Tuesday, 14 December 1965
Dáil Eireann Debate
That it is expedient to authorise such charges on and payments out of the Central Fund or the growing produce thereof as are necessary to give effect to any Act of the present session to make permanent provisions with respect to certain issues out of the Central Fund and to borrowing.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: I wonder if, on this Money Resoulution, I may inquire from the Minister the position in relation to the proposal to raise a dollar loan. It is understood that this loan has now been postponed. Will the Minister indicate on whose or on what advice it has been postponed and what, generally, the situation is? There appear to be considerable grounds for confusion. We are aware of the adverse interest rate in New York. I should like to know on whose advice the loan was proceeded with, up to the stage a postponement was decided upon, and, generally, perhaps the Minister would give us some indication as to what the plans now are in relation to that loan.
Mr. Colley: The Minister for Finance did issue a statement in this regard in which he explained that the decision to postpone the loan was taken on the advice of the managing underwriters, owing to the extreme congestion in the market for dollar bonds. He was advised that this congestion  would make it undesirable to proceed with the loan at the present time. He pointed out that decisions to postpone loans had also been made by other prospective borrowers in view of the unexpected pressure of issues by large American and international concerns in the pre-Christmas period.
I cannot say exactly when the loan will be proceeded with but I should imagine that it will be in the not too distant future—again, on the advice of the managing underwriters. There is no reason whatsoever to imagine that there is any reflection involved on the credit of this country. The money for these kinds of investments consists of American dollars available for investment outside the United States and, of course, they are subject to restrictions by the American Government, for their own reasons. The pressure on the number of dollars available is considerable and was unexpected in the pre-Christmas period. Therefore, the Minister, acting on the advice available to him, decided that it would be in the interest of this country and of the loan concerned to postpone going for the loan at that time.
Mr. Corish: Would the Minister confirm, or otherwise, therefore, that the Government are £7 million short of money needed for very necessary expenditure, particularly in capital services? Does this mean that the issue of money from the Central Fund, from Government Departments, will further be curtailed? If so, is the Minister in a position to say what Departments will suffer in view of the fact that this £7 million is not available to the Government and probably will not be available during the present financial year? Further, will the Minister say— I appreciate the disadvantages of speaking for the Minister for Finance—if efforts will be made to raise the £7 million, that seems to be necessary, from some other source?
Mr. Colley: I think the Deputy is under a misapprehension if he thinks, because we have not gone ahead and got this loan now, that the capital programme, on which the Government have agreed, will be reduced.
Mr. Colley: Of course we did, but we did not need it all at the one precise time. The capital programme covers a financial year and the arrangements are made to cover the whole year. I cannot give the Deputy any information as regards a reduction in particular Departments. There will not be any reduction in particular Departments as a result of our not going for this American loan at the time we were going to go for it.
Mr. Sweetman: I realise that the Minister is in a difficult situation, standing in for somebody else. If the Minister and the Chair would wish it, I should be happy to leave my comments until Vote 6 is taken tomorrow. The fact is, as everybody in this House and in the country knows, that the Government are putting their heads in the sand and will not admit that you cannot get money at present for any capital purpose from any local authority. My own local authority in Kildare, for example, is not getting anything like the money it needs to service loans, agreed to months ago, under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Acts, and it is the same with every local authority. All my colleagues tell me the same thing in respect of their local authority.
Every local authority in the country knows that the position is that they have been given orders to dry up on capital projects, to defer them, to delay them, and that moneys are not there to meet even existing commitments. In this situation, I must confess, like Deputy Corish, that I am at a loss to understand why, if the moneys were not there to meet existing commitments, the Minister for Finance did not go ahead with his proposals. Without question, it was universally known that the better thing to do was to go ahead and  to try to get through their financial arrangements quickly. It was because of that that certain other steps had to be taken in an affair in which I was concerned in order to get it through doubly quickly because that was the sound financial advice—to get it through as quickly as possible.
