 months, is before this House.
Mr. Corry: I am calling attention to the fact that there is not one Labour Deputy present here while the question they themselves are so concerned about—they are in Cork, anyway, and I presume in other counties too—the employment of the men they are supposed to represent in the local authorities, is being examined as to whether or not money is to be provided for them.
Mr. Corry: I cannot help the interruptions. Deputies over there are supposed to represent the road workers. My complaint is that we have each year extra millions of pounds pouring into the revenue of whatever Government is in office at the expense of the roads of the country, and every bit of this money diverted from roads compels the ratepayers to find more money for roads. On the other hand, we have this—to my mind, disgraceful—move by the Minister for Finance who comes in and breaks the guarantee given by his predecessor. That is what I feel most strongly about in this matter——
Mr. Corry: I do not wish to delay matters further. I have made the case as I see it; I have given the figures as they have been given in this House, but I hope that, during the next nine or ten months, I shall not hear those absent Deputies, when they are attending local authority  meetings, complaining about unemployment on the roads.
Mr. Morrissey: The Deputy drew attention to the absence of certain members from this House. Apparently, there is more than one plan of campaign on the way on behalf of Fianna Fáil. For the past month or two, over 60 members of Fianna Fáil have been absent from this House. This afternoon the same thing happened; last week the same thing happened, and the week before. Deputy Corry is sent in—I dare say because no other member of the Party would do it—at a particular time every afternoon to call for a House.
Mr. Morrissey: Not one of the Fianna Fáil Deputies has answered the bell. Deputy Corry told us he was perfectly satisfied with the state of the trunk roads; they were all right as far as he is concerned. He did not care a hang about them, but he wanted to protest against the state of the county roads and the minor roads. The Deputy knows quite well—nobody in this House knows better—that more and better provision has been made for county roads by the present Government than by the previous Government. I have too much respect for Deputy Corry's intelligence and his knowledge of the work of local  authorities not to be quite satisfied that he knows that.
The Deputy said that there was nothing more contemptible than the Minister for Finance raiding the Road Fund. What contempt he must have had over the years for some of his own colleagues who had held the position of Minister for Finance! One would imagine that this was the first time that the Road Fund had ever been raided. Perhaps the Deputy, if he were on this side, would prefer a raid on the food subsidies. The Deputy sheds crocodile tears about how employment on the roads is to be affected. There are far more people in employment in this country to-day than there were when Fianna Fáil went out of office in 1954.
Mr. Morrissey: The Deputy knows that quite well. Let us, for goodness sake, stop running down the condition of our own country. I travel probably as much in this country as the average person does, over a considerable number of counties, and I want to say— and I think I can say it without fear of contradiction—that our roads will, as regards condition, compare favourably with the roads of most other countries in Europe. There is no question about it. Let us remember that there has been a revolutionary change for the better in the condition of all roads in this country. That is a fact, and Deputies know it. We have spent over the last 25 years, relatively speaking, enormous sums of money on the roads of this country, and while it is very important that the roads should be maintained in as good a condition  as we can afford, there are other services that have a higher priority. There is no question about that.
I know that some of the county roads, minor roads and link roads are in need of improvement, but let us not say here, or try to create the impression outside, because it would not be true, that even our county roads and main roads are all pot-holes and hump backs. They are not. There are some roads in certain counties that are not up to the general standard, and there is no representative of a county council, I do not care to which Party he belongs—and I served for many years on a county council—but knows that there are certain counties where roads are, comparatively speaking, in a poor condition, mainly because, when roads could have been made and maintained at a comparatively low figure, certain county councillors, no matter what was the estimate submitted by the roads engineer, insisted on cutting it. Those are facts and that is the reason; let us be quite honest and fair about it.
I am not claiming credit for any Government, but I am saying that, over the last quarter of a century or 30 years, excellent work has been done and enormous sums of money have been spent. Do not let us forget either that—Deputy Corry made a passing reference to it—some people down the country and even some county councillors, apparently, yet do not understand, when they talk about roads being made for motorists, that motorists are paying for roads on the double and on the treble. They are paying both as taxpayers, as ratepayers, and through a special levy in the form of motor taxation levied on them as a contribution to the roads over which the cars run.
Let us get these things clear. I want to ask Deputy Corry if that £500,000 has been taken away from the trunk roads and main roads this year to be put to an urgent and more necessary purpose, does he object to that? If the £500,000 has to be found, if it is not to be taken from the Road Fund, where in my opinion it will cause less hardship, will he suggest from where it is to be taken? What  additional taxation is to be put on to find it? What other commodities will he suggest?
I must say that I get pretty fed up listening to people in this country trying to decry the country. I want to say that in respect of our public services, having regard to the leeway we had to make up, whether it was roads, bridges, houses or anything else, we have made progress. We have in respect of these matters made as much progress, having regard to the point at which we had to start, as probably any other country, and we are as near to providing our people with first class services in relation to any of these as they are in most countries. Deputies talk as if this were the only country in which there were poor roads. I have not been very often abroad, but I have been abroad a couple of times, and I have seen roads in some of the great continental countries that could not compare at all with some of our roads here. I am talking now about their main trunk roads, but their by-roads, what would correspond to our county roads here, are infinitely inferior to our roads. Let us get that clear.
I said at the beginning that there were apparently two plans of campaign. Deputy Corry and some of his colleagues will not help either roads or anything else in this country, and certainly will not improve the employment situation, by using this section and any other section and every other debate to try to suggest that the credit of this country has gone. We had the Deputy saying what he said in so many words here to-day, that the credit of this State is so bad that this Government would not be able to carry on to the end of the holidays. That is terribly devilish, and a malicious thing to say. I do not mind what the Deputy says against a Party, or what he says about me or any other member of this Party, but Deputy Corry or any other Deputy, particularly a seasoned warrior like Deputy Corry, ought not to be guilty of saying things that are only injuring the State and the credit of the State.
