Finance Bill, 1981: Second Stage (Resumed).

Wednesday, 8 April 1981

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 328 No. 7

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Question again proposed: “That the Bill be now read a Second Time.”

Mr. Fox: Information on Christopher Joseph Fox  Zoom on Christopher Joseph Fox  Last evening I demonstrated very clearly the differences and the deep divisions that exist within and between the Opposition Parties. In their roarings for power they had the audacity to suggest that such divisions as exist within their own organisations also exist in Fianna Fáil. They are like hordes of mad Pimpernels running around seeking to establish what is an untruth. They seek it here, they seek it there, they seek it [1241] everywhere, but there is no doubt they will never find a split within Fianna Fáil.

Let us highlight another inefficiency that exists in the Opposition parties. The attitude of the Coalition Government was highlighted by the fact that the then Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Education with responsibility for sport had so little to do that he took on the portfolio for Industry and Commerce. They abolished the Sports Council and did not spend one penny on the promotion of sport. The Department of Education was the vehicle used for sports promotion and under the Coalition they had nothing to do. This is in total contrast to Fianna Fáil's attitude when they came to power. Deputy Tunney was appointed Minister of State with responsibility for sport and he immediately reversed the position. The first indication of that reversal was the formation of Cuspóir, an extremely wide ranging and efficient organisation who are carrying out their duties for the benefit of our young people in an exemplary manner.

When the present Taoiseach was appointed this impetus gained momentum with the immediate implementation of plans for various sports centres throughout the country. The building of some of these centres has already started and when completed they will provide sporting facilities in areas which would never have benefited if public money had not been provided in such an imaginative way. This is a Finance Bill of vast dimensions. Substantial sums of money are being discussed. That money will be spent by the various Departments for the benefit of our people.

I should like to make a plea on behalf of the Department of the Environment. I suggest that some of that money could be effectively spent by increasing the grant for first-time house purchasers from £1,000 to £5,000. Such an increase would benefit the people who must buy a house for the first time in a market which has reached alarming proportions cost-wise. That grant should be allowed to first-time purchasers for any type of house and not necessarily for new houses. Those buying a house for the first time must look around for the best possible value and if [1242] a second hand house gives them this type of value it will not inhibit the house sector of the economy because the person who sells a house to a first-time purchaser obviously must buy another home. There is no doubt that increasing the grant would create considerable stimulus to the house building sector. It would be a point of enlightenment, a forward thinking move and would have very beneficial spin-offs to all concerned.

I suggest that in view of the lack of research in the building sector — because of its fragmentation it is very difficult to have efficient research and development — a considerable sum of money be set aside to establish such an institution or forum. I suggest capitalisation of at least £5 million and, perhaps, a similar sum from the industry. I would like to see research carried out in relation to attitudes to road standards within estates. Road standards that are being insisted on by various local authorities, in particular by Dublin County Council, are of an exaggerated nature. The spur roads off the feeder roads in many of our estates are so costly that they put up the price of houses to an inordinate degree. The general design of estates could be looked at because it is said that in many of them housewives must walk long distances to reach schools, shops and services. The urban sprawl that has taken place around the city in the last 20 years would have been carried on in a more efficient manner if research such as I suggested had been undertaken.

Examples in other countries could be looked at but I also have great confidence in the arm of education concerned with our building industry to expect that ideas would be forthcoming from within our own industry for such improvements. It is a type of improvement our building industry is not geared to suggest and certainly it is not geared to carry into effect. At present when land is zoned for building, a building firm submits a planning application which in most cases only covers a small portion of the land designated for building. There is no overall concept of the development within a large area. Development is piecemeal and is not in the best interest of people who eventually [1243] live in those estates. I suggest that a research and development unit is of great importance for the future of the building industry and the needs of our people.

Another Department which will get substantial sums of money under the terms of the Finance Bill is the Department of Agriculture. In that Department there is one area which is of significance to all housewives, the section concerned with the role of Irish potatoes in the future. Irish potato growers are under attack from cheap imports from many different sources, the latest one coming from subsidised English potatoes which are supposed to be turned into animal feed. In fact, they are not dyed and do not go to that sector. Substantial quantities are being smuggled through the six north-eastern counties of our country for distribution in the twenty-six counties. This illegal and pernicious trade must be stopped because it is not to anybody's benefit. Housewives are being conned into buying those imports through glowing press reports, unfortunately, which give a false impression of a superior quality that does not exist. The consumer price index is suffering as is our balance of payments. The existence of the Irish potato farmer is also at stake. If this position continues housewives will suffer because they will be at the mercy of a small number of importers who will ruthlessly take the largest possible profit without any regard for our balance of payments, the needs of the housewives to get cheaper goods or the national interest.

Later in the season, if this is not stopped, we will also have to face cheap imports from Cyprus and Turkey. I mentioned before that it was my view that such imports were contravening the Treaty of Rome because of the low wages paid to workers in those locations. It is grossly unfair to have potatoes coming in from countries where labour is being paid in the order of pence per hour. I am led to believe that women in Cyprus are paid the derisory figure of 60p to 80p per hour to work in the fields where potatoes are produced while Irish farmers are paying the agreed industrial wage rates to the workers of their land. It is unrealistic to [1244] think that this type of competition benefits anybody. It does not.

Irish potatoes with great benefit to everybody, should be brought under the “Guaranteed Irish” campaign. That campaign could be extended to protect Irish housewives on the one hand and, on the other hand, give our farmers a label under which they could sell their products with confidence. That scheme is working successfully in the industrial sector and I do not see any reason why it cannot be extended to the potato producing sector.

In relation to the performance of the Opposition on the agriculture sector I should like to refer to a statement made recently by a member who was the Coalition Minister for Agriculture. This week he denounced the EEC farm price deal in a most derisory fashion. I should like to remind the Opposition, and that gentleman, that when he was in the chair as our Minister for Agriculture he threw away, and virtually destroyed, the Irish lamb trade. He failed completely to gain access to the French market, and the Parisian market in particular, for our Irish lamb. That is our most important market for lamb but he failed completely to gain access to it. He stated that it would be impossible for Irish lamb to gain access to the Parisian market but as soon as Fianna Fáil returned to power they gained that access. Indeed, by doing so they saved the entire lamb industry and Fianna Fáil made sure that we would continue to enjoy that access. That type of double-think and lying propaganda is no good to anybody. If the Opposition are to be sincere in their attempts to persuade the Irish people that they have a better policy than ours they must do so in a truthful manner. If the Opposition persist in carrying on with this attitude I fail to see how the country can continue to prosper.

Since Fianna Fáil came into power we can see the benefits of that in virtually every parish. We can see new schools being built and opened and I cannot see how anyone could criticise borrowing for such productive purposes. If we do not educate our children they will not be able to take advantage of the new industries which as a policy Fianna Fáil have [1245] brought in from abroad. We have beaten the best in Europe to the punch in this respect. We have pursued a policy of educating our children specifically for participation in these new industries through the opening of the NIHE in Limerick and another in Dublin. This educational system will gear our young people to take advantage of industries coming in.

It is only with such cohesive Government policies that we can overcome our difficulties and gear our young people for the jobs that are to come, and it is only with Fianna Fáil continuity that all our people will benefit. Continuity of policy is the channel through which Finance Bills can reach out to every parish in the land. Without it we will be back to the divided, floundering and day-to-day policies of the Coalition. I am proud to be associated with this Bill and to have been given the opportunity to make my contribution to the debate.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Throughout the years, since the foundation of the State until a short time ago, the annual budget was regarded as the housekeeping preparation for the coming year. It was usual for Governments, Cumann na nGaedheal, Fianna Fáil, Coalitions, and again Fianna Fáil —Fianna Fáil most often — to attempt to balance income with expenditure through taxation, and occasionally, if expenditure exceeded income, to make arrangements to borrow. Occasionally, as in the Second World War Supplementary Estimates for sizeable sums had to be introduced. However, the big change in this procedure began with the return of Fianna Fáil in 1977 after they had promised everything to everybody, all things to all men.

The result was that when Fianna Fáil got back to power they found that their promises had created an almost impossible problem for them and then we saw developing a new arrangement by which supplementary budgets became the order of the day, one day after another. Because of that, the national budget at the beginning of the year now has become something of a national joke. This supplementary budget ploy has been getting [1246] them deeper and deeper into difficulty until we have reached the stage when we are not having an annual budget or a budget every few months but one every day.

From the beginning of January last and right up to budget day, every day saw the announcement of price increases of one sort or another and before the ink on this year's budget was dry and the echo of the Minister's speech had died away, increases in prices began again. Still, we have heard Fianna Fáil backbenchers saying they are happy to be associated with the budget. That is a sick joke because nobody but a fool would want to be associated with the running of the Government at the moment.

In the past three years, despite what was said last night by Deputy O'Donoghue — that the Government had been making arrangements consistently to improve the economy — we have found them, for instance, making decisions which they found to be unpopular and the following day reversing them. That has led to a situation in which it is now impossible to know what exactly is the Government's policy on any one thing. They have been changing from one day to the other.

It was amusing to listen to Deputy Fox condemning the work of the Coalition's Minister for Agriculture. In my opinion he was the best Minister for Agriculture, though not a member of my party, we have had. He succeeded in sealing up a number of mistakes made by his predecessor. Unfortunately his successor has made a mess of it again.

Sometimes I have doubts whether Fianna Fáil are living in an entirely different world from the rest of us. With a general election imminent, of coure, one cannot blame them for trying to put a bold face on things, but to hear them say they have made a success of the running of the country is too ridiculous for words. They say that increases in the cost of various items have not been of the Government's making, that the Government do not gain by them. I should like to kill that straight away because when there are increases in prices the Government of the Exchequer gain by VAT which [1247] also increases. When increased prices arise the VAT goes up automatically and this is true particularly of petrol.

On top of all this the Government took subsidies off food and then allowed VAT to apply to food. We can remember the time when the Government abolished the wealth tax on what are described as the filthy rich, the people with enormous amounts of money who do not know how the rest of the people live, those to whom hundreds of thousands of pounds mean nothing. They were freed from wealth tax but in the same week the poor were made to suffer because of the abolition of food subsidies.

This is the Government we have had for almost four years but who are due for the high jump, if they do not shy away from it like a horse coming up to Beecher's Brook and which, finding himself unable to get over it, refuses and shies away.

I am not sure whether Deputy Fox was saying that the “Buy Irish” campaign is a success or that it should be a success. My opinion is that it is essential, if the country is to survive, that we all buy the goods we are producing, and that includes agricultural produce which is part and parcel of the Irish economy. The terrible tragedy at the moment is that 85 per cent of the goods we buy in our shops throughout the country are imported. Most of those goods are imported from or through England; there is a small percentage imported from the Continent. No effort is made by the Government, the importers, wholesalers, retailers or the general public to attempt to sell Irish. We must make an effort to sell Irish. I have constantly complained in the House of the difficulty I have found when I tried to buy clothing or shoes which are made here. Irish goods have to be specifically asked for and even then you will still be offered foreign goods and told that they are of better quality. It is the national attitude which will have to be changed. Despite all the waving of green flags by Fianna Fáil, they do not give two damns about this country. They think that if they are in power everything must be all right.

[1248] Let me give you one instance where even the EEC cannot be blamed for imports. In 1975 furniture imported into this country from the eastern European countries — USSR, East Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Rumania, Bulgaria and Albania — amounted to just over £195,000. In 1980 the figure is £1,143,000. Is there any reason why some effort should not be made to try to stop importation of furniture from the Eastern block which is putting men and women in the furniture industry here out of a job? Is there any reason except carelessness and downright laziness on the part of the Minister who could not care less? In my constituency Navan has been recognised as the home of furniture manufacturing. It is really too bad when this sort of thing happens without a comment or complaint from the Minister or the Government who are allowing it to happen. Unless an effort is made to encourage in every way, even by including taxation where possible, the use of Irish goods, we are going to remain in the position in which we are at present.

Deputy Fox made reference to the importation of potatoes from Northern Ireland. He seemed to think it was terrible to be importing from the North. I always thought Fianna Fáil believed we were one country. However, there is double thinking on this. They think it is wrong to import potatoes from the North but it is not wrong to import bricks from the North. Every day as I travel on the Dublin-Belfast road I pass lorries filled with Tyrone bricks to be used in the manufacture of houses in and around Dublin city while our own brick factories are closing down. According to Deputy Fox, potatoes are different. As long as we have potatoes from Cyprus and Israel, carrots from the USA, cauliflowers and cabbage from somewhere else imported in bulk and packed here — I made this statement before and the Minister was inclined to deny it, I have since double checked and find it is true — in Foras Talúntais buildings, in bags marked “Packed by An Foras Talúntais”, it is not surprising that people do not know they are buying foreign goods.

Perhaps the fault is with those who [1249] prepare Irish goods for sale. Perhaps it is because people do not go to the trouble of taking clay off potatoes. We can buy clean foreign potatoes and we do not have to pay for a pound of clay in every stone. Irish agriculture, like Irish horticulture and fruit growing, is suffering badly because of bad marketing and because we seem to encourage the purchase and sale of foreign imports. This must stop. It is a national malaise. We had recently the importation of carpets and materials from foreign countries. Two or three days ago RTE tried to explain why they imported carpet tiles for their new building in Montrose. They said the type of carpet made here would not suit because they needed to put connections into electrical fittings on the floor and they had to have tiles which could be easily removed. They said Irish carpet manufacturers did not make tiles. Is it beyond the ingenuity of people in RTE who look after the floor covering to make the necessary arrangements to use Irish materials? The architect who suggested that these tiles should be imported and used should be censured because he is as much to blame as RTE.

