Financial Resolutions, 1991. - Financial Resolution No. 6: General (Resumed).

Wednesday, 20 February 1991

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 405 No. 4

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Debate resumed on the following motion:

That it is expedient to amend the law relating to customs and inland revenue (including excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Seán Power moved the adjournment of the debate and he has seven minutes remaining.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  I congratulate Deputy Shatter on the success of his Bill and I hope that any other Bill he brings in will come from him on that side of the House, too.

The family income supplement is to be increased. This is a measure I welcome very much. For far too long many people were, financially speaking, better off on the dole than at work. There was no incentive to work and the advent of the family income supplement has in a small [1165] way remedied that situation. It helps to make life bearable for many families throughout the country and I hope this scheme will be developed in the coming years.

Another provision which has proved very well worthwhile is the carer's allowance. I know there have been teething problems with the scheme, but I am sure they can be sorted out in time. The carer's allowance is not just a financial reward to the unsung heroes in our community, but recognition of the tremendous work that these people are doing. The allowance has been increased by 11 per cent and, while the allowance is quite small, I am sure that when times get better this allowance will be increased to a level that will reflect the tremendous work being done.

An industry which is very close to my heart is the racing industry. Following many submissions and much publicity, the Minister decided in last year's budget to grant £3 million to the racing industry and it will receive a similar amount this year. The bloodstock industry is a major national resource and represents 8 per cent of gross domestic product. It has enjoyed enormous success over the years and during the past 12 months three Irish trainers, Mr. Dermot Weld, Mr. Vincent O'Brien and Mr. Paddy Mullins picked up big prizes in the USA, a feat which is quite rare in this part of the world. I would like to pay tribute to the owners, trainers and jockeys involved in those wonderful victories. It is victories like these that keep Irish racing on the world stage. While these wins were very welcome, those connected with these wins will not forget the year 1990 because the majority of people involved in the industry will remember this year for very different reasons. The year 1990 was a disaster for the bloodstock industry. The international buyers stayed away from the sales. With such uncertainty prevailing in the world economy, they decided not to spend. As a result prices fell dramatically and a number of breeders were unable to sell their bloodstock or had to accept a very poor price. The Irish bloodstock industry is in a state [1166] of horrors today. Owners are being forced out of the game as training expenses are running at £600 a month while the prize money for the smaller races is less that £1,500. Owning a horse is once again becoming an impossibility for the ordinary man. A horse would want to win five small races before his winnings will pay for his keep.

The Government have given a commitment to grant aid the industry for the next few years and I appeal that more of the money be directed at the lower end of the scale. We must increase the prize money at the smaller races. The Phoenix Park Racecourse tried to attract the crowds by offering big prize money. They were responsible for the infamous Cartier Million, but despite all the hype and publicity for last year's race, it attracted an attendance of only 5,000 people. The so-called rejuvenated Park continued to adopt this policy. Despite the poor attendances there was no change in policy and the Phoenix Park Racecourse was forced to close during the year.

The country racetracks continue to be as popular as ever and continually attract large attendances. However, facilities at some of these tracks are urgently in need of repair and this must be put right. In 1989 a submission from the Irish Racing and Breeding Industry Committee recommended that a campaign be launched to promote the Irish thoroughbred worldwide. With adequate marketing and public relations resources it was decided that the campaign should be orchestrated in tandem with an aggressive tourism programme, aimed at significantly improving visitor figures at Irish race meetings. I am delighted to learn that this recommendation has been taken on board and that the executive of Punchestown Racecourse together with Bord Fáilte are to launch such a campaign. They hope to turn the three day meeting into a real festival, Ireland's equivalent to Cheltenham. The prize money is to be increased and every effort will be made to attract overseas visitors. It is this type of initiative that the racing industry needs today.

New members were appointed to the [1167] Racing Board at the beginning of the year. While I wish the board the best of luck in their very difficult task, I must voice my disapproval at the structure of the board. As it stands, six of the 11 members must belong to the Turf Club. This prevents the Minister for Agriculture and Food from picking the best people for the job. At present the Turf Club and the Racing Board are responsible for the running of the racing industry. I must ask in whose interest is it that this situation continues? It is certainly not in the best interest of the Irish bloodstock industry. It is time that we had one racing authority to look after the industry.

I must refer to the state of the county roads throughout the country. The Government have provided over £150 million over a three year period to deal with this problem but unfortunately this has not resolved the problem. The reality is that our county roads are worse now than they ever have been. The counties bordering our capital are most affected.

Mr. G. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  The Deputy should come down to us for a week.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  The principal reason for this is the volume of traffic these roads carry. Counties Wicklow, Meath and Kildare are within commuting distance of Dublin and have experienced exceptional development pressures over the past 20 years. Unfortunately, we have a ridiculous scenario where money is allocated not on the volume of traffic that the county road carries but on the number of miles of county road. In the period from 1971-86 the population of County Kildare increased by 61.2 per cent while the national average for the same period was less than 20 per cent.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would be grateful if the Deputy would now bring his speech to a close. The time available to him is well nigh exhausted.

Mr. Power: Information on Seán Power  Zoom on Seán Power  This has generated extensive demands for new and improved infrastructure and services at a time when [1168] there was a major reduction in the finance available to local authorities. I call on the Government to repair and improve all county roads to meet modern traffic needs.

In conclusion, I welcome the prudent approach of the budget in dealing with the public finances and I commend it to the House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I now call on Deputy Tom Foxe.

Mr. Foxe: Information on Thomas Foxe  Zoom on Thomas Foxe  How many minutes do I have?

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy has 15 minutes, if he so wishes, to avail of the full complement of time.

Mr. Foxe: Information on Thomas Foxe  Zoom on Thomas Foxe  I would like to express my appreciation of the time allotted to me to speak on this motion. At the outset I compliment the Minister on the budget. Admittedly, there will not be many more millionaires after it than there were heretofore; but at least certain steps were taken which I consider are steps in the right direction, namely, the reduction of VAT from 23 per cent to 21 per cent and the reduction of income tax from 30 to 29 per cent. Those are very desirable changes. Unfortunately, the budget was not all give and no take. The 10 per cent VAT rate was increased to 12.5 per cent. This increase will hit the less well off section of the community more than they will benefit from the reduction in VAT from 23 per cent to 21 per cent, which generally speaking will benefit the business people, whereas the PAYE worker will benefit from the reduction in tax.

The increase of 4 per cent to social welfare recipients is a move in the right direction, which is very welcome. We would all like to see that figure increased, but unfortunately the Minister thought that his funds would not be able to stretch that far. However, they are the most illlooked after sector of the community and are least able to voice their own opinion. It would be desirable if in the future [1169] the allotment to that section could be improved.

The £8 million that has been allocated this year to the psychiatric services cannot be regarded as a very large allocation. Generally speaking, the thinking in the modern world on psychiatric health is to have patients rehabilitated in their own locality rather than having them institutionalised. Not all patients would be in a position to take advantage of such a service so there will still be need for hospitals or institutions — or whatever word one wishes to use — where psychiatric patients will be hospitalised. We have heard much about some of the existing psychiatric hospitals, that they are old and grey, that they are depressing buildings. If it is necessary, let new hospitals be built. I understand that there will be such developments in some of the counties closer to us west of the Shannon.