There is no point whatever in talking about continuity of policy. There is continuity, so far as the fundamentals are concerned. There is no question,  however, about that. But either in this or in any other country, where there are changes of Government, the changes are brought about because the people want a change of policy in whole or in part. That is the main reason for changes, because the people are dissatisfied either in whole or in part with the policy that has been pursued by the Government of the day. Certainly, as far as I am concerned, there are quite a number of parts of the Fianna Fáil policy that I should like to depart from as far and as quickly as possible. There are other parts of their policy that I might not find myself a thousand miles away from, but I might differ very strongly from them on how effect should be given even to those parts of their policy.
It does not do any good for the Deputy, for his Party or for his country, to get up here and talk as he has just talked, repeating himself six times, notwithstanding the efforts of the Ceann Comhairle to keep him somewhere within reach of the section under discussion. There was nothing real about the Deputy's simulated indignation; it was nothing but play-acting. He can do that pretty well, but, of course, he has had quite a lot of practice. The Deputy is not codding anybody in this House. Apparently he is satisfied that he can still put it over. He has been doing it successfully in Cork for quite a while; otherwise he would not be trying to continue it.
The Deputy should be fair to this House, to the county councils, to their officials and to the workmen, and not pretend that the roads are worse than they are. I think the roads are quite good. I think we have spent perhaps more than a fair proportion of our earnings and our income on the roads of this country. I believe they are in a condition of which we need not be ashamed. I believe we will not do any irreparable damage to them by taking this £500,000 out of the Road Fund. I am satisfied that the £500,000 being taken from that fund—to which it will do little damage—is to be used where it will be most beneficial.
Mr. J. Brennan: Deputy Morrissey has had the hardihood that even many  of the Deputies on his side have not had. He has given a reason why the Road Fund has been raided. His reason, in so far as I can gather, is that the roads are quite good enough.
Mr. J. Brennan: I do not think they are half good enough. I think they are in such a condition that we could not afford to take a single pound out of that fund. Deputy Morrissey suggested that the roads were not bad and at the same time tried to say that the people in some areas would be affected by bad roads. Those of us who have been members of local authorities during the past ten years know that, if we were to get three times the amount of money available for roads, we still would not meet the needs of the people.
As a public representative, I find that my greatest problem is to try to explain to people why, year after year, they must continue to travel over bad roads, while other people, fortunate enough to live elsewhere, have had the benefit of good main roads. It will not give those people any satisfaction to tell them that the £500,000 taken out of the Road Fund this year was not needed there, because the roads are not so bad at all. I repudiate that statement in so far as it may be offered to this House for acceptance. We have had the taxpayers, the ratepayers and the workers all contributing in their own way to the reconstruction and maintenance of our roads. It was found necessary recently to increase the amount which the motorist should pay. Many motorists were prepared to accept that extra imposition at the time, on the assurance of the then Minister for Local Government, Deputy Smith, that the money so collected would be made available for the improvement of roads which the motorists had to use.
At the moment, when you talk about the roads the motorists use, you are not talking about the main roads alone, because there are mechanically propelled vehicles of every kind in  every district in the country. It is only the people who do inter-county travel, so to speak, who are chiefly concerned with the main roads. The farmer's son, the local shopkeeper the bread agent, the tractor owner, the lorry owner and a thousand and one others, as well as the man with the autocycle and the motor cycle, have to use the backward roads, the link and connecting roads on which we in Donegal could spend £1,000,000 and still not have solved our problem.
I think it is rather serious that a former Minister of the Coalition Government should get up here and try to justify the raid on the Road Fund by saying that the roads were not so bad at all, that the money could be used in a much more useful way. What more useful way is there in which this money could be spent? No one in this House will deny that money spent on roads—let it be county roads, second class or third class accommodation roads, not to speak of main roads at all—could be spent in any other way. In trying to make his case, Deputy Morrissey pointed out that this year more money than ever before was available for county road improvement and maintenance, that we have got, at the expense of main road grants, an increase in county road grants.
I do not know what people in other counties think, but I know that in my own area increased wages will account for practically every penny of the extra money which we will receive in that way. Surely we must be concerned about the all-important question of employment. When Deputy Morrissey referred to employment figures, in which, he said, we had an improved position as compared with some years ago, one would have thought we were living in a paradise. One certainly would not think that he was living at a time when the census figures have exposed the most serious and critical situation the country has ever passed through. There is one way of giving employment to people who most need it and at the same time doing useful work with the money so spent, that is making roads in rural areas. If all the so-called economic experts were to discuss ways and  means of providing immediate employment and, at the same time, doing useful work, they could arrive at no better solution than the giving of extra money for the making of better roads.
If there were better roads built into the areas from which our people are fleeing, it might be an incentive to them to work the holdings which become derelict; it might be an incentive to them to remain at home. By building better roads, we would be encouraging our tourist traffic. We should improve the link roads leading from main roads which bring them to the scenic parts of the country and to the places of historic interest. By giving better roads to the farmer for his tractor, his cart, his bicycle or motor car, we are making him feel that, for the high rate he is paying— and he is paying over 40/- in the £ in many counties—we are giving him something out of the fund to which he is contributing so largely.
We must remember that county councils are the biggest employers of labour in each county. No concern in any county employs so many people as do the local authorities. Anybody who gets up in this House to make a case for the action of the Minister for Finance on this occasion is fighting a losing battle, as he will learn if he tests his case before the electorate in a general election. I challenge any Deputy to get up at the next general election and justify his action in defending in this House the taking of £500,000 from the Road Fund.
I should like to know what is the more urgent work to which Deputy Morrissey has just referred and to which he suggests this money will be diverted. Will it have anything to do with the creation of more employment on the western seaboard? Will it have anything to do with the serious situation revealed by the census report just published? Will it be used as the nucleus of a fund to set going a scheme of employment that will employ even a fraction of the people which it would employ if it were to be used for the purpose for which it was subscribed? If we could be told that it would be used in a specific manner, we would  have some idea in regard to challenging the Minister as to the usefulness or otherwise of the purpose to which it will be devoted; but nobody has at any stage in the debate attempted to pinpoint the purpose for which these moneys will be used, other than the vague suggestion that it is to be devoted to capital development and to more urgent needs.