I am sorry that the Minister of State at the Office of Public Works has just left the House because I would like to remind him of his boob with regard to floor coverings in national schools here. Imagine the Office of Public Works going to a school in which the children have received a brochure with a photograph on the front advising them to influence everyone they could to buy Irish because their future jobs would depend on the amount of Irish goods bought and sold here. Then, when a new school was completed, the floor covering was bought in France. This is hyprocisy. It proves that, as far as Fianna Fáil are concerned, they could not care less whether we buy Irish or not——

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Did the Deputy ever hear of Irish Life when the Opposition were in Government?

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  When Irish Life attempted to do the same thing, we did not allow them to do so; but we have guts and [1250] Fianna Fáil have none. They were afraid to cross either the Office of Public Works or RTE. Why did we introduce Frank Hall? RTE should have a programme which would lampoon the present Government as we were lampooned. He was told that the Government did not like that sort of thing. They can laugh at others but not at themselves. Everybody now knows the chancers we have, who in 1977 claimed they were going to make everything lovely in the garden. In 1981, having made a mess of everything, they are claiming they have improved things. Long ago King Midas was supposed to have a gift, which backfired on him, of turning everything to gold, King Charles has a different gift. Everything he touches has turned to ashes. Everywhere we look we see the same thing happening again and again. Everything is falling flat on its face because the Government do not seem to understand anything. There are some very competent Ministers in the Government who are doing the best they can with the little they are getting. But there are a lot of people in the Government who have not the foggiest notion of how to run the country. That is partly the cause of all our troubles.

I want to point out two things to the Minister for the Environment. When Fianna Fáil were in Opposition they said that if they got into office they would increase the number of reconstruction, water and sewerage grants. For a few months they did and then they wiped them out completely. Is the Minister aware that at the moment anyone who wants a connection to a water scheme, irrespective of family conditions, whether an unemployed labourer or a wealthy businessman, now gets no grant as they did under previous Governments. Now they have to pay up to £125 for the privilege of being connected to water mains and if that connection has to cross a road they must pay an extra £20. Is the Minister really serious if he thinks that a Government who have on their census form queries about the type of water supply to each house——

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Unlike the Deputy's Government we are having a census.

[1251]An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Deputy Tully without interruption.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  I know I am getting under the Minister's skin. I do not blame him. If I were in his place I would be annoyed too.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Why did the Deputy's Government not have a census?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  Deputy Tully now, Minister, without interruption.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  The Minister must now accept responsibility for what has happened since Fianna Fáil took office even though he was not at the outset a Minister. The money local authorities are allowed to raise is insufficient to keep their staffs going or do the works they should do and so they must raise some money in some way. That is the explanation for the £125 for connection plus an additional £20 for crossing the road.

In 1976 I introduced a low rise mortgage scheme to allow those in poorer circumstances to purchase their houses. They were subsidised for ten years. This year some local authorities find they cannot continue that scheme particularly in the case of their own tenants who wish to buy out their houses. Three weeks ago I asked the Minister if he was aware of that. His reply was that he was not aware of it but he would write to me about it. Apparently he did not have time to write in the interval. He had to go down to Meath and tell the people there how well the Minister for Education, Deputy John Wilson is doing for the schools down there. I got no letter. Perhaps the Minister when he comes to speak, if he does speak, will tell us that it was the tightening of the belt he talked about which has led to doing away with the low rise mortgage scheme for certain categories. Perhaps the intention is to do away with it altogether.

I heard a comment the other day to the effect that the Fianna Fáil Government had flown a kite. It was not the Minister for Foreign Affairs on this occasion. It [1252] was someone else. The kite was to the effect that Fianna Fáil would increase the amount of money to anyone buying a new house from £1,000 to £4,000 and the Minister of State said it was not so now. Did he mean to promise it if there was an election this year? So far this is the most promising Government the country has ever had. The promise every damn thing under the sun so long as payment does not fall due before the next general election.

In half an hour it is not possible to cover everything that should be covered but I would like to point out that the Minister for Education, Deputy Wilson, has been promising wonderful things and sanctioning schools here, there and everywhere. Sanction is, of course, no use unless the money is available to build the school. Remembering that the Department of Education, through the Office of Public Works, have not found it possible to reimburse local managers money spent by them on, for instance, prefabs — prefabs they were forced to use in order to accommodate certain children last September — surely the Minister's statement here that he was embarrased by the amount of money given to him for schools sounds, to say the least of it, a little odd. Perhaps I took him up wrongly. Perhaps he was talking about the lack of money and the insufficiency of what he got. That would certainly have embarrased him.

He has stated on numerous occasions he was going to do this, that and the other. Half of my correspondence at the moment is coming from people who want to know if I can find out for them what the possibility is of their being able to find places for their children in secondary schools next September. As the Minister knows very well, thousands of children will be leaving primary school in September for whom there will be no places at all in secondary schools. I tabled a very comprehensive series of questions some time ago about schools and I was given particulars of comprehensive, technical and secondary schools all over the place. It was obvious to me that the person who drew up those replies may have known a great deal about geography but did not [1253] know anything about the areas to which children have to travel to and from school. At the same time we have the Minister talking like a big child about being embarrassed by the amount of money he got and telling everybody he is going to build schools here, there and somewhere else. Let us have some hard facts now. Let us see the schools being built. Let us have the money available for the building of schools. If it is not going to be made available then let us know that in time because people will have to do something else about it.

Housing has been discussed here on numerous occasions. Last year the number of local authority houses erected showed a big reduction on the previous year, but nothing like the reduction that will occur this year. Neatly sown into budgetary figures is the fact that there is in real terms a very substantial reduction in the amount of subsidy allowed for local authority houses this year. That means houses cannot be built. The proof is in the number of houses started and the pace at which they are built. I am appalled at the position which has occurred in relation to SDA loans. Up to the end of December 1980 local authorities had been promised £5.7 million for SDA loans for new houses, secondhand houses and house repairs. This year they are promised £3.4 million to be paid in monthly instalments. I wonder if the Minister is aware that some local authorities say that, (a), they have got no money whatever for local authority houses so far this year and, (b), that they have got no money for SDA loans this year? Is the Minister aware that people who want to build houses are now being told by local authorities that they have not got the money and that they cannot even tell people that they will have the money this time next year because they know that that money is not available and will not be available to them?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  That is wrong.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  It is not wrong and I can produce to the Minister letters to that effect if he wants them. We heard a lot of talk about social welfare the other day.

[1254] I was very disappointed to hear Deputy Woods, Minister for Health and Minister for Social Welfare, say on the radio the other day something which I consider to be untrue. A Minister should not make a statement unless it is the truth. He stated that the position had improved in regard to the payment of social welfare benefits. He said that the number of complaints was now very small and that he would know because every TD makes the complaints through his office. I do not and I am sure I make more complaints than any Deputy in this House. I notice that the play which was adopted by some of our people here has now been adopted by some of the backbenchers of Fianna Fáil where they have to put questions down on the Order Paper to find out why somebody entitled to social welfare benefits has not been paid. It is a sign of the times. I am not blaming the officials. They have neither the facilities nor the money. They have been forced to adopt a system which has upset the whole payment of social welfare benefits. Maybe there is a reason for it and I think I know what it is. The money is not being paid and people are starving. It is all right for the Minister for Social Welfare to say that they can go to the local authority which will give them home help. Some of the health authorities told me that because they were so badly treated by the Government last year through forcing people to go to them because they did not get paid, they had expended so much of their money that this year it will require an enormous amount of money to cover all the items which they want covered.

There is another point. Would somebody be able to tell me how much money is owed to the State by employers who have failed to stamp unemployment cards or pay RSI or PAYE tax over the years? Why have these people not been forced to pay? I have in my possession a document which shows that one fairly small firm alone owed over £1 million. The late Seán Dunne, who was a colleague of mine here for many years, used to say that the reason nothing was done about it was that the firm concerned was “a friend of the corpse”. Two members of [1255] Fianna Fáil are on the board of that firm. It is outrageous that we should have such situation continuing.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. R. Burke): Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  In the time available I propose to concentrate on the main services for which I am responsible, especially on the building and construction industry, roads and sanitary services. The infrastructural services provided under these headings are essential prerequisites to the stimuation of economic development and to the provision of industry. It is my firm intention, both now and in the future, that these services will have a priority, matched by adequate resource allocation, commensurate with their importance to the economy.

Let me again remind the House that last October in my very early days as Minister for the Environment, I gave my personal commitment, and that of the Government——

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Is it in order for a Minister who is not representing the Department under discussion to read from a script during a debate?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  He may refer to notes.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  May he read a script which he has distributed to the House?

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  I am referring to notes. I am just trying to help the Deputy because he will have to concentrate. I see he wants to go up and look after correspondence.

Mr. Tully: Information on James Tully  Zoom on James Tully  Never mind. I will clear it all up.

Mr. R. Burke: Information on Ray Burke  Zoom on Ray Burke  Let me again remind the House that last October in my very early days as Minister for the Environment, I gave my personal commitment, and that of the Government, to ensuring the future development and well-being of the building and construction industry, to ensuring a high level of house completions [1256] and an expanded programme of infrastructural services.

The undertakings given by me in October last have been honoured by appropriate resource allocation as provided for in the investment plan and in the budget. Capital monies on a scale unprecedented have been provided for 1981 for roads, sanitary services and the building and construction industry. I am confident that the massive increase in resources now made and proposed for the future will provide the necessary infrastructural base to meet the needs and challenges of the eighties. In addition it will build up the necessary confidence to stimulate economic development, tourism and agriculture. I welcome the positive approach expressed by varying organisations to the Government's vastly expanded capital programme. I will now deal separately with some of the main services for which I am responsible.

When I spoke in the budget debate I said that, for the building industry, the budget was a good budget. It was a good one because it provided a very substantial increase in public capital investment in the industry in 1981 and new incentives for private capital investment. In addition it brought with it a lift-off in terms of new work, more employment, greater investment and a return to confidence and a preception of the end of recession. The building industry is now about to move into top gear with increased growth and employment right across the whole building spectrum and throughout the country.

The Government's strategy for the industry laid down in the investment plan is based on confidence and a realistic balance between the country's needs and aspirations. With the fastest growing young population in western Europe and an economy with equal potential the building industry has both a formidable task and an encouragingly bright future ahead of it. Its task is to provide the necessary infrastructure for our future development while at the same time making one of the most substantial contributions to current employment. It is for these reasons that the Government put together their investment plan package [1257] for 1981 providing greatly increased capital investment in all the major areas of infrastructure including energy, telecommunications, roads, sanitary services and housing. Both output and direct employment in the building industry in 1981 will increase relative to 1980. In addition, extra jobs will be generated in the building materials manufacturing and supply services. As I said, the main generator of this growth is the increased capital provisions announced in the investment plan and provided for in the recent budget.

Turning to housing, which is the most important sector of the building industry, Deputies will be aware that the record in housing completions in recent years has been good. Housing completions have increased steadily from the 24,000 completed in 1976 to 27,785 last year, the highest number of annual completions ever. The Government commitment to housing is reflected once again in 1981 by the public capital programme allocations to this sector which amount to £242.4 million, compared to the provisional out-turns of £159 million in 1979 and £201 million last year. In order to eliminate any doubt about our housing achievements, I would like to quote some international comparisons which show that we have a record in this area of which as a small nation, we can be justifiably proud:

—In 1979, we shared with France the record of having the highest number of houses completed per 1,000 of the population in the EEC; in 1975 the last period of Coalition we had the lowest rate. I have no doubt but that we will also fare well when the 1980 figures are published.

—Also in 1979, capital formation in housing expressed as a percentage of gross national product at 7.3 per cent was the highest rate in western European countries for which figures are available.

—The Government's commitment to the encouragement of owner-occupation is reflected in the fact that our rate of owner-occupation at 75 per cent is probably the highest in Europe.

The Government are not, however, concerned [1258] simply with housing numbers for the country as a whole. Our aim is to have a sufficient number of houses provided in the right place at the right time and at a price or rent designed to meet established housing needs. It was for this reason that local authorities were asked in early 1980 to carry out assessments of the nature and extent of accumulated housing needs in their areas and of prospective needs expected to arise up to 1985. This exercise, which is currently being finalised by the authorities, has been the most detailed and sophisticated ever attempted and involved the authorities in a comprehensive survey of some 25,000 houses. Internationally accepted techniques of assessing housing need have been used and authorities are availing of a wide range of data from the 1979. Census along with information contained on applications for rehousing from their waiting lists and from results of inspections and surveys carried out by their officers together with local knowledge and experience. I am satisfied that the assessments when analysed by my Department will form a good basis for identifying the areas of housing where directional changes in policy may need to be considered and for the determination of an overall national housing strategy into the eighties by the Government.

One specific area of housing is deal with in sections 21 and 22 of the Finance Bill. The Government have decided to make available a special tax allowance of 100 per cent of expenditure on development and construction incurred after budget day and before 1 April 1984 or the provision of moderate-cost rented residential accommodation and on certain conversions of existing buildings into two or more residential units. The new allowances will be set against rental income in computing tax liability. This is an important initiative by the Government because a need for moderate cost rented housing accommodation does exist and is not being fulfilled at present. I am sure that the new concessions will provide the necessary incentive to the private investment sector to become involved in the provision of rented housing accommodation to meet this existing [1259] need. I look forward, therefore, to a positive and quick response from the private sector to the new concession.

The provision of mortgage finance is of major importance and, in this context, I am particularly conscious of the importance of the local authority house purchase loan scheme in providing finance for those categories of persons who are not catered for by the commercial lending agencies. Since resuming office in 1977, the Government have kept the loan and income limits at sufficiently realistic levels to enable the categories of persons for whom the scheme was designed to continue to benefit from it. In January 1980 the loan and income limits were increased to £12,000 and £5,500 respectively. The upsurge in demand which followed on these increases was unprecedentedly high and, while gratifying, made the financing of the scheme a major burden on scarce capital resources. In spite of the many competing claims on the limited capital available, an additional allocation of £7 million was provided in 1980 to enable authorities to advance 7,309 loans to the value of £65 million.