I know also that the loan to which we are now referring was offered outside of New York. People outside of New York were asked whether or not they would go in. I know the terms. I do not know whether or not the Minister for Finance has announced them and I do not want to disclose them until I am certain that they are public property. However, the fact is that, in some extraordinary way, there is no money here. The Minister for Finance did not do his job properly by getting the money early, when he could, in respect of this dollar loan. I appreciate that it would be unfair of me to expect the Minister for Education to know, to understand and to appreciate all the details but the Government—not the Opposition—ordered this Bill to be taken today, in the absence of the Minister for Finance.
There should be a great deal more frankness and more truth in relation to the financial position and neither the Government nor the people have anything to lose by having the truth, nothing to lose and everything to gain. Day after day we hear stories from Ministers that there is no difficulty here and no problem there; yet everybody knows they are not telling the truth. Go into the head of any financial institution in Dublin and you will be told the same thing: the burden of his complaint against the Government is not the state of the economy but the fact that the Government are not being frank with the people. It is time they were.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: It appears from what the Minister has told us that there still exist areas of vagueness on the part of the Government with regard to this dollar loan. It is fair to say, I think, that initially when the size of what we were seeking in  New York became known, many people wondered why it was necessary to send the Minister for Finance voyaging across the Atlantic on the “Queen Mary” for a loan of such comparatively small proportions. However, so far as we are concerned certainly, no criticism was voiced; we were satisfied that, however it came about, the money being sought was necessary and would be used in relation to the Government's capital programme this year.
I want to know now what the present position is. The Dáil and the country have had this year two capital programmes. We had the announcement of what the capital programme was to be and then, in a matter of weeks, we were told that the capital programme would not proceed along the lines of the figures indicated and a new White Paper would be issued. It now appears that this small dollar loan being sought in New York has been postponed. I want to suggest that this particular enterprise seems to have been embarked upon on insufficient advice and without proper planning. It is true to say in relation to this, as it is true to say in relation to many other actions of the Government, that the Minister has not made it clear to me or, I believe, to the House whether this postponement will mean that this money will not be available in relation to the capital programme this year. I understand that it is most improbable that this loan will now be proceeded with in this financial year.
A few moments ago the Minister seemed to indicate why it was possible we might perhaps, take it up after Christmas. Will there be continued vagueness? There is at the moment in the country the situation both Deputy Sweetman and Deputy Corish have already described, a situation in which many urgent projects are being held up. Many people, small people, seeking assistance to build houses, local authorities seeking assistance to embark on projects upon which they have decided, are in a state of utter uncertainty. They are told by the banks that they cannot have any credit or any accommodation. When  that matter is raised here, Government Ministers blow hot and cold. At one moment, as the Minister for Agriculture said a fortnight ago, we are alleged to be dealing with just one of the problems of a boom period; this is a situation in which one just stops to draw one's breath before going ahead again. Is that the situation? Or is it a fact that there has been a failure on the part of the Government to take the public into their confidence? If the latter is the case, then I say deliberately to the Minister that we on these benches will hold the Government to account if the full story is not being told. I would recommend the Minister for Education to see the Minister for Finance when he returns tonight and advise him that, in relation to matters of this kind, there should be a greater degree of honesty and frankness on the part of the Government; we should know exactly what is planned in relation to this kind of borrowing or, indeed, any other kind of borrowing.
Mr. Colley: I wonder if Deputies think that the degree of frankness about which they talk should come from both sides of the House or from the Government side only. There never has been a Government so frank with the public from the point of view of publishing all the economic statistics possible.
Mr. Colley: Deputy O'Higgins referred, though not specifically, to the White Paper on the revised capital programme. On the one hand, Deputy Sweetman says Ministers are indicating to the people that there is no problem at all and, on the other hand, Deputy O'Higgins says the Government issued this White Paper which set out exactly what the difficulties were into which our economy had run and what steps the Government proposed to take to deal with them.
