Thursday, 6 May 1982
Dáil Eireann Debate
Mr. Markey: Yesterday I said that the budget would do nothing to help the economic situation. If there had been an objective behind the budget it would have been more helpful. Unfortunately the only motivation I could detect in the budget proposals was one of returning gratitude to the electorate for giving the Government a very slim majority on the basis of what they promised in their election manifesto. That slim majority was given to them on the basis of a manifesto which differed in only two or three degrees from what the outgoing Government provided in their 27 January budget.
Last night I referred to the imposition of VAT at the point of entry and the  difficulties this would impose on importers of raw materials particularly. We must be cynical about this matter and say that the Fianna Fáil Government, being so concerned with votes, saw by the imposition of this measure that they would only lose the vote of the importer, whereas if they retained VAT on footwear and clothing they would have lost a greater number of votes. However, in the long term it may mean that many votes will be lost but Fianna Fáil are not concerned about that at present.
When one takes into consideration the points of difference between the two budgets and looks at the balance of the Fianna Fáil budget, one is left with a tweedledum tweedledee situation. In that situation the public representative must observe certain dangers for the democratic and parliamentary systems. One could argue a case for the abolition of food subsidies at this time. Indeed, such an argument was made by the outgoing Minister for Finance, who said that they never found their way through to the people they were intended to benefit. That was a good argument and one which, when money is scarce, should have been taken into consideration by the Government. Subsidies have come and gone over the years. The public would have accepted their abolition as they would have accepted the logic behind it. Their maintenance by Fianna Fáil at a cost of £60 million is an additional cost which must be met from revenue. Whatever one may think about where that money could have been found a month ago, when one observes the ease with which £45 million for PRSI changes could be found in the last few weeks it makes one wonder where we are going and what this will mean in a year's time.
The Coalition intended to tax short-term social welfare benefits. There was a logic behind this. It is obvious that there have been widespread abuses of short-term welfare benefits. It was with the objective of introducing an incentive for people to work that we sought to have a tax on this. This would have been acceptable to the public at large. Just as with VAT on footwear and clothing, a tax on  short-term welfare benefits would have been unpopular particularly at election time. That was the dilemma in which the Coalition found themselves. It was their fault and their undoing and was to the benefit of Fianna Fáil. Such is the twist and fate of politics.
The same deplorable situation still confronts us. We have a 20 per cent rate of inflation, unemployment has gone up by 70 per cent over five years, the national debt has doubled in the same period, the balance of payments deficit is escalating out of all proportion, there is an air of cynicism, frustration and disillusionment abroad and a feeling among manufacturers that the imposition of VAT at the point of entry will not only endanger their own position in business but will affect many jobs. The same situation which the Coalition tried to face up to is still with us. That is why I said this budget will do nothing to help the economic situation.
The gallery was packed this morning with school children. I mentioned tweedledum and tweedledee and they will know all about them. The public have great difficulty in distinguishing between the position of the main political parties. That is part of the reason why we have been going from election to election with nothing better to offer than bid and counterbid. We have been indulging in auction politics. There is a great danger in that and the situation has been worsened by this budget. Fianna Fáil have done nothing but bestow ingratitude to the electorate what they promised them in return for their votes. This has been going on since the early seventies. In the same period there was a very high level of expectation from the public in regard to the services which should be bestowed on them by the various Government Departments and local authorities. It is all part of the material age in which we live. It was something the Governments could cope with to a certain extent as long as not only this economy but the economies of the western world were in a healthy position.
I do not recognise any interval at all between the recession which commenced in late 1974, early 1975, and that which is still in progress. Since this continuous  recession commenced in the mid-seventies these high expectations just cannot be realised. I attribute a certain amount of blame to the people who are now on this side of the House as well as to the Fianna Fáil Government for contributing to the maintenance of such a high level of expectation on the part of the public in the past decade. One has found in every budget significant increases in social welfare benefits and sometimes significant reliefs in taxation. All these things pandered to those high expectations when the economic circumstances did not justify them.
The public are finding it harder and harder to distinguish what each political party stands for today. Fianna Fáil were once known as the party of reality. How could one so describe a party who fly in the face of economic reality with a budget such as the 1982 budget? Slogans identifying each of the parties have been bandied about. Fine Gael are the party who put the country first. Fianna Fáil are the party who do things better and the Labour Party are the party who care. In each case we find contradiction between what they say they stand for and what they sometimes do. On this side of the House we but the country first — I think we did — we forgot about the political reality. If Fianna Fáil put political reality first they forgot about the country's economic interests. At times the performance of the Labour Party has seemed contrary to that of a party who claim that they care. The Workers' Party have now come on the scene in this House, but they must themselves be honest and admit that they are here because of good grassroots work of their three representatives.
Something which I think has added to the confusion in the public mind is this grassroots politics as distinct from national politics. Every constituency now at a general election time becomes almost the scene of a local personality contest in which the issues are sometimes pushed out of the way and the personalities of the candidates and the work they perform at grassroots level for the constituency take precedence over the national issues, and this process has been helped by the  media. This brings me to the point which I think is the real issue in 1982 for all political parties.
If we are to have budget after budget which amount to no more than one party saying, “You did away with something, we will re-introduce it”, and the other party saying likewise when they get back into office and all political parties seeking votes rather than facing economic reality, we will have cynicism, disillusionment and a feeling of “a plague on both your houses” which may result in a place such as this House becoming an anomaly in present-day society. When I look across this floor at Members on the other side I recognise personalities and individuals of ability who, like myself, like to think that a balance must exist between political reality and the national economic interest. I have no doubt that Members on the far side of the House look across here and see individuals on this side whom they would regard as being in the same arena as themselves. A re-alignment in Irish national politics may well have to be faced up to. How long can we continue with the wasteful luxury of political parties bidding against each other at election after election which all the time costs more and more money and not only panders to a vulgar taste but makes little of the responsibility of public office? That issue this year is more important than what is in the budget.
Speakers before and after me have spent and will spend days pursuing the argument and logic of why such was introduced in the budget and why such was forgotten by the present Government which was in the previous Government's intended budget, but it is all rather sterile and sometimes futile. We have a responsibility to educate just as educationists have. If we want to foster in the electorate an ethos where the national interest must take precedence, where work is a pre-eminent factor in daily and yearly life and where certain standards of honesty and integrity exist it behoves us to pronounce on these things. Perhaps the educationists and Church authorities have not done their best in this regard, or they may have done their best but the results  have not been too satisfactory. That is where the work of politicians should lie in the future. If we continue to pander to a taste which sometimes can be a very low denominator, then not only time but something else may see all the faces in this House changing at a much quicker rate than that to which we have become accustomed.
I have not much time today to speak on the budget proposals. That budget has been introduced, and it is apparent to most Members that the public are paying very little heed to what is in the budget now. They were promised certain measures some months ago. They expect those promises to be fulfilled and they go on to think about something else such as what is happening in Argentina, the football match, where they are going tonight. That is a vacuum we have to fill in trying to imbue a sense of national responsibility, not forgetting that at all times we must have a balance between political reality and the national economic interest. I have no doubt that whatever is in the Fianna Fáil budget will do little towards solving the economic problems which confront us. Whether the previous Government's intentions would have helped in that matter time alone will tell. Fianna Fáil should not attempt to take any credit for a budget even like this one which contains — as they maintain — so many goodies until that budget has been seen to be successful. That is the only test. If words were to solve all the problems they would have been solved a long time ago. Imagery and terms like “gloom and doom” and “boom and gloom” add up to nothing in the end. One new job is better than a thousand words.
Looking, for instance, at the field of employment, one sees Fianna Fáil abolishing the intended national development corporation and introducing in its stead the National Enterprise Agency, and one begins to lose all sense of the logic behind such a move. No matter what arguments Fianna Fáil put up for such an abolition and replacement, the money which they have put forward for the launching of the National Enterprise Agency is a mere pittance in terms of jobs which need to be created. I say that Fianna Fáil should  not take credit for this budget until it has been seen to be successful. That cannot be judged until next January. It was illuminating yesterday to hear the Taoiseach announce that the prospect of additional taxation might have to be faced. This was quite different from the budget statement where it was stated that the cost of subsidies would be met by alternative cost-saving methods or revenue buoyancy. We are facing up to the hard facts and it is good that the Taoiseach is beginning to say, even on the eve of a by-election, that additional taxation may be necessary. This was always the pronouncement of the outgoing Government. Unfortunately they landed themselves in the dilemma of having to fight a general election because they did not count the votes beforehand to get through unpopular motions. That is something with which this side of the House has to live but it is something which could be cancelled out by the adversity of Fianna Fáil.
This budget contains very little to help the man seeking work, the school leaver or the manufacturer who must know what his costs will be from one month to the next. It will do little for social welfare recipients in the face of an increasing inflation rate. It will do nothing to help ease the air of despondency and cynicism which is rampant. This is a matter which the House should be prepared to tackle, no matter what alignment may occur during the next decade or two. We will all be gone by then. We can lay the ground work for our successors to form an alignment which is necessary for the political and economic health of the country.
Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Mr. Brady,: Dublin South East): I am very pleased to have the opportunity, as Minister of State at the Department of the Environment with special responsibility for matters relating to urban renewal, to elaborate to the House on the provisions being made by the Government in the 1982 budget for their programme of revitalising rundown urban areas in our cities and towns, especially  in Dublin city. I should like to clarify that my remit extends nationally and does not confine itself only to Dublin city, as some commentators might feel. It extends throughout the nation covering all our cities and towns.
The problems of urban decay are well-documented and there has been a general recognition for some time that positive action was needed by Government to overcome them in an organised manner. Commendable work has been done in this area by both the public and private sectors. However, it has become increasingly clear that the problems are of such magnitude and so diverse that only a major programme of co-ordinated action can deal with them. The Government have made clear their commitment to urban renewal in our inner cities and towns and their intention to take action to eradicate the social and economic problems which have been created by the physical decline of these areas.
In addition to living in an unsatisfactory and deteriorating environment, residents of such areas face particularly severe human problems of high unemployment and poor social opportunities. As Minister of State with responsibility for urban renewal I am very much aware of my national function in this matter, particularly in relation to our capital city.
The first element of the Government's drive to revitalise rundown urban areas in Dublin is the provision of additional capital to Dublin Corporation to expand their inner city housing programme. The designated boundaries of the inner city spread over both the north and south sides of the city. Some misguided commentary has indicated that the inner city pertains to the northside; it does not. The inner city is broadly bounded by both canals and includes the dockland areas on both sides and Ringsend.
The Government have made available to Dublin Corporation an additional £14 million for housing, bringing their total allocation for the current year to £76 million. This compares with an allocation of £52.6 million in 1981. If additional work this year warrants it, a further allocation up to a maximum of £91 million may be made. This money is direct investment  in bricks and mortar into the life blood of our capital city.
Since Dublin Corporation inaugurated their central city housing development programme they have completed work on 18 inner city schemes totalling 1,105 dwellings. I understand that the total number of houses in the overall programme which the corporation will commence this year will be 1,068, of which over half will be in the inner city. The commencement of work in one year on so many dwellings of such special quality is unprecedented in the history of local authority housing in this country. This speedy response to the Government's injection of capital into this vital area reflects credit on Dublin Corporation.
I have had the pleasure and advantage of having served as a member of Dublin Corporation for eight years and have gained experience of the infrastructure of our major local authority. I take this opportunity to commend the officials of the corporation, particularly in the housing area.
The corporation's inner city housing programme has already made a significant contribution to urban renewal and the physical fabric of many districts has been improved substantially by the quality of the housing provided. Anyone viewing the excellent schemes such as those at City Quay or Clanbrassil Street cannot but be impressed by the magnificent quality of the building design from an architectural point of view. Many of the inner city schemes have won acclaim at home and abroad. I had the advantage of sitting in on design meetings when these schemes were before the planning department of the corporation and I took a very personal interest in our capital city. There is much mistaken nostalgia relating to Dublin in the “rare old times”. In those years Dublin was a city of immense blight in which there was much suffering and harship. We have come a long way but in that path to progress much protection did not take place and many ugly buildings blight our city. However, this Government have come to grips with the problem and are taking a sharp look  at what needs to be done in renewing our city.