Demand for payment of loans under the scheme continues at a very high level and I am pleased to point to the record sum of £96 million which has been provided to meet demands for house purchase and improvement loans and supplementary grants which will arise in 1981. This compares with expenditure of just under £20 million in 1977, the last year of the Coalition Government. I have already notified authorities of the amounts available to them for expenditure on the scheme this year and I am confident that it will be sufficient to enable them to meet their commitments without undue delay.

It is my intention that the loan and income limits which govern the local authority housing loan scheme will be kept under continuing review to ensure that they remain at a realistic level.

Building societies play a major role in the financing of the Government's private housing programme. Almost 75 per cent of all private housing finance is provided by building societies. Societies [1260] advanced 16,944 house purchase loans to the value of £269 million in 1980, providing mortgage finance amounting to £126 million in respect of 7,807 new houses and £143 million in respect of 9,137 others. I am pleased to draw attention to the fact that the Government's decision to make an interest subsidy available to societies with effect from 1 June 1980 was a major factor in attracting the inflow to societies which made this possible. I expect that societies will make in excess of £300 million available towards financing the Government's private housing programme in 1981.

On the local authority house building side, it has been this Government's policy to maintain a stable programme of about 6,000 completions each year. Despite the financial difficulties which have beset the programme in recent years because of ever increasing costs, the Government have nevertheless managed to exceed this target each year since 1977, including 1980. In order to achieve such a target, the level of work in progress must be maintained at a monthly level of at least 8,000 and I am glad to note that at the end of January the number of units in progress was 8,375, so that the programme is running at a satisfactory level at present.

I would like to emphasise the valuable contribution which the local authority housing programme is making in the area of employment. At the end of December 1980 a total of 7,069 were engaged on the programme, compared with 6,769 for the corresponding month in 1979. The average monthly employment throughout the year of 6,870 was the highest for recent years. Taking the overall view, this Government have achieved an impressive record in providing local authority housing. The fact that the Government's target has been consistently achieved must be looked on as a manifestation of the Government's determination to honour its commitments to those in need of housing.

The provision and maintenance of an adequate road network is one of my top priorities as Minister for the Environment. In Ireland, the road network is the infrastructural base on which depends, to [1261] a great extent, the prosperity of agriculture, industry, commerce and tourism. Our geographical position as an island on the periphery of Europe, together with our low density of population, has placed us in the position of being more dependent on the road network for physical communication and movement than any of our European neighbours. The accelerated increase in the numbers of motor vehicles as a consequence of our economic and social development has highlighted the deficiencies of the road network. In particular, the early years of the last decade saw the growth in road transport imposing a heavy burden on the road network. In consequence, strategic sections of principal roads seriously deteriorated and traffic congestion has become an everyday feature in a number of our cities and towns.

The situation that had been developing at this critical period of our economic growth called for a reappraisal of our system of planning for road development. The Government, immediately on assuming office, set to the task of preparing a co-ordinated plan, involving a much larger scale of investment, to bring the network, particularly the principal routes, to a standard capable of meeting present and future needs.

The Road Development Plan for the eighties, which was published in 1979, was an unprecedented step forward in road planning in Ireland. The programme of works outlined in the plan is based on analyses of deficiencies identified in the system by studies carried out by An Foras Forbartha and by land-use, transportation and traffic studies carried out in Dublin, Cork, Limerick, Waterford and several other urban areas, and also by the development plans of the local authorities and regional development organisations. The programme has been generally accepted, not only by road authorities but also by commercial and transport interests, as a balanced and realistic one.

The Government's objectives for the development of the road network as outlined in the road development plan, can be summarised as follows: the preservation of the overall network up to a satisfactory [1262] standard; the provision of an adequate strategic inter-urban road system connecting the principal towns, seaports and airports; the adoption of a minimum two-lane standard for the national route network, without prejudice to the necessity for higher standards for particular sections of that network; the provision of by-passes of towns on the national routes where these are considered necessary on planning, traffic or environmental grounds; a special programme to meet the need for new river crossings, ring roads and relief routes in the county boroughs and other major urban centres.

The major road network is identified in the investment plan as deserving of considerably increased investment this year, along the lines proposed in the road development plan. I am very pleased to have been able, in my first year as Minister with responsibility, to provide a massive £80 million in road grant expenditure this year for road improvement and maintenance works.

On foot of this provision of £80 million I have been enabled to allocate grants to road authorities this year totalling over £87 million, of which £67 million has been allocated for improvement works and £20 million for maintenance. This represents an increase of 49 per cent on the road grants allocated last year and of a staggering 227 per cent on the level of grants which were provided by the previous Government in 1977. This level of finance, unprecedented in the history of the State, should leave no doubt in anyone's mind regarding the Government's and my determination to bring the standard of the road network into line with the demands of modern transportation needs.

I have allocated over £31 million for major improvement works which are listed in the Road Development Plan. In the Dublin region these schemes include a new road from Whitehall to the Airport; by-passes of Swords and Balbriggan; a new road linking Clontarf Road with the East Wall Road: a new bridge adjacent to Heuston Bridge and a by-pass at Palmerstown on the road westwards.

In Cork City I have allocated grants for three new bridges over the Lee and a [1263] new ring road as recommended in the Cork Land Use Transportation Study. I have also made grants available for ring roads in Limerick, new bridges in Waterford, Athlone and Galway and inner relief roads or ring roads in Sligo, Dundalk, Drogheda, Kilkenny, Tralee and Clonmel. Other major projects outside the main urban areas include the Naas by-pass; new Cork-Mallow road; new road through the Curragh; and ring roads or by-passes at Mullingar, Navan, Carrick-on-Shannon, Dunleer, Collooney, Ballinasloe, Oranmore, Roscrea, Donegal, Midleton and Dungarvan.

While the major works are, of course, the most dramatic element of the Road Development Plan, the plan also provides for a continuous year by year programme geared towards the essential development of the existing road lines including realignments, strengthening, widening, eradication of accident black spots and provision of hard shoulders. I have allocated grants of over £21 million for such works in 1981. I have also provided substantial grants to road authorities to supplement their own resources and also grants for special works, including bridge works, on roads other than national routes. The need for strengthening and renewal of critical sections of the principal roads has not been overlooked and the grant allocations I have made provide for expenditure of over £6 million for a special programme for such works.

The 1981 grants programme is, by any standards, an ambitious one. The provision of major road improvements is not always easy and is never cheap. Preliminary results of a special progress report undertaken by my Department on the major works programme for 1981 are encouraging and I am confident that the end of the year will see a major advance towards the development of a road network adequate for the eighties and beyond. I am also aware of the valuable supplementary benefits to be derived from a full roads programme in that it creates activity in the construction industry, generates employment both on-site and off-site and utilises materials and [1264] equipment of Irish manufacture. I expect that up to 11,500 road workers will be employed directly on the 1981 works programme which will represent an increase of over 600 on the corresponding figure for 1980.

Apart from the country's public road network there is a considerable mileage of non-public accommodation roads which are of particular importance to the agricultural community. Grants under the local improvements scheme cater primarily for the improvement of these roads. I am pleased to say that the total provision for the local improvements scheme for 1981 is £2,714,000 which represents an increase of almost 36 per cent on the 1980 allocation. The scheme is of particular benefit to the western counties and provides valuable seasonal employment in the rural areas. This year it is expected that works undertaken by country councils under the local improvements scheme will provide the equivalent of 300 man-year jobs. This year also a proportion of the expenditure in the western counties under the local improvements scheme as well as on selected county roads in these areas will benefit from EEC aid under the western package.

Interest has been displayed by the private sector in the financing of road and bridge projects. The Local Government Toll (Roads) Act, 1979, was specially enacted to facilitate private sector participation in such projects. There is a firm proposal to provide a toll bridge over the River Liffey, the cost of which will be privately financed. Public inquiries have been held into a toll scheme, which has been made by Dublin Corporation, and a bridge order application made by Dublin Port and Docks Board. I will consider the report on these inquiries and give my decision on them without delay.

Sections 23 and 24 of the Finance Bill are designed to provide certain tax incentives to encourage private sector participation in the provision of toll roads and bridges and multi-storey car parks. Discussions have already taken place with private sector interests with regard to participation in such projects and interest has already been expressed in relation to [1265] the construction of multi-storey car parks in Dublin and Cork. I am confident that the tax incentives provided under the Finance Bill will encourage the provision by the private sector of much-needed necessary additional facilities in this area.

The existence of adequate water and sewerage services is essential to the development of any area and to the protection and improvement of its amenities. Such services provide the essential infrastructural base on which a number of other programmes such as industry, housing, agriculture and tourism must be based. They are a necessary pre-condition for the whole process of economic development at national and local level. It is vitally important, therefore, that we have the necessary sanitary services schemes available to take advantage of the future improvement in the climate for productive investment.

I can assure the House of the Government's and my personal commitment to making the necessary allocations, both now and in the future, in order to provide services on the scale required to meet future needs. Our record in the past is of course impressive. Between 1977 and 1980 alone the Government almost doubled the overall public capital programme provision for public water and sewerage schemes — from less than £25 million in 1977 to almost £47 million in 1980. I am especially pleased to have been able, just as I have done for roads, to make provision for very substantially increased funds for 1981 — a total of some £67.3 million for public schemes for 1981 compared with the £47 million for 1980. This represents an increase of some £20 million or 44 per cent.

These extra funds have enabled me to approve contract documents for 45 new major public water and sewerage schemes with the estimated total value of about £27 million. Local authorities undertaking these schemes are now free to invite tenders and financing will be arranged in due course. Work and direct employment on most of these schemes will commence during the current year. Schemes released for commencement include: Mid-Galway water supply scheme; Kerry central regional water [1266] supply scheme — Contract 1; Tallaght water distribution network, Dublin; high level water supply improvements, Cork city; Bally bay/Lough Egish water supply scheme, County Monaghan — Stage 1; and Lettermacaward water supply scheme, County Donegal.

I am also proud of the fact that, since 1977, the cost limit for small public water and sewerage schemes has been increased from £20,000 to £30,000; and that the overall capital provision for small schemes has been increased more than fourfold — from about £1 million in 1977 to £4.5 million in 1981. Many extensions-improvements can be financed under the small schemes programme to meet urgent needs arising, pending the execution of major schemes. The programme also plays a positive and important role in helping to maintain direct labour force employment by sanitary authorities.

One of the happiest and most satisfying features of rural life in this country has been the tremendous upsurge in recent years in the number of private group water schemes undertaken by local communities with generous grant assistance from the Government. The Government substantially increased grants for group water schemes commenced on or after 1 November 1977 from a maximum of £200 per house to a maximum of £300 per house. An additional grant of up to £200 is payable per farmer member of the group.

The Government also took over liability for supplementary grants formerly payable by local authorities, thereby releasing ratepayers from the financial liability involved. As a result of these measures, State expenditure on group scheme grants increased from £1.1 million in 1976 to £4 million in 1980, and group scheme installation increased each year from 7,930 in 1977 to over 10,000 per year in the years 1978 to 1980. At the end of 1980, nearly 3,000 schemes had been completed and approximately 88,700 houses and over 70,000 farms had obtained water from group schemes. In addition, work was in progress on the installation of water in another 8,000 houses and over 220 schemes had been [1267] designed to serve a further 7,100 houses approximately.

My colleague Deputy MacSharry, Minister for Agriculture, has recently announced that the Government's programme for the development of agriculture in the west of Ireland has been cleared by the EEC Standing Committee on Agricultural Structures. I will shortly be in a position to announce details of grants for rural water schemes in the west, 50 per cent of the cost of which will be recouped by the European Agricultural Guidance and Gurantee Fund, FEOGA. At this stage, I can indicate that my announcement will include details of new capital grants for rural public water schemes, and greatly increased grants for private group water schemes. I have no doubt that this grant assistance will give a considerable boost to the rural water supply programme in the west, and ensure substantial progress to our ultimate goal of a rural water supply in every house and farm in the country.

Since 1 January 1978 over 950,000 ratepayers have been fully relieved of the burden of rates. These properties include domestic dwellings, secondary schools, farm out-buildings and community centres. These reliefs are substantial. Were it not for our decision to remove rates on houses, a modest house with £20 valuation would, in 1981, attract a rates burden of £285 in County Wicklow, £273 in North Tipperary, £296 in County Galway, £391 in County Mayo, £277 in County Cavan and £238 in County Monaghan.

The farming sector has not been forgotten either. This year, rate reliefs to farmers have been increased to an unprecedented level. Up to now only farmers with land valuations of £20 or less got full relief of rates. This year farmers up to £50 valuation are relieved of all rates on land. This means that a further 80,750 holdings, those with valuations between £20 and £50, will be fully derated for the first time. Farmers with land valuations between £50 and £70 now pay only half the rates on their land valuations. Farmers in urban areas will be [1268] entitled to the same rates reliefs as apply in county council areas. These are worthwhile reliefs for the farming sector. These relief measures for land alone, will represent a subsidy of some £62 million to ratepayers in 1981.

In addition farmers, of course, continue to benefit from rates relief on their dwellings and on farm out-buildings which we brought in with effect from 1 January 1978. The guidelines which have applied to local rate increases over the past few years have ensured that the business community and others who remain liable for rates have not had to suffer as a result of the changes in local finance.

The contribution which the building and construction industry and road and sanitary service works must make to our economy is immense if we are properly to develop industry, tourism and agriculture in order to meet in the eighties the aspirations of our very young, growing and well educated population. The provisions made in the budget and the Finance Bill are designed to ensure that the potential for expansion of these critical services is fully realised. I am confident that the measures taken in the areas for which I am responsible will be a key factor in the future expansion and well being of our economy.