While the Road Fund is being deprived of this £500,000, let us ask ourselves who is likely to suffer as a result of that depletion of the fund. Is it the staff, all the high grade administrative officers who are employed in the Custom House or in the engineering, or administrative section in any of the counties? Will their staff be depleted by one person or expenditure in that direction be reduced by 1/-? Not one single penny will be saved in that direction, but the unfortunate people who are working for a wage of from £4 15s. to £5 7s. 6d. per week on roads throughout the country will lose the £500,000 which is being robbed on this occasion.
It is the last straw for any Deputy to try to justify that action in this House. We could easily understand the Minister making an apology to the House and saying: “I had to find the money somewhere and it was the only place I could get it,” which is the real answer. However, Deputy Morrissey has endeavoured to explain that the money is to be used for much better purposes, that the roads were all right and good enough in this country; in fact, he went so far as to say that they were up to the standard of those on the Continent and elsewhere. I do not approve of that statement. He also castigated the members of the Fianna Fáil Party for what he referred to as the small attendance on this side of the House out of 62 members. That is not consistent with the attitude of the people who are sitting behind the Government. He neglected to remind the House that the Labour Benches, but for the attendance of the old warrior, Deputy O'Leary, were completely vacant.
Mr. J. Brennan: I thoroughly agree, but a previous speaker saw fit, by referring to the sparse attendance on this side of the House, to castigate this Party as not being genuinely interested in the motion under discussion. Most Deputies over here have already contributed to this debate and I am sure many more of them will; it behoves every Deputy to give his or her views on this important question. Those of us who are members of local authorities know well what we have to put up with in the council chamber from the beginning of the year to the end because of this eternal question of road repairs. After persistently pointing out to the people over the years that if we had the money we could do a lot with it, but that with the meagre resources at our disposal we were compelled to carry on with a curtailed and restricted roads programme, we are now to tell them from this House to-day that the roads are quite all right and that this is the one fund which could afford to be raided for the purpose of balancing the Budget.
It is the duty of every Deputy to give his views and I personally should like to put on record my complete refutation of that statement. We had a county engineer some years ago make an assessment of what we would require, if we were to put the roads of the county in a reasonable state of repair. He told us that the staggering figure of £1,000,000 would put in a reasonable state of repair only the more important county roads and the second-class roads in the county, in addition to carrying on the main roads programme—
Mr. J. Brennan: I cannot follow altogether the Galway Deputy's reference. Does he insinuate that, instead of getting the money from the Road Fund, we should raise it from the rates? I think that is the meaning of the interjection; it has no other bearing on the discussion. If we thought the ratepayers could stand it, we could provide £1,000,000 for our roads through the rates.
Mr. J. Brennan: Is that the Deputy's point? We have a Road Fund for the purpose of making roads which is subscribed by the motorists and they want it spent on the roads. We are not going to take it out of the pockets of the ratepayers who are already paying 42/- in the £ for the making of roads. We do not intend to put any further burden on them for the making of roads in Donegal, or in any other county. If the Deputy wants to adopt that attitude, he is quite welcome to it, but my attitude is that we should get the money that rightly belongs to the roads from the Road Fund, and spare the ratepayers who are paying much more than they are able to bear. My purpose in speaking here was to protest against that action. If the Deputy from Galway, or any other Deputy, wishes to pursue the other line, he is welcome to do it, but it is not mine.
Mr. J. Brennan: Deputy Morrissey said that our roads compare favourably with the roads in any country in the world. That is an attempt to justify this action. Whatever the views of other Deputies may be on that, my opinion is totally opposite to that. To try to point out that money has been diverted from main roads to county roads this year, that we have got more money for county roads than we have got before, is no answer to the present problem of taking £500,000 out of the Road Fund. We need extra money spent on the county roads. We  want to have extra employment created in the counties. As I said at the outset, the county council is the biggest employer of labour in any county and every penny taken from the roads programme from the Roads Fund, is a penny less for the workers employed on the roads. Not a single member of the executive or the administrative staffs in the Custom House or in the county councils will suffer one minute's unemployment. The money will come out of the pockets of the road workers who are the people who would benefit by any additional money expended on the roads.
The question of main roads versus county roads is a totally different question. I may have views on that; other Deputies may have theirs. The members of the Government, even, are not agreed. The Minister for Agriculture thinks that if the bends were left on the roads, motorists would not drive so fast, and there would be fewer accidents. Some other member of the Government thinks that if the roads were opened up so that we could see around the corners, there would be fewer accidents. The engineering staff in the Custom House say that these bends must be removed so that the roads will be accident free. That is a separate question. What we should be concerned with is getting from the Road Fund every possible penny available to it. If Deputy Coogan suggests that it is our duty to go to the ratepayers' pockets for any money we want, I say it is not, that we should ease off there as much as possible and go to the Road Fund for the extra money which has been subscribed by the motorists, and use every penny, every year, even in an increasing amount. I hope it will be an ever-increasing amount because it is increasing only correspondingly with the increase in wages and the requirements of roads generally.
Mr. Fanning: As a rural Deputy and  a member of a local authority, I should be failing in my duty if I did not speak on this section with regard to the cutting of the road grant. My opposite number from North Tipperary mentioned the very good roads we have in North Tipperary. That shows that he does not travel through North Tipperary. I invite him to some of our county council meetings. Day after day, there are deputations demanding this, that and the other in regard to roads. Our by-roads are in a shocking condition. It is surprising to me to hear a Deputy from that area, where there is a farming community and where the roads are in a deplorable state, saying that they are very good.
I remember, during the last election campaign, when Deputy Morrissey was down in my constituency, the question of a road not far from where I live, a by-road leading to a main road, arose. Deputy Morrissey almost suggested that I was responsible for getting money spent on the main road, while the by-road has been done since. At a meeting yesterday, £11,000 was transferred to the widening of the main road. I objected, but it was put to me that, if that was not done, there would be people unemployed and the workers would say: “You are the fellow who voted against this.”
If this £500,000 is to be put into capital development, have we any guarantee that it will be spent in the way in which we would wish? There are farmers living on very bad by-roads. In some cases, there are nine or ten families living on such a road. They were to have been improved under the rural improvements scheme, but in that case the persons concerned must contribute £10 to £20 and pay their rates, in addition. That is asking the people to pay a second rate. If there is money available now, why not do these roads at the expense of the main roads and relieve these farmers of this second rate? If there is to be any improvement in county roads, I hope the system of putting a shovel of  stones on the road and going to the ditch for a shovel of clay to put over them will be abolished.