There are many excellent examples of fine architectural restoration work that has taken place. One example is the excellent renewal job at the Ballast Office. It blends in magnificently with the facade of Westmoreland Street. Another example is at the top of Fitzwilliam Street. These are two fine examples of urban renewal where the developers have taken care to maintain the architectural blending in the city. Of course there are the other examples where the buildings are a blight on the city.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): I appreciate the Deputy's point of view. This is one of the great problems with regard to urban renewal. Much of it is subject to personal appreciation. The information coming to me is that the building I referred to has been acclaimed as one that fits in with the Tyrone stone that was especially used to blend in with Fitzwilliam Square right down to Holles Street. If the Deputy stood at the top of the bridge and looked down, I think he would agree with me.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): I am contrasting these buildings with some of the very ugly buildings that do not blend in with Dublin. I should like to take this opportunity to welcome any positive suggestions that Deputies might wish to make relating to matters of urban  renewal. That would be of immense beneefit and help to me. I should like to thank Deputy Kelly for his comments.
During my years as public representative for the inner city area, I have been aware of the strong wish of housing applicants living in the city centre to be rehoused within their particular grouping where they have their roots. They wish to be rehoused close to their families and friends and in many cases to their places of employment. Every care and consideration is given in housing allocation to group rehousing. It is almost an extension of the family: it is desirable to rehouse people who have grown up together in areas close to their roots. One example that comes to mind is what has been done in Charlemont Street. Many of the people were rehoused in Upper Rathmines Avenue complex. That complex is one of the finest flat developments in Dublin and there is very little vandalism there. The flats are kept in a very good state of repair and I think this is due to group re-housing.
Deputies will appreciate that the provision of such housing schemes helps to slow down the erosion of long-established residential communities in the central city and the consequent social disruption. There is a definite trend here in that people are coming back to live in the inner city areas. Therefore, it is essential that we address ourselves to the urgent problem of urban decay. In addition, this type of redevelopment facilities make better use of the existing infrastructure in the inner city such as churches, schools, clinics, shops, water supply and sewerage facilities, whereas new facilities have to be provided at greater expense in the developing areas in the city's outskirts. Many families feel lost when they move to the outer areas of the city.
In addition to increasing the number of new houses being built in the inner city, the Government are taking steps to upgrade older residential accommodation. A significant proportion of such accommodation is not up to modern standards, particularly with regard to bathroom facilities, and an allocation of £1 million is being made available to remedy this.
 Another innovation which the Government are introducing in this area is the establishment of a revolving fund of £1.5 million to be operated by urban authorities. If anyone is familar with this system of redesigning and conserving existing residential properties that are bought by local authorities and improved to modern stardards, they will appreciate that this is a very welcome development.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): I am delighted the Deputy is present this morning because obviously he appreciates many of the problems of the inner city. I am going to visit Cork next week. At a recent deputation they mentioned to me that the idea came from Cork.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): A lot of work can be done in this area. If private enterprise, in conjunction with the local authorities, is encouraged to work in this direction an immense amount of work can be done to revitalise old propterties and bring them up to modern standards. Apart from the amount of money, it is essential that people give a high priority to the need for urban renewal in our cities and towns.
My Department are currently formulating proposals for the implementation of this revolving scheme and I will be announcing further details shortly. The additional funds which the Government are now making available for housing as well as supporting existing communities in the inner city and establishing new ones will result in increased activity in the building industry and create additional employment, much of it in areas where unemployment is a problem. This pattern is not peculiar to Ireland alone; in Britain they have had the same problem. Many inner city centres were blighted by urban decay. I hope to draw on international experience where there has been success in urban renewal. Mistakes were made in  some cities but there have been some great successes as well. My Government are committed to tackling this problem which is growing like a cancer. Indirectly it will stimulate employment in other sectors dependent on the demands of the construction industry.
Physical redevelopment, as a prerequisite for the maintenance of living communities in a supportive environment, requires a concentration of effort. It is intended that legislation will be brought before the Dáil in this session to provide for the establishment of small ad hoc development commissions which will be responsible for the renewal of such areas and which will have appropriate powers and finances to secure their objectives. While the areas in mind for the initial projects are the Custom House docks site in Dublin and the area covered by the medieval walled city of Dublin, these are just pilot projects and the legislation will be designed to enable parts of other urban areas throughout the country to be similarly designated for intensive urban renewal programmes. In other words, there will be a concentrated and well defined attack on urban blight. It is a daunting challenge but it must be clearly defined. We must identify the priority areas in our cities and towns that need renewal. We must progress, we must redevelop but we must also protect our culture.
As the Minister for the Environment has already indicated in the course of this debate, work on the necessary draft legislation is well advanced and the Government are determined to have the two pilot projects in operation this year. These will then be carefully monitored to assess the effectiveness of this kind of approach and the possible relevance to conditions in other urban areas. As regards the medieval walled city of Dublin, this will be a marvellous opportunity to identify this important architectural heritage. Our city has a wealth of archaeological history and treasure but to identify and revitalise it, maybe even to floodlight it and have little shops close to the wall to add an air of atmosphere to Dublin, will be a great boost from the  tourist point of view and from the point of view of once again identifying people with Dublin city. It is a time for a greater self-confidence to be instilled in the people, not to feel that the situation is hopeless but to realise that the problem is being tackled. I appeal to people to get involved and use the agency of my responsibility for urban affairs and to bring forth positive suggestions which I will have an opportunity to implement in the years ahead.
The last Fianna Fáil Government, in 1978, started to tackle the acute problems associated with the inner city area of our capital city with the setting up of a special inter-departmental committee to make recommendations to deal with the problems of the area. It is this Government's intention to establish a new statutory — I stress “statutory”— Inner City Development Authority to replace the existing non-statutory Dublin Inner City Group set up on the recommendation of the inter-departmental committee.
At this juncture I would like to refer to the very fine work that has been done by the Dublin Inner City Group. A great deal of their work has not been publicised to any great degree but in my capacity on various committees in Dublin Corporation over the past few years I have always noticed the fine projects they were involved in. The new authority will take over the duties and functions of this group, and expand and supplement the work of the inner city group, but they will be better equipped to promote the concerted action needed to overcome the problems in the inner city.
The amount provided by the Coalition Government for the inner city in this financial year was £300,000. We intend, however, to tackle the daunting problems in Dublin's inner city and have provided an additional £1.7 million in the budget, to bring the total to £2 million. I wish that figure was greater, but a start has been made.
It is the Government's intention to introduce legislation in the Oireachtas to set up a new authority in this session, and I hope in the course of this year they will be playing their part in our drive to rehabilitate the inner city by co-ordinating the  programmes and activities of public authorities and other bodies concerned with the development of the area, and promoting social and economic interests of the inhabitants of the inner city, including creating employment opportunities.
I would like to comment on some very fine newspaper articles relating to Dublin inner city areas which served to highlight the need for urban renewal. It is timely for such articles to appear because within the Department of the Environment I am engaged in setting up programmes to tackle the problems referred to in those articles.
While on the subject of particular areas in need of redevelopment, I would like to refer to work being done in what is known as the “designated area”. This embraces Seán MacDermott Street, Gardiner Street and Summerhill — an area with special economic and social problems. Areas such as this need immediate attention. The Corporation's Special Committee for the Inner City carried out an examination of this area which revealed a high housing density with much substandard property, a lack of public open space and a need for additional recreational amenities.
The absence of open space results in a very bleak, barren and unattractive environment. A plan drawn up by Dublin Corporation to improve the situation provided for a mixture of social and residential areas, including open spaces, shopping, office and car-parking. My Department have already approved in principle of corporation housing proposals for the area providing for 88 dwellings including nearly 46 flats for senior citizens.
The overall plan envisaged approximately three acres being retained as open space and I feel this would be highly desirable. Apart from the revitalisation of buildings and roads, it is very important that our cities and towns should be able to breathe, that they should have lungs and open green areas. Our tree planting programme has been an aggressive programme over the past six years. I have had the advantage of working with the civics and amenities architect of  Dublin Corporation on that programme. It is necessary to concentrate on tree planting. This is a great investment in revitalising a city or town. Apart from its medical advantage as a vital part of the nitrogen cycle, it also acts as a visual relief for people living in inner city centre areas. It acts as a sound buffer as well, and it absorbs the awful noxious poisonous gases and fumes which come from heavy traffic which bombards the city centre.
However, there are conflicting views on this and I appreciate the concern of some local interests who are anxious to see provision for development being made. The Corporation are at present reviewing their plans with a view to ensuring an overall balance in developments in the designated area, so as to achieve a suitable mix of housing, industrial, educational and community and amenity provision.
One of the most serious problems associated with urban decay is that of sites being allowed to remain derelict without any effort being made to redevelop. This has become an insidious practice in Dublin city. Huge areas of our city are lying derelict because of selfish attitudes. Much can be done to clean up these sites and turn them into small green areas. A small oasis could be created even on a temporary basis by the developers rather than leaving a site derelict. There could be a small tree planting programme where senior citizens could relax. Small fountains could be provided. Instead derelict sites are left there. Apart from being encouraged, developers will have to be forced to do something about this. The Derelict Sites Act, 1961, gives local authorities the power to ensure that sites are made non-derelict. However, it is not designed to deal with large sites which are ripe for development, with planning permission in many cases, but which are being hoarded in the hope that increased profit will accrue. In Dublin Corporation we are very familiar with this problem. You would not need to view the city from a helicopter to see these huge derelict sites. If you are wandering around the city they are all too obvious and too ugly.
Nor can the powers in the Act be effective  in getting sites redeveloped quickly. Currently the Government are having the question examined — and I am monitoring this myself — of the introduction of a tax on derelict sites. It is expected that the enforcement of the 1961 Act, together with the levying of such a tax, will make it less attractive for developers to leave land to become derelict and an eyesore defacing urban areas.
The Government are also formulating proposals for the levying of a tax on office developments the revenue from which would help to finance urban renewal. This is a constructive approach whereby moneys are recycled directly into the field of urban renewal. There is an ever-increasing demand for new office space in prime locations in cities and towns and the financial rewards from such developments can be very high. This type of development obviously is important for urban commercial life but a proliferation of office blocks in particular areas leads to an imbalance in the development mix both in those areas and in other areas and can cause serious damage to residential and community life.
There are many examples of communities in Dublin city which have died out as a result of indiscriminate, ill-planned buildings being put up in prime locations. The Government consider it reasonable that office development should make a contribution to the costs of other urban renewal projects which are not, perhaps, as financially attractive but are essential if the urban centres are not to deteriorate into concrete jungles bereft of life after 5 p.m. These are no-go areas, if you like. Dublin must be a living city and so must every other city and rural town. There must be a revitalisation of inner city dwellings. In my time on Dublin Corporation I always endeavoured to call for a residential mix, more housing and more development.
I have outlined the actions which the Government are taking to secure the revitalisation of our cities and towns. However, the problem of urban decay is not solely a matter for remedy by State bodies. All development carried out in urban areas, whether by public or private  agencies, leaves its mark. This places a responsibility on all developers to ensure that their work is in harmony with adjoining buildings and contributes in design and construction to the overall urban environment. I might revert to what Deputy Kelly said just now and remark on how alert he was in referring to particular buildings. It should be much more provocative; there should be much more interest shown in redevelopment, not just——
Mr. Kelly: When there is interest shown by some people very often they are rebuffed or treated with contempt, as in the case of the ESB building in Fitzwilliam Street when the conservationist groups did everything and said everything this side of breaking the law. They were simply ignored and we got this capsized egg box as a result.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): I take the Deputy's point, but I shall look into the future rather than at mistakes made in the past. I have in my discourse acknowledged mistakes that have been made in the past. We have the opportunity now of looking forward. That is why my responsibility has been identified clearly in the Department of the Environment with special responsibility for urban affairs and renewal. It is the first time that this remit has been identified since the foundation of this State.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): I hope to avail of that opportunity, in close co-operation with all Deputies and with all councillors in the country who hopefully will come forward with constructive ideas and plans.