I would also like again to assure the House of the future continued well being of the building and construction industry under the Government. The industry can feel secure in the knowledge that in a time of difficulty my colleagues and I as a Government act, as we did last autumn by providing the necessary additional funds to stimulate the industry at a time when it was showing signs of slowing down; as we have now done by providing vastly increased capital allocations to create the necessary confidence to boost the economy. I am glad to note that these decisions are already beginning to bear fruit. Regretably, the lesson to be learned from the past experience is that the building and construction industry can feel no such security under the Opposition when in Government. My colleagues in Government and I will in 1982 again provide the necessary capital to continue to finance the vastly expanded programmes [1269] now under way—and let there be no doubts about it we will be here throughout 1982 fully committed to seeing to finality the vastly expanded programmes now being carried out, especially in the areas of building and construction, including roads and sanitary services.

Mr. E. Collins: Information on Edward Collins  Zoom on Edward Collins  The last speaker referred in detail to the Government's housing policy and to the fact that the record of the last Government in building 125,000 houses each year was a good, solid record. I am glad that this Government have kept up that record although I am concerned about the number of council houses being built. In 1976, 7,236 council houses were built by the Coalition Government and each year since then under this Government the number of local authority houses completed has continued to fall until in 1979, 6,214 council houses were completed. That is a very serious matter to which the Minister did not address himself in detail apart from saying in his script that it was the Government's policy to maintain a stable programme of 6,000 completions each year in the local authority house building programme. That is totally inadequate and the direction of the Government's house building programme has gone out of plumb. This is because of the growth in population and the increasing number of people who cannot afford to buy houses.

The Minister referred to the elimination of rates from private housing but he did not refer to the rapid increases in the price of new houses in the private sector. The Minister ignored this aspect because he knows that the increase in the cost of an ordinary house has jumped by one-third in the last three years. That is a disgraceful record for a Government supposedly committed to controlling the economy. One of the most important elements in the control of the economy relates to the control of prices for essential services and products, such as food, housing and clothing.

No attempt has been made to control house prices. I reject the policy of completing only 6,000 local authority houses a year as it is totally inadequate. If the [1270] Minister looks at the list of approved applicants for houses in any county council or corporation he will be quickly made aware of the situation. The length of the lists would indicate to any sane person that there is an urgent need to increase the number of local authority house completions per year to about 8,000 or 9,000. This Government are reluctant to do this and they are avoiding the real social issue which is the need to cater for the requirements of the less well off.

In my local authority the rapid drop in the number of house completions by the local authorities in the last four years is causing serious concern. Once again families are living in bad flats, substandard housing and in over-crowded conditions. I know of cases where people with TB are actually living in the house and that was unheard of three or four years ago. This is because of the failure of this Government to tackle this problem. We have an emergency housing problem, perhaps not in the private sector but certainly in the public sector. There must be a crisis situation in Dublin city. The situation should be declared an emergency situation and it should not need me to remind the Minister of his neglect.

In relation to the Department of the Environment about which the Minister spoke, the rate limitation on local authorities as practised by this Government is strangling local authorities. On average local authorities are getting funds equivalent to about two-thirds the increase in the rate of inflation. Most wise local authorities had a credit balance which they needed in order to make capital acquisitions such as site purchases for housing estates, for forward planning for schools and churches and so on. These credit balances have been done away with. There is no cushion for local authorities now to ensure that the essential development services can be catered for. This will mean that certain local authorities badly in need of rapid expansion will be strangled because of a lack of finance. There is a need to identify certain local authorities such as Waterford where the boundary has increased to four times its original size since 1 January 1980. Here [1271] a new high level bridge is required and not the present replacement bridge; ring roads are required and the East Waterford Regional Water Scheme is vital to the development of the whole city. Those needs will not be catered for under the present system of local authority finance, by the present limitation on rates. For instance, the rebuilding of the courthouse costing in excess of £1 million will fall on the local rating authority.

However, that kind of money is not available to the local authority because of the strangling policies of the Government. Things will grind to a halt. Roads will not be resurfaced, houses will not be repaired and there will be serious redundancies in local authorities. There will be redundancies throughout the country this year because of the limitation in the increase in rates that local authorities were allowed. In Waterford city there was a special gang to deal with repairs to O'Meara estate. We should have liked to have kept those people to deal with repairs throughout the city but, unfortunately, we had to let them go. This was due to the short-sightedness of the Government.

I should like now to deal with the finances of this nation. “From Bad to Worse” was the heading of an editorial in The Irish Times of 2 April. That article stated the following:

The shocking Exchequer deficit figures published yesterday must explode the credibility of the financial projections made by the Minister for Finance two months ago on Budget day. Officially, the current Budget deficit for the whole of 1981 was to have been £515 million. But in the first three months alone the deficit was £205 million, putting the public finances roughly on target for a deficit of over £800 million for the year.

That is a shocking indictment of Government mismanagement, irresponsibility and incapability of dealing with the finances of the nation. Since this Government took office their budget projections each year have been completely out of line. In 1978 the budget deficit amounted [1272] to £810 million, or 12.9 per cent of GNP. In 1979 the budget was supposed to be £779 million, but it turned out to be £1,009 million. In 1980 the commitment in the budget was for an overall deficit of £896 million but the outturn was £1,217 million, or 14.5 per cent of GNP. This was 25 per cent in excess of the budget figures. It appears that in 1981 there is the possibility of having an increase of 75 per cent in the planned budget deficit.

This Government were elected in 1977 with a large majority. They were supposed to be a strong Government, capable of getting the country moving again. The only things they have got moving in the past four years have been the larger dole queues and the queues for the emigration boats. They also shifted their leader rather quickly. Presumably he did not suit their strategy for the next election, but that is their business.

The Government were given a mandate to get the country going, to use their own words. It was expected they would manage the economy to ensure that budget deficits and the balance of payments were controlled and that inflation would be taken in hand. According to their manifesto, employment would be practically eliminated and we were given to think that agriculture, industry and trade would flourish. These expectations were put before the electorate at the last general election and they were the expectations of the electorate after the election.

How sadly disappointed the electorate have been. They are mesmerised by the figures released each day. Last year the inflation rate was 21 per cent. What a strong Government. The figure for unemployment is 126,000; yet, the Minister present in this House, Deputy Nolan, tries to misinterpret the figure and is not prepared to allow for the necessary seasonal adjustment. In the past few months he has been babbling on about how pleased he is to see a slowing down in the unemployment rate. More than 126,000 people are unemployed but the Minister is pleased to note a slowing down in the rise in the unemployment figure. That is great consolation to the [1273] man in the street who expected full employment from this Government.

The lack of control over the finances of the country is quite disgraceful. The Government should go to the country now with an apology to the people. In the four years they have been in power they have made every mistake possible in the management of the economy. The promises they made with regard to the economy have been broken and the people have been depressed at the way the Government have acted. The people have been mesmerised by the internal bickerings in Fianna Fáil but they have also been extremely depressed by the workings of Fianna Fáil. Every week sees a further rise in the inflation rate and this is frightening the workers, the old, the poor, the unemployed and the housewives. Every week there is a budget of one kind or another whether it is gas, electricity, transport charges or price increases in food, clothing and footwear. The policy of the Government has meant an enormous increase in prices. I am sure they are quite pleased with their work.

What about unemployment? What about the talk of getting the country moving again, of getting industry to prosper and of getting full employment. All these promises have been thrown out the window. Some 126,000 people are unemployed and over 25 per cent of them are less than 25 years of age. The young people are totally disillusioned with the babblings of the Government. We are a wonderful nation with many resources and if the country were managed properly we could achieve high prosperity in the context of a developing Europe. However, it needs the commitment of a Government to the long-term needs of the country. That is the great failure of the Government. Fianna Fáil have spent the future finances of this young country. Our children's money has already been misspent by this Government in the past four years, with no attempt whatever having been made to create an environment in which agriculture, industry and commerce could prosper.

Where is the prosperity in agriculture now? Commentators are contending that farmers are less well off than they were [1274] before we joined the EEC in 1973. Last year alone approximately 20 per cent of our farmers' breeding stock was slaughtered or disposed of. My reference here is the CBF Annual Report of 1980 which says, in relation to cattle numbers, that the breeding herd is now back to the 1972 level. The beef cattle component of the herd is back to its December 1971 level. We are all also familiar with the fact that, on average, farmers' incomes over the past two years have fallen by a total of 50 per cent.

An Leas-Ceann Comhairle:  The Deputy is aware that we shall have a full debate on agriculture tomorrow evening.

Mr. E. Collins: Information on Edward Collins  Zoom on Edward Collins  I am merely referring to agriculture as a component of the Government's mismanagement of the economy and I shall not dwell on it. However, I feel bound to refer to it in passing and that is all I shall do.

This Government have failed agriculture totally. Their management of agricultural affairs stands in stark contrast with the good management of agricultural affairs under Deputy Clinton, when he was Minister for Agriculture in the last Government. He went out, fought and won increases for our farmers. We have had nothing but shilly-shallying on the part of the present Minister and his predecessor. They have come home with bits and pieces from Brussels. We are now getting only the crumbs from the tables in Brussels for our farmers. There is no dynamic policy being pursued in Brussels by the present Government.

In regard to industry we all receive the Confederation of Irish Industry bulletins every week or so which make depressing reading—the continued lack of expectation of investment, lack of confidence in the economy, the serious drop in investment plans of companies throughout the country. Of course that is a direct reflection of our rate of unemployment. But industry and commerce were expecting more. They cannot expect more of a government who are not prepared to ensure the control of the economy. In their management of the economy, especially of their own finances, they have deprived [1275] the private sector of the requisite funds with which to expand and prosper. It is the Government's mismanagement of their own affairs that has caused industry to become so disillusioned and unhappy. Time and again I have heard bankers and industrialists speak of the need for the Government to control their own expenditure. Yet the Government continue to ignore the pleas, the reports they receive week in week out about the need to control their expenditure, and that is supposed to be a strong Fianna Fáil Government. The industrial and commercial sector will not prosper again until such time as the rate of inflation and the Government's finances are brought under control. Certainly in the last four years there have been no signs that the Fianna Fáil Government are prepared to do either. It is indeed sad that any government should act so irresponsibly, ignoring the real needs of the country.

The balance of payments deficit over the past few years, combined with the continuing serious budget deficit and with the consequent rapid growth of the national debt, now over £8,000 million, in the medium term will mean that we shall have to seek the support of the International Monetary Fund or the European Investment Bank on a large scale. That, in turn, will mean that we will lose control of our economy, that we shall have to hand monetary and fiscal policy over to people who are not Irish. It will mean that we will have failed as a nation. The Government are proceeding headlong in that direction, something which must be challenged in this House. It is obvious to me, and I think becoming daily more obvious to people generally, that this Government are unable to manage the finances of this nation. An article by Paul Tansey in The Irish Times of 1 April highlighted our present serious borrowing position. It was pointed out that our balance of payments deficit in 1981 is expected to be £1,300 million whereas in 1980 it was estimated to be £780. In 1976 it was merely £157 million. More important perhaps is the deficit on the balance of payments as a percentage of GNP which is estimated in 1981 to be in the [1276] region of 13.2 per cent. These may be rather dry economic statistics to many people but they have very real financial implications for this country. Speaking as an economist, it is sad to see all the vital statistics, all the vital economic indicators going the wrong way in such a rapid and continuous fashion. I am speaking specifically about the balance of payments, the rate of inflation and the budget deficit, three key economic factors which will lead this country into serious financial trouble and for which the present Government must be held fully responsible.

I should like now to refer briefly to education in which sector there is also an emerging crisis. I shall refer very briefly to the university situation in which in respect of the National University of Ireland alone there is a debt of approximately £6 million again indicating the serious financial plight of the universities. Indeed we could include in that major problem also Trinity College, Dublin. It is vital that this State funds our higher level colleges and institutions so that we may produce graduates, especially in the technological sector, sufficient to cater for the needs of our society and economy. It is most regrettable that the budget of the past few years has neglected the needs of our universities which, in the long run will be tragic and will mean our nation will suffer.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Nolan): Information on Thomas Nolan  Zoom on Thomas Nolan  I do not know to what Deputy Collins was referring a few moments ago when he said I felt happy with a statement I made in connection with a reduction in unemployment. Every Member of this House should be happy that for the first time in months we have reached a situation in which the unemployment figures are on the downward trend. That was the reason for my statement. I welcomed the fact that these figures were reducing and I sincerely hope in the next month, or the month thereafter, I shall be able to tell Deputy Collins that they have been further reduced. Most people are aware that it is not the Government who are responsible for the high unemployment figures at present. Indeed it should be said that the figures for unemployment in the [1277] United Kingdom, the Netherlands and Denmark are much higher as a percentage of the working population, than they have been here.

There are, however, encouraging signs that the worst effects of the recession are now over and that there may be an upward trend not only in employment in the Community but throughout the world. Between April and October last the seasonally adjusted register increased by an average of almost 4,000 per month. When one thinks of that surely it is nice to see that we have for the first time a reduction.

The present recession can, I submit, be regarded as no more than a temporary setback to our job creation plans. The revised employment and labour force estimates for the period 1975-80 published recently by the Central Statistics Office indicates the success of the Government's job creation programmes in the past few years and demonstrate that we are capable of providing jobs in the numbers required to cater for our rapidly growing work force. In brief these estimates show that total employment increased by 31,000 on average per annum in the two-year period to mid-April 1979 and by 18,000 in the year to mid-April 1980. These are the largest increases in employment ever achieved in recent history. As a result of this rapid growth in the number of people at work in the three-year period in question, the unemployment rate declined from 9.3 per cent to 7.4 per cent. This occurred despite the rapid growth in the labour force during this period, which averaged 22,000 a year. That is an interesting figure to note.

