Thursday, 24 November 1988
Dáil Éireann Debate
A Cheann Comhairle, before going on to deal with this motion, I wish to inform the Dáil that the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ray MacSharry, has tendered his resignation as a member of the Government, with effect from 10 a.m. today upon his forthcoming appointment as a member of the Commission of the European Communities. The President, on my advice, has accepted Deputy MacSharry's resignation.
I would expect that Members of this House would wish to join with me in wishing every success to Ray MacSharry in his new office, for which his past experience so well qualifies him. It is my confident expectation that both Ireland and Europe will gain from the energy, dedication and ability of our new Commissioner.
I should like also to pay tribute to Ireland's present member of the Commission, Mr. Peter Sutherland, S.C., for the outstanding contribution he has made over the past four years to the development of the Community and the enhancement of Ireland's reputation in Europe. On behalf of the Government, and on my own behalf, I wish him and his wife and family every success and happiness in the future.
Under these proposals, Deputy Burke will retain responsibility for the Department of Communications. He will, therefore, continue to oversee the work of An Post and Bord Telecom and, more particularly, of the new Independent Radio and Television Commission in its initial and developmental stages. He will also be in a position to co-ordinate the communications functions generally with industry and commerce, of which communications and its technologies are now so vital an element.
During the next three years as the Single Market takes shape there will be certainly in this country a large concentration on the improvement and development of the economic and social infrastructure.
I believe that it will be essential that we use the resources available to us either from domestic or European sources to the greatest possible economic advantage. Planning and co-ordination will, therefore, have to be of the highest order. Accordingly, I am allocating to the Minister for the Environment, Deputy Padraig Flynn, an overall responsibility for this area.
He will be expected to take an overview of the overall situation, ensure the comprehensive nature of our approach and identify and eliminate any duplication of facilities or the omission of basic requirements in particular areas. It will be Deputy Flynn's responsiblity to see that the changes take place, without administrative delays, as rapidly as is  economically feasible and that developments in the different sectors are consistent with each other.
There are excellent reasons why this should be so. The present Government since taking office have performed effectively and achieved results because they have acted as a united, co-ordinated administration. We have achieved a great deal because there has been clarity of purpose on broadly agreed objectives in a prevailing supportive atmosphere. It is my firm intention to continue in that spirit and to maintain a clear line of Government policy toward which all our efforts will be co-ordinated and directed. We must also seek to sustain the greatest degree of understanding and support among the general public for that line of policy. The problems facing the country in regard to the public finances and the level of unemployment continue to be of such magnitude and such central important that they must be confronted with persistence and a single-minded determination.
The achievement of national recovery has been the overriding economic and political goal of this Government since taking office. The crisis in the public finances, falling growth and rising unemployment demanded immediate action. A major step toward recovery was the preparation and adoption of the Programme for National Recovery which set out in detail the objectives for the public finances and the development of the economy for the period to the end of 1990. The programme continues to provide the framework for the major degree of economic and social progress achieved to date. This year the actual outturn in the public finances will be exceptionally favourable, mainly because of the tax amnesty.
The overall improvement in the general economic and fiscal climate has been remarkable; lower interest rates, greatly reduced inflation and a major reduction  in Government borrowing have brought an entirely new atmosphere to the market place. In the different sectors of the economy there are indications of a new vitality, a willingness to look at new projects and new investment. The general public are conscious of this overall improvement in the economic outlook; they can see the dramatic improvement coming through in our relations with the outside world, with reduced borrowing, and a major trading and balance of payments surplus. We must not, however, allow these many favourable developments to obscure the deep difficulties in our basic position that still remain. We still carry a national debt of £25 billion which costs about £2 billion of taxpayers' money every year to service. To reduce that national debt relative to our national output and the burden it represents to our taxpayers every year, must be an essential priority. Any responsible Irish Government must continue unremittingly to follow through with our financial objectives and to bring the level of debt into reasonable relationship with what we produce and can afford to pay. Achievement of this objective requires continued and unrelenting discipline on Government spending and borrowing. While we are moving in the right direction it cannot be too clearly emphasised that the effort and the discipline must be maintained without relaxation or deviation.
I am glad to have this opportunity of assuring the House that this Fianna Fáil administration is right on course and up-to-date with their work for national recovery. Right around the world there is increasingly favourable comment about the progress which the Irish economy is making — low inflation, low interest rates, increased investment. It is appreciated that the Irish Government are making steady and consistent progress towards the economic goals which they have set themselves.
Nineteen-eighty-eight will record many significant achievements in the different areas and provide a good base from which future progress can be made.  We must continue within the stringent budgetary constraints imposed upon us to seek to identify the possibilities for progress and development. Work is well advanced on the 1989 budget and this work must be co-ordinated and dovetailed with the opportunities which will be available under the Delors package for the completion of the Single European Market. I believe that if this work is done properly we will have a unique opportunity to bring about a major and lasting improvement in the basic structure of the Irish economy.
Next year's budget, therefore, will be of great significance and far-reaching importance. It will have to be related directly to our internal economic and financial realities continuing the corrective process in the public finances while at the same time being geared in a way that will enable us to take full advantage of the new resources available from Europe.
The provision for private investment in projects of public interest and the provision for intervention rates of up to 75 per cent make many desirable new projects feasible. This will make it possible to increase the level of public investment without adversely affecting the public finances. The mechanism for deploying these increased structural funds will be the development plan now being formulated in consultation with the social partners which will set out programmes and priorities at national level for EC assistance and the framework for the sub-national programmes. The public and private sectors will be required to work in partnership to ensure that we obtain maximum advantage from the enlarged funds.
The Programme for National Recovery negotiated with the social partners will continue to be the overriding framework of economic policy. The European Plan drawn up under the Delors package will be a valuable enhancement of the development aspects of the programme in supplementing investment, training and rural development, which are designed to increase employment, and  steadily improve the economic infrastructure over the medium term. The Joint Declaration by President Delors and myself made it clear that the Government here and the Commission have now agreed to work together in a structured partnership to develop the inherent potential of the Irish economy. For this purpose, we have established a framework of co-operation and consultation between the Government's EC Committee of Ministers and Secretaries over which I preside and a Task Force on the Commission side headed by President Delors. The intention is that the President and I will meet regularly to set strategic objectives and review developments. The Development Plan to be submitted to the Commission supplementing the Programme for National Recovery will give us the opportunity to create over the next four years a unique infrastructural transformation, which will also provide increased employment. This will gear us to achieve fully the vigorous expansion of our trade in the greatly increased European market. A vigorous nationwide campaign has been successful in spreading awareness of 1992.
The Government's whole Programme for National Recovery is based on the principle of building a broad social consensus, to which the different sectors make a firm commitment. We already have a consensus for at least another two years, which is working successfully. Our programme is comprehensive and broadly based, covering not just the public finances, but containing a specific commitment to create employment, improve social equity and relieve personal taxation. We thus have a firm framework for further sustained progress in economic and social development, which commands widespread confidence.
Of fundamental significance is that employment is at last increasing again, by 6,000 between April 1987 and April 1988. The private services sector is growing particularly strongly while manufacturing employment has stabilised. In the manufacturing sector, we are on course to achieve 20,000 new jobs for the year, and there are many exciting new  projects in the pipeline. Informed commentators are also predicting that the construction industry is set for a strong revival.
Our monitoring of the employment objectives of the Programmes for National Recovery shows significant new job creation in a variety of sectors. Our specific development policies, supported by our broader economic management strategy, are yielding positive employment results. The Central Review Committee of the Programme for National Recovery will be publishing in a few days a sectoral and geographical breakdown of these jobs and some indications of trends in 1989 and 1990.