There are so many opportunities afforded us whereby we can encourage developers to bring forward plans for our city showing aesthetic merit and design, indeed direct encouragement. Rather than merely capitalising on rapid financial gain they have a part to play in revitalising the city. Their involvement should be recognised. Indeed, perhaps there is urgent need for a city archaeologist  to monitor our archaeological treasure——
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): I welcome Deputy Kelly's contribution but, for the record, I should point out that he is quite wrong: there is no city archaeologist and there never has been one. Perhaps he is thinking about archaeological advice that has emanated from other agencies. But I am speaking about the appointment of a city archaeologist, quite a different role altogether.
There is a growing awareness in the private sector of the role it can play in urban renewal and also an awareness that good design and the incorporation of existing architectural features can enhance developments and indeed contribute to their financial viability. Many of our towns and cities possess buildings of architectural and civic importance. The first requirement of redevelopment proposals should be an assessment of how these buildings and features can be incorporated into new developments. The emphasis in urban areas should be on renewal: not simply the redevelopment of cleared sites, but on the concept of renewal. I hope to draw on international experience gained in other countries, in cities and towns, where they have maintained this blending in architectural design.
Up to now I have been concerned primarily with the built-up environment. The appearance of urban areas does not of course depend solely on their buildings but also on their amenities, the condition of open spaces — parks and areas of recreation — and their general aspect presented to the public. When growing  up we remember the areas in which we were accustomed to play as children. One of the most important aspects of that to be borne in mind is that we did have areas in which to play, that we were not confined to running out on the streets, now so busy with traffic. Therefore it is all the more important that we consider this question of amenity development as well. It is particularly important in the case of Dublin, our capital city. As part of the drive to improve the living and working conditions of Dubliners and ensure a pleasant environment for visitors to our capital, the Government are providing an additional £2.5 million for Dublin Corporation to enable them increase employment on direct environmental schemes to at least 500 jobs in the current year. In addition to providing for increased employment the money will enable many worthwhile improvements to be effected in the appearance of the city, including better recreational, amenity and other community facilities.
The problems are daunting, the challenge immense, but the work can be done. There is little doubt in my mind but that, with the direct co-operation of local authorities throughout the country, we will be able to identify urgent needs, list those urgent needs, and then set about tackling them. Direct action is now under way. I want to give the House that assurance.
The problem of graffiti, litter, flyposting and slogans that are defacing our city is dreadful. There has been a rash of these awful posters being placed on every square inch of the city, indiscriminate flyposting, graffiti and so on. The consequences of this problem are far-reaching not alone from a visual point of view but from a developmental and tourist point of view also. It is unlikely that tourists would be inclined to remain or indeed industrialists inclined to invest in areas where the inhabitants show little respect for their surroundings. Of course that can have a direct effect on employment opportunities.
The problem must be tackled on two fronts: firstly, through the educational process in which respect unfortunately we are lacking. We all know too well that  many of our continental counterparts would not dare to put up flyposting, deface their walls or throw litter on their streets. In fact, apart from cases where citizens will use their power of civic arrest to prevent such happening, it is inbred in the nature of some of our continental counterparts because they have been educated in that way, not to deface their cities. Secondly, there must be stricter enforcement of the legislation and an increase in the penalties for perpetrators and offenders, which is so important.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): The situation is that, as the law stands at present, one could go out with one's dustbin and dump it in Grafton Street. Deputy Kelly is well aware of the law and how the courts are blocked up. For dumping a lorry load the penalty is £10 but in the new litter Bill which I will be bringing before the House next week, if the Deputy listens he will hear the fines that are about to be implemented in that legislation. As part of the educational process I speak about local authorities generally have been asked to promote environment campaigns involving maximum community effort to clean up various areas. An Taisce are greatly involved in this. I look forward to meeting the Deputy on Sunday at the clean-up of the Dodder. We shall be there and that is a very good civic project. Apart from that, increased fines are necessary and the fines will be increased from £10 to £500 in the new litter Bill.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): In the new litter Bill I am also introducing amendments to counteract this problem of graffiti, litter and flyposting. On the question of law enforcement, I think £500 is a hefty fine. I feel that examples will have to be made to instil into the minds of people that a £500 fine operates.
There will be another aspect of the Bill which will make it easier for local authorities to identify the perpetrator and that is the matter of on-the-spot fines, much the same as the on-the-spot fines for car parking, where a person will be issued with a notice and will have to pay the local authority or otherwise it will go through the litigation process. There are substantially increased penalties for these offences. I make no apology in appealing to people to recognise that the litter problem is in our hands. On one side we are educating our children through civics programmes and schools not to litter; on the other side we have parents who perhaps are not as conscious of that duty. Children can play a part in getting their parents to be more vigilant. Parents can reciprocate. It is not a matter of looking only to the Establishment, to law; it lies within ourselves also. I am convinced of that. I hope through an expanded educational programme to get the people to show more circumspection in their attitude to littering. If it becomes necessary to have large signs along roadways as in the United States where you have $500 fines signs on the side of the road we will do it here so as to make the public aware of what fines are.
I wish to turn briefly to the problem of urban traffic congestion. Many of our beautiful small inner city areas were not designed to take this bombardment of heavy traffic. The increase in commercial and private motor traffic in recent years has had a detrimental effect on the fabric of town and city life from an environmental point of view and from the point of view of pollution and of the safety of children and also in respect of the noise level created. The Government recognise this and the road development plan for  the eighties accordingly is geared towards minimising the effect of traffic and road works in urban areas. I shall engage myself in taking whatever measures I can to encourage people to use public transport more and more. By-passes are being built around towns on the national routes to enable a more efficient distribution of traffic and at the same time allow the development of a town's economic and social life to be conducted in a better environment. Traffic management measures have to play a major part in improving the quality and life in any town or city. One can think of examples where a town is thriving and breathing, people are shopping and talking and enjoying their lives when the heavy traffic is rerouted around these cities and towns if there is no particular reason why it should go into those places. I am sure people are aware that Dublin city traffic has been computerised which hopefully will result in an improvement in the situation.
Mr. Brady: (Dublin South-East): Yes, I am concluding now. Measures such as traffic rerouting, improved parking facilities, pedestrianisation have a beneficial effect and help to revitalise city life. Special bus lanes introduced over the past year are aimed at improving public transport thereby encouraging private car users to leave their cars at home and  reduce the number of vehicles clogging the street network at peak periods. Dublin Corporation's plans to provide multi-storey car parks in the city centre will help to maintain the viability of business life in the area. Again, I should like to encourage private enterprise to become involved in the building of multi-storey car parks. Improvement of our transport infrastructure is essential for economic and social progress. The Government are conscious of the need for balance in integrating the aims of environmental protection and of economic and social development. Urbanisation and industrial development came to Ireland later than in many other developed nations and so we can benefit from the experience of the impact of economic development including transport infrastructure on the environment.
I have concentrated on the problems of Dublin city and our proposals to resolve them. This is because the problem of urban decay is seen at its very worst in Dublin city. However, the Government intend to promote urban renewal on a national basis and I will be concerned to ensure that the problems of derelict and rundown and deprived areas in other cities and towns are tackled also. I am preparing to visit cities and towns throughout the country at present.
In conclusion, the budget that has been presented to the House represents a turning point in the State's approach to urban renewal. The range of the measures which we are proposing to take is a recognition of the many aspects of the problems which we face and is evidence of the Government's commitment to solving them with the co-operation of the local authorities and public and private agencies. I am confident that this major programme can be carried through successfully to ensure that our cities and towns are equipped to fulfil their roles as centres of commercial and social activity with a sound residential basis.
Mr. Kelly: The Taoiseach spoke here yesterday and at a very early stage in his speech he said that the central feature of the budget presented by his Minister was the targets set  for a reduction in the budget deficit and in the level of borrowing as compared with 1981. He said that they intended to adhere to these targets through rigid control of the public finances. He made that speech on 5 May and it is little more than a month since the fact emerged that the budget deficit had been already, after the first quarter of the year, nearly 60 per cent used up. I accept that there are some features in that fact which may decelerate during the remainder of the year and that you cannot simply multiply 60 per cent by four quarters and conclude that the budget deficit, as targeted, will be exceeded by 140 per cent. I do not say that. It seems to be amazing that it is possible for a Taoiseach, who has always held himself out to be somebody who understands such matters, to talk brazenly about adhering to the current budget deficit, to speak in those terms on 5 May and to make no reference to the information which we already have about the direction in which that deficit is heading.
That deficit target took no account of several items which have since surfaced. It took no account of the concession which I am afraid will very likely materialise, intended to enable the building societies to hold off an increase in mortgage interest rates until the autumn. It took no account of increases in expenditure for local authorities who have been coming up here putting their pistol to the head of the Minister for the Environment. It took no account of money which will have to be spent if Deputy Gregory is to be kept malleable and it took no account of the enormous concession by way of providing a cushion for PRSI payments announced here a short while ago.
It seems to be a brazen absurdity that we could be solemnly told by a leader of a Government that he still intends to adhere rigidly to this deficit target when all these features are visible, firstly, the features I have just spoken about, which were not taken into account in the original deficit as planned and, secondly, hard information is already available about the way the deficit has been moving in the first quarter of the year.
I spoke two days ago about the PRSI  debacle, about the fact that the Minister for Finance was obliged, effectively, to mend his hand, to come in here with a second budget within a month of the first one. I said some things, like other speakers on this side, about the politics behind the PRSI move and about the effect it would have on morale. I want to add one thing to it which is becoming more evident every day, that is, like all appeasements, it is not working. You cannot appease a movement, which is essentially unappeasable, which is essentially insatiable. The Irish public and taxpayers have now got to the point — I do not entirely blame them because they have been badly led and they have been treated to a great deal of waffle and soft soap and perhaps they can be forgiven if they do not understand what is going on — that they are insatiable in their demands that the State should relieve them of burdens which we have to carry. We can talk about how they are distributed but we have to carry those burdens. Nobody any longer sees that. The PRSI cushion, which the people will now have to pay, taking it out of the other pocket, £45 million, has not appeased anyone. We are still getting PRSI marches, May Day marches and all the rest of it. There will still be demands in regard to the increase in the PRSI contribution.
The Taoiseach yesterday admitted that this was effectively a different form of taxation but that system is designed to be one whereby workers and their employers pay a premium towards a very valuable and costly system of insurance. I am comfortably off and I always feel it is difficult for somebody in that position to be lecturing people who are not. I am sorry if it comes out like that. Every Deputy who is comfortably off should feel the same. It seems to me that it is not right to cod people along for the sake of their votes into thinking that they can be let off what effectively is a premium for something.
We had this in connection with motor premiums, the clamour about the level of motor premiums, of which I was at the receiving end when I was Minister for Trade, because I had to authorise increases. It is an immensely valuable  amenity to be insured to drive a motor car. It means you can drive recklessly, drunk, blindfolded, maim somebody, kill him and destroy the life and happiness of his wife, family and relations and you are not stuck for any contribution because you are insured. That is an enormously valuable amenity. If somebody wants to drive on the road and wants to expose other people to the risk which his driving involves, he must be prepared to shoulder the cost of insurance. The very same goes, though I agree not in quite the same mathematically exact way, for the insurance notion represented in the PRSI system.
The PRSI increases, which the Government produced in the March budget, were the same as those we produced in the January budget, which this House threw out, but our PRSI increases were part of a complex taxation reform, which has been put by this Government on the long finger and which perhaps we will never see. The net impact of the PRSI increases would not have been altogether negligible but would have been considerably less. It is a mistake to give the impression and to give it just because the Irish Congress of Trade Unions lift their little finger, that the whole thing is a disastrous mistake, we are sorry, it was all a mistake, it was Deputy Bruton's fault and we did not get time to think about it. It is demoralising and it will only provide a higher platform for an even higher demand in some context in the future.
The kind of features I spoke about, which will obviously put the budget deficit target well out of reach, are played down by the Government and, in connection with the PRSI one, they said through the mouth of the Minister for Finance the other day that that money would be found perhaps by extra taxation and by economies. I do not want to rehash Tuesday's debate but I want to say briefly that the scope for extra taxation seems to me, objectively speaking and not speaking as a politician, to be fairly limited unless the tax basis is widened in a radical way, which one can scarcely do in the middle of a financial year. I suppose you can put a few more pence on the pint, the glass  of whiskey and the gallon of petrol but the trouble with all those old reliables is that you have to judge the amount of the rise very finely. If you exceed the exact amount by a couple of pence you may find yourself with less tax than you started out with because the increase may have the effect of depressing the demand to the point that you are now suffering diminishing returns on the revenue side. Although there may be some leeway for some kind of extra taxation here, I believe there is nothing like £45 million worth in it. I doubt very much if there is £5 million in what can be got out of the old reliables without producing diminishing returns.