We are told that a fairer deal in the area of hospital services is on the way. Let us hope that “on the way” is not too far away. I am looking forward to seeing what the fairer deal will be. The provision whereby a bed in a public ward will be available to all members of the community is desirable but that provision already exists for most people; the people who gain by that provision at present are those who would possibly have taken the semi-private or private beds in the past. However, telling a person that he has a right to a free bed in a public ward and free consultant services is fine but when that patient arrives at the hospital and is told: “We know what your rights are but unfortunately there are no beds available”, that does not improve matters very much. Unfortunately, that is still the case in many hospitals. The surgeons and those in control of the hospitals are becoming increasingly concerned about insurance claims. While in the past certain people thought very little of putting six beds in a four-bedded ward and so on, in the future they will be very slow to do that because they will not be prepared to risk ending up in court which is the situation many consultants may find themselves in if more beds are not made available in the near future.

[1170] With a budget of £1.5 billion for the health services one would expect that we would have the best medical services in Europe; admittedly, they are not the worst but they are certainly not the best. We still have waiting lists of up to two years for hip operations, for ear, nose and throat operations and for orthodontic treatment. Children attending national school are deprived, for instance, of speech therapy services. When I checked that out further with the Department and the health board I was told that the resources for speech therapy are very limited and are now being concentrated in a small area rather than spread out over the whole ambit of those people requiring speech therapy. Consequently one section of the community, those between five and 11 years of age, do not have speech therapy service available to them. Certainly something should be done in that regard. I hope that the Minister for Health will see to it that funds will be made available immediately because that is one service which, in my own County of Roscommon, is badly in need of extra personnel. I note that for certain educationally deprived children the Minister has made provision for 60 extra teachers: I hope some of those will be speech therapists who will be able to take care of the needs of the children to whom I have referred. Their plight has not been eased one iota over the past 18 months, if anything it has been made worse.

A budget of £1.5 billion for health services begs the question as to whether we are making full use of our resources. Some years ago when the health boards were set up we thought all our problems would be solved, perhaps some have been solved. As time went on we discovered that some of those problems have been replaced by bigger ones. Perhaps the time has come for a review of the management of the health services. With a budget of £1.5 billion one would not expect to have to wait for a year or two for any operation.

I am pleased to see that the Department of Agriculture and Food have [1171] agreed to bring forward the headage payments for 1992 to 1991. In the past, the Department of Agriculture and Food were not known for their speed in paying grants. Perhaps this change of heart on their part is merely an atoning for past sins. It is a welcome move and all who were concerned with bringing it about should be complimented.

Various sections of agriculture have benefited as a result of the budget, for example, a provision of £1.5 million was made to CBF, £1.2 million to Teagasc and a sum of £2 million has been put aside for the depopulation of herds affected with BSE. Any money given to CBF is a move in the right direction. I understand that the meat factories are to produce a corresponding amount. I hope it will be the meat factories who will produce that sum and not the farmers via the meat factories with an extra 1p or so levy per pound being imposed. I hope the meat factories have listened to the Minister's request and will live up to it.

CBF have a mammoth task. Unfortunately, because of the BSE scare in the past couple of years the British beef industry got quite a shellacking from the media and from the home customers who refused to eat beef as well as from their customers in foreign countries. Unfortunately, and most unfairly, our beef was tainted with the same brush. We should never hesitaate to state loud and clear that BSE is not endemic to this country. Ireland is basically free of BSE. However, the situation is different in England where they have a ewe population of about 40 million, 20 per cent of which is affected by scrapie which is the forerunner of BSE. That means that about 8 million ewes can pass on the BSE disease whereas in this country we do not have that problem. The only cases of BSE found here could be traced to either imported infected and affected cattle or to the importation of meat and bone meal. The Minister for Agriculture and Food saw to it that both avenues were cut off. He must be complimented on that. Our foreign customers were very concerned about the BSE scare which, [1172] unfortunately, hit our trade over the past 18 months. However, things are improving in this area again thanks to the efforts of the Minister for Agriculture and Food and others who have negotiated deals with some former customers. That is a very desirable development.

It is unfortunate that at a time when the BSE scare is wearing off we are rushing headlong into another scare which will be just as fatal from the point of view of the consumer and the future of our beef industry, that is the treatment of beef with what is known as “angel dust”. According to our veterinary experts — and these are the people who should know — a frighteningly high percentage of finishing bullocks are treated with “angel dust”. Irrespective of whether or not “angel dust” has any ill effects on human beings the perception among people is that it is very detrimental to humans, and once customers believe this they will refuse to buy Irish beef and rightly so.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I intervene to advise the Deputy that some three minutes now remain of the time available to him.

Mr. Foxe: Information on Thomas Foxe  Zoom on Thomas Foxe  If the people who fatten cattle continue to treat them with “angel dust” as sure as night follows day our beef industry will go down the same road our lamb trade went in the fifties and sixties. It was because unscrupulous, greedy and avaricious people exported hoggets instead of lambs that time we lost the Paris market for our lamb. We lost that market overnight but it took farmers 16 years to get onto that market again. They paid dearly for it. If we do not take steps to ensure that “angel dust” is not used in any form in fattening cattle our customers will not buy our beef. As beef amounts to 10 per cent of our total exports this would be disastrous for the beef industry, the producers of beef, namely the farmers, and our economy.

While I welcome the allocation of £1.2 million to Teagasc I doubt if this amount will do much to help that ailing organisation. After all, the budget of this [1173] organisation was cut by £2.3 million a few months ago. Now more than ever the farming community need the support and advice given by Teagasc. We are moving into uncharted waters on the agricultural scene and I doubt if anyone, including Commissioner MacSharry, knows what the future will hold, even up to the end of 1991. Negotiations are still taking place but the proposals put forward by Commissioner MacSharry are similar to the American proposals. Our agricultural industry will change from a high production one to low production. It was a high input and a high output industry, although some farmers would say that it was a high input and low output industry.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I would be grateful if the Deputy would now bring his speech to a close.

Mr. Foxe: Information on Thomas Foxe  Zoom on Thomas Foxe  Farmers need the services provided by Teagasc now more than ever before. We are told from time to time that our economy is looking up but, unfortunately, this has not been reflected in the creation of extra jobs. All we hear about are closures and job losses. There is nothing in the budget to suggest that this problem will be rectified.

Mr. Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  I welcome the opportunity to contribute to this debate on the budget. People may think that because the budget was introduced at the end of January it is no longer important but it is very important to refer to the background to the budget. While some people might criticise the budget as not doing anything much for people I believe the action taken by the Government over the past four years has left us in a stable position. The Minister for Finance faced a very difficult task in these uncertain times. He presented the budget after the war in the Gulf had started. It was important that the strategy which had been adopted by the Government was maintained. It would have been very wrong for the Minister to make rash decisions in the budget.

The Minister set about doing two things in the budget. First, he tried to deal with the tax imbalances vis-á-vis our [1174] European partners, in particular, our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, and also having regard to 1992. He was helped in this regard due to the fact that our economy had been turned around over the past four years and that we had the lowest inflation rate in the history of the State, one of the lowest inflation rates in Europe. This low inflation rate has been brought about as a direct result of the policies pursued by the Government over the past four years. I do not think anybody had any doubts about the need to reduce our level of borrowing. The Government have continued the policy of aiming for a zero rate of borrowing in 1992. If they do this it will be a major achievement for this country.

We must look at the budget in the context of the Gulf War which could have major consequences for us if it continues. I hope the efforts being made to end the war will be successful and that oil prices will not be forced through the roof due to a lack of supplies. Unfortunately, we are not sure what will happen from day-to-day.