The fact is that we are providing more capital than ever before. It may be that in some cases in which there are difficulties for local authorities and others, what has happened is that plans were going ahead for the expenditure of money without sanction; in other  words, what is happening is they have not got the sanction they automatically expected to get. In a number of cases the reason for this is—this has already been announced in the White Paper— that we must curtail our rate of expansion, not the provision of capital but the rate of expansion of credit. This is what has been done and we have made no secret about it.
Questions have been asked about the American loan. The loan was due to be issued on 1st December and was postponed, as I said, on advice received from the managing underwriters, who were Messrs. Harmon, Ripley & Co., of New York and Hill Samuel of London. Their advice was that the extreme congestion in the dollar market for dollar bonds would make it undesirable to have a dollar issue at the present time. Owing to the effect of the United States income equalisation tax for loans issued to nonresidents, the proposed issue due to be made in New York catered for the non-United States market for dollar bonds. It has been reported in various financial columns and newspapers that the rush to float dollar loans made by the non-United States market at this time is due to the fear that the American authorities are about to take steps either to prevent or curtail the raising of such loans in Europe by American companies.
On the point raised by Deputy Corish, which I have already tried to answer, I want to say once more that, if this dollar loan is made before the end of the financial year, the postponement of the loan from now until then will not involve any change in the financing of the capital programme. If, however, it should be delayed beyond 31st March, the gap in the necessary financial resources for the capital programme will be made good from other sources.
Mr. Corish: I do not want to delay on this, but the Minister said that the Government had provided more capital than any other Government. That is true, but there is one fact about which people are rather concerned. It was mentioned by  Deputy Sweetman. A great many projects, local and individual, have been turned down. We get phoney reasons from the Government Front Bench, particularly from people like the Minister for Local Government and the Parliamentary Secretary in charge of the Office of Public Works, when they are questioned about the sanctioning of schemes and the advancing of money. It would be fair for the Government to say in respect of this, that, and the other that they cannot do them now because they have no money. I do not think the revised capital programme was ever intended to prevent people building houses but, whatever has gone wrong in recent months, people are not being allowed to build houses.
Let me give the Minister one example. It happens to be from County Limerick. It is the case of a person who applied in July last for a loan. Up to date the local authority has not told him whether or not he can have a loan under the Small Dwellings (Acquisition) Act. His house is being built. Because he cannot pay an instalment, the building contractor is charging him six to eight per cent on moneys due over and beyond the period on which they fell due. That is just one example. People cannot afford to wait for money. They must look for it from other sources and, if they do, they have to pay much more for it, and I think that is what concerns Deputies.
I appreciate the reply the Minister gave me in respect of the £7 million but can he give an assurance on behalf of the Government that this is £7 million that will not be deducted from the amount allocated even in the revised figure for the capital programme? It was very important about three months ago that we get £7 million by way of borrowing in the United States. Now they do not seem to be very much concerned about it. Was this the only source from which we could get £7 million for what was regarded as necessary work? We have raised £25 million in the National Loan but this £7 million was necessary as well. The Government have not as yet indicated whether or not they are prepared to look for it elsewhere, and  the Minister could not tell us here today whether or not that loan will be floated and subscribed by the end of the financial year.
The Minister himself—and being in charge of Education, he has not a lot to do with this whole business— must recognise that every single day there are questions here on which there is a reluctance on the part of Ministers to give information. They turn down projects, not, as they say, for the want of money but because there has to be some alteration of the plan. It goes down to the local authority and comes back again. This can be carried on for months so that necessary works will not be done in this financial year. Again, let me emphasise in regard to housing that it would be a dastardly thing, in view of the fact that very many houses are needed, if anything this Government did prevented a local authority or any individual from building a house. Those who have applied for loans from the local authorities are suffering very grave hardships indeed and will discover ultimately that the house which was to have cost £x last July or September will now cost considerably more, due to the fact that the Government have not provided local authorities with sufficient funds for building houses themselves or given loans to those people who applied for them.