That leaves us with economies, if we are to believe the Minister for Finance. What economies has he got in mind? On Tuesday I described as horrifying the exercise which took up most of the time of the Government I was part of, when they sat around the table and thrashed out the country's finances, and tried to prune the Estimates last year and for this year. Perhaps we did not have enough ingenuity to spot areas in which we could economise but I honestly think that we made every conceivable economy we could down to economies which were very niggling and scarcely worth wasting a Government's time discussing, things reckonable in £5,000 or £10,000. I believe we made every economy that could have been thought of and no economy of those dimensions can be made now without cutting very heavily into the level of public servants. There are only two or three options and the third option is one that the Taoiseach knows well is the one we will end up with and that is the option of letting the deficit rip and hoping that somebody will lend us the money to allow us to stagger on until next year. But next year we will be that much worse off because part of the budget arithmetic this year has involved the acceleration of VAT and of other taxation in such a way as to be a very severe burden on the cash flow of industry this year. That acceleration will produce a good deal of money this year but it is a one-off benefit, a benefit that will not exist next year when we will have a weakened industrial structure  and a deficit that will be all that much further down the hill. The world moves so fast that I do not like to make predictions as to who may be in government next year but for whoever should be there the task will be great in terms of finding jobs. It will be a task of nightmarish dimensions compared with the job we had to face during our eight months in office or the job that Fianna Fáil have refused to face in the past couple of months.
The budget bears the same relationship to the way the country is run as an eruption on the skin bears to internal infection. In other words, the budget is only a symptom of the approach the Government have to their task of providing stability and security for the people, of providing a reasonable infrastructure, reasonable services and opportunities that provide a reasonable standard of living. Their approach to that task as signalled in the various items in the budget and indeed in their behaviour generally since being elected is very like the approach they adopted between 1977 and 1981. At one moment they are talking about economies while the next moment they are simply wasting money. Let us take the Knock Airport project. It can be likened to what one might have seen at fairs in the old days when a man in a barrel and disguised as a negro was brought in and everybody who came by could throw blocks at him and try to hit him. There is a description of that activity in Maurice O'Sullivan's book, Fiche Bliain ag Fás. Every one entering the fairground of the Irish economy in terms of conversation throws a block at Knock Airport except for the people who live within a very short radius of the site. Judging from my constituency, a constituency which people pretend is different from others though I do not consider it to be different in a substantial way, I am convinced that the Knock Airport project cost Fianna Fáil as many votes as did other matters which had a much higher profile in terms of depressing their chances of winning. This was not because anyone begrudges anything to the west. It is not because anyone wishes to see the  area left undeveloped or because anyone has anything against the country west of the Shannon, an area from which many of us by origin have mostly come. The reason is that people living in the constituency that I walked around during the election campaign and in every other constituency regard the development of an airport at Knock at this time as a waste of money.
The Government of which I was a member believed that the Connacht region needed an airport and will have to have one but whether this time, with the constraints surrounding us, is the right time to spend the kind of money that would be involved on that project is another matter. If ever such expenditure can be justified economically as distinct from socially such time can only be in the distant future. I know that part of Mayo very well and I am convinced that if £12 million is to be spent on the area it would be far better spent, in terms of the area generally and of its industrial development, by being put into the roads. Some of the roads in Donegal are bad and that is the case in other parts of the country also but the roads in that part of Mayo are as bad as are to be found anywhere else in the country. On the occasion of the Pope's visit to Knock some people spent 24 hours after the visit ended trying to get out from the area. The roads were blocked for 20 miles in all directions. Many people had to spend the night at Knock. Admittedly, the numbers involved were unusual and we could not be expected to tailor the roads to take such numbers at one time.
Mr. Kelly: At the same time, the congestion on that occasion was out of all proportion to the size of the problem. I am not complaining about this. I merely mention it as a graphic illustration of how bad the roads are. As the CII never tire of saying, the people would derive terrific benefit from an investment of the order involved in the Knock Airport project, if such investment were put into a proper road system and into the provision of  telephones and other amenities. To go ahead with the project at this time at the the behest of a very effective local lobby is not necessarily justifiable. In saying that I believe that I speak for the gigantic majority of the Irish people of all political persuasions.
The May Day proposal is another instance of cheap playing down to populism, of playing down to the cheapest and most unconsidered of ambitions. Deputy Gallagher had a question for the Taoiseach asking him what he intended doing about some commitment in that regard that he had given to the Deputy's party. We were told that no such commitment was given in regard to declaring May Day a public holiday. As the Taoiseach said yesterday, we are fairly far down the European league so far as public holidays are concerned but, then, we are at the bottom of every European league, of unemployment and productivity too, but we are at the top in terms of inflation. If we are to be rational and prudent, we will do what the late Mr. de Valera would have done — wait until productivity improves before making any decision on an extra public holiday.
It is not popular to take this line. The Taoiseach yesterday told me that I was stern, that I was not living in accordance with the last 20 years of this century but the last 20 years of this century will be a bumpy ride for all of us. Part of the reason for those years being particularly bumpy for this country is because of this populism which has us destroyed. It is because of the pandering to people and the cowardice which the political game appears to enforce on all sides, whereby one is afraid to tell the truth in case the other will tell lies, that we are in this situation.
The Taoiseach tells us that he is to have consultations about the May Day question with the employers and the unions. What is the purpose of that exercise? Does he not know now what the employers will say? Therefore, is it not only spoof to have consultations with them? Does he not know very well that they will not want to pay 240 days' wages for 239 days' work? This is just more of the attitude of the daddy-will-fix-it attitude. We are not  supposed to be killjoys or spoilsports. I made a point yesterday on the public sector side so far as this issue is concerned but somebody reporting me got it slightly wrong. The point is that there are about 240 working days in the year. The public sector pay bill is in the order of £1,400 million. Very crudely, then, one could say that for every working day the State is paying between £5 million and £6 million in salaries and overtime. That means that the implication of a May Day holiday, apart from the enervating effect it has on the days on either side of it and the fact that it tends to slop over, as any public holiday does, into the days on either side of it, is that the people of Ireland will be paying £6 million for nothing. They will not get any value or return for that money.
The Minister of State this morning echoed something which the Taoiseach referred to yesterday when he said truly that there were suburban developments which were fairly doleful and desolate, not because the housing was not infinitely better than that from which the people who lived there had come because it is but because of the lack of amenities. He said that too often in the new large housing estates there are instances of social, cultural and economic deprivation even amidst greatly improved housing and neighbourhood conditions. That is true. He also said that the National Community Development Agency will have a fund of £2 million this year in a new effort to improve the quality and content of community life by combining State aid and the resources in self-help and voluntary effort of communities faced with economic and social deprivation. I have often advocated community self-help and I will continue to do so. I do not wish to decry this well-intentioned effort, but I am sorry to have to say that I believe this will to some extent come under the heading of wasted money also. The people in the outer suburbs, in the raw under-developed, under-amenity provided outer suburbs want policing, vandalism in their streets stopped and a decent bus service which will run after seven in the evening. They do not want an authority, a shining building with a  chief executive, an annual report and an Irish title.
Mr. Kelly: They want a decent bus service and one that is not liable to having its crews attacked. Deputy Brady represents districts like that, just as I do, and he knows I am telling the truth. Those people are not interested in an authority. They want things that are much simpler and much more down to earth and do not require a shiny new State body to provide them. Other things they can certainly provide for themselves. If the object here is to give some advice or support as distinct from simply financing community effort, I will never say a word against it; but it is the context of the desolate suburbs, that makes me feel it is an agency which quite likely will be a waste of money also.
I should now like to deal with a matter which did not feature in the budget and which I only caught sight of in a newspaper recently under a heading, “Strike Threat To Banquet”. I have tabled a question about this and I do not know if the story printed in the newspaper is true. I will make the following statement under the reservation that the report in the newspaper may be wrong. As far as I can gather, the Minister for Health proposed to entertain to a State banquet in Dublin Castle 1,000 doctors. I was responsible for tourism during the eight months we were in Government and I am aware that it is important that we provide a bit of entertainment for visiting congresses. Many times I have free loaded myself and got the benefit of that type of hospitality from others and other states. If that was genuinely a banquet one can take it that the price per head, if it is to be worth the name and if the catering is provided by the type of agencies the State depends on, will work out at between £20 and £25 by the time drink, overtime and so on is counted. If I am right about this we are investing £25,000 in a banquet for visiting doctors. In good times there may be something to be said for an expenditure  of that type but in tough times it amounts to a grotesque misuse of public funds. I had to leave projects behind me in my Department uncompleted because of the lack of money. They included projects on the tourism side, one a revolutionary one. I had to leave those projects behind because I could not get anything like £25,000.
It is the soft-soap, the giving in, the pandering, the playing down, the jollying along of pressure groups and lobbies, all of whom become more insatiable by the day that has us where we are. The omissions, the failure to do things which might have been done and which obviously are justified, is part of the same thing. Since the Government seem to have swallowed most of Deputy John Bruton's budget, I should like to know why they decided — apart from electoral reasons — to drop the proposal to tax short-term social welfare benefits? Does it make sense that a person drawing short-term social welfare benefit will end up with more money because he is not paying tax than a person who is working? Is not the existing system to some extent an incentive to idleness? I am aware that that sounds a bit hard-nosed and that there are a lot of people to whom an undifferentiated system of taxation of short-term social welfare benefits would be a hardship, but I do not see any reason for throwing the scheme out of the window altogether except to play down to the people again. The point is that the people will not thank the Government, they will not be appeased. They will want more and more and will accept fewer and fewer excuses for it not being provided.
It is conventional wisdom that we were inept, that we should not have put 18 per cent VAT on clothing and footwear, and I accept that if one is in the business of winning elections it was a very inept thing to do. I do not accept merely because everybody has to wear clothes and footwear that that necessarily disqualifies those items from bearing taxation. The Government will rue the day that they appeared to accept such a proposition. There are all kinds of things we cannot live without and on which we are taxed in one shape or form. What is the  stamp duty on the purchase of a house but a tax on something which is necessary. What is VAT on a whole range of products we cannot do without except taxation of necessaries. This is more of the soft-witted rowing along with the lobbies. The point about putting a tax on clothes, footwear or anything else is not to penalise people for using necessaries or enjoying them but because it is a convenient way of collecting revenue and a very crude and approximate index of people's ability to pay it or supply that revenue. It is not a penalty and it does not imply that there is anything wrong with wearing clothes or footwear any more than any other form of taxation is a penalty. It is simply a way of extracting from the people the money to pay for the services which the people demand.
I have been a Member of this House for several years, twice in Government and twice in Opposition, and I often tire of the ritual of battering one another with staves, like one of the ritual Japanese war ballets, “We got it all right and you got it all wrong”. I do not want to go in for that any more than I have to, but the real reason why we get bad Government so much of the time is because each of the big parties is afraid that the other one is going to misrepresent it and tell lies about it. It is because each of the big parties, on account of the evenly balanced political equilibrium, feel they have to look over their shoulders increasingly these days to the left and cannot look either straight ahead down the centre and, of course, least of all, to the right, that we have had bad Government. That is in spite of the fact that these two big parties represent people who in terms of socio-economic groupings, avocation, or profession, or place in life, are distributed in very much the same proportions on both sides. In other words, we have two parties here which are essentially middle of the road parties who, if left to themselves, without the fear of having lies told about them, or being outstripped or outflanked by the other in combination with a much smaller splinter group to the left, would provide what I might call prudent, not necessarily brilliant or inspired, but prudent, sober day in, day out Government.  It might not be ingenious or exciting, but at least it would not leave us in a situation where we are working as hard as we can to pay the tax to pay the interest on our borrowings.