Mr. Fanning: It would be capital development to improve the by-roads. There are large numbers of tillage farmers in our constituency who cannot get their machinery into the farmyard for threshing purposes. In certain areas, they have to carry the corn on to the roadside to be threshed.
As regards employment, road work gives employment. In North Tipperary last year, some permanent workers were off the roads a fortnight before Christmas. What will happen to them now? Will they be idle half the year? I am surprised that Deputy Morrissey would not take his stand for these workers. Deputy Morrissey was sent here at one time by the votes of these workers, being a worker himself in the very same position about which he is talking now. I guarantee that he will not go to North Tipperary, to Nenagh, his own town, and tell the workers that there is plenty of money for the roads and ask them what harm it is to take this sum of £500,000. They are coming to us day after day to get them a job on the roads. Deputy Morrissey carried out so much bluff during the election campaign that it is very difficult for him to go down there. It is all very well to speak with one voice here and with another voice down the country.
It is suggested that this money will be used for arterial drainage, a capital development. I should be glad if it were, because in my constituency they are crying out for the drainage of the river Suir, which would help the people generally. Is some of this money going to that area for arterial drainage? It is not.
Mr. Fanning: If there was too much money in the fund, why not remove the large increase in taxation on motorists, lorries and everything else which was imposed during 1952 and which the members of the present Government deplored at that time, but which they continued and increased still further by the increase in petrol two months ago? Why not give this sum of £500,000 in relief of the taxpayer who has contributed to that fund?
A lot of play has been made about the county roads. I have never agreed with all the work that has been done on our main roads. As a member of a local authority I often opposed such work, even when Fianna Fáil were in Government. As I stated here, some of the roads are far too wide. They are a danger to motorists at night-time because light does not reflect so well from them as it would on a narrower road. Certain bends and dangerous turns have been removed in my area, and I was glad that they were removed. It is hard, nevertheless, to understand the mentality of a Deputy who can get up here and say we have very good roads in North Tipperary, a Deputy who does not travel those roads. Some of the roads in that area are in a shocking condition. They will be in a worse condition henceforward.
Who will suffer as a result of this? It will not be the officials in the county council or the civil servants in the Custom House. It is the ordinary worker who will suffer. Labour Deputies are silent on this because they know that it reflects on them. There is no getting away from that. If the roads are too good, as it is  claimed they are, and if there is too much money in the Road Fund, why not use that money to give some relief in taxation, relief to the tune of £500,000?
Mr. O'Leary: It is a strange experience to listen to some of the people who say they represent different local authorities. I am a member of the Wexford County Council. The Fianna Fáil members on that council will never vote for the county engineer's estimate. They have never voted for it. Over the past 20 years the policy was main roads for C.I.E. It is about time there was a change made and something done for the county roads. We have spent enough money for C.I.E. on the main roads from Dublin to Cork, Waterford, Wexford and elsewhere. The roads leading to our churches and our schools are in a deplorable state.
The ratepayers in my area are anxious that the moneys in the Road Fund should be put into the back roads and the by-roads. They think money has been spent on the main roads that should never have been spent on them. What does one see as one travels through the country? Huge machines, some of which cost 35/- per hour, removing corners.
Mr. O'Leary: And three times that in other areas. Where is the employment content there? I would like to see more than 400 permanent employees in Wexford but we have never been able to get Fianna Fáil representatives there to provide money for 500 workers when the estimate comes up. Deputy Allen spoke here last night. A few days ago in the Wexford County Council we wanted to do something for the working-class people in tht line of cottage repairs.
Mr. O'Leary: People speak with one mind here and they go back to the county councils and they speak with another mind. Everyone to-day is looking to the Government. When a man is elected to a local authority he is elected to work for the county and for the ratepayers.
With reference to all the machinery that has been bought all over the country, take a look at the road outside Bray and see what happened there. Was that justifiable? Was it right to spend all that money to make a straight road? Very few men were employed. There were huge excavators, bulldozers and all the rest. I cannot understand why members of local authorities come in here advocating machinery, on the one hand, and talking about unemployment on the other. It is the duty of a local authority to provide employment though we have been told by members of the Fianna Fáil Party that the county council is not a labour bureau.
Someone said last night that everybody is now going to church in motor cars. I do not agree with that. I do not believe our people are as well off as all that. I do not believe that everybody is going to church, chapel and meetinghouse in motor cars. Going through the country on Sunday, one will see poor old people trudging along the roads. The same applies to children going to school. One sees the bicycle.
Mr. O'Leary: Very few pot-holes are filled up for those people. We know why the main roads are catered for; my memory is not so short that I do not know why, when the Transport Bill  was going through here, the roads had to be improved for C.I.E. to suit a certain person in C.I.E.
Mr. O'Leary: Members of local authorities have a duty to perform and the most important duty of all is striking the rate. I have always understood that the more money put up by the local authority the more money will the local authority get from the Central Fund.
Mr. O'Leary: I am asking you is that right. The more money you give, the more money you get. They are talking about raiding funds. Fianna Fáil raided every fund, food subsidies and everything else. With the 1952 Budget, they raided everything they could get at.
Too much propaganda is being made here. I agree with the speech made by the Minister for Defence, which was referred to here to-day by Deputy Blaney. I have that speech before me. I thought his remarks were very true— that a propaganda campaign is being carried out by Fianna Fáil on the Dublin and Cork Corporations.
Mr. O'Leary: Deputy Blaney was let away with it. He accused the Minister in connection with this statement he made and which I am trying to read here. I believe Fianna Fáil are trying to make propaganda. The more they say the fund is being raided, the more unfortunate people in the country will be expecting to get something out of it. We do not stand for anything like that.