The economy is now growing strongly. Last year GNP increased by 5 per cent and the increase this year could be a further 2 per cent, despite severe reductions in Government spending. Independent economic commentators such as the ESRI are now forecasting that the Irish economy will grow by as much as 3 per cent in 1989. This will be the third successive year in which growth has occurred in the Irish economy and gives grounds for conviction that the Irish economy is back on a sustained growth path after a long period of stagnation.
The foundations for recovery have been successfully laid. We are now moving into a phase, in which the emphasis will be on economic growth, and a partnership for growth, partnership with the European Community and with the social partners.
There is a much better atmosphere abroad among the general public; a more positive feeling about the country and its prospects. 1987 and 1988 have been years, when our performance has been exceptional in many respects. 1989 offers further opportunities in many different sectors and with a major sustained effort we can go a long way in putting permanently behind us the difficulties that have made life so difficult and depressing for so many during the eighties.
We have done as much more in a short space of time as could have been  expected of any Government. The benefits of clear policy objectives and a consistent determined approach to our problems is now clearly perceived. The reorganisation of the Government I have announced today is to accommodate necessary changes while ensuring that the successful thrust of Government economic and financial policy continues uninterrupted.
Mr. Dukes: I would like to begin by congratulating Deputy Michael Smith on his appointment to the Cabinet. Whatever we may feel about the way in which members of any given Government discharge their responsibilities, the fact remains that appointment to be a member of the Government is a signal honour and also carries a big responsibility. Even from Opposition, one must wish anybody who is appointed to that position well and I hope that feeling is also shared in the constituency of Deputy Michael Smith. I hope, Sir, that it is not an ominous portent that the Minister for Agriculture and Food is about as far away as he could possibly be from Deputy Smith at this stage.
The Taoiseach has announced some other changes and I would also like to congratulate the Minister for Industry and Commerce on his translation into Finance. Again, that is a position which carries a particular responsibility and one which requires energy and application. I wish the Minister well in his new position. I would have to remark without detracting in any way from my good wishes to Deputy Reynolds that the record of Ministers for Finance in Fianna Fáil Governments in the recent past has not been very impressive. They have not tended to last very long. In fact if we go back over a period of years I think I would be right in saying that I hold the record for being the longest serving Minister for Finance since 1977——
There is one curious development in the Government's rearrangement which the Taoiseach has announced which perhaps we can go into in more detail at a later stage and that is this very curious combination or juxtaposition of the Minister for Finance and functions to be carried out by the Minister for the Environment in relation to the co-ordination of our action on the Structural Funds. It is not very clear to me why this is being done. This side of the House has commented on the unsatisfactory nature of the arrangements but we have a situation where in fact regional planning and the preparation of integrated regional programmes for this country will be carried out by the Commission of the European Communities and the Department of Finance. On top of that there are cosmetic structures for the apparent involvement of county managers and purely cosmetic structures for consultation with various people which will have no effect and now, suddenly introduced into that whole structure, the Minister for the Environment will carry out what seems to be a co-ordinating role. That makes me even more worried than I have been up to now about the lack of involvement, concern and input into the development of these programmes——
Mr. Dukes: If there is a time limit, Sir, I will not be tempted into a discourse in the House on Deputy Connolly's theory  of Government as expressed in County Laois, although it is very interesting — scratch my back and I will scratch yours. I am very much afraid that this new structure which the Taoiseach has put in place is not going to improve in any way the main thrust of what we need to do in building integrated regional programmes which will have the commitment and involvement of the people both in the private and public sectors who have to make it happen; that is the essential part. The structures in place are not going to achieve that and this putting of the Minister for the Environment on the shoulders of the Minister for Finance is not going to help in any way. I am bound to say that it is going to make life somewhat uncomfortable for the Minister for Finance, even more uncomfortable than it might be otherwise.
The reason we have had all these changes is that the Taoiseach and the Government decided to appoint Deputy MacSharry to be a member of the European Commission. As I said on the day that announcement was made, I wish Deputy MacSharry well and it is fair to say that there are many of us in this House who appreciate the nature of the challenge that faces a person taking up membership of the Commission. It is indeed a very exciting prospect and I wish Deputy MacSharry well. I have to say however that I believe the Government's decision in this matter was a thoroughly bad one, an unstatesmanlike decision, one that shows a lack of courage in doing what is required in the national interest. My view and the view of my party is shared by a great many people outside of this House and a great many people elsewhere. There is absolutely no doubt that the President of the Commission wanted to keep as many of the key persons as possible of the present Commission in his new team. Peter Sutherland is clearly one of those. He has served the Community with great distinction during the past four years. He has had a major influence in the running of competition policy. Competition policy in the Commission has now  become a very creative force for the development of key sectors of industry. I will list them: we look at steel; the motor industry; the aerospace industry; telecommunications and developments in computer and information technology. In all of those areas competition policy has been used by Peter Sutherland as a creative mechanism to assist and favour growth. I have seen the same thing in banking and insurance. In air transport he has broken up a cartel which many cynics believed could never be broken up. That has been to the benefit of all member states, and particularly to peripheral member states like ourselves. In social affairs he has pushed forward both the boundaries and the content of Community action in a way which had not been seen before in that portfolio. In running the Commission's relationships with the European Parliament he has been widely acclaimed by members of that Parliament as being a very creative force in the development of the relationship between the Parliament, Commission and Council.
He has played a major role in all those areas and it is a role which I am bound to say the Taoiseach did not see. If one looks on the records of the House and reads what the Taoiseach said on the appointment of Peter Sutherland on 10 October last, one will find a carping, mean and narrow approach to that appointment. The statements made by the Taoiseach that day are in very stark contrast to a letter which he wrote to Peter Sutherland, which I gather has since been circulated.
As I said to you when we met recently, the Government are fully conscious of the outstanding work you did as Commissioner in the term now ending. You brought great credit to Ireland and there is widespread recognition of your achievements as Commissioner. The Government and I would like to congratulate you and thank you for those achievements.
 I am personally very grateful to you because of your willingness on so many occasions to give valuable advice to me and the Government about developments in the Community while maintaining your strict objectivity and independence as a member of the Commission. For my part, I was always most anxious to consult with you and keep you informed about Government thinking on Community affairs and I appreciate your ready response on all such occasions.
Those are very generous remarks on the part of the Taoiseach and they are extremely well deserved. They could, indeed, have been foreshadowed or prefigured on 10 October 1984 and they were not. Although I believe that the decision taken by the Government in relation to the next Commission is a thoroughly bad one I am not going to abuse Deputy MacSharry or call any of his motives into question, because that is not the issue; the issue simply is that the Government have not had the vision or the wit to make what was clearly the best decision in this case. That is why we are here today discussing these various developments.
I see nothing in the reorganised makeup of the Government to indicate that we are going to see any new approaches, any new thinking or any new creativity. So far as I can see, the Government are going to continue to be utterly negative in their approach to any reform, as we have seen in this House during the past couple of days. There must be many people on the Government benches who feel utterly ashamed of the approach the Minister for Justice has taken to very straightforwarded and long needed social reform. I see no indication of any willingness on the Government's part to recognise that they are wrong to use public expenditure as if it were personal favours. We have seen example after example of it from the Minister for the Environment to other members of the Cabinet in relation to national lottery funds and now from the Minister for Agriculture and Food. There seems to be  no readiness or openness on their part to recognise that that kind of activity brings the whole process of Government into disrepute.