Mr. Sweetman: I have no doubt the Minister for Education was speaking from a brief when he said the difficulty arose because people did not apply for sanction. He must know from his own Department that that is not true. If the Minister made an effort to acquaint himself with what is happening in his Department, he would know it is not true. Let me give him one specific case in his own Department. One night last week I met a parish priest from a substantial town in Kildare and he told me that in respect of the addition to the school that he was building on the instructions and at the request of the Minister for Education, he had sent up the certificates of the architect for instalments due to the builder, that he had not been paid and  that he could not get it. What is the use of saying that is a case where sanction was not given? The Minister for Education knows perfectly well that no addition to a school like that is started without sanction.
Mr. Sweetman: He also knows that one thing that is essential in any building contract or building arrangement is that payment is given when certificates issue. If he had not sufficient knowledge of building procedure in that respect, he will get it by turning around to the Minister for Health immediately behind him. One thing that is absolutely essential in a building contract is to issue payment immediately the certificate goes up, and it has always been done. I was told it was not done in this case and one cannot go through the country at present, unless one's ears are sealed, without hearing everywhere of people who cannot find out whether or not they will get the capital from their local authority. If the local authority were told: “You will get that in this financial year and that is all you will get”, then somebody would know there was some chance of planning and some chance of explaining the situation to people.
There is a situation arising in another part of Kildare where the Kildare County Council cannot give purchasers of houses under the Small Dwellings Acts the positive assurance that the loans will be available and, on the other hand, the National Building Agency, a Government agency, is shrieking for the money from these purchasers, two different sections taking an entirely different line that cannot be resolved. There must be some frankness in this regard. As Deputy Corish said, we were told some months ago this £7 million was needed for the purpose of carrying out the terms of the Government White Paper. We are told today it is not necessary.
Mr. Sweetman: If the Minister did  not say that, I apologise but I took it he said it was not necessary for the capital programme. I will make way for him and let him explain in clearer terms what he said.
Mr. Colley: Perhaps Deputy Sweetman misunderstood me. What I intended to convey was that the sum of £7 million was necessary to complete our capital programme. What I did not intend to convey was that this particular £7 million in dollar bonds from the United States of America was necessary; in other words, that this is not the only source available.
Mr. Sweetman: What I said was that some couple of months ago the Minister for Finance said this particular dollar borrowing was necessary to complete our capital programme as revised in the White Paper for this year. Now I understand the Minister for Education to say that this is not so. What I want to know is why there has been a change in regard to what the Minister for Finance said a few months ago as against what the Minister for Education is now saying. Either the Minister for Finance was talking nonsense two months ago, or the information that the Minister for Education has been given is nonsense. Either it was necessary or it was not. I believe the fact of the matter is the Government and the Minister for Finance made a “hames” of the American borrowing and that they must now turn to other, perhaps, less desirable methods of making up for their blunders.
Apart from that, it would be better to know and it would be better for the local authorities to be told what they will get this year and what they will get next year. They cannot make any plans. Instead of those wishy-washy implications and half-truths being thrown out by the Government that more money is available this year than last year, there should be a clear statement of the position. Each local authority  have numerous projects for which sanction has been given but in respect of which they cannot get any assurance as to when, or if at all, they will get money to meet their commitments. That is not being frank with the people.
Mr. James Tully: The Minister for Education must have misunderstood the position and possibly he is in an awkward position carrying a brief for the Minister for Finance, who is unable to be here. From what he said this evening, I got the impression, first of all, that the £7 million was necessary earlier in the year but that it is not necessary at the end of the year. If that is correct, the £7 million is needed but we have not got it. Local authorities are gravely concerned.