It is not just a question of the moral depravity of being in debt — no one thinks that way about it — but the point about being in debt and the prodigal way in which the State's finances have been run is that it constricts and reduces the State's capacity to develop, to provide services for the people. If the Government this year overrun their deficit target, or indeed, if there is a current deficit at all, that automatically implies lesser elbow room for providing services which the people want and need. That follows as night does day. It is like a malignant lung complaint. Every year because of this mounting burden of debt the State's capacity to circulate financial air freely through its lungs and feed it to the system is diminished. There is less working area left in the lungs every passing year. We will have to call a halt. I do not care who is shouting at us, from up there or anywhere else, we will have to stop it.
Some previous speaker referred to a cliché which was going around during the election campaign that Deputy FitzGerald of this party knew how to run an economy, but Charlie Haughey was in the business of running countries. That was a small contrast which was intended to leave Deputy FitzGerald very much with the short end of the stick. I hope the House will not be so childish as not to see that if our economy is destroyed it will be easy to talk to the country. Unless the economy is got back into a condition of prudent — I might even say old-fashioned — housekeeping, where we pay our debts as we go along and do not spend in any year any more than we earn, we are heading for that situation. If Deputy FitzGerald's economy goes down the drain, so far as I and the rest of us are concerned, Deputy Haughey can have the rest. The country will not be worth living in, because by then we will have a revolution on our hands and will not be able to get out of it.
Deputy Haughey would deprecate these reflections, because he does not  like people spreading gloom, but these reflections — and I hope that nobody will contradict me — are now uppermost in the minds of many Deputies on the other side of the House, as much as on this side. We cannot go on the way we have been going and the budget which we are now debating has been a further step down the hill.
There is one problem to which I adverted in a different context a short while ago, the problem which individuals have in squaring their consciences when lecturing the people from a political platform, or in the House, or wherever it might be. We have all a sense of — I had better not call it guilt — a feeling of discomfort at the inequities of society. I listened to Deputy Gallagher who said something which is perfectly true. In an interjection, he said that one of the reasons why society contains the many things of which he complains is because it has been run here for the last 60 years by representatives of classes which did not include the working class. I am not perhaps quoting him exactly, but he said something like that. I accept the validity of that criticism. It is perfectly fair to him, if he resents himself or his electorate being lectured by people who, whether in parliament or any institute, university, or anywhere else, are comfortably off, in the Irish middle class. That does not make them as comfortable as the middle classes in some other countries, but they are comfortably off by Irish standards. That is a just subject for resentment. This country is a curious phenomenon. Those very same members of the middle class who have been running this country, as he quite truly says, for the last 60 years, are, for the most part, descendants at no greater remove than two or three generations of very simple and very humble people, indeed. The comfortable middle classes which Deputy Gallagher may feel are indifferent to, or callous about, the problems of the people he represents — and I wish him success in representing them — are, in their very middle class comfort the products of two or three generations of hard work and thrift, for the most part, accelerated and eased in the  succeeding generations by the transmission, through inheritance, of whatever the previous generation had saved.
We are now fighting a by-election in Dublin West, which constituency contains some comfortable surburbs such as Castleknock, Clonsilla and so on. Try to build a picture of the background, the ancestry of the people now living in these comfortable houses, with a carport, two or three cars and whatever other amenities they may have. You will find that the history of their families is very much as I have said. They do not like being told, or made to feel guilty, about something which is to them a matter of family history and of which they are proud, if anything. At the same time, if Deputy Gallagher were here I would be glad to make the admission to him that that fact, in itself, does not create any permanent rights. It says no more than that a particular family and the offspring and the offspring's offspring were genetically and environmentally lucky, lucky in every way. They had what it took. They had the temperament, or character — or health even — and endurance to do what was necessary to lift themselves up from the very humble, simple and primitive conditions of their grandparents and great-grandparents and get on with the work. The very fact that they do have what it takes undoubtedly represents an inherited privilege. That privilege does not reside in the bank deposit which is passed on from one generation to another — that could be dissipated during a weekend at Cheltenham — the privilege resides in the genetic advantage of having got what it takes to get ahead.
I make a present of this to the Workers' Party — I believe that people who have that genetic inheritance and who have been lucky enough to find themselves in a position more comfortable than their grandparents would have dreamed of, owe it to the rest of the population to contribute to their support and to assist them in developing, to try to make it possible for them also to succeed. I have always accepted that and I believe that the rest of my party accept it too. For that reason, I deplore the action of the Fianna Fáil Party in 1977 in scrapping  the wealth tax. As I have said here often, we made a mistake in 1974 with our White Paper on Capital Taxation. Part of it was couched in language suggesting a redistribution of wealth for which the Fine Gael Party never sought, never got and never would be given a mandate. It also envisaged too low a threshold, too few exclusions and too high a percentage incidence of that wealth tax. I accept all that. I also accept that, even in the form in which it was ultimately introduced, perhaps it was an unfair imposition on the owners of businesses which were employment giving and wealth producing. Perhaps it should have been amended and perhaps we were inept about that too. But we never altogether abandoned the principle of wealth tax. I do not care how low the incidence is cast, let it be one in a thousand, not 1 per cent, the idea is sound that people who have what it takes to acquire wealth should contribute — and not merely by way of income tax — in a way which will not cripple them some part of their substance to help others.
We are trying to do two things which are not compatible. We are shying away from things which would create an atmosphere of equity. I do not think the wealth tax alone would do it, but I would willingly sacrifice a great deal more of what I earn in order to have an easy conscience on the subject of taxation equity. I believe lots of other people feel the same way. We are lacking components in the tax system which should be there; and the wealth tax, in some shape or form, perhaps not as severe as we introduced in 1975, should be one of them. There may be others.
I am all in favour of trying to defuse the tension which I now see beginning to arise in this House between people who come from exactly the same stock and from the very same kind of people two or three generations ago. I am in favour of doing that. But, while putting off that reform on the one hand, I am not in favour of playing down to people and concealing from them the fact that they must pay as they go along. However we distribute the burdens of State they must be carried by us, and that is the direction  we are moving in with the kind of budget we have seen. We made a stumbling effort to reverse the trend. No one can fault Deputy Bruton or Deputy Garrett FitzGerald for being behindhand in trying to make people see the truth about our economy and about our society in the months they were in office. For that we are attacked by the present Taoiseach for spreading gloom and doom. I would like to know which side is the more culpable, those who neglect to tell the truth to the people and by their every act push the economy further and further into a stall or those who say “Look, we are stalling, you have got to help us to pull out of this”. That is doom and gloom and the latter of these two parties and Governments is supposed to apologise for their behaviour.
The Taoiseach ended his speech yesterday by saying there had been too much destructive comment and exaggerated criticism. He appealed to the Opposition and other sideline commentators to stop running down our economy. He said they may see some narrow party and political advantage in so doing but they should also understand the damage that they can do to our national morale at home and our standing abroad.
I suppose somebody put that speech into his hand. Perhaps he did not literally write it himself, but can the Taoiseach be serious when he talks like that? The facts which underlie and underlay every word that Deputy Garret FitzGerald and Deputy Bruton and the rest of us were saying, and are still saying, are public facts. The American and Japanese investors and the people who lend us money do not depend on Deputy FitzGerald, Deputy Bruton or myself to tell them the facts about our balance of payments situation or about our budget deficit. These facts are publicly available. Anyone who has the job of advising a foreign industrial investor and in the business of advising potential investors and businessmen would not be doing their job unless they made an assessment of the economic and fiscal condition of the country. It is to people like that that outside businessmen and banks listen. They do not pick up a twopence halfpenny political speech  made at a Fine Gael dinner and note that Deputy Kelly, Deputy Bruton or Deputy FitzGerald say the economy is going downhill. They can see that for themselves. It is not a question of the odd side line commentators or the Fine Gael Party running down the economy. We are trying to rescue the economy, and I believe there are plenty of people in the Fianna Fáil benches who want to do the same thing. I am sorry that under their present leadership they are going the wrong way about it.
I wish we could conduct debates on these subjects at a somewhat higher level than that implicit in the appeal made by the Taoiseach yesterday to us to keep our mouths shut about the way the economy is going in case we would damage the country. Any damage which has been done has not been done by words spoken by politicians at Fine Gael or Fianna Fáil bun fights and bean feasts; it has been done largely by the trend of deficit budgeting initiated by the other party and continued with only a slight brake applied by Deputy Richie Ryan and Deputy Bruton. That is what has done the damage and also the sort of steering of the economy which leaves us with a mountainous balance of trade deficit which has become chronic. The rate of inflation has also caused damage. This information is all publicly available.
I want to end by speaking about the question of the inner city which Deputy Brady, Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, referred to. God be with the days when there was simply a Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government. I have to hand it to Deputy Brady. I had not heard him speak extensively before but he comprehensively upstaged his boss. To listen to Deputy Brady one would not think that Deputy Raphael Burke had any work to do except maybe to reform the electoral law. That seems to be the only job that will be left by the time Deputy Brady has finished renewing the city, tidying up dirty derelict sites, getting rid of the graffiti and keeping the litter bugs in their places. There was a winsome freshness about his speech here  this morning, and I wish him well. He mentioned and was gracious enough to acknowledge that I might have had something to do with it. The reason I interrupted him when he mentioned the revolving fund which local authorities are going to be encouraged to set up in order to acquire old buildings, refurbish and sell them, was because I made this suggestion to Deputy Peter Barry when he was Minister for the Environment. It was not my original idea: I read a very interesting paper on how this had been very effectively done in some areas abroad. Since it is genuinely self-financing, not like the self-financing subsidies we heard about at election time, it would contribute something substantial to the renewal of the older suburban areas. The really important thing about this revolving fund is that it will focus attention on those areas.
We all tend to think of the southern Dublin suburbs — I know it has a comfortable sound about it — as being preserves of the Rathmines and Rathgar Musical Society or, perhaps I should say of the Rathmines and Rathgar ladies who figured in “The Plough and the Stars”. We tend to think of these areas as being somewhat smug, well-kept districts. If you represent them, as I have done for a number of years, you will know it is quite true that there are very good houses there, but it is also true that there is a lot of decay. Deputy Briscoe represents part of that area still and he knows that whole roads may be photographed very well on an autumn day, with the trees and the foreground and so on making wonderful still views at 150 paces, but go up close and look at the 24 bellpushes on the doors of these houses originally designed to accommodate middle sized families. Go and see the rotting areas, the crumbling ironwork and the general air of neglect, with the telltale bathroom pipes coming out through the front of the houses, and you will see that no control was exercised over the reckless subdivisions done in response to pressing housing needs which could not have been met otherwise. Perhaps if the rent restrictions law had not been in existence we might have been better able to meet them earlier.
 My point is that these suburbs do not say anything: they are mute but they are crumbling away under our eyes. We now talk about Mountjoy Square and Gardiner Street and express a certain amount of concern about other areas in the city centre. However, it will be only another 30 or 40 years before we have a major catastrophe on our hands because of the decay of these suburbs. I do not know the north city suburbs so well but I have no doubt that the same is true of them.
The urban renewal which Deputy Brady took so much pleasure in is a rather mixed lot of renewal. I should like to apologise for speaking inconsiderately, off the top of my head, about a building at the top of Fitzwilliam Place. Deputy Brady mentioned it. I accept that a great deal of care and a great deal of money have been lavished on it in a genuine effort to make it harmonise with its surroundings. From some points of view it does, but the question is whether it is a suitable way to treat a site like that to put in a new Georgian building of gargantuan proportions. The good intentions, the technique of builders and the expense and care lavished on it are beyond question; but some of the urban renewal in which we take such innocent, winsome, small boy pleasure is very dubious.
I have an entirely subjective impression that Lower Mount Street — I do not mean Upper Mount Street with the two head offices glowering at each other, but Lower Mount Street, the main bus route to Blackrock and Dún Laoghaire — is a very sad looking street. It has two very angry looking red brick buildings, no shops along the sidewalks, one pub left in it and one shop obviously due for redevelopment. The light has gone out of it and Deputy Brady very properly spoke about leaving light in the city. The light has gone out of that street before our eyes. It was an eyesore for ten years but now it is a heartache to people like Deputy Brady who, I know, would like to see the city a living place, attractive to the eye and all the other senses.
The last thing Deputy Brady mentioned is graffiti and litter into whose elimination he intends to put some effort and for which he has been given some  money. If the Litter Bill which he proposes to put through the Oireachtas simply is to do no more than provide for increased fines and the imposition of such fines on the spot, it will not be worth enacting.