I do not see anything in the changes which have been made, including the appointment of the Minister for the Environment as a co-ordinator of the coordinators, to indicate that the Government are taking any real muscular approach to building and putting together integrated regional programmes to serve our people. In the Taoiseach's speech I heard, for the first time in 18 months, the beginnings of a recognition in public of the value of increased participation rates from the European structual funds. That should have been built into our planning from the very beginning but what have we seen? At the beginning of this week we heard the Minister for Foreign Affairs say that he has managed to increase the participation rate in one area only of the structural funds and hopes that something can be achieved in relation to the Regional Fund and the Social Fund, when, in fact, what we needed was a commitment and an agreement in the Council of Ministers, not just at the beginning of this week but months ago, to have participation rates by the structural funds increased across the board for all structural developments in this country.
There is no indication whatever in the changes which have been made that the Government are going to take any active approach to making political progress in Northern Ireland. I do not see anything in Deputy Smith's record, in Deputy Reynold's record or in the record of the Minister for the Environment that would indicate that this shifting around of portfolios is going to bring any new thinking into the Government on that issue. There is no doubt that the Government need new thinking on that and not the kind of statement we had recently, after the last meeting of the conference, from the Minister for Foreign Affairs who said there does not seem to be much prospect of movement in relation to devolution. The lesson he seems to have drawn from that is that he should stand passively and  wait for somebody else to move rather than take the initiative himself.
I see no evidence that the Government are going to have a different approach to the many areas of mismanagement of public policy by them in the health sector, the education sector and in communications where we have seen an apparent lack of understanding by the Government of the fact that if one applies simply straightforward concerns to managing public funds one can get better results, give a better service to people and allay the fears a great many people have that even though we are spending an awful lot of their money it does not seem to be providing the services. That is something which must change. I hope the Government will reflect on that over Christmas and that we will see a different approach from them in the new year.
Today the Taoiseach again claimed credit for developments in the economy. I want to make it clear to him that that cuts absolutely no ice with me. The Taoiseach is claiming credit for the results of what we did, and which he opposed, for four and a half years. I have to say, as I have said during the past couple of weeks, that had the Taoiseach and his colleagues, during the period between 1982 and 1987, acted as if they even half believed the kind of things they are saying now the Irish economy would be much further forward on the path of progress.
Mr. Dukes: I do not intend to put an obstacle of any kind in the way of this reorganisation of the Government. It is not an issue worth inflating into any great importance. As I said, it seems — with the congratulations I have given to Deputy Smith in particular — to be a move that marks no particular change in the course of the Government.
Mr. Dukes: Only the time, a Cheann Comhairle. I see no particular reason for making this minor reorganisation a matter of great policy debate. We will keep the debate for the major issues that come.
I conclude by repeating my congratulations to the new member of the Cabinet. I do not know how long his tenure will be, but it is nice to see another Member of this House who will have that experience.
Mr. D. O'Malley: I would like to join in congratulating Deputy Smith on his appointment. In addition, I would like to avail of the opportunity that we were not given last week to congratulate Deputy MacSharry on his appointment to the Commission of the European Communities. He is a man of some considerable ability and he will be well able to meet the challenges of the difficult job he now undertakes. Like many others in this country. I regret very much that the announcement of his appointment was delayed for so long. Appointment to the Commission is one thing, but what is perhaps more important — and we have seen this from Commissioner Sutherland's time there — is the portfolio which a particular commissioner gets. We have had contrasting experiences among our commissioners. We have seen Commissioner Sutherland in a particularly important post which he has fulfilled to, I think, the satisfaction of everybody in the Community, not just in this country. We have seen other commissioners from this country hold posts that were of no significance and, unfortunately, as a result their influence, either personally or on behalf of this country, was extremely limited at the time.
The late timing of Deputy MacSharry's appointment is underlined by the fact that some weeks ago a by-election was held in Scotland to fill the place in the British House of Commons which was vacated by one of the people appointed four to five months ago to the Commission in Brussels. I am aware that the sharing out of portfolios in the Commission does not take place officially until  16 December next, but it is unrealistic to think that people have not made up their minds about many important matters well before that date. I hope for his own sake and for that of the country that Deputy MacSharry is not at too great a disadvantage as a result of the abnormal lateness of his appointment.
I have seen reference to the fact that it would be regarded as very satisfactory, I think both by himself and perhaps by many people here, if he were to get the portfolio of Agriculture with the Commission. Certainly, on the face of it, that would seem to be of great importance but it is a fact of life that agriculture is now beginning to play a diminishing role within the affairs of the Community and that one of a number of other areas of activity might, in fact, in the short and medium term be much more important. These are areas such as that held by Commissioner Sutherland, or the commissionership for the completion of the Internal Market, or the new commissionership for the co-ordination of the Structural Funds, which will obviously be of major significance in time to come. Nonetheless, wherever he ends up, I wish Deputy MacSharry well and I am sure that he will acquit himself well. It would be remiss in wishing him well not to comment, as others have, on the tremendous success of the present incumbent. Mr. Peter Sutherland. His ability and the manner in which he carried out his duties has been a matter of pride to many of us here. He has, as I have said, won the admiration of people throughout the entire Community. It is a pity that circumstances are such that he has not been re-appointed. If he had been, there is no question but that both the European Community and this country would have been well served. However, circumstances are such that he has not been.
In the speech that the Taoiseach made, most significant are the references to the Minister for the Environment and what he will be doing. Frankly, it is very hard to analyse what lies behind it in the few minutes that have been at my disposal  since the Taoiseach made his announcement. It seems very curious that functions that clearly have been seen always as part of the functions of the Department of Finance are now being removed. It is made doubly curious by the very unsatisfactory nature of the regional arrangements within this country that were announced by the former Minister for Finance some months ago. What is now happening seems to be at odds with what he announced and this whole matter needs a great deal more clarification. I do not know where the Minister for Finance will stand vis-à-vis these functions. They are important central functions.
The opportunity should be taken also to spell out exactly where the regions will stand in their relationship to the Department of Finance and in their relationship to the Commission and to the institutions generally in Brussels. It has been a legitimate cause for complaint that the dealings of regions in this country and of particular localities with Brussels, always have had to take place via the Department of Finance. Is the same centralising function now simply going to be taken over by the Department of the Environment? Will the direct relationship which other regions in the Community enjoy with Brussels still be prevented so far as this country is concerned and the various regions within it? These are matters that need to be clarified.
I would have thought, Sir, that if the circumstances of Deputy MacSharry's appointment to the Commission required a reshuffle of the Government, the reshuffle might not have been kept to a minimum. While I do not want to make any remarks that might be regarded as offensive to any individuals, I have to say that it is widely perceived throughout the country that the situation in the Army at the moment is particularly unsatisfactory. If it is, as unquestionably it is, that the very loyalty of the Army is beginning to be queried, unfortunately, because of the circumstance in which they find themselves, there can be only one area in which responsibility can be laid for that. I would have thought that an  opportunity might have been taken perhaps to correct that situation. Our Defence Forces have served this country with extraordinary loyalty since the foundation of the State. It is their wish that it would always be that way. I would hate to see any form of change in that, or that they might be forced into having to do things that certainly it would not be their wish to do.
In his speech the Taoiseach availed of the opportunity to deal in a relatively brief and fairly general way with the situation as he saw it in the country today. There were two things that struck me immediately about his speech, even though it is only eight pages or so in length. That is, that there are two matters that must be all pervading, or seen as such, in this country today and neither of them was mentioned. One is the fact that between 40,000 and 50,000 gross of our people are leaving this country every year, that that is continuing and the figures seem to increase. That has enormous relevance to the whole economic situation of the country and enormous relevance to the financial and budgetary situation of the Government. It is not referred to at all.