Mr. O'Leary: It was very unfair of the people on that side of the House to talk about the Labour Party being absent from the House. That is why they are absent to-day. I think it is unfair to use those tactics and try to blackguard members who are engaged to-day on other business. That is what the people over there have been doing from the time they started—black-guarding the Minister, blackguarding the Government and blackguarding the Labour Party. Every one of us is a sinner, and they are all saints.
Mr. O'Leary: I went down to Limerick a week ago and the by-roads are not so good there, either. I hope Deputy Collins will do better when he goes back there. It is in the local councils that the work is to be done, not in Leinster House. All this talk  to-day is simply delaying tactics and will little help the progress of the people we are all supposed to be so worried about—the unemployed. All the talk here is not helping the country at all. We have members saying that the country is bankrupt. I am surprised at the people who call themselves “Fianna Fáil—the Republican Party” getting up in this House and saying such things, so that they will be published in the British papers or the Six County papers to-morrow or the next day. That is not national. These things should not be let go.
I want to see an improvement in every county council, as far as that is possible. If we could get the cooperation they are talking about here in the county councils, then there could be a further improvement in regard to roads. The Minister is living in a constituency over the roads of which more traffic passes than anywhere else—County Kildare. He does not want to see money taken away from the roads, and I do not think it is right to give the country that impression.
I want to see employment given as far as possible. If I thought there was likely to be any unemployment as a result of any action of the Minister, he and I would not agree for very long. I believe that the people who are trying to put that across here are just trying to score points. That is a bad policy. We are sent in here to do good for the nation and not for ourselves or anybody else, and to see that, wherever money is spent, it is spent in the proper manner. That is the duty of any person in a local authority. He has to try to do good for the people he represents. Everybody looks to a council or to a Government to solve problems, but at times we might be inclined to look too much to the Government to do things we could do ourselves. If we could do these things at home in the local council, there would be no need for all the balderdash we hear here to-day.
Mr. J.J. Collins: I think that Section 32 of the Finance Bill has aroused more attention here than any other section of the Finance Bill. It has been castigated and criticised from the  overall angle and from the overall aspect of its damaging effects all over the Twenty-Six Counties. However, I intend to summarise those effects in regard to my own county, where I have had the honour of being chairman of the county council for the past six years.
I am glad the Minister for Finance is here, because I wish to put before him the damaging effects of this reduction in the Road Fund, as far as Limerick County Council is concerned. For the present financial year, we based our schedule of road works on the amount of grants we got last year. We got from the National Development Fund £20,000 and, under the headings of main road grant, county road grant and the main road upkeep grant, we got certain amounts which I have here before me and which show exactly the position we had in 1952-53, and 1953-54, 1954-55 and 1955-56. On a general analysis of the headings, we find that, as a result of the reduction, due to this raid on the Road Fund, we are faced with the serious position in County Limerick that we are down by £36,000. That is being snatched by the Government which Deputy O'Leary supports from the workers of County Limerick; and next Saturday, I expect we will have to review the whole position of our schedule of road works.
As I said at the start, we based our road works programme for the coming year on the assumption that we would get the same as last year. I think Deputy MacEntee asked the Minister for Finance if it were true that no money would be made available to the National Development Fund for roads. When the Minister answered him in the affirmative, I was free to assume that we would lose £20,000 for County Limerick. Together with that, I would like to tell the Minister for Finance that the amount under the heading of main road grants for 1955-56 is down by £7,700.
Under the heading of county road grants—the grants the Minister for Local Government seemed to be very much against, grants for what he called the autobahn roads; the kind of road that he would like to have dust-free  for the autocrats driving their big cars —what do you find in the County Limerick? We find £12,120 under that heading; and the total reduction under all headings, including the loss we have to sustain—I am glad that my colleague, Deputy Carew, who represents East Limerick is present—is £32,800 in the present year.
One penny in the £ brings in £1,800. There was a time, before we gave a certain amount of road territory to the corporation, when one penny in the £ brought in £2,400. We ceded to the corporation land to which they were entitled, with the result that, with the restriction of our area, one penny in the £ now brings in £1,800. Therefore, we are suffering a loss in the coming financial year of £32,800. Now, £32,800 at one penny in the £ means 18 pence in the £ on the ratepayers to give them the kind of roads that they demand. The total vote we struck was 111 pence. Now we find that the reduction caused by the raiding of the Road Fund, plus £20 less in the National Development Fund grant, means, in effect, that the ratepayers of County Limerick will have to contribute 18 pence in the £ to give them the same road service as we gave them last year and to the workers it means ten weeks' less work.
Deputy Morrissey had no hesitation in saying that the roads, both major and minor, in this country were as good as those he saw on the Continent. Deputy O'Leary passed the remark that he was down recently in Limerick and he had no hesitation in saying that some of the roads, especially county roads, were not as good as the county roads in Wexford. I will grant him that and I will give an explanation for it. In the period during the war from 1939 to 1947 when there was an accumulation of funds, very little work was being done on the major roads. Most of the money was devoted to the development of bog roads. In 1947 or 1946, there was an accumulation in the Road Fund of many million pounds. Local authorities at that time were circularised and told if they prepared schemes for the development and maintenance of  county roads, they could get a 90 per cent. grant. I regret, as a Limerick man, having to say that only two counties rejected the offer—Limerick and Sligo. Limerick rejected it because they had a Fine Gael majority in the local parliament.
Mr. J.J. Collins: I want to protest to the Minister for Finance that he is doing us an injustice. He is putting handcuffs on us, and retarding and restricting our efforts to bring the county roads in County Limerick to the standard we would like and to the standard which obtains in any other county, whether in Leinster or Munster. We are penalised by this imposition to the tune of £32,800 which will mean a reduction by one-tenth of the work we intended doing in County Limerick for the coming financial year and a reduction of ten weeks' employment for the labourers in County Limerick.
Mr. J.J. Collins: I feel it my duty to bring to the attention of the Minister for Finance the injustice he is causing to the ratepayers and workers of County Limerick by raiding the Road Fund and grabbing £500,000.
Deputy Morrissey said that taking away £500,000 was just a simple movement. For what? We have not been told by the Minister or Deputy Morrissey to what capital productive purposes the money is to be devoted. Is it to be devoted to something that will be productive in the form of the relief of unemployment? We have not been told. Is it being raided solely for the purpose of balancing current revenue?