I welcome the changes in the budget in regard to VAT. Any reduction in VAT rates will be welcomed by consumers. The changes proposed in the budget in regard to VAT rates will help bring us into line with the VAT rates in other European countries. It is important that the changes in the VAT rates, together with the changes in the income tax rates, are brought to the notice of people. Many people may think that the small reduction in these rates will be of no consequence but every reduction in rates will be of benefit to the consumer.

I especially welcome the introduction of a special allowance for widows — an allowance which has gone unnoticed by many people — which will be paid during the first three years of widowhood. The payment of this allowance at a traumatic time will help cushion the blow for many widows. I believe the Minister will achieve his aim to reduce our level of taxation over the coming years. Government Departments and Ministers are to be complimented for living within their budgets. This will help the Government [1175] in their efforts to create jobs and reduce unemployment. The financial policies pursued by the Government have created a favourable climate for people who regard Ireland as a suitable place to set up industrial operations.

I welcome the proposals in the budget in regard to housing. The housing policy announced by the Minister for the Environment and funded by the Department of Finance in recent weeks is very welcome. It is the first real attempt to deal with social housing problems. If people on the opposite benches feel it is not an appropriate move, their constituents might not agree with them when they see the full value of the package that will be available in the coming years. We all know we were heading towards a housing crisis and this is the first attempt to deal with that problem.

It is appropriate that we also deal with another matter which some would say might not be directly involved with the budget, that is An Post. Because some of us decided to bring to the attention of the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications that the proposed changes would cause problems, we have managed to prevent an attack on rural life by a semi-State company. This is something that had to be dealt with, and I welcome the Minister's decision today to have an NESC report commissioned with regard to An Post and their operations in rural Ireland.

On the agricultural front, like Deputy Foxe I welcome the increased funding to CBF, but I hope that funding is used to create markets of a continual rather than a seasonal nature. For too long we have allowed our agricultural produce to be sold via the handy route to many manufacturers, namely, intervention. That route is not in the best interests of the country or the producer. If farmers are to get the maximum benefit from their produce they should be concentrating on selling to the consumer markets right across Europe. We have the best product in Europe but we are not making full use of it.

[1176] I also agree with Deputy Foxe in regard to angel dust. The use of angel dust is a criminal offence, and I say that without any hesitation. If somebody is found in this country with heroin they are put behind bars, but angel dust is a taboo subject which has been brushed under the carpet by many people. It is something we must face. In a recent court case in another part of this island where a person was found in possession of angel dust the justice said that because it could not be proved that it caused damage to human beings the maximum fine he could impose was £100. That is a licence to destroy our meat production not alone in the Republic but in the entire country. I know the Minister for Agriculture is committed to stamping out this problem and he deserves the full support of every Member of this House in doing so. Farmers who use angel dust are committing suicide in that they are doing away with their own livelihood and their own future.

The recent announcement of the increased headage payments is welcomed by everybody. The change in the disadvantaged areas is also in the interests of agriculture. Prior to the budget many people believed that the commitment to increase headage payments might not be met, but the money for payment in 1991 is provided in the budget. That proves that the Government and the Minister are committed to making these extra payments which will be very necessary in view of the forthcoming changes in the Common Agricultural Policy. I hope that in the next couple of weeks we will have an opportunity via some of the sub-committees of this House or in the House itself to discuss the changes in the CAP and in the price structure for this year which are being proposed by Commissioner MacSharry. We are lucky to have an Irish Agriculture Commissioner at this time. I know he will do his utmost in the Commission to protect the interests of the small farmers. We as politicians have a duty to voice our fears sooner rather than later and to be constructive in what we say with regard to the changes in the CAP.

[1177] There is an increase in the allocation for health services in this budget, although maybe not enough. It is time that a full review was carried out of the operation of the health boards throughout the country. The amount of money allocated to health should be reviewed to see if we are getting good value for the expenditure on the health services.

The proposals with regard to improved community care are to be welcomed, particularly the proposal to bring people who have been long term institutionalised back into society. Where this has been done even on a moderate scale it has proved quite successful. People who have been institutionalised for many years are well able to live in the community with the proper support, and I hope more of these people will be brought back into the community. I would voice a word of warning, that people coming out of these institutions will be able to cope only if society is willing to accept and support them. It is important that we as a community give them our fullest support in trying to rehabilitate themselves.

Local authorities will this year again be reasonably well funded. The increases that have been consistent over the past three years for county roads have been of major benefit. They might not be as great as everybody would like but at least it is the first genuine attempt to put in place a proper county road structure. Many counties do not have the benefit of major stretches of national primary roads and there is a need for improved roads in those counties. This is important if we are to develop tourism and other industries in rural areas. The Minister, Deputy Flynn, is to be complimented for his efforts in this field. He is also to be complimented on getting Structural Fund moneys for the development of our national primary roads. I hope that as time goes on the roads into our capital city will be improved because it is important that there is good access to our major cities. The by-passes proposed for some of the towns on these major roads will not, as some people think, be the death knell for those towns and villages. They will give people an opportunity to use the facilities [1178] provided by the business community in those towns and villages.

Before I finish it is only fair that I refer to the business expansion scheme and the changes proposed here. The scheme was brought in originally to promote smaller projects, but some of the sharks of the financial community decided they would make full use of it. They created schemes beyond what was envisaged in the original proposal. The limit of £500,000 as proposed by the Minister in the budget is to be welcomed. I hope those financial gurus will see their way to fund small projects in rural Ireland. Many of the projects have been aimed at tourism facilities in our major towns. Very few of them have been used to fund projects in rural areas.

I also welcome the increase to Bord Fáilte, £1 million extra is very welcome. The chief executive of Bord Fáilte, Mr. Dully, should be complimented for his proposals to make up for the business which will be lost as a result of the Gulf War.

The budget is an honest attempt by the Minister for Finance and the Government to keep their policy on the rails. They will ensure that the programme is implemented and that we will reach the target, which many people said could not be achieved, of having nil borrowing in the not too distant future.

Mr. G. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  It is not often in the Dáil that my two constituency colleagues are here to listen to me. I compliment one of them for going on television last week to ask the Minister not to close the post offices in rural areas. At least one of them has taken credit for it anyway. He said that the NESC report will support the view of all rural Deputies that rural post offices should not be closed. However, he did not say when that report will become available and I have a feeling that it could be sometime in July when certain local elections are out of the way. The people in rural areas will not be fooled by anything like that.

Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications (Mr. Lyons): Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  Do not spoil progress.

[1179]Mr. Ellis: Information on John Ellis  Zoom on John Ellis  Deputy Reynolds has a devious mind.

Mr. G. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  No, it is just the way I was brought up. The two major ills affecting our young people are unemployment and emigration. We hope that our young people will remain in this country because they are its future; in 20 years' time we should like to see young people in the House producing policies which will leave the country in good hands for future generations. The Minister for Finance said that there would be an economic growth of 2.5 per cent this year but that is balderdash because the economy is failing. I know that some of the causes are outside the control of the Government, including the Gulf War, but the 4 per cent pay increases outlined in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress over the next three years will not be possible. Trying to base our finances on that economic growth will not, unfortunately, work.

There have been a number of increases in indirect tax in the budget. Car tax has been increased which affects everybody, especially younger people. The Government are unable to do anything about unemployment or emigration, yet they increased VAT on many items which will make disposable income much scarcer which, in turn, will cut down on economic growth. Young people cannot survive economically because, even if they have a job, they pay an extremely high rate of income tax. Their disposable income has been cut to the bone and they have no choice but to emigrate or try to survive on a miserly wage.