The other matter which must be of all pervading importance, I would have thought, is Northern Ireland, which is not mentioned at all. Just 12 hours ago from this moment, an elderly man and his little grand-daughter were murdered by the IRA in a village in Northern Ireland when they had just brought a neighbour home from a game of bingo or some other social activity of that kind. Perhaps, this is not regarded as an enormous outrage. It is one of those things that we almost seem to accept will happen from time to time. We do not get particularly concerned or agitated about it. I think that every one of these things is a most appalling tragedy. We have an incredible lack of activity and concern at the real level where it counts, for the Northern Ireland problem. The Taoiseach and the British Prime Minister have not met on this topic for over three years other than for very brief ten or 15 minute meetings at the margins of European Council meetings.  The whole political drive and thrust which was so evident in 1985 in regard to both Anglo-Irish relations and Northern Ireland seems to have largely disappeared. The goodwill, which I think is there on both sides, to make progress is not now being utilised. The undoubted flexibility that has been seen within the Unionist community in Northern Ireland in recent months is not being availed of and the opportunities it gives rise to are not being taken. As a result the Unionists seem to be driven back to the “no surrender” attitude which has been so redolent of them for so very long.
This year there have been tremendous opportunities for progress, which unfortunately have not been availed of. The very fruits of that lack of progress are the sort of thing that happened in the village of Benburb, County Tyrone last night. Unhappily, but inevitably this is apparently going to continue in one form or other in the months and years to come if this matter is not taken seriously and progress made.
With regard to the economic situation, I think the most interesting commentary I have seen with regard to the preliminary Book of Estimates which was published in mid-October, appears in an article written by Mr. Joe Durkan, an economist with Coopers & Lybrand in the current issue of Finance magazine. He analyses the Estimates that were published and he comes to very different conclusions indeed from the conclusions that the former Minister for Finance sought in common with the Government generally to give to those Estimates when they were announced in October. I cannot go through all the various comments and arguments he makes but it is enough to refer to the conclusion that he draws as a result of that examination:
 ... looking at the current expenditure side one cannot but feel that some momentum has been lost. 1987 was the year of the big cuts, the benefit of which was felt in 1988 as well. The next stage in this programme, the examination and elimination of some programme, has not yet happened. The danger for government is that there could be a loss of momentum but this could be a loss of momemtum for the next on expenditure. The target range for the EBR of 5-7 per cent of GNP is simply an intermediate target. An EBR of 5 per cent of GNP is still too big.
I think Sir, that that article deserves study by all of us and in particular, it should be taken on board by the Government. It should be taken on board by those who very glibly accept the figures that tend to be given in handouts that were published at the time of the publication of the Estimates in October.
I do not have any further time at my disposal to develop this, but it will have to be clearly looked at in the context of the forthcoming budget in January. When the reality is analysed and accepted, we may well have to look at the January budget in a somewhat different light than we might otherwise have done.
Mr. Spring: I intend to be brief. First, let me take the opportunity of welcoming the Taoiseach to the House. I am very glad to see him and wish him well. From the punter's point of view, it has been difficult to follow his health, given the statements that have been coming from his Press Secretary. However, perhaps his presence here this morning will be a relief to his Press Secretary, who has been having difficulties and has been confusing all and sundry at home and abroad.
I welcome the opportunity of making some brief remarks on the Taoiseach's decisions today, but perhaps this could have been done last week. The speed of the announcement of Deputy MacSharry's appointment last week was certainly in stark contrast to the delay in  arriving at that decision. I wish Deputy Smith well in his appointment. I congratulate him. This is a recognition of his political ability. One would be inclined to suggest that in order to become a Minister in this Government you have to have a Minister in the constitutency already — now that we have four doubles, singles are hard to find.
Deputy Smith is a political survivor. Perhaps there is a little irony in the fact that he becomes a Minister when a Deputy departs to become Commissioner, given that he lost his seat when a Commissioner returned. But, in fairness to the man's stature he came back to the Seanad — I say this with total respect — and his standing as a fellow politician is higher than that of most other people in the House. I know Deputy Michael Smith will be a very good Minister.
When the appointment of Commissioner was made last week, I offered my congratulations to Deputy MacSharry, both on a personal basis and because I believe it is in our national interest that a person who has been chosen as Commissioner should go to Europe with the full support of this House. There is a great deal at stake. The next member of the Commission from Ireland will have a great deal of responsibility when he goes to Brussels. While Deputy MacSharry will take an oath obliging him to put the interests of Europe first, we expect him to realise that the continued development of this country is entirely compatible with the interests of Europe. To put this another  way, 1992 will be a failure if its consequence is to marginalise a small economy on the periphery of Europe. The European ideal will not be served by the establishment of richer and poorer nations within Europe. For that reason Deputy MacSharry — as our next Commissioner — has a very heavy burden and he deserves the support of everyone in this House and in the country as he sets out to undertake this task.
I do not take the view that the Government, or any government, are obliged to re-appoint the incumbent, no matter how good the job is perceived to have been done by the outgoing Commissioner. In the final analysis it is a matter for Government and the Taoiseach of the day, and that has been done. Complaints were registered over the past few months about the delay in making the appointment, I do not think that any service was done to the country or to Deputy MacSharry by the delay in making the announcement. We will probably have to wait for the Taoiseach to write his book before he explains in detail the reasons for that delay. There are certainly no explanations forthcoming now.
I have difficulty in understanding why Deputy MacSharry wants to go to Europe. We have a minority Government who depend in the main on the support of the main Opposition party to conduct their business in this House and, as I would perceive it, the departure of the Minister for Finance leaves that Government in certain state of disarray. I know that the Taoiseach did not want Deputy MacSharry to go to Europe. That is common knowledge in political circles, but Deputy MacSharry for his own reasons wants to leave Irish politics and go to Europe. Given the minority situation of the Government, it is a hard decision to understand. Deputy MacSharry may explain his reasons in due course.
Other consequential appointments are being made today. I certainly wish Deputy Reynolds well in his new portfolio as Minister for Finance but I question the approach he will take to that Department. Despite what the Taoiseach  has been saying, the Government are facing difficult problems. Deputy Reynolds as Minister for Industry and Commerce for almost two years presided over 250,000 unemployed. As late as last Monday in Cork he made a lot of capital out of announcements about jobs being created, but it emerged the following day that the jobs being created were to replace jobs which had been suppressed by the same company about four months earlier. Apparently 100 people had been laid off at the commencement of the winter and they are to be taken back next Easter. The Minister was in Cork at a major Fianna Fáil luncheon and succeeded in obtaining great media coverage about new jobs being created. Regrettably as Minister for Industry and Commerce his only contribution to the plight of the unemployed has been to tell them that confidence in the economy will sooner or later trickle down to them. They are still waiting and they have observed that as Minister for Industry and Commerce he has not offered a single new concrete proposal for the unemployed.
Deputy Reynolds is now taking on a new portfolio and I should like to feel that he will take on the Department of Finance with his obvious energy. I trust he will stamp his own personality on that Department. Perhaps he will get the Department of Finance to take their claws out of every other Department of State.
As with all announcements in public life, there is good news and bad news. The good news concerns Deputy Michael Smith and the bad news concerns Deputy Padraig Flynn. Deputy Flynn is being given a role in co-ordinating the integrated programmes for Europe. A few months ago he was flying high, the right hand man to the Taoiseach and confidante extraordinaire, but then there were a few stumbling blocks in what is a very tricky Department, as the Taoiseach reminded me in 1983. The Minister for the Environment will not meet the general council of county councils, despite the fact that it is totally dominated by Fianna Fáil councillors. He has got into  certain difficulties in relation to a problem which has been highlighted over the last few years — smog. We have heard lots of platitudes about this problem and he is now having meetings to try to solve it. He has promised enormous reform in local government and delivered nothing, other than a fine article in a business magazine about plans for new taxation in local government. These plans obviously went aground very quickly, even before the article got into the magazine.