The outlook for employment this year is brighter. The prospects are for a gradual resumption in growth in the international economy following the sharp downturn in 1980. Given our high dependence on foreign trade this upturn, combined with supportive Government policies, should result in significant growth in the Irish economy. If domestic costs are kept in line with the pay terms of the national understanding this improvement in economic performance should bring about substantial employment growth this year, which should offset [1278] job losses and at the same time absorb the increase in the labour force. In addition, if job losses are kept to a minimum through improved competitiveness the existing level of unemployment could be reduced further. In a country like Ireland, where exports constitute such a high proportion of GNP, I cannot over-emphasise the importance of maintaining, and indeed improving, competitiveness.

The Industrial Development Authority achieved record numbers of job approvals in the past three years. Despite the unfavourable climate for investment obtaining internationally last year the authority approved projects with an employment potential of over 35,000 jobs, an all time record. The IDA aim to achieve a further 36,000 job approvals this year. In all, as a result of projects already approved or planned, it is expected that 15,000 to 16,000 new manufacturing jobs will be provided this year. In addition, SFADCO expect to provide 1,500 new jobs this year and approve projects with an employment potential of 3,000. The Government's Investment Plan for 1981, recently published, which provides for total investment of over £1,700 million will result in higher direct employment of over 10,000 mainly in the building and construction industry and the usual indirect employment with people supplying materials and services.

Steps are being taken to ensure that our young people are equipped to take advantage of the new employment opportunities which these measures are providing. Efforts are being made to improve the status and level of technological education in second level schools and to encourage young people, their parents and teachers to think about their attitudes towards technological studies and the growing industrial employment opportunities arising. Projections of the demand for engineers between now and 1990 have been prepared and indications are that sufficient places will be available in third level educational institutions to meet this demand.

The new educational opportunities programme was introduced to alleviate shortages in industries and services. The [1279] courses provided under this programme are mainly in engineering and computer fields. There is a very large increase in student intake for four-year courses for graduate engineers in 1980 and as a result there will be a significant increase in output of graduate engineers between 1983 and 1984.

A campaign to advertise engineering technician courses in our regional technical colleges was undertaken by the Department of Education in mid 1980 and, as a result, enrolments were boosted considerably. A series of schools-industry link schemes have been initiated with the aim of establishing links between local schools and industry with the object of enabling students to obtain first hand information of career prospects in industry and developing informed attitudes towards industrial employment.

As the House is probably aware, in the Careers Information Section of my Department 254 leaflets are at present in circulation dealing with various types of jobs. They include four new leaflets published in the past year. The information for the leaflets is obtained from trade and professional associations, educational and training authorities, employers and trade unions in all the various fields of economic activity. Each leaflet is revised at least once every two years and, accordingly, the updating of leaflets is an ongoing process. Material for new leaflets is continuously being researched.

About 4 million leaflets are distributed every year. There are four main distributions to school libraries, youth organisations and careers guidance counsellors every year. The leaflets are also issued free on request. About 100 postal enquiries are received daily and up to 30 telephone calls for information.

The expansion of the National Manpower Service, both in terms of staff numbers and the network of offices has continued over the past year resulting in a field staff now of over 300 and the operation of offices in 39 locations. Further recruitment of placement officers is envisaged and four additional offices will be opened as soon as suitable premises are acquired. The contribution made by [1280] the Occupational Guidance Service in assisting job seekers who are having difficulty in coming to a decision regarding their future careers has been recognised and the number of trained officers has increased with a further five in training at present.

An allocation of £2.1 million has been provided for the work experience progremme under the 1981 budget proposals. This will allow for the continuance of the programme this year with a weekly participation rate of 2,000 approximately.

The work experience programme, which is administered by the National Manpower Service of the Department of Labour came into operation in 1978 as a measure towards the alleviation of youth unemployment. The aim of the programme is to give young people who are finding it difficult to obtain suitable permanent employment an opportunity of gaining experience of working life and learning some basic skills which will enhance their chances of securing a permanent job.

Last year was a relatively good year for industrial relations. The number of days lost through industrial disputes showed a considerable drop compared with 1979—a total of 404,000 as against 1,427,000. In fact the 1980 figures represents the best performance in terms of days lost since 1975. There are however serious deficiencies in our industrial relations system.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present: House counted and 20 Members being present,

Mr. Nolan: Information on Thomas Nolan  Zoom on Thomas Nolan  Before Deputy Collins called an official strike, I was talking about industrial relations. We must not be complacent, nor rest on our oars, now that an improvement on our industrial relations performance has been achieved. We should strive to ensure that the improvement is not short-lived and that our commitment to a fair day's work for a fair day's pay is not lessened. There should be enough means at the disposal of unions and management to discuss and resolve grievances before they are [1281] allowed to fester. On the management side that means, first and foremost, accessibility. It also requires a consistent personnel policy which has been determined and agreed upon by all those in management.

I would not advocate a dictatorship of the personnel function, but I would urge all line managers to remember that a good working atmosphere means greater efficiency. In turn, a high rate of output can provide greater security and possibly financial benefits for the workforce. Where there is a serious grievance which is not capable of being solved by the employer and union concerned the resources of the State dispute-settling machinery are available as a means of reaching compromise. The Labour Court has been expanded in the past year with the addition of a fourth division, and its operation has been made more efficient with the purchase of advanced technology work-processing equipment. All this means that the waiting period between referring a dispute for investigation and the issue of a recommendation on it has been steadily reduced.

Turning to the question of unofficial strikes, the Government are clearly concerned about the situation which obtains at present whereby a person or group of individuals who act quite without authority or support from their trade union and who engaged in unofficial picketing enjoy precisely the same legal protections as those who mount a picket with a full mandate from their trade union. Duputies will be aware that consultations are currently going on with employer and trade union interests with a view to reaching consensus on a number of outline proposals for the reform of trade union law which I suggested. When these consulations are concluded I intend to put specific proposals to the Government for a decision on their implementation. Legislation on its own cannot, however, eliminate our industrial relations problems overnight. The primary responsibility for the resolution of disputes rests on the factory floor with employers and workers. The most the law can do is to even any imbalance which may exist in the legal protection afforded to either social [1282] partner, and it would be wrong to suggest that our problems can be solved with a stroke of a pen.

I should also like to mention a subject which will have a vital influence on our industrial relations system in the longer term, and that is trade union education and training. I am well aware of the important contribution which an informed and highly-trained trade unionist can make to rational negotiations as opposed to a minority who ignore agreed procedures.

As an indication of my commitment to the ideal of trade union education, I have authorised the payment of £450,000 to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions towards the cost of their Education, Training and Advisory Services during 1981. This sum represents an increase of 50 per cent over last year's figure, and nearly 120 per cent over the 1979 amount. I am sure the House will agree that this is a generous increase and one that will bear fruit in the years to come in the form of a more articulate, responsible and efficient trade union movement.

In May 1978 my predecessor established a commission on industrial relations with a view to determining the areas in which improvements could be made to our industrial relations system. I am glad to be able to tell the House that I expect to receive the commission's report within a couple of weeks. The publication of this report will offer an opportunity for what I hope will prove to be a well-informed and constructive debate on the vital subject of industrial relations.

My Department continue to be involved in the activities of the International Labour Organisation and the Council of Europe. Ireland has continuously supported the aims of the ILO, to advance the promotion of peace by social justice. We became members in 1923. In accordance with the obligations of our membership we hope to send a tripartite delegation to the 67th session of the International Labour Conference to be held in Geneva in June 1981. The conference will consider the adoption of new instruments relating to (a) collective bargaining; (b) equal opportunities and equal treatment for men and women [1283] workers; and (c) safety and health and the working environment. The conference will also discuss reports on the maintenance of migrant workers rights in social security and the termination of employment at the initiative of the employer.

My Department make an annual contribution towards the expenses of the ILO, which is assessed at 0.16 per cent of the total ILO budget and a contribution towards the provision of fellowships for nationals of developing countries, preferably from Africa, at the ILO Advanced Training Centre in Turin.

The Department of Labour's main function in the EEC is to contribute to the formulation and implementation of EEC legislation and policy in the field of worker protection. In 1980 the EEC Social Affairs Ministers adopted in council new legislation for the protection of workers against chemical, physical and biological hazards in their working environment and for protection of workers' wages in the event of insolvency of their employers. They also adopted a programme for the exchange of young workers and guidelines for a Community Labour Market policy and agreed on new procedures for the greater involvement of the social partners, workers and employers, in Community decision making.

However, the pressing preoccupation of the Council of Ministers has been the problem of high unemployment in the member states. Various ideas concerning the possibility of some form of work sharing are being considered although it is recognised that any such measures would be peripheral to the key elements of increased investment and growth in any solution. It is hoped that a joint meeting of Ministers for Finance and Ministers for Labour of the member states will be held so that the problems of unemployment can be considered by both Councils in one forum.

My Department are responsible for the administration of the redundancy payments section. They pay rebates to employers of sums paid by them to redundant workers or, where employers fail to [1284] make redundancy payment to workers, the Department pay the workers concerned from the Redundancy Fund and, if possible, recovers the amount due from the employers.

The redundancy fund is financed by contributions from employers which are fixed at the rate of 0.2 per cent of reckonable earnings for the tax year commencing 6 April 1981. The ceiling on reckonable earnings for this purposes was fixed at £8,500 for the same period. I am at present carrying out a review of the operation of the redundancy payments scheme and the relevant legislation.

It is essential for our economy that our industrial training be geared to the needs of the labour market so as to ensure a well trained labour force to avoid as far as possible any bottlenecks in either supply or demand. This calls for frequent reviews of the training provided and I am satisfied that the training agencies under the aegis of my Department, AnCO and CERT, are very conscious of this and keep their programmes under constant review.

The 1981 non-capital Exchequer grant to AnCO is fixed at £21 million. This represents an increase of 20 per cent over last year's allocation. When the grant from the European Social Fund is added to this, it means that AnCO will have about £7 million more at their disposal than for the 1980 programme. This increase will enable AnCO to increase by almost 10 per cent the numbers receiving training in 1981 over the 15,700 trained in 1980. AnCO will also concentrate more on high-skilled training so that the potential of Irish manpower can be used to the full in the new and developing field of high technology employments.

The stock of apprentices reached 21,500 at the end of December 1980. This was an all-times high and AnCO is determined that every effort will be made to increase the intake of first year apprentices during 1981. The additional funds being provided this year will enable AnCO to continue providing special arrangements for apprentices who may find their apprenticeship temporarily disrupted by the economic situation.

This year's Exchequer capital grant to [1285] AnCO amounts to 9.5 million pounds, an increase of almost 50 per cent on last year's figure. This substantial increase will allow AnCO to proceed with its plans to build new training centres. New centres will be commenced at Loughlinstown and Baldoyle during 1981. New training centres at Cork and Finglas in Dublin and substantial extensions to existing centres at Tralee and Ballyfermot in Dublin will be completed in 1981. There will be an increase of 955 training places compared with 1980 in addition to the employment which AnCO's capital development programme in 1981, as I outlined, will generate in the services and construction industries. The selection of new training centre locations has been heavily influenced by the identified needs for vocational training facilities, the employment outlets, both existing and planned and the skilled needs of local industry.

As Deputies are aware, CERT caters for the education, recruitment and training for the hotel, catering and tourism industry. The 1981 Exchequer grant to CERT amounts to £935,000 which is an increase of £105,000 over the 1980 allocation.

The success of an enterprise depends to a great extent on its having an effective and efficient team of workers and management working hand in hand. As I see it, one should complement the other. I have, therefore, decided to continue with the subvention to the IMI this year and give them the same amount as last year.

The theme of the International Year of Disabled Persons is “Full Participation and Equality”. My Department are making a very significant contribution in the fields of employment and training. I have responsibility for the implementation of the Government decision that a 3 per cent quota of disabled persons should be employed in the public sector. My Department have already arranged for recruitment to the civil service to be opened up to disabled persons and special arrangements made to facilitate their appointment. I am satisfied that these arrangements will lead to a significant number of disabled persons being offered employment in the civil service this year.

[1286] My Department are also in regular contact with local authorities, health boards and State bodies to assist and advise them on how best they can implement the Government decision and proceed as quickly as possible towards the 3 per cent quota. AnCO involvement in the training of disabled persons for open employment is increasing significantly. They trained 473 disabled persons during 1980 and hope to double that figure for 1981.

The employment equality section of my Department is responsible for administration of equal pay and equal opportunities in employment legislation. This legislation establishes the legal right of women to equal pay with men for like work and for equal treatment with men in entry to employment, training, promotion and all conditions of employment.

All prohibitions on women at work, such as the prohibition on women working in industrial work at night, are being looked at to see if the concern which originally inspired them is well-founded. If it is necessary to protect women in special cases — as, for example, from working in lead processing during pregnancy — such protection will remain; but if any such protection does not appear necessary and results in discrimination in employment, we will give consideration to removing it from the Statute Book.

The Employment Equality Agency set up under the equal opportunity in employment legislation of 1977 has the task of publicising the legislation and overseeing progress. They have monitored the cases being heard by the equality officers and the Labour Court and they encourage individuals to avail of the redress procedures set up under the Acts.

The agency keep a watch on all discriminatory advertisements and on any sign of discriminatory practices in employment. If they suspect a pattern of discrimination they are empowered to hold formal investigations and to issue non-discriminatory notices.