Since 1963 it has been against the law to drop litter. Deputy Brady made a debating point when he said the fine is trivial because a person can take a truck-full of litter and tip it in an open place in a street and the fine is still only £10. I imagine a load of that character would involve the delinquent in other penalties. What he forgot to say is that it is equally £10, and has been for nearly 20 years, for throwing away a cigarette packet or a cigarette end in the street. So far I have not seen a report of anyone being prosecuted under that section of the 1963 Local Government (Planning and Development) Act. I do not believe any prosecutions have been brought. When I was last in opposition I remember putting down a question to the Minister for the Environment, who evaded the question, saying it is a matter for the local authorities. Obviously he knew perfectly well that local authorities were not seriously trying to enforce it. If you put up a little scarecrow, as the £10 fine is, and find that the birds ignore it, it is useless putting up a bigger scarecrow unless you intend to do something serious about keeping the birds away by more effective means. It is useless to increase the fines unless you have an apparatus to enforce the law and the will to do so on the part of local authorities.
Having said that, I wish Deputy Brady well. His ambitions in regard to this city and all Irish towns are creditable. His ambition to educate people into a better way of treating their city must be the long-term hope not only in that regard but in many others. I genuinely wish him well, as all my party do, and I will be watching carefully the progress of this revolving house acquisition fund.
Mr. Leonard: Considering the failure of the last Government to get their budget through the Dáil, and the delay caused by that, the present Government had no choice but to take the general  outline of the failed budget, to correct some of the gross errors in it and to give it a more humane face. In these circumstances I am satisfied with the budget now before us. It is understandable that this budget does not go as far in some matters as one one would wish.
I would like to see more provision for agriculture and health particularly. I trust that when the first full budget will come before us in January many of those deficiencies will be corrected. Of course, the biggest problem facing the country is unemployment, especially of young people. This is an urgent matter which cannot be left to one side — it cannot be left to better times. The last Government seemed to have been satisfied to leave the unemployment problem to better times.
By their actions in the sixties Fianna Fáil did away with the emigrant ship completely. In my area we had massive emigration for years. In the seventies, Fianna Fáil succeeded not only in stopping emigration but in bringing some of the emigrants back through massive job packages.
Fianna Fáil still have the same commitment and have the same ability to reduce the level of unemployment. The budget includes the first instalment of Fianna Fáil action in that respect, the £50 million injection into the building sector. I recall the statement made by the former Minister for Finance that some of the jobs created would last only 12 or 18 months. At present an unemployed man would be very appreciative of a job that would last six, 12 or 18 months.
A lot of time has been devoted by Opposition speakers and people in the media generally to the undertakings in regard to Dublin inner city. There is no doubt that the works proposed are long overdue. Since this issue came up I have made a point of visiting this area and I would go along with the expenditure involved. My only complaint is that the impression might be given that the only deprived areas in the country are in Dublin city.
Deprivation is not confined to Dublin.  The largest and longest deprived area in the country is the Border area and that applies not only to the Twenty-six County side but to the Six County side of the Border. Border areas have never been given a fair deal by Governments in Dublin and London. They suffer directly from violence in that it is difficult to attract industries and tourists because of that violence. Special consideration should be given by both Governments to the Border area. Following our entry into the EEC we had great expectations because we believed at that time that substantial moneys would be available from the Regional Fund for projects beneficial to both sides of the Border. With that in mind we set up committees and worked very hard for a number of years at county council and rural district council level. Money was provided to identify projects and we carried out a study in the Erne catchment which embraces about one-fifth of the area of the 32 counties.
Due to a change in the political climate things came to a standstill over the last 18 months or so. A committee of civil servants from both Governments examined these projects and they were approved by the committees and I believe it was far enough advanced for the civil servants to bring back to the EEC to get approval there. I am disappointed that very little has happened over the last 18 months. We are hopeful now that there will be a change of heart on the part of representatives on the other side who have indicated their willingness to cooperate with officials here. In regard to the lack of progress on these projects in the Department of Foreign Affairs I have been told that this is because the climate was not right. But the climate has not been right for 50 years and that is why we are trying to implement schemes which would benefit both sides of the Border. We cannot accept that type of excuse.
Statistics in the Central Statistics Office which date back to 20 years ago — there are no up-to-date statistics available — give an indication of the problems associated with the three Ulster counties of Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan in that region. There are 47,000 holdings in  those three counties and only 6,000 of them are over £50 valuation. That was the accepted valuation over the last number of years for a viable holding. Of those holdings 36,000 have valuations under £20 which is certainly not economical. Within that region there are resources of bogland and afforestation where industries could be set up. We had hoped that, following the Turf Bill, access roads to bogs would have been provided so that machinery could be used and employment provided at a time when there is so much talk of unemployment. Those counties are part of the 12 western counties. We have been endeavouring to have those 12 western counties designated as severely handicapped to qualify for cattle headage grants and other payments under that scheme. We have a map here which covers the complete western and north-western seaboard and there are a couple of small areas in Clare and Limerick and a large area in Cavan and Monaghan which have not been classified as severely handicapped. The time has come to designate the whole of the 12 western counties as severely handicapped.
In this budget there is an allocation of £10 million to health boards. The day before the budget was announced the North Eastern Health Board, of which I am a member, had a meeting. The report from the CEO mentioned that there would be curtailments and significant reductions in many areas and mentioned the total elimination of taxi service for patients, reduction in the ad hoc dental scheme and the ophthalmic scheme, reduction in provision for maintenance, medical, surgical and X-ray equipment and a complete restraint on diagnostic services. It was also mentioned that there would be a reduction under other headings — the elimination of summer specials and the complete elimination of administrative overtime and temporary replacements.
Due to that £10 million and to the allocation which was made since the budget of £900,000 to the North Eastern Health Board we will, in some small way, be able to offset some of the hardships which would have been caused if we had  to implement all these reductions in full. But let us look at the budget for the health boards. On that day we were faced with a budget of approximately £62 million for a four-county health board where hospital care accounts for 64 per cent, community care accounts for 29.3 per cent and central services accounts for 6.7 per cent. We are now faced with spiralling costs for hospitalisation at every level. The Department should look very seriously at this. From 1974, prior to every estimates meeting, one examines the estimates for the previous years. Now it costs £74 per day for an orthopaedic patient; the average for a general hospital patient is £60 and in the geriatric field where small hospitals have been a long time in operation and needed efficient heating, lighting and equipment, the cost per day is £11 to £26; in the two psychiatric hospitals the average cost is £30.
This is what we were faced with within the health board. We were faced with a situation in which there were very few areas in which we could make deductions. If we had, we would have had to close wards and hospitals. We had to cut the taxi service for bringing patients to hospital and reduce dental services which will have serious effects, especially for young people in need of treatment.
The Minister for Health should look at the whole question of hospitalisation. A serious endeavour must be made to keep the people out of institutions. We will have to switch to a system of community care. Monaghan County Council have provided houses where patients are boarded out in practically every housing estate. They are on their own but are supervised by a psychiatric nurse. We have 350 home helps who each receive 60p per hour. We must provide a more professional and efficient service for old people so that they may be kept at home instead of being put into institutions.
As a member of a health board and a county council, the impossibility of planning on the basis of an annual budget allocation has come home to me very forcibly. Planning health projects is impossible under the present financial arrangements. The minimum workable period one could plan for is three years  and preferably five. When a business concern produces its annual accounts, provision is made for depreciation of machinery and plant so that buildings and so on can be kept in reasonable repair. The same provision has not been made for health boards or local authorities. There has been under-spending on the maintenance of buildings and so on. Major repairs have to be carried out whereas this would not be necessary if they were properly maintained.
The Minister for Finance provided in the budget for medical cards to be made available for old age pensioners. This is a very important concession as it gives security to such people. Many of them fear the day they will be faced with hospitalisation, doctors bills and so on. A sum of £1 million was allocated for accommodation for old people living alone. While that is a small amount, with good organisation it could make a meaningful impact on the living conditions of old people.
Mention was made in the budget of agriculture and this is the area where there is greatest hope. We had a meeting in Berlin some weeks ago and in the discussions with members of the West German Parliament it emerged that their problems are akin to ours. They were talking about increased unemployment and the cost of social welfare and health education. We are in a more favourable position than other countries because of our agricultural resources. Despite the fact that we have been members of the EEC for ten years, we have not exploited these resources to their fullest extent. We have not got the full benefit from our membership of the EEC. There is a decline in the national herd whereas it should have been increased. Much work was carried out under the farm modernisation scheme but despite that, national herd numbers have decreased. We do not have comparable milk yields with other  countries although some counties do have a high yield.
As regards the ACOT advisory service, there will have to be greater concentration on those in the lower categories. There may be farmers who are not willing to ask for or listen to advice. Advisers, by concentrating on the 25 per cent in the higher category, are neglecting those down the line and we will end up with a situation where we will have some excellent farmers but others who will leave a lot to be desired.
Again on the agricultural scene and very obvious in my area, we have the meat industry. Massive grants were paid over the years for factory buildings, equipment and retraining in this industry and to make it really efficient money was provided in recent years for large-scale boning and horning. My constituency has two large meat plants which now are both closed, perhaps for different reasons, and it is not expected that they will be able to get in any cattle until very late in the year. The result is that the large workforce who spent a long time training in boning etc. are unemployed while we are importing massive quantities of meat from various countries and practically all the cattle from some areas here are going out on the hoof, many of them to eastern countries. Not alone that, but the meat and bone plants and the canneries are feeling the pinch because the offal is not available to them.
I do not know the answer. The prices paid were substantial and people will sell in the best market. However, it is having a very serious effect on employment. A scheme was introduced for the west of Ireland to pay grant-aid to producers of beef. It involved a type of contract system between the meat factories and the producers to ensure a continuity of supply of cattle. Now we are exporting cattle on the hoof and importing meat in packs and that does not make sense.
We should be looking very closely at food processing generally because certainly it has potential for development. At present we are importing massive quantities of vegetables, especially potatoes. It is said that in this city practically every greengrocer has potatoes which are  imported into a country which has the soil, the climate and the know-how to produce them. About 20 years ago we exported large quantities of seed and ware potatoes and now we have massive imports of potatoes. These vegetables provide a big labour content in planting, grading and so on. The Department of Agriculture should take a very serious look at this. A Minister of State should be designated with responsibility in the area of fruit and vegetables, where there is the potential to make a worthwhile contribution to employment.
Regarding food processing, recently in Germany and France I noticed the use of plastic tunnels in the farms there for the production of vegetables. After coming back here I inquired about the cost of those tunnels, and I believe that with that type of equipment and the infra red plastic which is very efficient we could develop greatly in that area. It seems to me that up to now ACOT have concentrated on the agricultural end and have only very few officers in the horticultural section. I hope that from now on they will pay more attention to that area.
We introduced in 1980 and continued into 1981 during a bad year, the incentive silage scheme and a fertiliser scheme under which £3 per ton to a maximum of 50 tons was paid to farmers who up to then had not concentrated on silage-making. It was an incentive scheme intended to interest people in this matter and to provide against times of bad weather when it would be practically impossible to harvest hay which would be usable at all for feeding stocks. The scheme should have been very beneficial. It was brought in at £3 per ton and the thinking behind it was probably that it would pay the contractor for cutting. Also, £30 per ton was to be paid for one ton of nitrogen fertiliser for the purpose. The scheme was brought over into the following year. In March this year I had a letter from a constituent in west Cavan complaining that he had not received payment of his silage grant of £150 which he needed to pay for feeding stuff in a lean time of the year. I tabled a question to which I got an answer yesterday and it turned out that 976 grants from the 1981 scheme  were still unpaid on 31 March 1982, a scheme under which the silage would have been cut in the months of July, August and September and the inspection should have been carried out before December that year. Yet the ACOT offices have not submitted 976 claims for payments under this scheme when the people need that money to purchase their fertilisers for the following year. That is not right and should be examined very closely in the Department.
I will outline a few anomalies in the farm modernisation scheme. A farmer who applied to be classified and so qualified for farm modernisation grants when the scheme was introduced in 1973, is, when six years have expired, changed from high to the category of low with a consequent reduction from 30 per cent grant-aid to 15 per cent. In a number of cases farmers applied and were classified and afterwards carried out very little improvement on their holdings. Now their sons who are taking over find that that six-year stipulation applies and they qualify for only 15 per cent grant aid. This should be examined by the Department.