A person under 30 years of age is discriminated against in relation to car insurance. For example, if Deputy Flaherty has a two litre car with open insurance and wishes me to drive it I cannot do so because I am under 30 years of age. That is discrimination and, until politicians face up to the problem and do something about it, young people will be cynical about politics, which is very [1180] serious, because we need young people to become involved in the democratic process so that they will have a country which will cater for generations to come. By not attacking these problems we are engendering cynicism, understandably so.

As a member of a local authority, I believe that the section in the budget dealing with the environment raises many difficulties. Deputy Ellis said that there would have been a housing crisis if action had not been taken by the Minister. There is a housing crisis and, while the action taken by the Minister may go some way to resolving the problem it will not solve it. For example, in County Leitrim, in 1985 there were 60 starts made for local authority housing; in 1986 there were 55 and when this Government attained office in 1987 there was a sum total of 11. That was dramatically increased to 28 in 1988 but it decreased to 12 in 1989. I do not know if Deputy Ellis or Deputy Mattie Brennan had a word with the Minister for the Environment but the number again increased to 28 in 1990. We are looking for 86 starts this year and, regardless of what plan the Minister brought in for housing, I know quite well that we will not get 86 starts and, even allowing for the number of people who will move out of local authority housing into private housing, it will not be enough to accommodate the housing list in County Leitrim. Remember that County Leitrim is the least populated area in the country. What is the situation in Dublin, Cork, Galway and Limerick? It must be horrific.

When I was growing up I always heard that the Fianna Fáil Party put a lot of money into the building industry. In 1985 the Coalition Government introduced the house improvement grant. There is a rumour that this grant will be reintroduced. Unfortunately the Minister had a chance to do this last week but he did not take it. Industry benefited and a lot of money was spent when the house improvement grant was in operation. It was one of the best grants ever introduced [1181] and it benefited the decaying housing stock——

Mr. Lyons: Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  If money had been provided for it.

Mr. G. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  Money was provided for it but Fianna Fáil did not avail of it. I am glad the Minister of State is present because I want to speak about tourism. Perhaps the Minister will take his head out of the sand in that regard. The Minister for the Environment, Deputy Flynn, had a big publicity stunt in the Custom House last week to announce the great housing plan which would solve the problem. One of the incentives is in relation to local authority tenants who wish to move to private accommodation. I applaud that excellent idea but, when we were in Government, we gave a £5,000 grant, plus a £2,000 new house grant and a £3,000 mortgage subsidy. In the Minister's great plan a person will receive a grant of £4,000, £1,000 less, and a £2,000 new house grant. We were giving more money for people to move out of local authority housing in 1985-86 than the Minister is giving in this great plan to solve our housing crisis.

I would now like to make a number of points on the tourism industry and hope that the Minister of State at the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications who is present in the House will take them on board. Great play was made of the fact that an extra £1 million is being made available to Bord Fáilte for promotion, but it should not be forgotten that £1 million was taken out of the Estimate for that Department. Therefore it is quite clear that Bord Fáilte will receive the same amount of money this year as last year, this in a year when the tourism industry is facing the greatest crisis it has faced in recent years. I realise that some of this is not the fault of the Government, but it must be borne in mind that Americans are afraid to travel because of the Gulf War. We must therefore try to attract tourists from both Great Britain and the Continent. The only way to do this is to promote the country very [1182] aggressively and forcefully in those markets. To this end extra funding is needed but this has not been provided. I fail to understand how the Minister can expect his three year tourism plan to be successful in its final year because, given the lack of funding, it is not possible to attract the extra tourists needed.

I would now like to repeat a point that I made last year which, unfortunately, has not been taken up by the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications, that is, that a hotel with 30 bedrooms or fewer cannot avail of grant aid for the development of leisure facilities and the construction of extra bedrooms. Therefore the top end are receiving all the money, from the European Community, Bord Fáilte and the Government, while hotels at the other end of the market cannot get any aid.

Mr. Lyons: Information on Denis Lyons  Zoom on Denis Lyons  Not for accommodation.

Mr. G. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  The only other hoteliers who can avail of grants are those in the Border areas. They can avail of grants from the International Fund for Ireland. As a member of the Fine Gael Party, I take full credit for that because if the Anglo-Irish Agreement had not been signed there would be no International Fund for Ireland. The Fianna Fáil members of Leitrim County Council voted against the Agreement but now they are shouting that they cannot get enough. If this is not hypocrisy, I do not know what is.

The changes in the business expansion scheme will cause great difficulty. Recently the Taoiseach visited County Leitrim to open the Ballinamore-Ballyconnell Canal. I congratulated him in this House for doing so and have no doubt but for the tenacity he showed this project might not have gone ahead. A number of developers were willing to construct hotels in the county but following the changes in the business expansion scheme all those plans have now gone up in smoke; we have the canal but no accommodation for the tourists. This, in effect, is putting the cart before the horse. I hope the Minister of State will [1183] make it known to his senior colleague that the changes in the business expansion scheme have caused serious problems for the tourism industry, particularly in the hinterland of the Ballinamore-Bally-connell Canal where extra accommodation has to be built.

Deputy Foxe made the point that we will receive both the 1991 and 1992 headage payments in 1991. I welcome this move but, as anyone who has tried to get payments for farmers in the counties of Leitrim and Sligo and other disadvantaged areas would know, this can prove to be most difficult because of the bureaucracy involved, and God only knows what will happen when they have to make two payments in the one year. However I hope I will be proved wrong. I also thought that I would be proved wrong in the case of the payments to be made last year but I was not.

In conclusion, last Wednesday a Government backbencher described some members of the last Fine GaelLabour Coalition Government as retarded in the context of the initiatives taken by them to try to get us out of our financial problems.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  That is an expression which ought not be used.

Mr. G. Reynolds: Information on Gerry Reynolds  Zoom on Gerry Reynolds  I agree, a Cheann Comhairle, but when I raised it with the Leas-Cheann Comhairle he did not agree. If that is the case, every member of this Government must be severely retarded

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Matt Brennan  Zoom on Matt Brennan  I congratulate the Minister for Finance for introducing an excellent budget and continuing the good work commenced in 1987 by his predecessor, the former Deputy, Mr. Ray MacSharry, who is also a former Minister for Agriculture.

I would like to dwell for a few moments on agriculture. Agriculture is and, for many years to come, will continue to be our principal industry. It is more than an industry; it is a way of life and offers the most stable lifestyle our people could [1184] look forward to in the nineties and into the next century. The livestock industry forms the backbone of our agricultural activities. In my constituency the vast majority of farmers adhere strictly to the rules and regulations governing livestock, particularly those relating to the use of hormones as growth promoters in cattle. I welcome the decision by the Minister for Agriculture and Food to ban the sale of these products as this is in the best interests of producers and consumers alike.

We are living in an age in which an increasing number of people at home and abroad are demanding good food produced under natural conditions and which is free from artificial agents at both growth and production level. If it is found, at the international level, that meat produced in this country contains traces of growth promoters, hormones or angel dust, the consequences for our exports could be disastrous. For this reason I propose that all cattle containing traces of hormones should be slaughtered and dumped and that all grants and subsidies should be withheld and withdrawn from the farmer concerned for a considerable length of time. Furthermore, a very heavy penalty should be imposed on him. Once again, I thank the Minister for Agriculture and Food for banning the sale of all growth promoters. We encourage tourists to come here and the country has always been known as a country with clean, healthy food and only top quality meat should be presented. I feel very strongly about this issue and feel confident that the Minister will take whatever steps are needed to stamp out this abuse once and for all.