I tabled a number of questions today and I pointed out during the discussion on these questions that my local authority asked the Local Loans Fund for £94,500 which they have already promised and sanctioned to borrowers. They have asked for £100,000 but the amount already spent or promised amounts to £94,500. Many people have their houses almost completed on the strength of these promises and now one of two things must happen: either the contractors will sell out on the people, bring them to court, or the contractors will go broke. The Minister said the money would be paid out next year. That is not the answer.
I do not think the money is there. I am afraid that is pretty obvious. It is only one aspect of the present situation. We have supplementary grant schemes for house building, for water and sewerage. The needs of any local authority in this respect cannot be got from the Local Loans Fund or from the Department of Local Government. Local authorities are not being told whether the money is there. The question Deputy Corish asked is a fair one. Is the money there? If it is, it should be given to the people immediately; if it is not there, the people should be told. If there is only a certain amount available, the people should be told so and advised to make other arrangements which might mean going into court or selling some property.
 Bord na Móna employ a large number of men during the summer and lay them off at the end of the season. For a long number of years, many regulars have been employed year after year. Last year was a bad year and the previous year was not so good. Normally in such circumstances what would happen is that Bord na Móna would borrow until such time as the situation eased. This year, regular employees with up to 25 years service are being laid off and the first excuse given by Bord na Móna was redundancy. When the unions pointed out that it could not be redundancy, that the work is there for men with 25 years service, Bord na Móna eventually admitted they were short of money.
Can the Minister say then that it is not urgent to find this £7 million or is he saying that we asked for this money in the first instance to oblige the American lenders to whom we were prepared to pay such a high rate of interest? Is that not all cod? Is it not so that in order to finance our capital projects we need this money and is it not so that we have not got it because we could not get it? We could not get the money and therefore we must do without it. Should the Minister for Finance not come to this House or go to one of the dinners at which he is so fond of speaking and state the position and let us have a bit of honesty for a change? He should let us know where we stand and he would be thanked a lot more in the long run.
The people are not prepared to stand by, to accept this attitude that the shortage either is not there or is the fault of the local authorities and not of the Government. The Government know darn well that if there is a fault, it cannot be placed anywhere except on the Government. I say to the Minister that it is his responsibility to see to it that tomorrow, before the House adjourns, there should be an honest statement of the financial position. We should be told whether there is to be money for the people who have been promised it and have not got it. We should be told whether this American loan is being proceeded with and if not, what alternative arrangements are  being made to get the money that is so necessary.
Mr. L'Estrange: It is very hard to understand the statement of the Minister for Education this evening. Either the £7 million is needed or it is not. If not, why did we make a show of ourselves before the world by applying to the Americans for the money? If it is not forthcoming and if it is needed, surely it is the duty of the Minister to tell us that there is to be a cut-down in the Government's capital expenditure. Deputies Tully and Sweetman have put the case fairly. Everybody in the country knows there is a serious financial crisis. We know it affects Bord na Móna in Westmeath where men are being laid off week after week. The same applies to the Board of Works.
Any of us who are members of local authorities know quite well that in the matter of housing, the Minister for Local Government will not face up to his responsibilities. He is not telling the people the truth. He sends us back our plans, asking us to dot the “i's” and cross the “t's”. The Minister has told us there has been no cut down in money except where sanction has not been given. Surely he knows the workings of his own Department and can stand over his signature.
The Westmeath Vocational Education Committee have, irrespective of politics, a go-ahead policy. They are anxious to provide good schools in which boys and girls can get a first-class education. On 26th July last, we asked the Minister for Education for permission to advertise for tenders for a school at Tyrellspass. Sanction was given by the Minister, the advertisement appeared, we accepted a tender and at our October meeting decided to send the tender to the Minister for his permission to go ahead with the work. The Minister turned that down, referring us to a speech he made in this House on 16th July last. We have looked it up but nowhere in that statement did the Minister say he intended to stop the building of those schools. The point I wish to get back to is that ten days afterwards, he gave his permission to go ahead with the work. Perhaps at that time the Minister did  not realise that there would be this shortage of money. It is wrong for the Minister to say that there has only been a cut-back because sanction had not been given. We know that sanction has been given and that the cut-back took place afterwards. We know that the blowlamp is there as far as housing is concerned and also schools and health and even the Garda Band.