I suppose Deputy Flynn as Minister for the Environment will be remembered most for something he has not done and seems unlikely to do, despite his promise to the House to bring in legislation. I wish that in the interests of integrity in politics he would make an announcement that there will not be legislation for a change in electoral boundaries. Deputy Flynn's integrity in this House would be done some good, if not a great deal, if he were to say that the idea of the boundary changes was ill-conceived, that the terms of reference to the commission are going nowhere and that the change is not going to happen. Since he could not be appointed to a more senior portfolio the Taoiseach has decided to give him a sop. I should like to be present when the Taoiseach has his next conversation with the Minister of State in charge of European integration. Where does she fit into all this? Deputy Flynn, who is running one of the larger Departments, in spite of its enormous cutbacks in the past few years, is to be given a role co-ordinating our plans for 1992. Meetings on this topic are being held throughout the country. Seminars are being held involving county managers at a higher level and the chairmen of county councils at a lower level. There is no need for a Minister to co-ordinate plans for 1992. The Department of Finance have made all the decisions to date and they will continue to make decisions, irrespective of the political wishes of local representatives or Members of this House. That is the situation and if the Taoiseach is consenting to it he is doing a grave disservice to public life. The sop to Minister Flynn  does nothing to dissuade us about what is or is not happening in relation to 1992.
The Government are facing enormous problems and will continue to do so. The shifting around this morning will do little to assuage the fears of the public. It is perhaps unfortunate that Deputy Smith's appointment has to be associated with some of these problems. I wish Deputy Burke well in his new portfolio. I do not find much that I can agree with regarding his decisions on off-shore oil and the dismantling of public service broadcasting, of which he is still in control. I should like the Minister to outline at the earliest opportunity his plans for the development of Irish industry.
The Labour Party will oppose the motion before the House. We do so with absolutely no disrespect to Deputy Smith but we are opposed to what has happened in relation to this appointment. It should have been made many months ago. The Taoiseach is normally reputed to be a man capable of making decisions without delay or difficulty, but in this instance he has done himself no service. He has delayed and prevaricated. I am not personalising it by saying that the decision was delayed far beyond any personal reasons affecting the Taoiseach. It is regrettable that we have had to wait almost until December to make our announcement concerning the appointment to the Commission. We are opposing the motion because of our belief that what is needed by the Government is a change of policy. No change of policy is indicated this morning but merely a reorganisation of the personalities running what I would consider to be bankrupt policies.
Proinsias De Rossa: On a personal level I wish both Deputy Smith and Deputy MacSharry well in their new positions, but I cannot give either of them my political approval or support in this House or otherwise. I cannot join in the chorus of praise which has been lavished on them by the media and by most Members of this House.
Deputy MacSharry has been singled out for particular praise by the media and  especially by the editorial writers. He has been described as one of the best Ministers for Finance in the history of the State, and as the man who put the country back on its feet. I fundamentally disagree with that statement. Whatever about putting the country back on its feet, the policies pursued by him as Minister put about 52,000 people on the emigrants' boat since he took office. Do we measure the effectiveness and efficiency of a Minister for Finance by the number of people he drives out of the country during his term of office?
Since his appointment as Minister for Finance, Deputy MacSharry has enthusiastically played the role of the Taoiseach's financial hatchetman, who has cut and chopped in every area, singling out for particular attention those essential services on which the poor, the sick, the elderly and the handicapped are most dependent. Deputy MacSharry has never at any time displayed any trace of concern for the appalling degree of suffering inflicted on working class families by his Government's monetarist policies.
Deputy MacSharry has been a willing participant in one of the most despicable confidence tricks ever played on the Irish electorate. Surely never before in the history of the State has there been a Government which, in such a short space of time, performed such a series of dizzying U-turns on almost every policy position they held while in opposition. The Fianna Fáil Party, including Deputy MacSharry, went before the people in February 1987 promising to reverse the policies of cutbacks which had been initiated by the previous Coalition Government. The electorate was cruelly betrayed and as soon as Fianna Fáil got their hands on the reins of power the mask of concern came off and the cutbacks were increased to an unprecedented extent, with appalling results for the poorest and weakest sections of society.
The whole thrust of economic policy of the Government, of which the Taoiseach and Deputy MacSharry were joint architects, has been that the poor must bear  the cost of balancing the books. Wholesale cutbacks have been introduced which have seriously damaged our health, education and social welfare systems, all areas of vital importance and interest to those surviving on low incomes, whether on social welfare or in low paid jobs. The owners of capital have, as usual, been allowed to escape virtually scot-free.
I wish to remind the House of the figures I read into the record some weeks ago when I pointed out that Smurfit's profits had soared by 156 per cent to £154 million; the profits of AIB rose by 23 per cent to £125 million; the profits of CRH went up by 27 per cent to £46 million; profits for the half year at GPA rose by 59 per cent to $72 million and will be over $100 million for the year; the profits for Clondalkin for the half year rose by 38 per cent and Power Corporation's profits rose by 100 per cent. Most industrial companies' earnings per share will rise by almost 50 per cent this year with inflation at only 2 per cent.
Will the Government agree to increase the income of the low paid and those on social welfare by the size of increases which private companies have earned as a result of the policies of the Government? I will give other examples of the effects of the cutbacks in education and health. A five-year old boy is going deaf because he needs an operation and cannot get it in Temple Street because there is a two and a half year waiting list. That child does not have to go deaf but he will if he does not have an operation soon. Despite all the talk about 1992 and the need to ensure that our children are prepared for the great big world of an integrated market, the Minister for Education refuses to provide adequate teaching of French in the girls' comprehensive school in Ballymun. That area certainly needs attention in regard to education.
I hope that whatever position Deputy MacSharry secures in the EC Commission, he will demonstrate a degree of care and consideration for the working class of the wider European community which he and his Government failed to demonstrate in relation to the Irish working class.
 I do not expect the appointment of Deputy Reynolds to the position of Minister for Finance to have any impact on the direction of Government financial and economic policy. Cabinet reshuffles and especially the appointment of a new Minister for Finance can often produce bouts of nervousness on the stock exchange. I cannot see the appointment of Deputy Reynolds provoking any panic among these speculators. I have no doubt that they will be delighted at the appointment of a person they will view as “one of their own,” somebody who will look after the interests of big business as his first priority; somebody who will make sure that nothing is done to impede the taking of even greater profits; somebody who will keep the workers in their place. In all the exclusive clubs in Dublin the champagne bottles will, no doubt, be cracked open tonight as the so called entrepreneurs celebrate the appointment of Deputy Reynolds.
Their enthusiasm is unlikely to be shared in Ballymun or Ballyfermot or in other areas where unemployment verges on 50 per cent. I have followed Deputy Reynolds' political career with interest over the years. I have never made any secret of what class interest I seek to promote and protect in this House, and in fairness to him, neither has Deputy Reynolds. Together with the other Workers' Party Deputies I have sought to promote the interests of the working class. Deputy Reynolds has always carried the flag for the interests of business and private profit. I have never heard him say anything which suggested that he might have any degree of social conscience, or that he was concerned at the plight of working class families, struggling to make ends meet under appalling difficulties. His appointment does not augur well for the class I represent.
We have consistently opposed this Government from the time of their election in March of last year. We will be voting against the new ministerial appointments. The appointment of new Ministers is an important matter and  should be viewed as a question of confidence in the Government. We have no confidence in this Government and will, accordingly, vote against the motion. Those parties who fail to oppose the new appointments will be clearly indicating their approval of the overall thrust of Government policy and, no doubt, those in the electorate who vote for them will draw their own conclusions. Deputy Dukes boasted three weeks ago that he would be Taoiseach within a year. This vote gives him the opportunity to demonstrate whether he really has that ambition, or whether that statement was just another example of empty Ard-Fheis rhetoric.