I also wish to thank the Minister for Agriculture and Food and to praise the Government for relaxing the conditions of the headage payment scheme. As a result part-time farmers can now qualify for full headage payments for cattle and sheep without income limits. Heretofore a part-time farmer with an income of £5,000 did not qualify for headage payments. Now all are entitled to them.

A number of farmers in my constituency are unable to farm their land to [1185] full potential because of flooding of the Owenmore and Arrow rivers. These rivers have been on the priority list for drainage for a number of years. A former Member of the House and former Minister, Mr. Ray MacSharry, made sure they were included for priority. They have been brought forward to some extent and I hope they will be drained sometime in the not too distant future. I am confident that the Minister for Finance will make some money available in the next year or so to start that work and so give the farmers in the area a chance to farm their land to full potential.

Former Deputy Ray MacSharry, once a Minister, is now an EC Commissioner. I wish him every success in the GATT negotiations and the CAP. The CAP made a very important contribution to this country when a wide range of quality foods were produced at reasonable prices. Unfortunately, there was overproduction of beef and dairy products, not by the small producers of this country but, unfortunately, from the factory farms of Europe. I feel Commissioner MacSharry will do everything possible to get a reasonably good income for all our farmers. He has the portfolio for agriculture and rural development. Small farmers in the west depend on farming for the greater part of their income and I hope Commissioner MacSharry will try to make sure they are compensated.

I thank the Minister for the Environment for the many water and sewerage schemes he has sanctioned in County Sligo, particularly the long awaited sewerage scheme at Strandhill, a tourist town where the people depend on tourism for their livelihood, particularly in summer. Almost £1 million has been sanctioned for that scheme and it will be of great benefit to that town. The Minister has sanctioned schemes at Riverstown, Ballisodare and Collooney. He sanctioned phase two of Lough Talt water supply scheme that brought water to Achonry and linked group schemes at Quarryfield, Doocastle, Kilaville, Emlaghnaughton, Cloonkeavy and other areas.

[1186] I thank the Minister for the Environment too for the money he has made available for road strengthening grants since 1987, and I am glad to see here the Minister of State at the Department of the Environment. From 1984 to 1987 our county roads were in a deplorable condition but since 1987 they have been greatly improved. The people of rural Ireland at least can drive on our county roads at the moment, thanks to the Minister's action in this regard.

I thank also the Minister for Health for supplying the necessary funds for the day care centre and welfare home at Tubbercurry, County Sligo. This long awaited amenity is about to be opened and the people in Sligo will welcome it greatly. It is a great boost to the Tubbercurry area and will be of great benefit. I thank the Minister also for making finance available for the provision of a new hospital in Sligo. Now we have one of the most modern hospitals in Ireland there. I am delighted to be able to say in this House that, while it has not been officially opened, that excellent hospital is now open and will achieve nothing but good.

An outstanding example of community endeavour has brought a well deserved national honour to Tubbercurry. The Gallagher House Resource Centre has been chosen for the Helious Award out of some 600 entries submitted by EC member states. The main drive behind this project was Mrs. Ann Killoran, President of the County Sligo branch of the Downs Syndrome Association of Ireland. Mrs. Killoran is in Brighton at the moment at an EC conference and exhibition where she will accept this presentation. I congratulate her on her achievements. This centre has now been taken over by the North-Western Health Board and I congratulate everybody working there. This is a great achievement.

One of the Fianna Fáil Government's great achievements over the past three years has been decentralisation which has brought great benefit to rural areas. The Department of Social Welfare was allocated to Sligo approximately 18 months ago and now 350 people work there. [1187] Decentralisation has many benefits for the country as a whole. It benefits our capital city by relieving overcrowding and moving to a rural area like Sligo where building land is freely available and cheaper than it is in Dublin. The location of Government administrative offices in a district in which housing is readily available brings public servants into contact with greater sections of the population and enables them be more aware of what is taking place in such areas. It also brings approximately £100,000 more to be spent in a rural town such as Sligo.

I congratulate the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications on his new portfolio. We were all very worried about the abolition of rural post offices and the social implications for rural communities. I was delighted to hear the Minister say at a party meeting today that very definitely these rural post offices will not be closed because they provide one of the greatest social services to rural communities.

There was no mention of the closure of post offices in the city of Dublin where, within five minutes, one could walk to approximately five different post offices. Rather the proposal was to close post offices in rural areas. Do the proposers of these closures realise how much post mistresses or sub-postmistresses receive for running their post offices or sub-post offices? They receive in the region of £2,000.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I regret that, whatever about the closure of post offices, the Chair will have to close in on time. The Deputy is now one and a half minutes over the time allocated to him.

Mr. M. Brennan: Information on Matt Brennan  Zoom on Matt Brennan  I am delighted the Minister took that decision which will be welcomed in rural Ireland.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  May I say to Deputy Brennan that we urban Deputies share his concern at the proposal of An Post to close post offices. My father is a pensioner who attends a post office well known to the Leas-Cheann Comhairle [1188] on Ballygall Road West which is being assessed for its throughput and potential viability. My father and mother do not look with any great anticipation at having to travel a good deal further to obtain their old age pensions. I might add my father came from a little village in north Kerry. Last year, with a number of local Deputies, I engaged in a successful campaign with An Post, who tried to close that post office, to retain at least a one day per week and a monthly service so that pensions and childrens allowances could be cashed locally. Therefore, I can assure Deputy Matt Brennan that it is not an issue on which urban Deputies are unsympathetic, rather, it is one on which this side of the House are very sympathetic. Indeed, we are concerned that what has been proposed today will simply avoid the issue until the local elections are out of the way. We will be maintaining a close watch on developments. Nonetheless we give credit to Deputy Brennan for bringing his party, and Minister, to their senses and helping in that process.

While talking about pensioners I will begin by referring to a retired CIE pensioner in my constituency who telephoned me on budget day. He said that his experience over the last few budgets had led him to believe that it would be better if we did not have any budgets at all but just left pensioners alone because, while they might receive a little, on the other hand, they might lose an awful lot. That pensioner on a fixed income — the House will be aware that CIE pensions are not the most generous in the world — had very severe ill health. The previous year the rationalisation of the VHI had left him, with very severe medical problems, £5 a week worse off so that he was unable to recoup anywhere. While faced with that prospect he was not very optimistic about the impact of the latest budget on himself. He telephoned me today having found that all his anxieties had been confirmed because the £4 monthly increase he will receive by virtue of various budgetary changes has been eaten away already by the increased charges announced by the ESB which in his case he estimates will cost another £1 per [1189] week. He anticipates a further £1 being lost on similar increased charges by Bord Gáis. As he is not very mobile he anticipates that his only source of communication, the telephone, will also be hit. Barely three weeks after the budget he has already lost £3 of that £4 he will receive without coping with any of the other general increases in the cost of living. Perhaps his view that we should not bother with a budget at all is a general one.

It contrasts severely with the self-satisfaction of the Taoiseach to whom I listened in my room yesterday in relation to the great achievements of the Government. He pointed to the macro figures thrown at us so often. I would like him to reflect on the macro figures we, as a Coalition Government, inherited in 1981-82, for example, the macro figures of 22 per cent and 23 per cent inflation when, in order to compensate people we had to grant 25 per cent social welfare increases. I would like him to consider what would have been the impact of that on his narrow bookkeeping exercise. I might also refer to the inflation figures which have been reduced to single figures from their previous enormous high and to interest rates which had been reduced to a level a great deal lower than those prevailing at present.