On another aspect of the farm modernisation scheme, a farmer cannot qualify for grants unless he secures 50 per cent of his income and spends 50 per cent of his time on farming. The result is that many young men who have jobs and who would wish to go into some enterprise on the side — such as pig production which a number in my area have had in mind — find that they are debarred from grant aid because of that stipulation.
A number of young men in the area decided to go into mushroom production under the farm modernisation grants scheme and in order to secure the high rate of grants they had to be classified as “others”. They also had to give up their jobs and this militated against those who were ambitious to get into farming.
The main commodities of cattle and beef are mentioned in the Nineteenth Report on Developments in the European Communities published in January this year. Complaints were often made here that we were not receiving the same price levels as other countries. The report  states that Irish price levels show a considerable increase on the corresponding period in 1980 when market prices ranged between IR£68 and IR£74/100 kg., 63 per cent and 67 per cent of the guide price. It goes on to state that this improvement can largely be attributed to the scarcity of cattle supplies in 1981 following the high level of de-stocking in 1980. While it is not stated in the report, live exports are the reason for the increase in the guide price.
The report also deals with the intervention level of butter and Community stocks have been reduced from 127,000 tonnes in December 1980 to 9,200 tonnes in December 1981. These figures are very favourable to our case that our milk production should not be jeopardised in years to come.
During the election campaign Fianna Fáil gave a commitment to reintroduce the £3,000 mortgage subsidy for single persons and to restore their eligibility for SDA loans. It is important to give every possible incentive to people who are building or reconstructing their own houses. This is desirable not only because of the amount of work which would be provided in the construction industry but also because of the high level of State subsidy on rents. In my county the average rent is £4 per week and the average subsidy is £30 on local authority houses. The Government have also requested local authorities to provide serviced sites for young house builders.
The farm retirement scheme introduced in 1976 has been a failure and officials of the Department of Agriculture should, in conjunction with the EEC, draw up some other type of scheme. A large amount of land is lying derelict while many young farmers are working on small acreages and would be keen to acquire more land. Our experience is that very few people are willing to relinquish their land completely and some kind of leasing arrangement might be more acceptable.
The sum of £1.5 million has been provided in the budget to enable local authorities to acquire, renovate and sell rundown residential property. This is in  line with the views expressed this morning by the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment, Deputy Gerard Brady. In view of the high cost of erecting new buildings, the possibility of restoring existing buildings should be carefully considered. In Monaghan the VEC purchased a building which had formerly been used as a maternity hospital and demolished it to make way for a new building. The Department of Posts and Telegraphs demolished a building in Clones which was only 30 years old and have now erected a building which will not have the same lifespan. While I have no technical knowledge, I believe it would have been possible to adapt the former building at a much lower cost. In future we must try to retain and improve existing buildings rather than demolish them.
Mrs. Owen: It is my dubious honour to follow on this side of the House a Deputy of such experience and colourful turn of phrase as Deputy John Kelly. I wish to begin by telling a story with which those of us who have children or grandchildren will be very familiar, while those who do not have children will remember it from their own childhood.
The story concerns a little girl called Goldilocks who found herself in a little cottage where there were three bowls of porridge. She had the choice of a bowl which was very hot, one that was very cold and the easy choice of the baby bear's porridge. I am accusing the Taoiseach of being the male equivalent of Goldilocks, the man who is only able to eat the baby bear's porridge. He is afraid to touch the porridge bowl which is too hot or the bowl which is too cold and instead settles for the easy option of eating and giving out what is easy to give and easy to take. I will give an example of why I am accusing him of taking the easy option. The best thing Fianna Fáil could have done for the country was to have voted for the budget introduced by the Coalition Government. Perhaps it is naive of me to think that this should have been done but I should like to quote from a report in The Irish Times dated 5 May which stated the following:
 The post-election budget was modelled closely on that of the outgoing Government although there are worrying signs that it is not sufficiently committed to keeping the Government's deficit within reasonable bounds.
In other words, the budget we are debating today does not differ in many areas from the budget introduced by the Coalition Government. The Government have accepted that many of the things we were trying to do are necessary. If Fianna Fáil were concerned about the good of the country they would have voted for our budget. They would not have given the country the unnecessary expense of an election we did not need after seven months in office. This was one instance when the bowl of hot porridge could have been taken.
The people of the country are getting heartily sick of the whole political system and that is my view also. The image of politicians has diminished in their eyes. The feeling is that all politicians are the same, that no matter which party are in power nothing will be done, that all politicians are feathering their own nests. In many ways the public are right. There is disillusionment with the whole political scene and probably our party are equally to blame. The time has come when the country must come first but I am afraid that none of us is tackling the problems. It is of no benefit to the country to shout down some of the good things that the opposing party have done. During our term of office Fianna Fáil said we were making a mess of things and that everything we were doing was unnecessary. As I said at the outset, I accuse the Taoiseach of being the male equivalent of Goldilocks. I accuse him of being a coward.
I think one of the reasons the Coalition Government were elected to office was that they had given a commitment that they would tackle the tax system. I made my maiden speech on the budget but I did not realise I would be speaking in the debate on another budget in the short space of seven or eight months. The people marched in thousands for an improvement in the tax system. All parties  are in agreement that the system is inequitable and that the base is too narrow. I cannot help thinking that the reason Fianna Fáil did not continue the movement which we started to improve the tax system was due to sheer pettiness, because it was something towards which this side of the House had worked. If Fianna Fáil remain in government I am convinced that very soon they will adopt the tax credits system. The only reason they did not have it in their budget was that it had a Coalition tag on it. That kind of pettiness is something the country cannot afford. It is the kind of behaviour that is giving the whole political system a bad name.
The failure of Fianna Fáil to tackle our tax system has had detrimental effects. The Coalition Government were anxious to help the very low paid, people who perhaps would be better off if they did not work but were on the social welfare system. We were aiming to help this section by way of the family income supplement but the Government abolished that. It may be said that the money is still there and will be allocated to give a double payment to people on social welfare but that will not help those whom we wanted to help. The time has come when the people who are working must be given a fair crack of the whip. In the past five or six years there has been a move towards giving more and more to people who are not working and less and less attention is paid to people who continue to work, often at incomes that are less than what they would get if they were in receipt of social welfare benefits. The decision by Fianna Fáil to abolish the family income supplement was a retrograde one.
A short while ago people suddenly realised the effect of the increased PRSI contributions but they should realise that it is not over yet. Fianna Fáil have introduced a provision to lower the tax bands and now people on low incomes will be paying tax at the rate of 45 per cent. This has not yet hit home. For administrative reasons people are paying tax at the lower rate but soon their employers will be asked to revise the tax-free allowances. In the next five or six months people will have to pay for the little respite they are  having at the moment. It is a kind of drip-feeding system. In the media Fianna Fáil are getting a lot of praise for being more politically cute than Fine Gael, but the cuteness has to end. It is not cute to fool people and it is not cute to allow them to think that Fianna Fáil are the party who will make things easy. We saw the reaction to the PRSI contributions.
It can be said that in our budget we proposed to increase PRSI but we were also trying to reform the tax system. Fianna Fáil have not tried to do that. I admit that in our efforts to tackle the problem we did not go as far as I would have liked but in view of the economic situation as we found it when we came to office it was not possible. However, I have no doubt that if we had remained in government we would have continued to reform the tax system.
The lowering of the tax bands will hit most severely those who are on small fixed incomes, widows and widowers, people living on incomes from investments that may have been valuable at one time but are now worth very little and people who are living on low pensions from jobs. These people will very soon find themselves in the 45 per cent tax band and some of them may even be in the 60 per cent tax band and their income will still be very low by today's standards. Sufficient thought has not been given to the people in this area and within the next few months many problems will arise.
The people paying PAYE seem to be hit all the time. I agree with their grievance that the Government always hit the people who are at work. When these people had marches recently the Fianna Fáil Government promised £45 million — money which was not floating around a few months ago — to keep the lid on. They considered this to be a very important move, particularly with the by-election coming up.
It is some time since I was a PAYE taxpayer but I have spoken to many people paying PAYE and PRSI. They are very frustrated because they are not getting value for money. If they want optical or dental benefits they have to  join very long queues, and if they do get glasses they still have to pay about £60 and social welfare pay the remainder. We must give value for the money the Government are collecting. I believe people would be willing to pay for these services if they got value. Ministers have acknowledged that there are long waiting lists for various benefits with the result that people are not claiming their social welfare benefits but they are paying for private attention. This means they are paying on the double. The Government must find a way to show people they are getting value for money. It is not enough to say that people are entitled to certain benefits. Those benefits must be easily available.
I have had many representations from groups and associations whose recreational grants for community centres were approved by the last Government. There seems to be some delay because they cannot get their money. Is some of this money being used to pay for the promised extras? Where is the money provided by the previous Government to meet these grants? Delaying tactics are being employed. These organisations are now being asked to submit this form or that. Perhaps I will get an answer to these questions from somebody on the Government side.
In my view there is a good case to be made for the Minister for Health making the 1 per cent health contribution optional. Many people paying this 1 per cent are on pensions. They have had a long life but now have a small income. If they have to go into hospital they might prefer to go privately, especially if they are members of the VHI. This means many elderly people are paying this 1 per cent health contribution but are not getting anything for it. There is a very strong case for allowing people over 66 years to decide if they want to pay this 1 per cent.
I welcome the provision made in the budget that all people in receipt of social welfare pensions are eligible for medical cards. Unfortunately, it is a little like Pandora's Box: it looks fine on the outside but when opened it creates more serious anomalies. While these people are given social welfare benefits there are  others whose incomes are around the limit — at present £68.50 for a married couple — and are not eligible for welfare pensions because they never paid social insurance contributions. Very often they are the people most in need of medical cards. They are the people who once had a better standard of living than they have now. They may be living in what is considered a very desirable area but their income is very low by today's standards. They will never get into the system; they will never be eligible for the electricity allowance and free telephone and television licence. If a person is in receipt of a social welfare pension of £1 he is eligible for these benefits but the people who never paid social insurance will never benefit. When this change was being made in this year's budget I was sorry a way was not found to bring these people into the system. These widows, widowers, elderly couples, old age pensioners on very reduced circumstances have given their all to put this country where it is, but they will never benefit under our social welfare system. The only benefit they get is the free travel, and I hope they avail of it to the fullest extent.
There are certain areas in the health system which must be tackled. I am sick of being told when I look for improvements in this area — we were guilty of this, too, although we were in Government for a very short time — that the matter is under review or a report is being prepared. A person cannot get into hospital if a report is being prepared. Improvements cannot be made on the basis of what is in a report unless somebody is prepared to act on those recommendations.
Yesterday I read in the paper that a Professor Tussing from New York was seconded to the ESRI for the past year. He has been doing a survey of our whole health system. From the comments in the paper yesterday, I would imagine that he will come up with many suggestions. Perhaps somebody from outside looking at out system might be able to see what areas need improvement. There are many areas which need improvement. I do not suggest for one moment that the  medical card system should be abolished, but there are many inequities in it. Many people in my ken have medical cards who should not have them. They can well afford to pay for their medical treatment. It is pretty galling for people who cannot get a medical card because they are £1 or £2 over the limit, to find that a friend of theirs who has a medical card can take a holiday in the United States or on the Continent a couple of times a year.
I do not know how one tackles that. I have not had the perhaps dubious privilege of working in a Department as a Minister or Minister of State. Somebody must tackle the system in which there are inequalities. People are asking why does somebody not do something about it. We come in here and shout about doing something about it, but what we say appears to be falling on deaf ears. The system should be shaken up and made more equitable. The injustices and the infringements of the system are not being tackled.
Before the election many people suggested that we should all get together in this House and come up with a common policy for the next few years to get us out of our difficulties. Speakers from the Government side of the House feel just as frustrated as I do, and as frustrated as other people on these benches feel, at their inadequacy in trying to come to grips with the system. The health system and the social welfare system have become monsters. We try to correct one problem and another is shown up. We must stop these monsters before they devour us.