Mr. J.J. Collins: You were asked here a direct question by Deputy Lemass during the course of your introductory speech on the Bill as to what were the capital purposes to which the money was to be devoted, and you did not give a direct answer.
Mr. J.J. Collins: I do not mind what the Minister may have said to-day. We have the reputation in Limerick that we never haul down the green and white or the green, white and gold, and when we meet you in the final, we will talk to you.
Mr. J.J. Collins: I am addressing the Minister, through the Chair. I can tell Deputy O'Leary that there are workers in Limerick who did not get an hour's work since Christmas last. They are waiting for sanction of the various grants from the different Departments. Deputy Carew, sitting in the Fine Gael Benches, is an honest Deputy and I am sure he will agree with me. What are we going to say when we go back to the local authority meeting in Limerick next Saturday? What will the councillors representing the various Parties—Labour, Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil—say to the starved workers outside the barriers who are looking for work? What is the Minister's intention in regard to the £500,000 taken from the Road Fund? Immediate work should be given to the workers of County Limerick who have not got an hour's work since Christmas last.
Mr. J.J. Collins: It is not. We have the best county council in Ireland. I  should like the Minister to answer the very pertinent question which is agitating the minds of more Deputies than those from Limerick. What has he in mind in regard to this money he has taken from the Road Fund to the detriment of the workers and the ratepayers of this country?
Seosamh Ó Cinnéide: Bhíos ag éisteacht inniu leis an Rúnaí Parliaminte, an Teachta Ó Donnabháin, agus é ag caint i dtaobh an méid oibre atá le fáil in mo chontae féin. Dúirt sé go rabhamar i gcrua-chás má bhíomar ag brath ar an airgead i gcóir na mbóithre chun an chuid is mó den obair sa chontae do sholáthar. Táim chun freagra a thúirt ar an duine sin anois.
In the course of this debate, the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy O'Donovan, questioned me in a statement in which he said that if we had nothing for the workers in Westmeath except road work, we might throw in the sponge. These were not his exact words, but it is the best interpretation I can put on them. We employ on the average from one end of the year to the other, apart from the engineering staff, a minimum of 700 men on the roads.
I remember being a member of a deputation to the late Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Davin, on a matter pertaining to the roads. He paid a tribute to the amount of work we did in the county all the year round. Therefore, I want to answer the Parliamentary Secretary by stating that providing work for the unemployed and those who offer their labour for hire is a big consideration with us in Westmeath. The curtailment of the grants will seriously affect these men at the end of the financial year.
He also referred to the fact that we should concentrate on agriculture. In the course of the debate to-day, Deputy Morrissey referred to the continental roads. I do not profess to know much about the Continent. I had the honour of being a member of a parliamentary delegation in Austria, with Deputy  Morrissey. I covered a good deal of Denmark last year. It is a small country like ours. I state categorically that, having regard to my experience there, in Holland and other places, Deputy Morrissey's statement is a misstatement of fact.
The roads are better than ours. They are better laid out and provision is made for pedestrians and cyclists. The principal reason for the concentration on roads in the lowlands is to ensure that agricultural produce will be brought to the market in the most economic, cheapest and quickest way. That is what we are concerned with, is so far as the rural roads in Ireland are concerned.
The people in these areas are taking to mechanisation rapidly. Deputy Smith, in the course of the debate on the Local Government Estimate, referred to a period 25 years ago when the farmers came to the county councils in deputations and said: “You are making roads that our horses will fall on and you are making no provision for the horse and cart.” The very same farmers are at every county council meeting all over the country asking now for good roads—tarmacadam roads and dust-proof roads. That is why we rural Deputies get up here and make the case for good roads.
That is why I yesterday gave facts and figures which I got from the Department about the long period it will take to bring our 39,000 miles of county roads up to the standard of the roads on the Continent. After all our efforts over the years, we have only 8,000 miles of these roads done and we are only doing 800 miles a year. With rising wages and costs that figure is likely to drop.
The people we make the case for are the people who pay into the Road Fund. Whether they have a car, a tractor, an autocycle or whether they walk or have a pedal cycle, they all pay into the Road Fund. Every man who has a cwt. of eggs pays for the conveyance of these eggs and every man who sends a barrel of oats and wheat over the bad roads to the mill is paying taxation in respect of the car, lorry or van used. Everyone who goes on an excursion, let it be anywhere  you like, is a contributor to the Road Fund because those making the charges take into account the road tax they have to pay.
I would say to the Minister for Finance, through the Chair, that he has the biggest revenue spinner in transport of all the sources from which he gets revenue. Excise or customs duty or anything else compares in no way to the revenue the Minister gets from transport whether it be the new taxes he put on vehicles or the old taxes which applied to them or the taxes on tyres coming in on new cars or the taxes on petrol and oil or the road tax. The Minister should not kill the goose that lays the golden egg. He should mind this. It is the biggest source of revenue which the State has.
We were all led to believe, and it was the unanimous view here four years ago, that the money coming in through motor taxation would be devoted to the roads. Now it is being taken from them. We, rural Deputies, should fight every inch of the road to prevent this being done because if the Minister gets away with this the danger is that, as it is such an easy source of revenue, the fund may be raided again. There is a grave danger in this whole thing.
Deputy O'Leary was concerned about people going to church. I said that the old people in the country places who were unable to walk to church, Mass or meeting now avail of transport services, and rightly so, and get a cheap seat. That is happening in the Deputy's constituency in Wexford. There is not a chapel or church in County Wexford where old people, like people everywhere else, do not take a seat and pay for it; they may pay two shillings or one shilling. Deputy O'Leary may say they do not do it but they do. They are entitled, and even the individual who has to walk is entitled, to as good roads as the Dubliner or the man in Cork City. They are entitled to as good a footpath as the man in Limerick City. If we are to preserve rural Ireland and arrest the flight from the land we must have the same social services and the  same amenities for the rural population that the city people enjoy.