Therefore, it will readily be seen that a great deal of groundwork was done for the Government which they have never acknowledged. Many of the initiatives which have yielded fruits were commenced then such as the refurbishment programme undertaken by the Department of the Environment, the Custom House Docks site and designated areas in Dublin and other urban regions. Those ideas were in train and the legislation in place. All that was necessary was for the incoming Government in 1987 to develop and/or maintain them. I do not think sufficient credit has been given to those initiatives. However, that day will come.

Before dealing with the energy brief I might refer to matters of immediate concern to me under my other that called “family policy”. The Government have [1190] chosen to approach the support of families in a very traditional, unimaginative way. There have been some increases in the family income supplement, in dependant allowances and in child benefit if one happens to have a fourth child. Irrefutable evidence has been produced indicating that in the case of families with children, more children have been growing up in poverty over the past ten years. I do not believe the Government acted in any way to tackle that problem in the budget. I note the responses of the welfare reform groups in our society representing the poor and families who might not appear to be poor from the outside but who may be experiencing extreme difficulty in meeting the enormous costs associated with school-going and teenage children.

Before the budget Fine Gael published a radical proposal which I would like to write into the record of the House, involving elements that would not be all that palatable but which would have radically transformed the circumstances of families with children. That proposal was for the doubling of child benefit from the current level of £4 per week to £8 per week. It involved the taxation of that benefit and the taxation of short term social welfare benefit. Without a single additional element of expenditure that would have entailed a radical redirection of our tax concessions towards families with children. For those on low and middle incomes it would have led to a substantial increase in the amount of money in their pockets to deal with children and a welcome increase in the direct income going into the hands of mothers or those people caring directly for children. Most important of all it would have meant a more substantial increase to all those in receipt of social welfare benefit. At that rate of £8 per week even those with the highest tax liability would not have lost out. Without a penny of additional revenue this very much more radical approach for supporting families might have been adopted. It indicates how much of a disappointment this budget is. The Minister himself has described it as cautious.

[1191] I warmly welcome the proposal for locally based anti-poverty projects. That proposal is a central part of Fine Gael policy. I am concerned about the sketchy details of the proposal which have come out and which indicate movement in a direction which we in Fine Gael cannot support. Certainly, the community development groups throughout the country do not want a new structure set above them. The people with local proven track records should be respected and they should not suddenly find that a new group is being established above them through political largesse. The way in which these projects are structured is vitally important so as not to undermine the tremendous work being done by local community groups.

Neither in the programme nor in the budget is there a reference to energy policy or to the energy industry. The Government are clearly unaware of the immense potential in this area for our economy. There are no programmes for conservation to realise any of the potential of £400 million in savings. What could we do with £400 million? We can look around here and see windows open throughout the House. We are wasting energy, burning off the resources of the country. One will find the same throughout public utilities. Whitegate and Whiddy are limping on. They are resources which are not realising anything like their full potential. Hidden subsidies are hindering our assessment of the performance of Bord Gáis Éireann, the ESB, the INPC, Bord na Móna and so on. We need a Green Paper on energy urgently, and we need the Competition Bill, if the question of monopoly in our energy systems and supplies is to be dealt with adequately. There is a lack of direction and of a substantial energy policy in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and in the budgetary documentation and the budgetary approach.

I give credit to my predecessor, Deputy Richard Bruton, who published a White Paper on energy which identifies many areas which should be considered. It assesses the progress and development of [1192] the major semi-State agencies to which I have already referred. It highlights two areas which are particularly relevant, areas where we should act to reduce waste and to release for constructive purposes money which is being wasted. There is a lacklustre performance evident in the development of our enormous natural resources. By comparison with other countries natural resources are totally underdeveloped here. We have not tapped the potential of hydro power, wind power, solar power and I will not even refer to the more exotic possibilities with which I am coming to terms. Oil and gas exploration is a tricky area, a volatile area, and an area which is hard to control as it depends on international prices. Because of environmental reasons, the natural prices for gas and oil are often interfered with.

However, there are areas which are entirely under our control — for instance, the potential to use hydro electric power and wind power. It stands to reason that Ireland should be naturally gifted in producing substantial amounts of energy in those areas. For various reasons we are not. The ESB monopoly on the sale of electricity to third parties closes off alternative markets for private producers. They cannot get a decent price for their product. This again highlights the need for the Competition Bill. The Government have also made certain provisions which inhibit development in this area. There is a total lack of commitment and there is not any focus in relation to policy. This is something to which I will come back time and time again and I will work on it at Question Time next week.

The other major area of waste relates to conservation. We see waste when we look at houses, public utilities and industry. We have a record of waste second to none. We use 20 per cent more electricity than the EC average. We have conserved energy at a much slower rate than the EC since the oil crisis made everybody look at energy sources and see them in a new light. We have made little or no progress in developing combined heat and power systems, which means, for example, that the hydro electric station pours back into [1193] a river having realised only 30 per cent of its potential in providing energy and heat.

We have a passive Government. In the area of public transport there has been little progress, although the potential for energy conservation by use of public transport is great. It has not been understood among the people to any adequate degree. We see waste all around us. About half of the housing stock lacks roof insulation. Half of cars are not properly tuned. Industry could save 20 per cent of the energy used by the year 2000 by applying simple known methods, but the Government have only taken away the energy audits which had an impact in this area since 1985. Forty per cent of homes depend on open fires for winter heating although enclosed fireplaces could make a huge difference. The Government gave no assistance at all to that.

The Estimates show a drop in grants for private bogs and a drop in expenditure by 28 per cent on energy conservation. They show a gross drop of 16 per cent or a net drop of 9 per cent in the budget for the Department of Energy. Clearly, the Government are listless and incompetent and have no clear energy policy. Energy is a wasted resource. This is a Department which is not being taken seriously.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  I will take up a few points made by Deputy Flaherty because they should not go unopposed. Deputy Flaherty mentioned, for instance, the CIE pensioner who is extremely worried because he might lose a percentage of the money——

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  He has already lost it.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  ——which was granted to him. Deputy Flaherty said that maybe we should not have had a budget, but I am glad we have had a budget. The Deputy may not be aware that there are quite a number of ex CIE employees who had no pension at all, who would, but for this budget, still not have a pension. They are the people who are described as being in the pro rata group. They are the people [1194] who were misfortunate enough to move to be promoted at a given time in their career. Deputy Flaherty may not be too worried about these people but the Minister, Deputy Woods, is worried about them and I am worried about them. It has taken two years to get to a point where we got agreement to give them a proper pension. I am glad this Government took on board the problem of this anomaly which had existed for a long time. Mixed pensions have been dealt with this year, as the pro rata pensions were dealt with previously. This is important to people and that is why we need a budget. Our own friends may not really need changes but the people I represent need them.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Courtesy was extended to every speaker until Deputy Carey came into the House.

Reference was made to the funding of community groups. They may be worried that some other regime or group will be put ahead of them. The previous speaker concentrated on the city area. I am deeply involved in a rural development area and these people would like to see the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy Michael Woods, canonised, not somebody who died hundreds of years ago. For the first time there is a direct financial intervention in these areas. Money is being directly targeted there. I can give a long list if the Deputy wishes.

(Interruptions.)