The Minister spoke about a degree of frankness. I can bring my mind back to 1956 when there was a crisis in this country and I can remember the political capital made from it on the far side. Let it be said for Deputy Sweetman and those who were in the position in which the Minister is today that they were frank with the people and at the time they told the people the truth. It is up to the Minister to be frank. The Government have not been frank and they only admitted that this crisis existed when it was wrung from them. Even the Taoiseach had not got the courage to come into the House and tell the truth to the elected representatives. He went to meetings of chambers of commerce and other places and spoke about the financial crisis and about how we should tighten our belts. It was not until the two Parties here asked for a discussion on the position that he gave information to the members of Dáil Éireann.
I believe it would be much better if he took this House and the country into his confidence. There is little use in Ministers saying one thing and the backbenchers of the Fianna Fáil Party going around the country telling the people that there is no financial crisis and that it is only Fine Gael talk. Deputy Flor Crowley was at a Fianna Fáil function in Clare last week and he talked about “this so-called financial crisis”. He quoted what Deputy Sweetman and Deputy T. F. O'Higgins had stated in this House. We have always put country before Party. A national loan was being floated when the discussion was taking place and they said that the economy was basically sound. He took those words out of their context and made a laugh of the whole thing. He said  there was no financial crisis and that it was only Fine Gael whining throughout the country and trying to do harm.
Every businessman knows that there is a financial crisis today. We all know that the Government perpetrated a fraud on the electorate last April when they told them that there was money for everything. They do not want to admit the mistakes they made that time. It would be much better for the Government to take the people into their confidence, to tell them the truth and not try to fool them any longer. It is time they were honest and frank with the people who have gone through many crises in the past. They would like to know where exactly they stand.
Mr. T.F. O'Higgins: I do not want the Minister to be creating another mystery. I would have assumed that if the Government sent the Minister for Finance sailing on the “Queen Mary” to New York to raise £7 million that it was not merely a journey of love but that the money was needed for capital purposes here. Therefore, it would appear that we must assume that if that money is not going to be raised, and it has not been raised, that that £7 million which was required to feed our capital programme this year is just not there. The Minister said that of course it was necessary but it was not necessary from that source. I should like the Minister to indicate what other sources the Government have in mind from which to raise this money. It appears to me to be quite wrong to leave it in the air and say: “Oh well, it is not necessary for us to get this money in New York”. Does the Minister contemplate shopping around seeking this loan elsewhere? If so, it is well that the country should be told so that the implications of that procedure can be fully understood. Certainly I would not think that it was a very pleasing spectacle to see the Minister for Finance at sea, in more ways than one, in relation to raising money which is necessary for the country's expansion. The Minister in the interests of the country should clarify what he meant by saying that.
Mr. Donegan: I would like the Minister to clarify the position in my county as it was explained by our county manager yesterday morning. Our position is that because of the extraordinarily high borrowing by the Government from the commercial banks our treasurers have had to refuse extra overdrafts. Whereas we sought an overdraft in the first instance for the same amount as the highest figure we reached last year, which was £208,000, we were told that up to the 1st January we could enjoy an overdraft of £200,000 but that after that, for the coming quarter, we would have a total overdraft accommodation of £170,000. Our county manager informed us that in order to keep employment running in the county council, to keep existing schemes going, and in order to finance our whole operations, his estimate was that during the first quarter, from January to March, he would need overdraft accommodation of £240,000. We authorised him by simple resolution to seek that overdraft accommodation. The position now is that in order to run the county council, to proceed with work on the roads and to keep our permanent staff paid, we are sending our county manager back to our treasurers for £70,000 more than they gave him a few months ago, and in fact £70,000 more than they regard as the absolute maximum overdraft limit they can give us. We are facing this crisis in the middle of February with horror in anticipation of what can happen to this organisation which might break down and which might take years to recover its previous efficiency.