It is ironic that so much damage should have been done to the fabric of Irish society by what is after all a minority Government. It is, however, a minority Government with a difference. It has been correctly described as the minority Government with the largest majority in Europe. None of what Fianna Fáil have done during the past 18 months would have been possible had it not been for the enthusiastic support of Fine Gael and the sulky, begrudging support of the Progressive Democrats. It is significant that in the only electoral contest to have been held since Fianna Fáil were returned to power, the Leixlip Town Commission elections, both Fine Gael and the Progressive Democrats were decimated. The patience of the electorate with the policy of senseless cutbacks is growing thin. Those who help this Government to devastate essential social services cannot expect to escape the wrath of the electorate at the polls in the next general election.
Before I conclude I should like to make a brief reference to the appalling murder yesterday in Northern Ireland of an old man and his grand-daughter by the Provisional IRA. No doubt there will be expressions of regret from those who perpetrated those murders but it should go clearly from this House that such expressions of regret are not acceptable. The only announcement we want to hear from these people is that they will not kill any more people in Northern Ireland. It is  particularly unfortunate that statements such as those made by a spokesman for the SDLP should refer to the failure of the Provisional IRA to avoid killing innocent people. Implicit in that kind of statement is a recognition that the Provos in some way have a right to kill people whom they or others may regard as not being innocent. I do not regard any of the people whom the Provisional IRA have killed as being culpable in any way whatsoever.
Proinsias De Rossa: I will point out to you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, how it relates to the debate if you will just bear with me for a minute. There is a responsibility on this House and specifically on this Government that political movement take place in Northern Ireland. One of the primary ways of bringing this about, which has been acknowledged by virtually everybody in Northern Ireland other than the Provisionals and by virtually everybody in the Opposition parties in this House, is by encouraging devolution. Initiatives should be taken to ensure that a devolved Government is established in Northern Ireland. It is incumbent on this Government to break or, to insist in so far as they can to break, the democratic logjam that exists in Northern Ireland. I will conclude my contribution by appealing to the Taoiseach who is here today to drop this line that in some way Northern Ireland is a failed political entity. That plays clearly into the hands of those who want to drag Northern Ireland and the rest of this country into a civil war. He should assist in whatever way he can the establishment of a democratic devolved Government in Northern Ireland.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): First, I would like to express my personal good wishes to the Taoiseach. We are glad to see him back in the House, obviously well on the way to recovery. I congratulate Deputy Ray MacSharry on his appointment to the European Commission. Deputy MacSharry was an effective Minister for Finance who did his job in the national interest over the last two years. I certainly wish him well in his new appointment to Europe.
However, the Taoiseach's decision was a bad one. Sometimes the effects of decisions are magnified but seldom has a single Government decision succeeded in weakening two major institutions, as this one has done. The Government have been weakened by the departure of Deputy MacSharry and the European Commission will be weakened by the departure of Commissioner Sutherland. It was an unfortunate decision and one which requires further explanation by the main participants. Maybe we will get that explanation some time in the future.
I congratulate Deputy Michael Smith, one of the more popular Deputies in this House who has always not only served his constituents well but performed in a most honourable way. I hope he is very successful in Cabinet. He certainly has all our good wishes.
Some of the arrangements made by the Taoiseach in the course of this announcement are quite curious. Deputy Reynolds is being assigned to the Department of Finance but one of the major functions of the Department of Finance is being taken over in a de facto way, if not de jure, by Deputy Pádraig Flynn, Minister for the Environment. It seems that for the first time since the foundation of the State a new division is now being created and Deputy Reynolds, rather than being appointed as Minister for Finance, is effectively being made Minister for the budget, the current budget rather than the capital budget or the area of economic, social and infrastructural planning  which was the traditional role of Ministers for Finance in this country. That is a serious error. The Department of Finance are central to the economic development of the country. It is less than a vote of confidence in Deputy Reynolds to be spancelled in this fashion. The allocation of many of the functions proper of the Department of Finance to Deputy Flynn seems to be a mistake. It is certainly quite disturbing to people on this side of the House.
This Government in recent months have behaved as many Fianna Fáil Governments have done in the past. They seem to treat public funds as a matter for the disbursement of personal patronage. I am talking in particular about the lottery. There is no doubt that certain Ministers did not behave well in the allocation of lottery funds, particularly to their own constituencies. The amount of money available under the Delors package will make the lottery fund look very small indeed. I would be extremely concerned that Deputy Flynn's experience in the disbursement of lottery funds will be applied to the disbursement of European Commission funds under our integrated programmes. That would not be for the good of the country or the economic well being of our people.
There is a conventional wisdom, which is spurious, that almost any infrastructural project is good. While the bridge is being built or the road is being laid employment is created but when the contractors move out those employed are laid off. The real test of infrastructural projects is what long lasting contribution they make to the economic development of a region. This is a function which is appropriate to the Department of Finance. To allocate it to another Minister in a fashion which is clearly attempting to put a bridge over every stream in County Mayo, to pick infrastructural projects on the basis of the marginality of political constituencies——
I am also concerned about another aspect of this decision. The Taoiseach, in a recent statement from his home in Kinsealy and also in the text of today's statement, nominated the budget as the occasion on which the developments under the Delors package will be announced. I understand that those who are asked to draw up programmes for the individual regions are instructed to have them ready by March. It seems we will have a wish list on budget night of capital projects announced by the new Minister for Finance which will involve matching funds of 25 per cent on the one hand from the capital budget and on the other hand a whole list of nominated projects which the Minister for Finance will indicate are appropriate for private fund matching. Effectively we will have another long list of dream projects, whether they have any basis will remain to be seen. I doubt the ability of the Administration, in the time available to them, to organise the infrastructural projects in an integrated way which will lead to economic development.
I wish Deputy Reynolds well. He is taking on a difficult task. There is little enough in his record in the Department of Industry and Commerce to suggest that he will be particularly successful in the Department of Finance. Deputy Reynolds seems to be very strong on public relations and propaganda and short enough on achievements within the Department. Other Deputies have referred already to announcements on industry leading to the creation of jobs which we find do not exist when the announcements are examined closely.
There is another area in Deputy Reynolds' PR exercise which I find most objectionable and that is the constant expression of the theory that economic development began in this country in 1986 and that all the improvements in the economic statistics have occurred only since this Government came to power. I had a look at this document with which the Taoiseach would be familiar, The  Way Forward, an economic plan for 1983 to 1987. It was published in 1982 and was the basis for an election which did not turn out very well for the Taoiseach. I quote from page 13:
2. The current budget deficit, if it were not corrected by increased taxation or by reduced expenditure, could rise to almost £3 billion or 13 per cent of GNP by 1987. With a capital budget requiring Exchequer borrowing of 9 per cent of GNP, the total Exchequer borrowing requirement, by 1987, could become £5 billion or 22 per cent of GNP.
That was on the basis of policies that were being pursued by the last Government over which the Taoiseach presided. Borrowing could have reached 22 per cent of GNP. When we left office on the basis of the last budget introduced by Deputy John Bruton, borrowing was 10 per cent of GNP.
In fairness, one should acknowledge, certainly while we are continuing to support the main thrust of Government economic policy, that corrective life did not begin in 1986, I tell Deputy Reynolds, but despite his best efforts to stop us right through that Administration, we achieved considerable success in many targets, including control of the public debt.