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Perhaps if Deputy Dennehy did not refer to Deputy Flaherty in such a macho fashion it would be a little easier.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Deputy Carey stirred her up a bit. Regarding Whitegate refinery, I worked on the construction of the original plant and I agree that redevelopment is long overdue. I was among those who campaigned against selling it off or closing it down when this was proposed by the Coalition between 1982 and 1987. [1195] Deputy Flaherty is quite right in saying that we should develop it and the £57 million from Tara Mines is targeted for that purpose. I am glad the Deputy is coming around to our way of thinking.

Deputy Flaherty mentioned the failure to give credit for the 1987 approach. It is perhaps correct that credit was not given. Whatever credit may have been given is being eroded very speedily because of the antics of Deputy John Bruton, who seems to be hell bent on ensuring that any bit of strategy that might be tagged onto Deputy Dukes' regime must be upturned. It has been obvious in the House during the past few weeks that this is the way he is going.

I stated yesterday during the debate on the new programme that it is linked with this budget and future budgets. We are co-ordinating our efforts with the social partners. Two key elements in this very small economy are confidence and credibility. Earlier we were told about debts. I was amazed that people like Deputy Garret FitzGerald should say that we actually borrowed money. This is incredible. Last year's borrowing was the lowest for 40 years. It is unreal to hear them cautioning us about borrowing for the national economy. The figures are there for previous years and we could discuss the doubling of the national debt and so on.

Credibility is judged from the claims made by different speakers on budget day. For the past four years on this side of the House Deputy MacSharry and Deputy Albert Reynolds as Ministers for Finance have put forward their forecast and predicted what will be achieved over the following 12 months. They covered the question of economic growth. Invariably, the Fine Gael spokesman, and on at least two occasions Deputy Spring, said that the growth figures could not be met. In 1988-89 the forecast was a growth of 3.5 or 4 per cent, but Deputy Noonan predicted a zero growth rate and said we could not achieve anything above it. That is the pattern year after year and the records are here to prove it. That is where credibility comes in. The social [1196] partners, economists, farmers, trade unionists and others have seen where the credibility and integrity lie. These people are pragmatists and they are impressed most of all by the achievement of reaching targets. That is what the budget is all about — the broad thrust of where we are going.

In the context of both the budget and the Programme for Economic and Social Progress I am worried about suggestions that the Dáil will be made redundant by virtue of the fact that this Government are discussing with representatives of the community where we should be going. Some of the things which have been said would worry me. A newspaper reported Deputy Spring as saying that power is not given, that it must be taken. That was in the context of this House. There is in Dublin a hoarding advertising the film The Godfather and stating that real power is not given, it must be taken. Who is plagiarising what? Deputy Ruairí Quinn spoke of confrontation in the House because we discuss with our social partners what is happening. This illustrates the helplessness of the Opposition in facing the strategy which is drawing this country out of the mess. It would appear that the Opposition would rather return to the position from which we are being dragged. The results being achieved must be driving them to recklessness.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  There are 230,000 people unemployed.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  There is a leader trying to impose his will on his party against the policy followed by the previous leader. He should not be so destructive as to attempt to destroy the future of this country and of its young people.

It is particularly disappointing and puzzling to find the Labour Party making these noises, seeing that the ICTU are moving towards long term co-operation with the social partners and the Government. They are willing to work on achieving economic growth and a stable economy and they are willing to plan ten years ahead. Still we have this disruptive [1197] voice expressing the opinion that this should not happen. The Labour Party are out of touch with their claimed constituency, whose views are obviously more accurately reflected by this Government than by themselves.

I return to this matter of the Dáil being made redundant because of the enormous contribution made by the Programme for National Recovery and by the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. It is blind to the point of stupidity not to recognise the progress we have made and this attitude must be stamped out. The record shows reduced borrowing, tax reductions, greater income to the less well off, economic growth, good investment figures, a healthy balance of payments and balance of trade. People may say this is macro economics, but the figures are there. Progress is being made. It is recognised by all parties, although perhaps not publicly admitted, that progress is dependent on negotiated agreements between all the social partners. It must also be in coordination with carefully designed budgets. They must be passed by the Dáil. It certainly does not threaten or make the Dáil redundant. If this year's budget is cautious, so be it. Last year the growth rate forecast was exceeded. This year there is some doubt for obvious reasons — the Gulf War, the British and American situations — so it is rightly a cautious budget. Hopefully the previous speaker is not complaining about the fact that this is a cautious budget.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  I am.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  We could have gone for a negative budget but it is a cautious budget, and so it should be in this particular year.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Dennehy has two minutes remaining.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  In that case let me be a little bit parochial for the last two minutes.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Ringaskiddy.

[1198]Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  I would ask that one or two issues be looked at. One is the tax regime at the Ringaskiddy free port which may challenge an establishment very near which has been funded out of the taxpayers' pockets for a number of years at Shannon. I would ask that the tax regime at Ringaskiddy, which is the only sea based free port, would be looked at and the promotion of Ringaskiddy generally, including that great deal that we are doing with the Taiwanese. I would like to see decentralisation completed this year.

I congratulate the Minister for Education for bringing in proposals in regard to the regional technical college in Cork where for a number of years we have worked with the students to try to get improved facilities, particularly a proper library, and have up to this year been ignored.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  The Deputy is the first man to declare. Fair dues.

Mr. Dennehy: Information on John Dennehy  Zoom on John Dennehy  Some people have attacked the health budget. We must accept that there is £100 million extra for health this year, but £94 million of that goes directly to pay. Some people advocate demonstrations in the street but it takes £18 million to cut their working week by one hour to 39 hours.

It is correct that people should be paid an appropriate rate in every walk of life, but it is costly and we should recognise that. I welcome the provision of the money but I would like to put on record where it is going.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to come in here and have an exchange with Deputy Carey and his colleague because that is healthy. I do not think we will ever be made redundant as long as we can come in and discuss and maybe disagree and argue.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  The Deputy is obviously worried himself.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  I do not think we will be made redundant but it is a relevant point that Ministers are increasingly [1199] making announcements outside that are not made in the House.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Minister Cassells.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  Let us say it reduces the relevance of the House. I would like to nail the big lie that is being put across constantly by this Government — and Deputy Dennehy repeated it again — that this is the greatest Government in the history of the State. It has been stated by the Taoiseach and by many Ministers so often that many Deputies even on this side of the House are beginning to believe it. I just want to nail that one and to say that in fact it is the worst Government in the history of the State. This Government who have been three years in office end up with 240,000 unemployed having sat through three years of the greatest emigration in the history of the State: 120,000 people have emigrated since this Government came into power. It is probably many more; we do not know the figure.

Deputy Dennehy spoke about the question of confidentiality and credibility. That is all right for a few economists and so on, but for the people generally it has been absolutely disastrous and the progress that was made in the area that Deputy Dennehy was talking about was made because workers sacrificed themselves in order to pay the debts of the country but they were betrayed by private greed, people ripping off money, taking it out of the country and the economy for themselves and not putting it back in.

The Minister for Finance whose budget we are talking about stated again that it is not the responsibility of the Government to create jobs. That is an old Thatcherism now that is as obsolete as the Berlin Wall. It is the responsibility of Government to create jobs and to look after the citizens of the State. It is the responsibility of the Government to live up to the Constitution at least, to see that every citizen has equal opportunities and is enabled to have the appropriate education and to have jobs available.