We have only to look around the county to see the complete cessation of private house building and to see half-built houses standing as monuments to this Government's bad planning. Formerly we were enabled, when the roof went on a house, to pay a man half of the loan and make further payments as the work proceeded. Now the separate overdraft accommodation which we used while waiting for the money to come from the Local Loans Fund has been refused and payments from the Local Loans Fund have been  slowing up to such an extent that it seems impossible for any young man who wants to build a house and who has not got the Bank of England behind him to proceed on the basis that while the building is continuing, and while certificates are issued from the architect, the money will be forthcoming. These young people cannot face the prospect of building their houses. I have known instances where commercial banks helped one or two of them when relatives who had very big credit accounts went in and signed their names to say that during the progress of the building there would be a float there. The persons building the houses immediately had to sign an authority that all grants and loans from the county council or the Department would be paid into their account in that bank. That happened in one case out of 25.
The position in Louth is that housing, which was proceeding—certainly not as fast as we would like or fast as during the term of office of the last inter-Party Government — with some success has now stopped. I can bring anybody who wishes around my constituency and show them houses half built which cannot be proceeded with. How many builders are there at present who cannot pay the next Friday's wages to their men because they do not even know when there is going to be a further local issue from the Local Loans Fund? I can instance the case of a builder building a group of houses under the SDA Acts in Drogheda who, because of the slowing down of payments, was left in the position that he could not pay his men and had to remove them from that site to some other building where the proprietors were in a position to pay. I can tell of public-spirited men who have put up £1,000, £2,000 or £2,500 a piece to keep the pot boiling for the Government in the building of private houses. All this seems extraordinary when one considers that, at the same time, the Exchequer are still spending far more than was spent this day last year. I cannot see why this should be so except that the Government are guilty of bad planning.
 May I now condemn absolutely the subterfuge being used by the Minister for Local Government to try to cover up the position I have outlined? He will issue sanction at present for certain building schemes but at the end of his letter there is a codicil in which he indicates that, while sanction is granted, permission to sign tender documents is withheld. In other words, you try to hold these unfortunate people and the unfortunate builders on a string by not giving them permission to sign the tender documents so that the delay is just the same.
The Government are not facing up to their responsibilities in this matter and, as Deputy Sweetman said, they are not telling the people. I can see the political advantage in what they are doing, in trying to drag this thing out and give the feeling there are better times around the corner. But this is not any good to the unfortunate builder and the unfortunate people caught up in this maelstrom. It is unfair. In other times, if you take 1953 as the base year, when the terms of trade were completely against us, when everything we sold was cheaper and everything we bought dearer, Deputy Sweetman had the courage to say: “There is what I have got and this is how I am going to share it out. Do your best to employ your people in whatever branch you operate.” This was something courageous but unpolitic. It did not help the Party image and left the Opposition if they were unscrupulous enough, as they were, to pull down the building of solidity and belief in the economy which we sought to construct. This is the unfortunate comparison with today—the comparison of a group of thimble-riggers who are prepared to move the pea from one thimble to another and try to convince the people if they lift the thimble they will find the pea. That is the way the Government are dealing with the matter.
It is quite extraordinary that they get away with it so far as some people are concerned. I can show how Government supporters are facing up to this question of no money for housing.  The vice-chairman of Ardee Town Commissioners made several speeches in which he said there would be no delay in building houses in Ardee. We got the housing report yesterday morning and found that 16 houses in Ardee had been awaiting sanction from the Minister since last June. Of course, there were those who remarked on the statement made by the vice-chairman of the Town Commissioners, but he said there had been a panic rumour that the 16 houses had been abandoned. The word “abandoned” was never used.