The extent to which career choices for women are affected by subject choices in school is basic to the question of the removal of discrimination against [1287] women. The Employment Equality Agency assisted by the Department of Education, the Department of Labour and the EEC, have commissioned the ESRI to carry out a research project on the subject and the project is well advanced. A sum of £172,000 has been made available in the 1981 Budget for the Employment Equality Agency. In the area of women's affairs the Department are also giving a grant to the Council for the Status of Women who are an umbrella group for over 30 women's organisations. The council are consulted about any Government initiative with special relevance to women. Suitable premises have been secured by the council in Merrion Square with Government assistance and a sum of £30,000 has been made available in the 1981 Budget for the Council on the Status of Women.

My Department are the national agency designated by the Government to be responsible for matters relating to the European Social Fund. The fund is the financial instrument of employment policy of the EEC and has provided very substantial benefits to this country since our accession to the Community in 1973. In cash terms alone the amount in 1980 was over £175 million. The annual amount has grown steadily over the years from £1.4 million in 1973 to £53.5 million in 1980. This assistance has enabled us to expand our vocational training facilities at a much faster pace than would otherwise have been possible. The main beneficiaries of the £53.5 million approved in respect of 1980 were: AnCO, £27.5 million; bodies concerned with the training of handicapped persons, £8.2 million; Department of Education, £6.3 million; IDA, £4.9 million; National Manpower Service, £3.5 million; CERT, £.9 million; Department of the Environment, £.5 million; and SFADCo, £.5 million.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Minister has two minutes to conclude.

Mr. Nolan: Information on Thomas Nolan  Zoom on Thomas Nolan  I would like to say a few words about the safety of workers in their employment as well as covering several other pieces of labour legislation relating [1288] to such matters as hours at work and protection of young people in emplyment. We have moved in a matter of years from being a country dominated by agriculture to a country where industry and services now employ 80 per cent of our people. In view of this it is obvious that considerable attention must now be given to ensuring that employees enjoy reasonable standards of hygiene and safety in their workplace. I feel that a major contribution will be made to help improve safety standards in industry when the Safety in Industry Act, 1980, takes full effect. The corner-stone of the Act is the mandatory establishment of safety committees in respect of existing factories before the end of 1981. Apart from this the onus is put on the employers to set down in writing the arrangements which they have made in their premises to ensure the safety of their workers. I would like to take this opportunity to ask both sides of industry to ensure the effective working of the Act.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  I understand that this debate allows for a full review of the economic situation and I want to enumerate, if that is in order, the areas in which I feel there has been a complete failure by this Government. Despite what they may say in rosy speeches and through economists generally throughout the length and breadth not alone of this land but of the world, they stand condemned on the management of the economy here. I have before me a report from the Irish Banking Review which is very critical of the Government's management of the economy. As an ordinary man in the street I want to spell out what I find has been wrong with the management of the economy and the affairs of this State by the present holders of office The area most dear to my heart, which has been boasted about quite a lot by the Government, is the area of social welfare. It is the Government's duty to look after the poor and less well off in our society. The record in this area over the last year in particular is anything but good.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  What about the [1289] increases in social welfare paid in the budget?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Minister, please.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  I am not in the habit of being interrupted or taking part in cross-talk but I think a sleight of hand was done in the area the Minister of State mentions and it was boasted around this country that there was a 25 per cent increase for long term recipients of social welfare. However, when the unfortunate people had dependants, they found that that was not the case. I agree that, if you go into the small print in the budget, it was spelled out at the time, but people were deceived by glib talk about a 25 per cent increase for long term recipients. They found that this did not apply for their dependants. It was a con trick, something that the Minister should be ashamed of, to claim publicly that he allowed a 25 per cent increase in long term benefits when that was not the case.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Which he did.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  Their dependants did not get it.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  That is it, they did not.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Deputies on both sides——

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  The con tricks were carried on in the Department of Social Welfare and to hear this is probably hurting them. This is why we get the reaction of interruptions which are unbecoming from a holder of office. Be that as it may, we will leave it for the moment. In most countries in Europe the old age pension age is 65. Here it is 66 by virtue of the fact that the previous Government reduced it consistently by one year for each year of their term of office. The Fianna Fáil Government, in their long history of Government in this country, never reduced the old age pension age by [1290] even one fraction of a week or a day. That does not stand to their credit. It has been said here many times recently that the payment of benefits has broken down completely in the Department of Social Welfare and I am told that we are harassing people working there. I do not care whom we are harassing. It is our duty to do so as representatives of the unfortunate poor in this country, the unfortunate people who are unlucky enough to be dependent on services from the Department of Social Welfare, when they cannot get what they are legally and justly entitled to and what they have contributed to. I have here before me one case which I bring in as an example of what has been happening in this Department under this much-lauded Minister who thinks an awful lot about his responsibilities in that area. I have supplied details to the Department of a man who went out sick on 23 January 1981 following an accident. He was most anxious to work but was forced to stay out until 12 February. He did not receive any benefit.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Disgraceful.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  In desperation he went back to work but was unable to continue and had to go out sick again from 23 February to 9 March. He was still awaiting benefit, even though he had a full record of insurance over a number of years. He had been forced to return to work on 12 February from sheer necessity. During the whole period he received benefit amounting to only £10. Both he and I supplied the necessary reference numbers to the Department but without result. If the Minister had any integrity or honesty he would resign from his position.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  He is a beautiful singer.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  Deputies should not interrupt. I would ask Deputy Bermingham to get back to the economic debate.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  If the Deputy wishes to speak about this matter the name should be given or at least the social welfare number.

[1291]Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  If the Leas-Cheann Comhairle says it is in order, I can give the two numbers.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Minister should not interrupt and neither should Deputy Begley. I have allowed Deputy Bermingham to raise this matter but it does not arise under an economic debate. We will now proceed to the economic debate.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  This case is to the disgrace of the Minister for Social Welfare.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  The Deputy should not raise this matter without giving the number.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  That is a matter between the Deputy and the Department or the Minister.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  The old insurance number is 1401517 and the PRSI number is 1047078L. These are the facts and I stand over them. I leave it to the judgment of those listening whether this Department is being run correctly.

The Government have refused to give money to the National Committee on Pilot Schemes to Combat Poverty and that committee has had to be disbanded. We were afraid of the just criticism of our society expressed by these people. Twenty-five per cent of our people are on the breadline.

Another area in which I have a great interest is that of local government. The Minister for the Environment spoke in this debate about all sorts of improvements being carried out.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  All kinds of everything.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  Kildare County Council, of which I have the honour to be chairman, did not know up to yesterday what money would be available to them in 1981 for local authority housing. They also do not know whether they will get sufficient money to continue housing [1292] projects begun last year, yet the Minister for the Environment boasts about the great input to housing. I wonder whether any local authority know what money is available for housing this year. Certainly we do not know in Kildare.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  We know in Kerry.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  I discussed this matter yesterday with our manager and he had no indication of the amount available. Contracts are ready to be finalised when we are notified as to this amount.

One of the Ministers of State at the Department of the Environment met a deputation from the town authority of Newbridge where over 500 people are living in appalling conditions. He assured them that money would be available if a contract price were agreed but as yet Kildare County Council have not been notified as to the availability of even one penny. The Department asked the county council to carry out a survey of housing needs and we have done so. As far as is known to the local authority there are 2,179 families living in unfit or overcrowded conditions in the county. Last year we completed 106 houses but I do not consider that this is anything for Fianna Fáil to boast about. It is a figure of which I would be ashamed.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  I thought there was a Minister in that constituency.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Seán Browne  Zoom on Seán Browne  The Deputy does not need any help.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  I have explained the situation in my constituency and the Government stand condemned on that issue.

Road grants in County Kildare have increased from £2.5 million to £5 million this year. It must be remembered that £3 million of that sum is needed for the Naas by-pass which will serve every county in the southern part of the country and is a vital necessity. Almost another million will be spent on a major project on arterial roads to the south. The amount provided for the maintenance of roads in County Kildare will not last until September or keep the workforce [1293] employed. All our roads are deteriorating at such a rate that industry will not come to Kildare or to the vast area of Ireland served by roads through that county because of their bad conditions. These roads carry three-quarters of all traffic in Ireland. There are three arterial roads carrying traffic to the south-west, the south and Waterford, and deteriorating daily. The Minister for the Environment had the cheek to come in here and boast about all the money he was providing for sewerage and roads.

Two very big sewerage schemes are being carried out in Kildare for the last few years. They are very necessary and welcome for the development of that county. This year our allocation from the Department was not enough to continue these schemes. Yet the Minister is boasting about all he is doing for sewerage schemes. Who does he think he is codding? These are the facts. By October most local authorities will have to lay off workers because the Department are not providing sufficient money. The Department have control over the amount of money local authorities can raise and spend and therefore must accept full responsibility for the state of the local authorities.

Earlier in the year some people's housing loans had been approved by the local authorities but when they wanted their money there was none available because the Department had not provided it and would not allow the local authorities to borrow from the central loan fund. I do not need to tell those unfortunate people the facts because they have been forced to get bridging loans for months because of the Government's inability or refusal to provide the necessary money. The situation has improved slightly in the last month or so but I wonder if, at the end of the year, there will be enough money to pay those people with whom the local authorities have entered into commitments.

These people are making every effort to provide their own homes. Many of them should normally have local authority houses but because of the Government's lack of policy to provide such houses they are forced into borrowing [1294] more than they could be reasonably expected to pay. These are the facts and every TD knows I am speaking the truth. The Government do not have any reason to boast about their record over the past 12 months in providing houses and money to meet loans.

I turn now to agriculture. As spokesman for Agriculture, I will be giving most of my views on this subject tomorrow. Over the past year there has been a deterioration in all areas of agriculture but I am most concerned about employment in the processing industry. There has been a lack of policy and initiative at European level to stop unfair competition, for example, in our meat industry. Certain people are allowed to import from third countries materials for feeding compounds, such as tapioca which is used to the detriment of our barley growers. There is no levy or duty on this commodity but our producers are asked to pay a levy by the EEC because there is a surplus. We then import those commodities without paying a levy and this results in redundancies and losses to our farmers.

This Government got into power because they promised we would process our own food. I do not want to spell out the details now because I will deal with this matter tomorrow, but it was baldly stated in the manifesto that we would process all our own food. Yet in the food processing industry we have redundancies on a scale never even imagined. Erin Foods are closing vegetable plants with a consequent loss of employment. The vegetable processing plant in Carlow is to be closed this year. We had 1,000 acres which produced vegetables for the plant which farmers have been trying to keep going as a co-operative, but they did not get any help from the Government. They were obstructed.

That is the kind of policy we are asked to say is right. The Government have the audacity to defend this policy, but there is no way it can be defended because it is the opposite to what was promised in the manifesto. It has been said by people who are more prominent in the agricultural sector than I that we imported £450 million worth of food, and I suppose that is correct, but it would not be fair to say [1295] we could grow all that food ourselves. We cannot grow such things as bananas, oranges, tea and so on.

However, about £150 million is being paid for food which is directly competing with us and which we should be producing and processing here. A Government who allow that to happen should be ashamed of their record in that field. With regard to our vegetables we have found that no attempt has been made by the Department of Agriculture, or anybody else, to promote those products abroad. There is no marketing system of any kind in operation or any type of market evaluation to inform our farmers of the way they should produce their vegetables.

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  But farmers wives are buying Dutch potatoes just the same.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  The Deputy's remark is not worthy of comment.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Obviously, we imported some sour grapes also.

Mr. Bermingham: Information on Joseph Bermingham  Zoom on Joseph Bermingham  I am not talking about farmers alone but about more than 40 per cent of our population who are employed directly or indirectly in the agricultural sector. I am concerned about the lack of Government policy in the marketing system for those vegetables. Erin Foods have been producing excellent types of vegetables and the workers in that concern have lived up to every target set by management. The farmers—I am referring to those in the Carlow area—never welched on their contracts. We are producing high grade types of vegetables which, apparently, are not saleable on the world market. Market research has not been carried out as to whether it would be possible to sell them on the world market or whether we should have diverted to frozen vegetables. Frozen vegetables are being imported hand over fist.

We must be honest and say that the Department of Agriculture have failed to do anything about this matter. Irrespective of the amount of oil or mineral [1296] wealth we discover our greatest wealth will continue to be the top six to eight inches of our ground. That soil is the greatest potential for job creation if it is properly managed and if there is proper marketing of our produce. We accept an inferior price for our beef throughout Europe because no attempt has been made to investigate or assess the market requirements or encourage the production of more beef and vegetables to compete on a favourable basis.

Fianna Fáil, in their manifesto, assured us that they would encourage greater production of vegetables but we turn up with 126,000 registered unemployed. That is the record of the Government although a former member of it assured me that we would have full employment by 1982. He told me that if we did not he would accept the policies I was advocating at that time. It is no wonder that he is not a Minister now when he gave such an assurance. That former Minister relied on private enterprise to produce full employment by 1982 by giving them tax concessions but he is aware that private enterprise reneged on him and did not produce anything. He is aware that redundancies are the order of the day now across the board. In the short time available to me I feel I have proved that the Government do not have any reason to be proud of their record in the economic field.

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  I will be brief in my contribution to this debate. I have listened with interest to what Deputy Bermingham had to say about the food processing industry and, to a large extent, I agree with him. I agree that there should be a greater emphasis on our food processing industry. I cannot understand, and have not been able to comprehend why in places like Cork and Donegal, and around the country, farmers who have land lying idle go to markets and shops to buy imported vegetables. It is all very well to blame the Government and say that they have not provided the markets but the fact is that a great quantity of basic items such as potatoes are imported from Holland and other countries. Why is that necessary? I suggest that the farmers, [1297] for whom I have a high regard and I admit that we depend greatly on them, through their organisations have a responsibility to produce the vegetables that are being imported now in vast quantities. It is a waste of our resources if we do not do so and, as Deputy Bermingham said, there should be a greater concentration on food processing.