[1200] The real disaster of the economic policies being pursued by this Government will be hitting them in the next few months. All the signs are there that a disaster will come on the economy of the country and the first figures for unemployment show that, with an extra 3,000 unemployed. Furthermore it is evident now that with the recession in Britain, in America and in Australia where unemployment is increasing in all of those countries, jobs are not available and emigrants are returning. Whole families are coming back. A couple of weeks ago a family came to me who were in London only about nine or ten months looking for work. They gave up a corporation house here in the city and went over there expecting to make good. They found it a total failure, came back and they are now in the position that they have neither a home nor a job and they will not even be put on the waiting list until 1 May and, of course, they will not have enough points to get a house and will not get a house because there is none available. It is quite a disaster with the increasing numbers returning plus the redundancies we hear about every day which will increase unemployment. We will rapidly reach the stage where almost 300,000 people will be unemployed. If that is the Government's idea of confidence and credibility, then the Government will need to think again.

Some interesting statistics in that regard were brought out by CII in January relating to job advertisements in the month of December 1989 compared to December 1990. They showed 14 different occupational areas. In every one except two there were huge reductions. There was a 50 per cent reduction in the craft and skilled area; a 50 per cent reduction in the medical area; a 42 per cent reduction in the education area; a 49 per cent reduction in machine operators; a 25 per cent reduction in engineering and 43 per cent in office staff etc. There were only two occupational areas where there was an increase in jobs advertised and those were accountancy/finance and computer staff. In both of those there was an increase, [1201] but overall the tendency was down because there was a huge reduction in December 1990 compared with December 1989.

That indicates that very bad times are coming. Jobs are not available and Government policies need to be adjusted to take care of this. The budget, of course, does not cover that scenario at all. If the philosophy of the Minister for Finance that it is not the responsibility of the Government to create jobs had been adopted by previous Governments in this State, there would be no ESB, no Sugar Company — which the Government now want to sell off to greedy private enterprise because of their great success — no Bord na Móna, no Bord Gáis, no Irish Steel, and none of the semi-State companies which today employ 73,000 people, just as many as the multinational companies who were invited to this country and employ approximately 80,000 people. They were bought in at greater expense to the taxpayer than the semi-State companies have been. This, of course, has never been highlighted or brought to light. We are always hearing of the burden that semi-State companies place on the State but let us remember the burden of the multinational companies who give an equivalent level of employment but repatriate their profits, to the extent of almost £3 billion last year. The successful semi-State sector have created 73,000 jobs, spend their money here, retain their profits and give their surplus funds to the State. Of course, semi-State companies are subjected to all sorts of interference by Ministers, for example switching air routes from Aer Lingus to a private airline of whatever the Government decide for political reasons those companies should do rather than allowing them develop commercial viability.

It is the responsibility of the State to create jobs and it can be done either by establishing semi-State companies or joint ventures to exploit our resources. We have to exploit our natural resources just as Bord na Móna exploited our bogs successfully and commercially. We could do the same for our timber industry, our [1202] mineral resources, and in fisheries and food processing. Private enterprise has been given ample opportunities to do so. They have been given the appropriate climate as Minister after Minister has said in budget after budget. They have also been given the appropriate tax breaks and a free hand, yet they have failed for decades to do the job. During that time our people have lived on the dole or emigrated in their tens of thousands in search of jobs. The most recent private company which was given every opportunity by the State to develop a food processing industry here was the Goodman company and we realise now, of course, what a disastrous failure that was.

My brief is to speak on education, and I have to comment on that topic. I am sure the Leas-Cheann Comhairle will be able to tell me who it was who said:

Man may smile and smile and be a villain.

The Minister for Education has proved in good feminist fashion that this is true of women too, because she smiled and smiled and was quite a villain in the field of education. She has been a disaster as far as the educational opportunities of tens of thousands of our children are concerned.

In the Programme for National Recovery of three years ago various phrases were used such as ensuring “that the burden of adjustment does not fall on the disadvantaged”, and that “the Government will continue to encourage and foster the participation of the disadvantaged at all levels of education.” None of this was done. In fact, it was the opposite. Government policy discouraged and prevented the disadvantaged from participating in education at all levels. It was also said that:

A particular area of focus will be to encourage more second-level pupils to complete the senior cycle.

The reverse has happened in areas where there were senior cycle schools and, furthermore, no post-primary schools are being built. Areas are crying out for post-primary schools, but they are not being [1203] built because the capital was not made available. The PNR also says that the Minister will encourage “more working class children to advance to third-level education”. That is the biggest joke of all. It was very bad before but after the three years tenure by this Minister for Education, the situation is much worse at third level than ever it was.

The Minister has created greater disadvantage for disadvantaged children. I do not like using the word “disadvantaged” because it appears to express the view that due to some accident of disadvantage that children happen to be in this category but it is as a result of State policy that people find themselves in this disadvantaged position. Instead of doing what was set out in the Programme for National Recovery the Minister got rid of remedial teachers, completely abolished the school psychological service, that was building up at that time, and guidance counselling, all of which are absolutely essential for what are called disadvantaged children in disadvantaged areas. The Minister created a two tier educational system. I would like to quote from an excellent survey carried out by the National Parents' Council entitled, the The Cost of Free Education which opens with a quotation from the Constitution:

“The State shall provide for free primary education.”

The survey goes on to point out what has happened. It gives very interesting statistics which point out that only 52 per cent of educational costs in Dublin came from the capitation grants from the Department of Education. The figure for Leinster was 60 per cent, Munster, 63 per cent and in Connaught it was 64 per cent. The State is supposed to provide free primary education but 17 per cent of expenditure was raised by fundraising in Dublin and 11 per cent by voluntary contributions, that is contributions by parents. The amounts raised by voluntary contributions in disadvantaged areas were as follows: 11 per cent in Dublin; 5 [1204] per cent in Leinster; 4 per cent in Munster and 9 per cent in Connacht-Ulster. Voluntary contributions vary from school to school. Some schools were able to get £60 per child as a voluntary contribution while others got £20 per child and in many areas a school would be very lucky to get £5 per child. That is what created the two tier educational system. The variation between schools is enormous. A school that gets a voluntary contribution of £60 per child has every facility provided whereas those which receive smaller contributions cannot give the same level of education because they have not the facilities.

Mr. M. Ahern: Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  I am glad to be able to contribute to this budget debate. First let me say that I must be living in a different world from Deputy Mac Giolla——

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  The Deputy is.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  You said it.

Mr. M. Ahern: Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  ——because what he has been recounting in the past 15 minutes is some fairytale. Of course, we are in different constituencies and what the Deputy has said may be true in his constituency but in my constituency what the Deputy has outlined is not prevalent.

We live in very troubled times. We have an economic downturn in Europe and in America, and the Gulf War in the Middle East is affecting the whole world. These troubled times make it the prime time for taking wild chances and for being prudent in the management of our economy. This is a prudent budget. It is balanced in the sense that it takes account of the many sectors of our society which are tugging at the sleeves of the Minister for Finance.

Mr. Carey: Information on Donal Carey  Zoom on Donal Carey  Bookkeeping.

Mr. M. Ahern: Information on Michael Ahern  Zoom on Michael Ahern  Given the financial constraints under which the Minister for Finance had to operate, he must be congratulated. I must remind the House [1205] that the major constraint that the Minister, the former Minister and future Ministers will have is that of the enormous national debt which hangs over their shoulders like an albatross, gobbling up all the money taken in under the PAYE system. It is fair to say that the albatross of the enormous debt was placed on us by imprudent Government from 1984 to 1987.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  The ancient mariner will take care of that.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Will the Deputy please move the Adjournment of the debate?

Debate adjourned.


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