Deputy O'Leary is not as innocent as he pretends to be. He has been boxing shadows all the evening. He spoke as if we were standing for the transference of some of the Road Fund to the main roads. That is not in dispute at all. If the Minister decides at the last minute to give back the £500,000 to the county councils they can devote it all to the county roads and we will say “Hear, hear” to them. The relative merits of main roads versus county roads are not in dispute here this evening. The question in dispute is that as so much has been paid in by the motorists to the Road Fund—£5,500,000 and expected to reach £5,750,000 this year—and as the people were led to believe for the past four years that the whole yield would go towards making good roads, it is unjust that £500,000 is now being taken by the Government.
I challenge Deputy Morrissey on this matter. Yesterday I gave figures about the amount of county roads done in our county; I shall confine myself to my own county. There are approximately 823 miles of county roads in County Westmeath. At present, 92 miles of that number are dust free. Would anyone get any country this side of the Iron Curtain and get the same areas as Westmeath where there is only that amount of county road done or what is comparable to county road? I will not labour the point very much but you have the position there of a Bord na Móna works employing at the peak period 400 to 500 men. Let us leave the motorist out of this consideration altogether now. These men have to cycle a distance of five miles from Multyfarnham to their work through pot holes, and back again, and they have to cycle to and from my little town; similarly with regard to the village of Coole. That would not happen in a coal-mining district in England or anywhere else. Here we have a similar industry and, apart from the inconvenience to the motorist or the lorry man, the ordinary worker has to go through pot-holes on his  bicycle all the winter. He is entitled to a better road.
There has been talk about autobahns and autocrats travelling in their high-powered vehicles. I do not see any of these autocrats in their high-powered motors. God knows, the levels in Ireland are fairly even. The rich are very few. There may be a number in Deputy Larkin's constituency in Dublin City but they do not exist in rural Ireland. We do not see these autocrats with their high-powered cars and everything else.
I heard a Deputy from the poorest part of Galway challenge a Deputy from Donegal and ask him if they raised the rates and he was having a race as to who would have the highest rates. I wonder was there anything in Deputy Morrissey's contribution about the sanity of having a national approach to our finances, our credit and everything else? Deputy Morrissey should not throw stones when he is in a glass house. We are all very much concerned with the finances of this country. We do not want to put the last straw on the camel's back. However, whether it be local rates or general taxation, you will find that, if it comes to the last extreme, this Party will not be found wanting in standing behind the nation to see that its finances are sound. It is not a case of sabotage or wrecking; it is a case of sanity and of a right approach to this matter.
If we have taxpayers and ratepayers in Westmeath, Leinster and the rest of the Twenty-Six Counties, then we must make Westmeath, Leinster and the rest of the Twenty-Six Counties a place fit to live in where the amenities will be the same as are obtainable in the more favoured parts of our country. That is why we say that the motorist in the Twenty-Six Counties and every taxpayer whether he be in a labourer's cottage or in a flat in Mullingar should get the same consideration and that this very important thing which is recognised as a necessity in our age, good roads, should be provided and that the progress which has been made should not cease now.
 On the subject of the relative merits of the main roads and the county roads, as I calculate it, the Minister for Local Government made a transference of more money for the county roads as against main roads. The sum total, however, on the 31st March, 1955, was that, adding the miles of main and county roads, there were 19.54 less miles done than in the year before.
Mr. Kennedy: The statement has been made that the same amount in grants as last year is available for roads. Before the beginning of the financial year, county councils are notified about the amount of money that they will get for the coming financial year, and during the year additional grants come from the Road Fund to supplement the sum already given. It is all right to say—and I make this statement subject to correction—that the same amount in grants will be given for 1956-57 as for 1955-56, but we must relate that to the total amount given both in original grants, in supplementary grants and in grants from the National Development Fund for road work. I would like to know will the same amount in each county, and in the country as a whole, be available under these headings in the present financial year as in the past financial year which ended on the 31st March last.
There has been a challenge to the Minister to state into what particular capital development this £500,000 which is being taken from the Road Fund is  to be directed, and we await the Minister's answer. May I submit that there is no capital development that gives more general employment than the roads? You may have a turbine scheme or you may have a bog development scheme in a particular county or counties, but in developing the roads —and it is real capital development— you give employment in County Leitrim, in County Westmeath and County Longford; you give employment in areas where as far as we can foresee, there will never be an industry except agriculture.
I hope I know the rules of the House and I know how wrong it is to digress but I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to the Government to go and live on a £10 valuation farm and see how much employment he can give from one end of the year to the other. Then he would know how those people live and he would know the value of roadwork. I would like the Parliamentary Secretary to realise that in addition to the 39,000 miles of county roads in the Twenty-Six Counties there is approximately 50 per cent. of that total mileage in our link roads, accommodation roads and cul-de-sac roads which nobody can see made in our lifetime unless there is a change of policy in relation to these roads. When cul-de-sac roads or when link roads are not made and maintained, when these are left to be done under rural improvements schemes and by getting everyone to contribute, the people will not stay in the small farms down the boreens unless we give them roads as good as the county roads and the main roads.
We are concerned, as I said, with this whole question of the Road Fund. The people were led to believe—and believed up to now—that they would have continued progress, getting better roads at a speed faster than at the present time. The Minister, by his action in this Budget, has shattered that belief and has done an unjust thing to rural Ireland. That is the reason we criticise and oppose this section.
Mr. Sweetman: I made my views clear on this section earlier this afternoon  and there is nothing that I can add to what I then said. I made it clear that the Government considered that, in our present circumstances, there was a limited amount which could be made available by way of capital development without creating further inflationary difficulties, and that in their selection of the amounts that could be utilised, therefore, within that limit for various services, they considered it was more proper that moneys to the extent of £500,000 should be utilised for productive capital purposes other than what I described earlier as the polishing of main roads. This work has been spoken of to-night as if it were main road maintenance, as if, in fact, the decision was to allow existing roads to go into a state of disrepair.
Deputies who are really seeking to understand the position of local authorities know, of course, that that is not the case; what is in issue is the deferment, in our present capital circumstances, of improvement to the trunk roads which may, perhaps, be desirable, or to arterial roads which may, perhaps, be desirable, but which in our present circumstances we just cannot afford, when there are so many other capital schemes that require to be undertaken which will bring more productive results to the economy as a whole.