I should like to read some quotations from economic debates which took place during the period of office of the National Coalition. I do so because of the criticism that has come from Deputy FitzGerald and Deputy Kelly on our economic situation. Deputy FitzGerald, while in America, issued a statement outlining the difficulties our economy was in. I do not think he should have issued such a statement in America. It was damaging to the efforts being made by the IDA and the Government, supported by all parties, to get increased investment here. For him to issue a statement in America can only be construed as dubious patriotism. It was wrong and it was a mistake. In the course of the Christmas Adjournment debate in 1975 the Taoiseach said the Government then could have battened down the hatches and allowed the ship to be blown about at the mercy of the economic storm until it blew over. We could, he said, have cut public expenditure back sharply, raised taxes substantially and restrained borrowing. He went on to say that the consequences for employment and the standard of living of the weaker sections of the community would have been appalling. he said that they rejected that option and, instead, aimed at careful expansion. Certainly, he said, we did not expect that it would get much worse. Regrettably, he said, that happened.

In the course of the same debate the Taoiseach said:

Farm income is unique in being largely dependent on EEC decisions under the common agricultural policy and on such factors as weather conditions...

Deputy O'Leary, who was Minister for Labour in the National Coalition, in the course of that debate, explaining the reason behind Government borrowing said [1298] there was no way the community could avoid the obligation of paying for the extra impost caused by oils and raw materials. He said that in our situation the choice before the Government, in so far as it lay within their power, was to maintain employment at the maximum despite the increased costs. He said the Government were correct in maintaining public expenditure at the highest possible level. That is contrary to what Deputy O'Leary said here yesterday. It is the exact opposite. What he said in 1975 supports the action the Government have taken in recent times. Yet, that Deputy had the gall to say in the House that the Government were doing the wrong things, that they should reverse the process.

Deputy O'Leary, the Labour Party, and the Fine Gael Party, will have to come clean and let the people know their intentions. They cannot continue to promise financial aid to the farmers, a reduction in PAYE, financial aid to private enterprise and to almost every sector of the community that happens to be putting pressure on them and, at the same time, say they will reduce foreign borrowing. They must explain to the people how they will reduce foreign borrowing and public expenditure. That is in contradiction of what they said when in Government. Indeed, it is the direct opposite. They are very wise now. Let me quote the then Minister for Local Government, Deputy Tully:

When I listen, particularly to former Government Ministers, I wonder, if they were as wise when they were here as they are now, would it not be a great country? In Opposition I knew instant solutions to everything. It was only when I crossed the floor that the things I suggested were not as easily solved as they appeared from the Opposition benches.

They can blame us now but I can bring to them their own words when they were in Government. Deputy Kelly was then Parliamentary Secretary and, in a long and characteristically colourful speech on a confidence motion in October 1974, he said:

[1299] The truth is that the Government have failed to control the upward price spiral. I am not a bit depressed at the troubles surrounding the Government which the Taoiseach did not deny. The problems which the Taoiseach outlined yesterday far exceeded anything the other side had to deal with since the War and I have no doubt that with courage and solidarity the Government will win through these troubles and get the country safely to the far side.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  We did. There was a 7 per cent inflation rate then.

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  They did not and the people should be reminded, and we could not remind them sufficiently frequently, that then there was not only an economic disaster but a social and cultural disaster. They had a Minister who attempted to censor the newspapers.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  The Deputy is fairly hard up.

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  They had a Minister for Posts and Telegraphs who neglected to provide the infrastructure for telephones and concentrated on something he did not have responsibility for, the North. He left a legacy which this Government are rapidly catching up on by installing telephones and telephone exchanges——

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Installing them but not connecting them.

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  They are installing them at an unprecedented rate. That should have been tackled during the period of the Coalition but it was not because the Department of Posts and Telegraphs then were without a Minister, without any direction or leader of any kind. Deputy Kelly at that time referred to the divisions within his party.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Which side is the Deputy on now?

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  He spoke about the [1300] ability to unite which, he said, “is not necessarily within our compass”. They are his own words. Deputy Kelly likes to look across at this side and seek out divisions here. Will Deputy Kelly tell the people that in the coming election his party will unite? I do not see any evidence of it. During the brief period Deputy FitzGerald has been leader of the party he has tried to broaden the party's base. He has brought some of the more liberal elements into the party and chased from the organisation some of the older, more distinguished members who do not want to contest the election in the circumstances.

We had an instance over the weekend of a prominent member, who beat Deputy E. Collins for a vice-presidency of the organisation, saying something about abortion. While I am on that subject, I ask Fine Gael to ask all their members in all constituencies if they are opposed to abortion. Let them give a commitment, because if they do not I certainly will, that I will be canvassing them on that. Fine Gael are on a very slippery slope and I do not think the people will be conned by it.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  The Deputy should have read Deputy FitzGerald's statement.

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  I read it but I am not satisfied that there are not elements, selected candidates, in Fine Gael who are not opposed to abortion. However, they are not Members of the House yet, but if they come into the House I will name them.

Acting Chairman (Mrs. Burke): Information on Joan Burke  Zoom on Joan Burke  Will the Deputy keep strictly to the Bill?

Mr. N. Andrews: Information on Niall Andrews  Zoom on Niall Andrews  I have been approached by a number of people in the self-employed sector on the question of buying pensions. The 1967 Finance Act contains a section enabling self-employed people to buy pensions. I will refer to a man of 35 years of age, married with a family, who considers it unwise not to provide for a pension. The vast majority of people at that age will have pensions when they retire. This man has been in [1301] the business of housing management, repairing and letting flats. Because he owns the premises but does not serve bed and breakfast, that Finance Act provides that he cannot buy a pension. A letter dated 3 November 1980 from the Department of Finance stated:

The reason for the exclusion is that the rents may normally be expected to provide the source of income, regardless of a person's age or health, which is not the case with income from a trade or profession or non-pensionable employment.

If we bring this to its logical conclusion we will have geriatrics and sick people working in and looking after the housing sections of corporations and county councils, doing that man's work, fixing slates, damp-courses and windows. If one owns a shop or a farm one can buy a pension under the self-employed system, but if one receives rent instead of profit or turnover one cannot do so. The recent budget shows that the Government want to encourage people into the business of letting private accommodation.

I would ask the Minister to come back to this when he is replying. If a man is self-employed he is using the land and buildings to make a profit. The farmer does the same. If a man is letting property he is providing a basic need for people in the same way as the farmer does when he produces food. Therefore I do not row in with those who suggest that it should not be possible to rent private accommodation and buy a pension.

Recently a very serious development has come to my attention concerning the dividends on savings accrued by people in credit unions. It is a shame that credit unions savings are now taxed on their dividends. The Revenue Commissioners have written to credit unions asking for returns. Most people in credit unions are small savers. They save for the convenience of having their money deducted at source, towards the purchase of a house, for an extension to a house or towards a rainy day. Their sayings are rarely over £2,000 or £3,000. I appeal to the Minister to look at this aspect of taxation. Credit union savings should be exempt from taxation on dividends. They serve a community [1302] purpose. Credit unions in my constituency have helped enormously. They are not commercial banks. We are not going back to the old moneylenders or the hacks who lent money at exorbitant interest rates. There should be some recognition of the work which credit unions do.

The Revenue Commissioners are now taxing FCA allowances. The people who join An Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil are volunteers and deserve to be called patriots. These weekend soldiers, support the regular Army in times of stress, security difficulties and so on. This new development of taxing their meagre allowances is wrong and should be corrected. There is no justification for it. In some cases they have long distances to travel to the Army barracks where they serve. They may live and work in Dublin and may have to travel to the Curragh. They get no travelling allowance. If they are officers, they have to purchase expensive uniforms. They do not get a uniform allowance. Apart from that, as a former member of the FCA, I was never taxed on my allowances. Why, suddenly, are members of the FCA being taxed? It will militate against recruitment to the FCA.

I want to mention delays in county councils in dealing with planning applications. I know of an instance in Kinsale where there is a planning application in for 250 houses. A decision on the application has been dragged out by the county council for the past two years. The developer has indicated that, as soon as he gets planning permission, he can give immediate employment to 100 people for seven years. Bureaucracy is delaying this kind of development. The Kinsale development is acceptable to the majority of the local public representatives. Yet, officials are holding up this development. The same applies, to a large extent, to delays in decisions of An Bord Pleanála. Jobs are at stake. If an Bord Pleanála need to be beefed up let us beef it up — give them more staff. Why should people who want to invest money in development have to wait six months or a year for planning permission? It is wrong and something should be done about it.

[1303] I want to discuss the Government's record in youth affairs. During the period of the Coalition Government in office, Deputy Bruton was Minister of State at the Department of Education and was transferred to the Department of Industry and Commerce. He remained, nominally, at the Department of Education but there was no development in youth work. I made inquiries when I was elected to this House and I discovered that the Department consisted of one man. That man had no brief. He had not even got an office or a secretary. That has changed completely. The Minister of State, Deputy Tunney, has won general recognition throughout the youth movement as being a successful Minister. The Fianna Fáil Government had to introduce a Supplementary Estimate in late 1977 to pay the accumulated arrears of youth organisations, including the National Youth Council of Ireland. I do not recall any reference to youth work services in the Fine Gael White Paper on Education. I want to put it on record that our commitment to youth continues. For instance, the grant allocation to youth in 1977-81 was £261,300. In 1980 it was increased to £543,000. The grant to Comhairle le Leas Oige in 1977 was £200,000. In 1981 it was £328,000, a 64 per cent increase. There was another important increase in the grants to VECs to assist youth and sporting activities at local level. In 1980 it was £218,000. In 1981 it was £492,000 an increase of 126 per cent.

From quotations I have given earlier, Fine Gael are condemned by their own words. They cannot, as a party, stand up in the House and shed crocodile tears about the difficulties the Government have. The Government have, and always will have, difficulties. We will face those difficulties and have no hesitation in meeting the challenge. When the election comes, whether it be this year or next, the people will renew their confidence in this Government. I have never impugned anybody's motives as to their activities in the House but I was appalled to hear Deputy Paddy O'Toole, in his long tribute to Deputy Garret FitzGerald, cast [1304] aspersions on the integrity on the motives of the Taoiseach. How dare he? He has no right to pass judgment on anybody's motives. All Members in this House are motivated by patriotism and by the need to do something for the country. I have no doubt that the Taoiseach will still be Taoiseach after the next election because the record and the words I have quoted of the Coalition Government condemn them out of hand.

Is Deputy Begley now going to stand up and attack the Fianna Fáil Government? Let him go back over his own economic debates. He will see they were a dismal failure and the people should be reminded of that. How do all their candidates stand on the issues that were raised over the weekend?

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  I am disappointed that such an honourable Member as Deputy N. Andrews would stoop to the level he did. He should certainly have taken it that what our leader, Deputy Garret FitzGerald, said over the weekend and what was said by everybody in the Oireachtas party and by the rank and file is the policy of our party. Let there be no ambiguity about it, none whatsoever.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Anybody who does not want to subscribe to it, that is his or her look-out. Let the people judge. I am surprised that Deputy N. Andrews would stoop so low as to try smear people who are not here. I do not know the people he is talking about but, if they exist, I would ask him to name them outside the House thereby giving them a chance to defend themselves. I am surprised that the debate on the Finance Bill should drop to such a low level. It is very unbecoming in a man of Deputy N. Andrew's stature to stoop so low.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  I challenge the Deputy to name these people outside the House. He has his opportunity now if he wishes to take it. There is no doubt that this Bill is an indictment of the Fianna Fáil Government. There are glaring omissions and glaring faults. The Government and the Fianna Fáil Party seem to be completely [1305] insensitive to what is happening around them. I was mildly amused when Deputy N. Andrews went back to 1974 to quote what Deputy John Kelly or Deputy Bruton said as well as the then Taoiseach, Deputy Liam Cosgrave. It is amazing that, when he was reflecting on what was said in 1974, he did not look at what his own spokespersons said at the same time. I will give one short quotation from Deputy Gene Fitzgerald, who is now Minister for Finance. Speaking in the debate on the Second Stage of the Finance Bill in 1976 he said:

The best cartoon I ever saw was a headstone in a newspaper last week with the words: “In fond memory of the pint. Erected by Richie Ryan”.

He could now truthfully say: “Erected by Gene Fitzgerald.”

It is not enough for his colleagues to blame him. They too have to accept their share of the blame for the situations which has arisen.

It is all here in black and white. I see the Minister of State at the Department of Finance is smiling. No wonder. You could buy two pints then for what one pint costs today.

Acting Chairman:  Will the Deputy give the reference?

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  It is volume 290, column, 255 of the Official Report of 28 April 1976. Deputy Haughey also spoke in the debate. He has since gone much higher, of course. He is now the Taoiseach. In volume 287, column 1284, of 5 February 1976, Deputy Haughey had this to say:

As national output declined unemployment rose but, despite declining national output and rising unemployment, money incomes in the non-agricultural sector rose by 23 per cent in 1975 and in the public sector by 40 per cent. The profits on which private industry rely to finance investment development declined and all but disappeared. Our public finances, under the combined pressure of the escalating costs of servicing the public debt [1306] and this rapid rise in public service pay, got completely out of control. Budget deficits rose from £5½ million in 1972-73 to £10 million in 1973-74, to £92 million in 1974, the nine-month period, and £259 million in 1975. Corresponding with those budget deficits Government borrowing rocketed from £199 million in 1972-73 to £385 million in 1974, the nine-month period, and to £733 million last year.