We have this pitiful situation whereby we have not got a Minister who will say “Look, there is what we are going to give you.” To give the Taoiseach his due, he said in a general way that we were going to spend as much as last year and no more, but, when it came to saying how or where, his Ministers, his Deputies and his political hacks down the country sought to confuse the public mind and to give as little information as humanly possible. It is clear that, once you give somebody less than he hoped for, he will be dissatisfied and that it is better to string them along and not to tell them. But what about the people who may lose their jobs? I have outlined the situation in Louth whereby we do not know how we will be fixed next February or March. We know we have hard times ahead of us but we do not know exactly how bad or good our position will be. Is this not wrong? Can the revenue returns not be estimated for the months ahead? The Government should assess the situation and tell each local authority how they stand. They might lose a few votes, but votes are not everything. They may mean power. Men who seek power and nothing else rely on votes to get it. I sincerely believe the Government would be doing a better job for the country and proving themselves better statesmen than politicians if they would tell the people they have no money or are short of money and tell them exactly how they will apportion it during the rest of this financial year.
Mr. Colley: I do not propose, nor  do I think Deputies who made some contributions seriously expected I would, to deal in detail with all the points raised but there are some matters I want to mention. First, the picture has been painted of the Minister for Finance going to the United States to negotiate a loan. This is a very dramatic picture but, unfortunately, it is not true. The Minister went to the United States to attend in the normal way the meeting of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund and took the opportunity while there to go ahead with arrangements for this loan, which would have been done anyway but without the attendance of the Minister in the United States.
Mr. Colley: The one to which I referred earlier in which the Government set out exactly what the situation was and what it is proposed to do about it. Then we have to listen to people like Deputy Donegan telling us we are concealing everything from the people. I do not know whether he pays much attention to these things or not but, if he does, he knows what I am referring to. I am telling him the capital programme for this year set out in the White Paper will be met in full.
The United States dollar loan has not been abandoned but postponed. I did mention earlier that if we did not proceed with it before the 31st March, we would have to raise the money from other sources. I have been asked to say what those other sources are but I am not prepared to say what they are. I think it should be obvious to the House that I should not say  what they are and that it would not be in the best interests of the country for me to refer to it at this stage. I want to assure the House there is and will be absolutely no question of the Minister for Finance hawking the credit of this country around the world. There is no question of that at all.
Mr. Donegan: I should like to take up with the Minister the suggestion that I am incorrect in saying that the Government are withholding information from the people and that the Minister is not giving them the wealth of information they should have. I want to emphasise that I did say the Taoiseach did indicate that he would spend as much this year on capital expenditure as the previous year and would complete his capital programme. That is not a remedy. I agree with the Minister that this is indicated in the White Paper to which he referred, but it has to do with a reduction in the capital programme. When the Minister says the Government will complete that capital programme indicated in the White Paper, it means, in effect, the completion of a reduced programme. It is quite clear they will spend as much this year as last year because this is an expanding situation.
An Ceann Comhairle: It is not a Bill on which Deputies may ramble to taxation. It is a machinery Bill under which the expenditure of the Government is being brought before the  House in a different way from heretofore. Surely the Deputy may not discuss taxation and the position of the Government vis-á-vis their financial solidity and so on, on such a Bill?
An Ceann Comhairle: I suppose each speaker follows the other but might I suggest now that we keep to the terms of the Bill and the Money Resolution which helps to implement this function of the machinery Bill?
Mr. Donegan: I will endeavour to get away from what I was saying. If one takes the total Exchequer expenditure and revenue, one finds that both are running well above what they were last year. The important point is that the rate of progress in the country, which had been accelerating, is now being slowed down. Those houses to which I referred, in my constituency, are standing as monuments to the fact that there is not a red shilling available to pay the builders who are doing the work. The fact that the Government will spend more than last year on capital projects does not mean that it is adequate because this is an expanding situation. It really indicates a slowing down in acceleration.
|Last Updated: 15/09/2010 11:12:41||Page of 132|