I said then, and I repeat now, that if with the inflation that is all around us, I have to choose, and the Government has to choose, as to whether we will do work under the land project, or on forestry, or on various types of capital development of that sort to be carried out from the capital funds; if we are to choose whether it is better to cut back on main roads or cut back on these schemes to the extent of £500,000, we shall make the choice of deferring improvement work on main roads. It is totally dishonest for Deputies on the other side of the House to suggest that this is cutting down on county roads as such, because it is not. We have priorities that are in operation at the moment, and we shall take our capital expenditure into the lines of production where it will bring, not merely employment at the time  the capital works are being carried out, but employment in the future also and permanent benefit to the economy. We think that the other devices of productive investment I have mentioned earlier this evening have a greater priority than the straightening of main roads or the work of improving  trunk roads which will be to some extent deferred by reason of this section. It is a choice which I think the country will accept. If there has to be that decision, it should be made along the line the Government has made and which I defined earlier.
Burke, James J.
Costello, John A.
Crotty, Patrick J.
Dillon, James M.
Dockrell, Henry P.
Dockrell, Maurice E.
Donegan, Patrick S.
Doyle, Peadar S.
Esmonde, Anthony C.
Finlay, Thomas A.
Flanagan, Oliver J.
Glynn, Brendan M.
Hession, James M.
Kyne, Thomas A.
Lindsay, Patrick J.
Murphy, Michael P.
O'Higgins, Michael J.
O'Higgins, Thomas F.
O'Sullivan, Denis J.
Palmer, Patrick W.
Sheldon, William A.W.
Blaney, Neil T.
Burke, Patrick J.
Calleary, Phelim A.
Collins, James J.
Corry, Martin J.
Crowley, Honor M.
Davern, Michael J. MacCarthy, Seán.
Moher, John W.
Ó Briain, Donnchadh.
de Valera, Eamon.
de Valera, Vivion.
Egan, Kieran P.
Hillery, Patrick J.
Kennedy, Michael J.
Lynch, Celia. Ormonde, John.
Ryan, Mary B.
Question proposed: “That Section 35 stand part of the Bill.”
Mr. Lemass: I want to make it clear that, while we are in complete agreement with the proposal in the section, I think I must bring to your notice, Sir, the question of whether this section should or should not appear in the Finance Bill. You are aware, Sir, that the Constitution requires that a Bill may not be certified to be a Money Bill, unless it deals only with certain matters specified in the Constitution. It appears that this section, however desirable it may be, is not appropriate to the Bill at all, and even though we might wish to see it enacted, we must question whether it would be a desirable precedent to use the Finance Bill as a vehicle for this purpose. You may not feel disposed to give a ruling on the point now, but I should like to ask you to consider it and give the House a ruling on the Report Stage.
The possible effect of giving a certificate to this Bill as a Money Bill, which does not conform fully to the requirements of the Constitution, will be evident from the terms of the Constitution itself. If the Minister for Finance does not want to take the risk of a possible delay in the enactment of the Finance Bill—some question might arise in the Seanad—I can assure him, if he prefers to delete this section and introduce a one-clause Bill to deal with it, we will give him all stages in the one day. We would prefer to do that than to have this slipped in in this manner.
Mr. Sweetman: The officers of the House were consulted before the section was included in the Bill.
Mr. Lemass: That may be so. I am asking you, Sir, for a specific ruling
Mr. Sweetman: In view of the use by Deputy Lemass of the words “slipped in”, I said that. It was not slipped in.
Mr. Sheldon: Without going into——
An Ceann Comhairle: Is this on the point of order?
Mr. Sheldon: On the section. This is a different point of view on the objection. I should like to speak to the section, not on any question of order so much as on the undesirability, in already confused legislation, of having something that has nothing to do with the Finance Bill, but has to do with the Superannuation Act of 1887, put in here. The Minister, as a lawyer, knows very well how confusing it is to find odd bits of legislation in places where you would least expect to find them. If this is not a precedent, it is a bad way of doing business, to insert in the Finance Bill, where you would least expect to find it, an amendment to Section 8 of the Superannuation Act of 1887.
Mr. Sweetman: I think the Deputy will find, if he looks at the superannuation code—I have not got the full details to hand—that it is not by any means unusual for questions relating to civil pay, such as this is, to be included in the Finance Bill through the years. As I say, I have not got the exact references at the moment.
Mr. Lemass: I asked for a definite ruling on the point——
An Ceann Comhairle: As to whether this is a Money Bill or not?
Mr. Lemass: ——if the inclusion of this section in the Bill will raise any  difficulty for you in certifying this Bill to be a Money Bill.
Question put and agreed to.
Sections 36 and 37 agreed to.
First and Second Schedules agreed to.
Title agreed to.
Bill reported without amendment.
An Ceann Comhairle: Next stage?
Mr. Sweetman: I should have liked to have the next stage to-morrow, but so long as it is clear that the Report and Final Stages are both completed by Tuesday night next, I am prepared to defer the next stage to Tuesday.
Mr. Lemass: The Minister has a knack of putting things in the wrong way. Under Standing Orders, a certain time must elapse between the Committee Stage and the next stage of the Bill. However, as a concession, we are prepared to grant the Minister the Report and Final Stages on Tuesday next.
Mr. Sweetman: The Deputy forces me to remind him of the reason why I did not have the Committee Stage of this Bill ordered for last Thursday afternoon. I did that at the Deputy's specific request, so as not to inconvenience him. When I did agree not to order this Bill, as it should have been ordered, for last Thursday afternoon, I did so on the Deputy's belief, not assurance, that the Committee Stage would finish yesterday.
Mr. Lemass: One concession deserves another concession. We agree to have the Report and Final Stages on Tuesday.
Mr. Sweetman: Do not try to misquote me. It was to suit the Deputy it was done, not to suit me.
Donnchadh Ó Briain: We remember Finance Bills that took months.
Mr. Lemass: The British Finance Bill is proceeding at the rate of one section per day.
Mr. Sweetman: And one section here took a long time yesterday and to-day.
Report Stage ordered for Tuesday, 26th June, 1956.
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