Everybody realises it is a question of think of a number. These are the words of people who are now in responsible positions, one is the Taoiseach and the other is the Minister for Finance. Would they care now to read what they said then? Little did they think at that time they would be holding the purse strings today. I suppose it is a pleasant surprise for the Minister to find himself in the position he is in today. Little did they think then they would find themselves in the crazy situation in which they are now. Everybody realises it is a crazy situation. The Taoiseach was going to give the country wonderful leadership by taking it out of the financial mess in which it was. What is the situation now? Borrowing has gone out of control.

I shall not continue on this because it is really old hat, but I want to make reference to a Fianna Fáil cumann meeting. I have here particulars of a meeting called of a Fianna Fáil cumann in Kerry on 16 March 1977: election of officers for 1977; discussion on the forthcoming general election which will take place and preparation for same within the cumann area; discussion on the state of the economy and the result and its effects on the people of our area; discussion by the Minister for Finance on the withdrawal of the farmer's dole, school buses, children's allowances and other financial aids which will affect the way of life of the cumainn areas. Compare what was said in 1977 with what we have today. It is farcical. The Government must be having a horrible nightmare when they reflect on what they said when the National Coalition Government were in power.

[1307] Before the general election in 1977 our fishermen were told: “You have your 50 miles. There is no question about that as soon as we get back into office.” Within a couple of months of taking office the Minister for Fisheries sold our fisheries at 2 a.m. in Brussels. Now it seems that we will not have even a 12-mile limit.

Cad mar gheall ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta? Bhí a lán cainte agus díospóireachta ag muintir Fhianna Fáil lasmuigh de na séipéil go léir ag rá dos na daoine, dámbeadh Fianna Fáil i gcumhacht go mbeadh údarás ag muintir na Gaeltachta, go mbeadh siad in ann a slí bheatha féin a dhéanamh amach. Anois cad tá tar éis a tharla, ó fuair muintir na Gaeltachta an tÚdarás? Cad tá ins an Údarás céanna? Níl ach sop in áit na scuaibe. Ó tháinig an tÚdarás isteach beagnach bliain is ceithre mhí ó shin, cad tá ag tarlú do mhuintir na Gaeltachta? Tá na monarchana anseo is ansud a chuir Tomás Ó Domhnaill sna Gaeltachtaí céanna á dúnadh. Tá daoine ag gabháil timpeall agus iad ag baint an dole des na feirmeoirí beaga. Tá easpa airgid ag na comharchumainn.

Ina theannta san, na mná tí atá ag coimeád na páistí scoile i gcóir na coláistí samhraidh, cé mhéid d'ardú a fuair siad i mbliana? Tá a fhios ag gach aoinne go bhfuil an boillsciú ag rith de réir 21 faoin gcéad. Cad a fuair na mná tí? Fuair siad 15p breise sa ló chun páiste a choimead. Páistí scoile atá ag dul go dtí coláiste samhraidh caitheann siad trí bhéilí ar a laghad gach lá agus is dócha cupán tae sara dtéann an páiste go dtí an leaba san oíche agus ina dteannta san cupán bainne ar 11 a chlog ar maidin. Cad a fuair na mná tí céanna—15p breise, trí phingin go leith i gcóir gach béile? Ar chuala tú a leithéid riamh?

Chuir sé ionadh agus imní orm nuair a bhí mé ag éisteacht le Aire na Gaeltachta ag rá go raibh a lán ní déanta do mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Níl tada déanta acu agus nuair a bheidh an toghchán thart beidh a fhios ag an Rialtas seo nach raibh siad ábalta dallamullóg a chur ar mhuintir na Gaeltachta. Nuair a bhí mé ag gearán i dtaobh Údarás na Gaeltachta, dúirt mé nach raibh aon chumhacht ag na baill [1308] agus rinne mé iarracht ar cúpla leasuithe a chur síos nuair a bhí an Bille ag dul trid an Dáil anseo. An t-iar Aire a bhí ann, Donncha Ó Gallchóir—ní raibh sé ábalta iad a ghlacadh—agus anois tá Údarás againn nach bhfuil aon tsuim aige i muintir na Gaeltachta agus an taon suim atá ag an Údarás céanna anois ná air flights atá ar siúl acu go dtí tíortha thar lear, le Aer Arainn. Sin é an t-aon ní fónta atá á dhéanamh acu anois.

Many people who listened to the preelection broadcasts in 1977 will remember the famous remark made by Deputy Eileen Lemass on the 1.45 news bulletin that there would be no more rising prices. What has happened since then? Will Deputy Lemass tell the people in her constituency that she has honoured that commitment? Look at the price of petrol. When we said certain circumstances were beyond our control, in no way would the then Deputy Gene Fitzgerald accept that.

Anyone who wants to read a fairy tale like the fairy tales by Hans Christian Andersen should read some of the contributions made by the present Minister for Finance when he was an Opposition spokesman for the Fianna Fáil Party. He talked about petrol and said people could not do without their cars. He also spoke about motor taxation. He criticised the then Minister for Finance for increasing motor taxation. At least the then Minister for Finance was honest about it. He did not say, as was said in the Fianna Fáil manifesto, that he would abolish car tax. That is what Deputy Gene Fitzgerald said. Everybody now knows that it has gone from £5 to £10 to £20. If they are much longer in office I do not know where it will stop.

I was amazed to hear Deputy Andrews speaking about all the telephones installed by the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, Deputy Reynolds. He is very vain about them. When he is seen on television he appears like the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Lenihan. The telephones are installed but they are not connected. Thousands of telephones are installed all around the country but they are not working. The Minister for Finance has only to look at this own [1309] constituency to know what I am talking about.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  That is not true.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  It is true.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  We put in 62,000 telephones last year.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  In a short time the Minister will have a golden opportunity to make his own contribution and I hope he will. Any contribution he has made in the House has been from a prepared script. It would be refreshing to hear a contribution with substance in it off the top of his head. We have not heard one so far. To get back to the local authorities——

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  The Deputy is not telling the truth about the telephones.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  I am.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  He is not.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  The problem is that on occasion the Minister cannot see and hear. I am not too sure whether we are now in one of those unusual situations.

Mr. McEllistrim: Information on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  Zoom on Thomas McEllistrim Jnr.  I can see and hear as well as the Deputy.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  Tá sean rá ann—bodhaire Uí Laoghaire—agus tá sé ana-chosúil leis. I am not sure whether the Minister's faculties are working now. They have been suspect in the past and they may be suspect again now. There is no doubt that there will be a very serious shortfall in local authority funding for the coming year. Deputy Bermingham spoke at length and he maintained that the crunch will not be felt until October. At the estimates meeting in Kerry some weeks ago it was pointed out that the country manager had not enough money to erect one public light on any crossroad or outside any church in Kerry.

I am very glad that the Minister for rising prices has arrived. This Minister screamed at Senator Justin Keating when he was Minister for Industry and Commerce. [1310] Nowadays we hear in the RTE news bulletin, in a very abridged form, that the Prices Commission have recommended certain price increases. When Senator Justin Keating was Minister they usually said “Minister Justin Keating has now sanctioned the following price increases”. This Minister screamed the loudest and the longest and I am glad that he is here now to justify the exorbitant increases on foods, how he abolished food subsidies, increased the price of bread, oil, butter, sugar and the price of meat. Deputy O'Malley has been responsible for sanctioning those price increases. If a general election is imminent we can be sure that the Minister is sitting on a lot of price increases recommended by the Prices Commission. Before the 1977 General Election a few newspapers reported that there were massive price increases on the way, that a confidential document had been leaked out to a reporter. That was goodbye to the National Coalition. Will the same thing happen now? I see Deputy O'Mally smiling cynically. Deputy O'Mallley does not have to live on the breadline nor does he have to deal with people who are waiting months for their unemployment benefit and he does not have to queue for the local assistance officer for the price of a loaf or a pot of jam. Minister O'Malley is far removed from that.

Acting Chairman:  Will the Deputy please refer to the Minister as the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  The Minister for rising prices is more apt. The Minister has the appearance of a nice guy going to America, to Tokyo and of flying back from Hong Kong with massive factories in the pipe-line. Does the Minister ever think of County Kerry? In south west Kerry the Minister for Finance even refused to meet a deputation of honourable people who journeyed to the city to discuss the serious situation in the Cahirciveen area where four factories had closed. I know that this Minister met a deputation and said that something was in the pipe-line but that was over two months ago. Those [1311] people are on the dole and there is no prospect of anything for that area.

Everybody seems to be shot shy of the Minister but I am not because the Minister was a tough man in Opposition and if he had something to say he said it. This Minister will go down in the history books as beating Deputy Justin Keating by a distance as far as price rises are concerned.

What are the Government plans for local authorities? Do they intend to abolish them altogether? When we came to Government in 1973 a famous White Paper had been produced by Deputy Molloy as Minister for Local Government. In that White Paper it was intended to abolish a number of urban authorities. I am beginning to think that there is again a serious move in the Department of the Environment to abolish local authorities. The local authorities have not enough money to collect domestic refuse from a new housing estate, to erect a public light outside a church gate, to fill a pot hole, and neither can they afford to keep on staff some of whom have been working for them for about ten years. Right-minded people have to ask themselves “what is the function of the local authority?” I would like whoever is replying to this debate this afternoon to tell the members of local authorities if they have outlived their usefulness and if it is intended to abolish county councils. It is only right to spell it out if that is the case.

There is no doubt that farmers are getting a very rough time particularly farmers who were encouraged by the various agencies to expand and develop. Quite a number of these farmers were encouraged to borrow from the banks and now due to the depressed state of agriculture they are finding it difficult to meet their repayments.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Padraig Faulkner  Zoom on Padraig Faulkner  The Deputy has five minutes left.

Mr. Begley: Information on Michael Begley  Zoom on Michael Begley  To meet their repayments some of them are selling their stock or their tractor. It is imperative on the Government to step in here and help farmers because these people would not be in [1312] debt in the first place except for the fact that they were encouraged to get into debt under the farm modernisation scheme. If the Department of Agriculture were on the ball and paid the grants promptly when they fell due some of the people would not be in the serious situation they are now in. I hope that the Department of Agriculture will take note of farmers who are waiting for grants in excess of £5,000. Many of these people are in debt to the banks and it would be better for them to pay the banks with the grant rather than sell their stock.

I never thought the Department of Social Welfare were so short of money that they would have pension officers in motor cars parked outside post offices following people home checking on their means. It is a despicable practice on the part of the officials of that Department. When people reach the age of 66, when there is occasion for an official of the Department to visit them, there should be an understanding attitude shown in the course of that interview. Bearing in mind some of the questions asked and the way some of these interviews are conducted, it is no wonder some of the interviewees have occasion to visit their doctor the following morning. Indeed it is a wonder they do not suffer heart attacks, never mind not sleeping that night. Surely a public relations exercise is called for. When people are entitled to certain benefits, no matter what they may be, common courtesy should prevail.

If Deputy O'Malley, the Minister present, read what he said in 1976, what he said in 1977, or even in 1975 about the Coalition Government, he would certainly be saying to himself now: by God we are living in a very strange world indeed, little did I think that I would be in a position to do something about what I was saying then. The Taoiseach has contradicted himself so many times, the Government have lost all credibility. The sooner they go to the country seeking votes the better. If they get a vote of confidence we will say congratulations. But I am quite sure that if they go to the polls now they will get a rude awakening. As some wit here in Leinster House said when the 1977 election was called—the [1313] National Coalition will come back in a minibus; I think the Fianna Fáil Party will come back in a taxi.

Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism (Mr. O'Malley): Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  It is a strange quirk of human nature that we seem to relish wallowing in doom and gloom. Indeed a casual observer glancing through the pages of any of our national daily papers would be forgiven for supposing that Irish industry—about which I want to talk today—is rapidly grinding to a halt. If there are such prophets of doom listening to me today I shall try to educate them.

Notice taken that 20 Members were not present; House counted and 20 Members being present,

Mr. O'Malley: Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  If there are any such prophets of doom. I will endeavour to educate them by setting the record straight and by endeavouring to dispel some of the pervading gloom.

We should start by looking at a few hard facts which will show quite unequivocally that the manufacturing sector has made a significant contribution to the expansion of output, investment and employment since this Government took office in 1977. Manufacturing output, despite a decline of 2 per cent in 1980, expanded at an average annual rate of 5½ per cent over the past four years. This rate of expansion is the fastest in Western Europe. It compares with 3½ per cent for Germany and a rate of just over 1 per cent in the United Kingdom during the same four years. The major driving force behind this expansion has been the growth in industrial exports. They represent an average annual growth of 13 per cent in volume at a time when world trade was growing at less than 5 per cent per annum. Industrial investment, spurred by the growth in IDA project approvals in both domestic and overseas sources, has grown at an average annual rate of 15 per cent in real terms over the last four years. Even in the recession-hit 1980 it amounted to over £600 million. This expansion of investment is more than double the Japanese and German rates of expansion, and treble the United [1314] States rate during the same period. Manufacturing employment has responded accordingly. The IDA Industrial Plan 1978-1982 set a target to create 68,000 IDA-backed jobs in the five year period of the plan. More than 40,000 first-time jobs were created on the ground in the first three years of the plan, or 104 per cent of the target for that period. This level of achievement has taken place at a time of international recession, and I freely acknowledge that we are experiencing the full brunt of such a recession. I wish it were not so but it would be the height of economic naivety to imagine that Ireland, a small open economy, could fully shelter itself from the impact of a recession of such magnitude.

Despite this unfavourable economic climate the momentum of Ireland's industrial drive has increased. While the present recession is having severe effects on existing industry and on our efforts to create new industrial employment, I believe that Irish industry is now in a better position to withstand adverse conditions than it has ever been. Indications are that during the current difficult period there was a higher than average proportion of job losses, resulting from firms shedding labour rather than closing down altogether. A high proportion of jobs lost during the recession will therefore be quickly regained as trading conditions improve.

Debate adjourned.


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