Working people have had enough. Equally people who are genuinely receiving social welfare benefits have had enough. People who are genuinely receiving social welfare benefits have told me that they are being tarred with the same brush as people who are misusing the system. If you tell people you are receiving sickness benefit they say: “Oh yes, and what are you working at on the side?” The public perception of the system is that everybody is on the make and that there are infringements everywhere. That is not the truth. Until we tackle the areas where there are infringements and  misuse, the whole system will be held up to ridicule. Decent people who have paid for their benefits and are entitled to them will also be held up to ridicule.
It is time for all the political parties to take the blame for what appears to be the breakdown in the system. As a new Deputy, the blame which accrues to me and other new Deputies is not as great as that accruing to my more experienced colleagues on both sides of the House. Somebody is fooling somebody. Nobody has really grasped the nettle and said: “Let us call a halt”. The provision that somebody in receipt of unemployment benefit may not earn more than 85 per cent of what he would be earning if he was employed, is not working. People have learned how to work the system.
Yesterday some employers were speaking to the Minister for Health and they pointed out other anomolies in the system whereby people can work for three days and draw pay-related benefit and get more money in that way. They are entitled to draw that benefit but there is something wrong if it is more lucrative to be out of work than in work. You have to have sympathy for people who will not take on jobs because if they are not working they may be £5 less well off, but if they add on the cost of travelling to work and keeping their clothes in good condition they find they are better off not working.
Far too many people know how to work the system. Perhaps they are the people who should be elected to the Dáil. They have managed to find a way to work the minimum number of days per year and gain the most advantage. It is a bit like a spirit level. If you balance it on a straight surface the little bubble stays straight, but if you tip it, it is off balance. These people have it worked down to a fine art. Perhaps we could learn something from them. They know how the system works. An Oireachtas committee might do well to call in some of those people and talk to them.
Some time ago a person I worked with left his job and went to work for the IMI. He found there was one employee who gave an extreme amount of trouble and  was a most active troublemaker. He knew everything about unions. The two of them were at it hammer and tongs. When this person went to work for the IMI, part of his job was to train managers in how to deal with union problems. One of the people he called in to act as an adviser and to help him to give this training to managers was the self-same union activist. He had made it his business to know everything about the system and he could help managers to learn how to use the system properly and treat the unions properly. Unions are important and necessary. At the moment they have a bad name because of the way in which some of them can get a stranglehold on the economy and hold it up to ransom.
Another area to which I should like to turn for a moment is the whole area of local authority spending. Again I go back to my theme of value for money. It is patently obvious that we are not getting value for all the money being spent by the local authorities. I often wonder why we are not. The public perception is that the local authority system has ground to a halt, that it is run down, that nothing is being done. The potholes are not being filled in. We might do better to put some of those lengthy reports into the potholes and put a skim of tarmac over them.
I am a member of Dublin County Council and I know the estimates for road structure, for safety, and the other aspects of our road-building programme. Forty per cent of the money being used by Dublin County Council on the roads is being spent on environment work. That is far too high a percentage to be spent on works such as cleaning the roadsides of the litter and dirt put there by people from the city and county and from outside it. I had better say that in case people are coming from over the border of County Dublin and dumping. Far too much money is being spent on that. The money we are given for our roads should be spent on their improvement. The only way in which this whole infrastructural system can be tackled by local authorities is by some Government, whether it be this or some other in the future, making a capital investment therefor. We cannot continue to sell ourselves as an industrial  country and to try to attract business from outside until we tackle this problem.
The National Economic and Social Council Report of July 1981, a report on the importance of infrastructure to industrial development in Ireland, in their summary of conclusions, advance a number of reasons for our falling down and why we should be getting a bad name. The stage has now been reached at which our whole infrastructure warrants serious examination. The NESC in their report had this to say:
... (c) very many developed nations enjoyed a period of relatively high public spending on roads and other public infrastructure in the late 1950s and 1960s. Generally this passed Ireland by; so that recent efforts to improve such infrastructures are starting from a lower base;
In other words, we have not even got to the subsurface in regard to infrastructural improvement. Everything underneath is still so bad that we have not yet got over the ground by way of improving our structures and services. We must be prepared to tackle that problem in order to render this country more attractive and efficient for foreign firms who want to set up factories here giving our people employment.
There are whole areas in the local authority spending programme that must be revised. At an estimates meeting recently in Dublin County Council — and here I must fault politicians and public representatives — there was evidence of a lack of courage in regard to any revision of the present system. Far too much money is being spent on environmental works, work being done because somebody else has created it. Such work is not of its nature by way of improvement but rather is it of a remedial or preventative nature. For instance, I proposed that some of the money the county council had allotted to cutting grass or grass verges within housing estates should be redistributed and given to the roads engineers to be used for more important work, such as improvement of road structures,  for the maintenance of roads and so on from which the general public could benefit. We must reach the stage at which we do something for ourselves. Unfortunately at that meeting there were not sufficient councillors who felt as I did, that we must in some way cease the spoon-feeding. There were insufficient councillors to vote that proposal through, which means those little five feet grass verges will continue to be cut and the £150,000 or so that could have been so saved will not now be spent on more productive work. I know the general public would be quite willing to carry out such tasks themselves had they the assurance that the money would go towards improving the overall infrastructure of their areas.
There is another suggestion I should like the Department of the Environment to take up. All of us here may have received a letter recently about the prospect of recycling of waste and not being so wasteful with our resources. There is a good case for the commencement of a pilot study in this regard. In many cases when groups such as the Friends of the Earth get together, undertake a study of something and submit it to the relevant Department, the Department in turn undertakes three or four further studies. It might be better to grasp that nettle and introduce a pilot scheme. Probably the cost involved would be the same as that to establish a board or group to study the same thing all over again. Would it not be better to undertake a practical rather than paper study?
Last year as a member of a local authority I visited a town in England where there had been a scheme established, with local reception areas for refuse, where re-cycling was in process and the end product being sold to manufacturers. It may take some time for manufacturers to realise that perhaps wall and floor tiles made of compressed rubbish are just as good as those made of something else. That is a public relations exercise which, if properly conducted, would be well received by many people. I would appeal to the Minister to consider seriously some such areas in which local  authorities could benefit and indeed make money.
At present the argument being advanced by local authorities is that of: rates or no rates? This red hot chestnut has been tossed back from the Department to each local authority, to raise money — in parenthesis — in whatever way they can think of. But let us be honest, no matter what one calls it, it is a type of rates system. It smacks more of the syndrome of the eating of the baby bear's porridge, rendering it somewhat more remote from the Government and the Department by sending it down to local authorities, the next stage down, and let them toss it up. Some local authorities may decide they do not need to raise any more money; others must. For example, Dublin County Council, which serves the largest growth area in Europe, must raise money in some way to meet their commitments. But we are not at this stage even crawling. The increases we are being given each year do not even allow us maintain our present infrastructure in any kind of decent condition. In fact we are not even standing still, we are going backwards. Therefore some system must be devised for the raising of money, Inevitably it will be the local authority who will be blamed for imposing such charges. It is an area in which somewhat more courage and outspokenness on behalf of the Government might well help matters along.
There is not an awful lot more I wanted to say. Perhaps the mere fact of having these long debates on the budget throws up another area warranting reform. The budget we are debating in a lot of ways mirrors the one we introduced in January. There seems to be the general perception on the part of the public that perhaps we here are wasting time talking on and on about a budget that has been passed. In some ways I agree with that thinking, but in other ways it may be contended that it helps backbenchers — among whom a lot of frustration has been felt, both in the Coalition Parties and I am sure now in the Government Party — who feel that what they have to say does not really matter very much, that  the attitude seems to be: we will listen to you, pat you on the head and say, that is fine, but really we big boys have taken the decision and perhaps some time your ideas will be put into practice. I appeal to the Government, and indeed Members on this side of the House, to pay more attention to what backbenchers have to say because for the most part at present it is they who form the closest link with the people. It must be remembered that we here are governing on behalf of the people; we are not governing as a dictatorship. We must be responsive, listen and then have the courage to take a decision. No matter what decision one takes, it will be difficult. I would appeal to the Taoiseach to be big enough to eat the bowl of hot porridge and not always be going for the baby bear's bowl.
Mr. Kitt: Ba mhaith liomsa pointe áirithe a luadh sa díospóireacht seo. Díospóireacht faoin gcáinaisnéis atá ar siúl, ach is dóigh liom, chun an fhírinne a rá, gur díospóireacht faoi dhá cháinaisnéis nó trí chainaisnéis atá ar siúl freisin, mar bhí trí cinn díobh againn taobh istigh de bhliain amháin.
I welcome this opportunity of making a contribution on the Financial Resolution. It was very obvious listening to speakers on all sides of the House that there was not only reference to the most recent budget proposals but also reference to the budget proposals introduced by the former Minister, Deputy Bruton, and Deputies have also discussed the July 1981 budget. Deputy Owen was very constructive regarding the most recent budget statement of Deputy MacSharry, Minister for Finance, because she said there were objectives in that budget which were similar to some of those in Deputy Bruton's budget. There was the objective of reducing the current budget deficit and overall Exchequer borrowing. The opening deficit faced by Deputy Bruton on 27 January was £933 million which he aimed to reduce to £750 million. In the budget proposals of the present Minister the overall deficit is £769 million. Deputy Owen should realise she is being naive when she says that Fianna Fáil should have supported Deputy Bruton's  proposals. The Coalition Government in power at the time were elected to introduce budget proposals and they should have ensured that they would implement them. These are facts; we cannot deal in fairy tales which Deputy Owen was dealing in although I am very thankful to her for the story of the three bears. It is the duty of the Government in power to introduce and implement a budget. Even though our proposals were harsh and we made no excuses for that, we tried to put a human face on them. I shall give some examples of what was attempted in our proposals.
One of the greatest problems of young couples today is to provide a home for themselves. They suffered a major blow when it was decided that the local authority loan would not be paid to that couple until they had a marriage certificate to show to the local authority. I was very glad that one of the first things we did on returning to office was to remove the discrimination against single people. The Minister for Finance provided £2 million in the Estimates for that. We have also reduced the interest rate to 12½ per cent, the original figure, until 1 February this year.
The mortgage subsidy of £3,000, which is a great help to a couple living in a house for the first three years, has also been restored to single people, but I feel sorry for people who have actually started building houses but have yet to show a marriage certificate to the local authority before they get paid their loan. One couple told me during the week that they were very disappointed at that change by the former Minister for the Environment. Now that the local authority loan is again attractive — the Minister for State here present is to be congratulated — I hope that people are now applying in greater numbers for the loan since it is available to single people. If possible I hope that its benefits will be extended by the amount of the loan being increased and the income limit raised. I believe these loans will be in more demand than the Housing Finance Mortgage Agency loans which had been introduced.
It was a welcome boost to the building  and construction industry to have £50 million provided in the budget for the creation of employment in that area. There was also £2 million for the house improvement scheme. It is worth noting that a grant is now available to improve the basic fabric of the house, something that was sadly missing in the previous scheme. This gives people an opportunity to re-roof a house if necessary or repair the basic structure. I hope people will apply under those schemes as quickly as possible and get their grants approved. In the past grants were probably given for unnecessary work; people got grants for porches and sun houses and other non-essential things but this scheme — and the previous scheme — was introduced to enable essential work to be done. When there are so many families living in houses which need essential work done on them it is a welcome move for the Government to extend the scheme and include repairs to the basic fabric of a house.
The increases in social welfare payments have been generally welcomed and I am very glad these were implemented in the budget. I am also glad that we did not proceed with the proposals of the former Government to tax short-term social welfare benefits. It is not fair to blame the unemployed because they are unemployed, which is what taxing short-term benefits would mean. We all agree that there are abuses in the social welfare system but I know that the fraud squad have been investigating many of those abuses and persons have been prosecuted as a result. The Garda and those in authority who are dealing with these abuses are getting results. We have had complaints also about people on social welfare signing at more than one centre. I find it hard to understand why this has not been detected if it is happening. It is like a person getting two salaries in the week. If it is going on I hope it will be stamped out.
Another aspect of the budget which shows the caring attitude of the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Health is the provision of medical cards for old age pensioners which I understand will come into force on 1 July. A medical card  in the case of an elderly person will give that person peace of mind if he has to go to hospital suddenly as they often have to do. They would know their health entitlements and benefits by having a medical card.
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