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): Deputy Reynolds and Deputy Brennan in his Department frequently remind us of the  export boom but when I left the Department of Industry and Commerce our trade was well in surplus and the balance of payments deficit was down to 1 per cent. The turn around in trade has been occurring since about 1983, certainly was strong in 1984 and very strong in 1985. It is proceeding and I hope it continues. The stabilisation of employment in manufacturing industry has been occurring since 1985, and all independent sources will vouch for that. Therefore, I hope that when Deputy Reynolds moves to the Department of Finance this morning he will have slightly more regard for the facts than he has had as Minister for Industry and Commerce.
I see no good reason why Deputy Burke should take with him the portfolio of Communications into the Department of Industry and Commerce. The Department of Industry and Commerce are becoming a ragbag Department. From one week to the next officials within the Department of Industry and Commerce do not know what their responsibilities will be, might be, or were. There is only one good reason for Deputy Burke taking that portfolio in with him. It is to keep political control over the allocation of licences for local radio. I would prefer if Deputy Smith——
Mr. Noonan: (Limerick East): I have great respect for Mr. Justice Henchy but I would hate to see him walked into anything under the Deputy's auspices. I would rather Deputy Smith had had the responsibility.
I wish the Government well. I have more to say and I am sure I will have plenty of opportunity to say it when Deputy Reynolds and I debate various issues across the House. I am going to leave Deputy Michael Lowry in now because, being from the same constituency as Deputy Michael Smith, I think it appropriate he should offer his congratulations.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: If we  were being meticulous there would not be much time to bequeath to him, but with the agreement of the House we might arrange that Deputy Lowry would have five minutes. Agreed.
Mr. Lowry: I thank you, Sir, for your indulgence and I wish to thank my colleague, Deputy Michael Noonan, for acceding to my request to allow me some of his time to offer my congratulations and those of the people of North Tipperary to my colleague, Deputy Michael Smith, on his well earned and deserved elevation to Government. It is a great honour and distinction and is undoubtedly the highlight of his political career to date. He has had many ups and downs over the years and has now been rewarded for his perseverance and tenacity. He is a man of proven ability and I have no doubt that he will exercise his duties in an efficient and competent manner. As the only TD from North Tipperary I am very conscious that I am to be “squez” between two heavyweight politicals as in a sandwich——
Mr. Lowry: However, in the event of my having mechanical problems with my self-drive car I can rely on either or other of the State cars to come to my assistance. I wish to assure the Taoiseach that I will do my best to keep the peace between those two formidable and, of course, always friendly Ministers. I inform the Taoiseach also that in the event of the Ministers not being able to agree on which of them will make the many official announcements that I expect now as a result of our extra strength in Government I will be only too pleased to oblige by delivering the good news myself.
In conclusion, I renew my congratulations to Deputy Michael Smith, his wife Mary and family on this important day in their lives and I wish him every success in his new role. Let me conclude by saying that once again we serve notice to all, including Galway, that  Tipperary are and intend to remain the premier county.
Mr. Desmond: Let me congratulate Deputy MacSharry on his appointment as Commissioner. I have served in the House since 1969. We came in together on the same day and throughout that period I have known him to be a person of outstanding ability and exceptional integrity. Despite the considerable difficulty which he faced with courage on one occasion, he has come through as a person of real competence and ability. His going from this House to the Commission is a great loss to public life in the Republic and in Dáil Éireann, but we are assured and I have no doubt that his contribution in the Commission will be equally exceptional. I hope that in his period in the Commission he will endeavour in particular to change some of the attitudes of our neighbouring major trading partner which will be reflected in the Commission. In the four years of his office, for example, he might succeed in convincing the UK Government and the UK representative that the UK joining the EMS would be of enormous joint benefit to this country and the UK and to the further development of the EC. That would be one of his tasks.
Equally I hope he will succeed in maintaining the impetus to double the Regional and Social Funds over the agreed period. Already there is very considerable slippage within Europe on that target and, although the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs has attempted to play down the huge effort now being made to diminish and dilute the commitment that was there, I think we can ask the Commissioner before he formally takes up appointment and assumes his collegial independence to have particular regard of the need to maintain the impetus to double the funds and ensure a continuing and growing allocation for social and economic infrastructure in this country. I have no doubt  whatever that such is the antipathy of the UK Prime Minister at the moment to this proposal of enlarging the Regional and Social Funds of the Community that there will be great difficulty in the next 12 months and in the years ahead in maintaining that impetus. I hope that Deputy MacSharry with his wide experience in that area will serve the national interest well, despite his inevitable broader responsibility at Commission level. He is a great loss and I can understand and appreciate the Taoiseach's great reluctance to have him go. However, that is the way things worked out and we should leave it at that.
I congratulate Deputy Michael Smith on his appointment to the Government. It is the universal view in Dáil Éireann that our parliamentary colleague has real ability and quiet, effective confidence, and I am glad that the Taoiseach has recognised that by bringing him to the Cabinet. I have no doubt that he will make a distinctive contribution to the work of the Cabinet.
In the circumstances of the change of the commissionership and the inevitable reshuffle, the Taoiseach may not have a more measured opportunity to reorganise the general work of Government. I would urge him to do so because, as a former Minister of State, I would say that there is nothing more frustrating than being a Minister of State. Ministers of State tend to be surplus altar boys or women at Government level; their function is invariably diffused and ill-defined, with no responsibilities; frequently they do not even have access to their own Minister's papers, and it is right that on occasions they should not have. They tend to finish up in a political vacuum which can produce enormous frustration. I can appreciate that those Ministers of State who thought they would have been promoted today will languish for the remainder of the lifetime of this Government in that vacuum. Although I thoroughly enjoyed my period as Minister of State, short as it was, I can see a great need to reorganise the work of Ministers of State. I hope that the Taoiseach will, over the Christmas recess,  have an opportunity of addressing his mind to this.
There is a particular need to reorganise Government itself, with 1992 creeping up on us. There is a need to have one Minister in charge of this — not the Minister for the Environment, not necessarily the Minister for Finance, nor the Minister for Social Welfare who has a relationship with the Social Fund, or the Minister for Health who has a relationship with the Social Fund, or the Minister for Education who had a relationship with the Social Fund before the moneys were taken from her. There is a great need to have one Minister responsible for the general developments towards 1992. Other countries are doing this; other capitals are doing this. They are singling out one individual to do the general co-ordination work. With profound respect to the Minister for the Environment, I do not think that his Department is in a position to give that contribution. For example, what in the name of God do the Department of the Environment know about allocations into the health area from the Social Fund? They know precisely nothing. What do they know in terms of allocations of social welfare? They know precisely nothing. It is equally so in regard to allocations which would go from the Social Fund into the education area or into the Department of Labour. If the Department of Labour had been given the responsibility in terms of the Social Fund and other aspects it would have made a better contribution. The decision was made, but over the Christmas period the Taoiseach should, if the country is going to benefit from the doubling of the Social Fund and from the European Regional Fund, consider the possibility of appointing a Minister to deal exclusively with that area. I would not hesitate to rationalise and reorganise Government Departments again in view of the growing responsibilities and problems we face going into 1992. That is the suggestion I make to the Taoiseach. It is something he might have an opportunity of developing.
It is arguable that the Minister for the Environment should be given special  responsibility there. It is unlikely that we are going to spend a great deal of money on telecommunications or on the development of capital programmes in the education area or in the health area, but there is a dire need to spend money on road development, particularly in the west. I would have no hesitation in giving the Minister for the Environment responsibility there. But I would not give him responsibility for the Social Fund, for co-ordination and integration of the programme because that is a function of the Department of Finance and of the Government.
I make those observations to the Taoiseach. It is not the function of the Taoiseach to appease competing interests of individual Ministers. It is his job to direct, to allocate and to insist on his decision in relation to the structure of Government being carried out. It is in that context that I question seriously the decision to allocate An Post and Telecom Éireann to Industry and Commerce. There was an argument for that in the days of capital moneys for Telecom Éireann but they now effectively develop their own investment programmes and are doing quite a good job in that regard. However, there are severe difficulties in An Post, particularly on the industrial relations side, and a degree of insensitivity that has manifested itself at senior level which I hope will be resolved. I do not see it being resolved by allocating the Minister for Industry and Commerce that particular responsibility. I would hope that over the Christmas period and into the new year the Taoiseach will have a further opportunity to develop in that framework.
I wish the Minister for Industry and Commerce well in his appointment. I have no doubt that he will arise above the temptation to regard economic development and industrial development as commencing at Swords and ending at Balbriggan. I am sure he will rise above that and make an exceptional contribution to economic and industrial development.
I wish the new Minister for Finance well in his future role. I have observed  him in the House in recent years. He has been a singularly underemployed individual. At long last he has been able to look at Fóir Teoranta. I could never understand the logic of the Department of Finance being responsible for Fóir Teoranta. The Minister for Finance has enough to do without worrying about the daily crises in Fóir Teoranta. It should always have been the responsibility of Industry and Commerce. Now the Minister for Finance might even do a good turn by sending it back to where it should be rather than having the Department of Finance driving itself into a weekly frenzy with factories closing down and endeavouring to find ways of allocating money to keep industries ticking over. The multiple responsibilities of the Minister for Finance just do not give him the opportunity to deal with that area. I wish the Minister for Finance well in his new responsibilities. He is still saddled with a national debt of £25 billion. He will still have to find £2 billion in the next budget to service that debt. That is our legacy to him. It is not an enviable legacy no matter how buoyed we are by the tax amnesty.
We in the Labour Party will call a vote in this regard, not because of the personalities concerned, but because we do have and will continue to have severe policy differences about how to cope with that £25 billion national debt. We will challenge this to a division because we have, and will continue to have, severe differences on how to cope with a national debt of £25 billion which will hang around the necks of this and future generations. We will be putting forward differing views as to how our economy should be managed. That is for another debate but it is important to state that there are serious differences between the Labour Party and the other parties in the House.
I am delighted that the Taoiseach is back is a major way among us and is present to introduce this motion. I can appreciate that he has had severe pressure on him before bringing it to the House but I urge him to have a real look at Government. It is arguable that we should have a Minister for Revenue to  handle the entire question of revenue. Members should note how wrong our figures were last year, about £800 million out on the components. That is some going for any Government. I accept that that could have happened in the time of the Coalition; we made mistakes in our time.
Mr. Desmond: The Minister for Finance cannot handle the budget while simultaneously having to handle revenue questions, cope with 1992, tax harmonisation and public expenditure arguments at Cabinet level. It is too much for any Minister for Finance whether it is the Taoiseach, Deputy MacSharry, or Deputy Reynolds who is in charge of that Department. It is too much to ask a Minister for Finance in control that show in an effective way. The Taoiseach should re-organise the Government for the nineties. If he succeeds in doing so he will have made the greatest contribution of his term of office. The Taoiseach has had several opportunities to have a go at such fundamental re-organisation and it is within his competence to undertake such an exercise.
Mr. J. Mitchell: As time is limited I do not wish to repeat what has been said by other speakers. I should like to associate myself with the words of congratulations to Deputy Michael Smith who has received well deserved promotion. I wish him well in his new post. I should like to congratulate Deputy Ray Burke on his clear promotion to the Department of Industry and Commerce and Communications, a very big Department, and Deputy Reynolds who has been promoted to the very important and central post at the Department of Finance. However, the re-arrangements announced by the Taoiseach are a major disappointment. I thought he would have appointed a Minister for Employment today. I felt the Taoiseach would seize the opportunity to restructure the Government's arrangements for dealing  with unemployment which are, to say the least, very mish-mash.
The Departments of Labour, Industry and Commerce and Social Welfare play a role in relation to employment. We should have learned from what has happened in the UK, where a Department of Employment has been established and a Secretary of State for Employment appointed with responsibility for all things to do with employment from training courses to paying unemployment benefit. Since the introduction of that arrangement unemployment has fallen in 24 months out of 25. The one month when unemployment did not fall was an exception. I am disappointed that the Taoiseach did not restructure the Government in such a way that a Minister would be made responsible for leading the attack on unemployment. We need seven major reforms if we are to do anything about the OECD description of Ireland as the country whose tax and social welfare regime is most biased against labour. It is no surprise that Ireland has the highest rate of unemployment in the OECD.
I should like to refer to something in which I take great pride, the performance of the State sector. Any fair commentator will agree that a great deal was done to reform the State sector between 1982 and 1987. The profitability performance of those companies during that period was excellent. In 1982 those companies, with the exception of Aer Rianta which made a profit of £100,000 in that year, were losing money and last year most of them returned a profit. Unfortunately, and the Taoiseach may not be aware of this, the Government have fallen back into their old habits in relation to the State sector. There has been a renewal of ministerial interference in the day-to-day affairs of State companies which was stopped between 1982 and 1987. It was one of the reasons why the State sector got into trouble. Up to then, boards were able to say that they were doing what the Minister told them. I accept that the line between where the Minister's policy responsibility ends and where the day-to-day running of the company starts can be  blurred, but improvements in the State sector are at risk unless there is a clear Government policy on how to deal with it.
The Department of Communications are responsible for three major State companies, Telecom Éireann, An Post and RTE. There are serious problems in Telecom Éireann and An Post, particularly in An Post, although from the point of view of profit they are doing rather well. However, the targets set for them are not being achieved, particularly by An Post. People in Dublin have to allow four to five days for a letter to be delivered. I accept that there is a chance that a letter will be delivered within one day but too many letters are taking from four to five days to be delivered. This has been getting worse in the last year. Telecom Éireann was supposed to be at the stage of what is called “on demand”. That phrase was defined to me as Telecom Éireann being able to provide telephones within six weeks of application. They have told the Minister that telephones are “on demand” but the description has been changed to six weeks from the time an applicant is invited to sign the contract. However, the application may have preceded the contract by many months. Business in Dublin is being hampered by the appalling lapses that persist in Telecom Éireann.
I do not think we should be complacent about the performance of the State sector or satisfied that the improvements achieved will be maintained. The Minister for Industry and Commerce and Communications should have a central role to play in the overall performance of the  State sector. That sector can play a vital part in the resuscitation of our economy. I am not part of that fashionable trend which say that we should privatise willy-nilly, although a sound business approach would not exclude the prudent disposal of assets when it is profitable and right to do so. There is a need to have a Minister with overall responsibility for policy and approach in the State sector if it is to play the role if it can play in turning around our economy.
My major criticism relates to the jobs front because this is where we as a society have failed most. I do not believe, as some people in this House seem to believe — and they are not all on the one side of the House — that there is not much we can do about it. There is a lot we can do about it. We cannot go into it now because the debate is nearly over. I would ask the Taoiseach to consider again — obviously he will not do it in this change of Government — whether there should be a Minister with overall responsibility for employment and to merge the sections of the different Departments that have various responsibilities into one Department for a true onslaught on this central problem which is cause of our emigration. It is also a source and cause of the poverty which now tramples this land.
An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: The question is: “That Dáil Éireann approve the nomination by the Taoiseach of Deputy Michael Smith, Minister of State at the Department of Energy, for appointment by the President to be a Member of the Government.
Brady, Vincent. Connolly, Ger.
Coughlan, Mary T.
de Valera, Síle.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Haughey, Charles J.
Hilliard, Colm Michael.
Kitt, Michael P.
Conaghan, Hugh. McCarthy, Seán.
Noonan, Michael J.
O'Dea, William Gerard.
Wilson, John P.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Higgins, Michael D.
|Mac Giolla, Tomás.
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