Vote 6: National Gallery.

Friday, 10 July 1992

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 422 No. 6

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Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  I move:

That a sum not exceeding £1,047,000 be granted to defray the charge which will come in course of payment during the year ending on the 31st day of December, 1992, for the salaries and expenses of the National Gallery, including a grant-in-aid.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  Recent years have seen a transformation of the Irish economy. Its fundamentals have changed almost beyond recognition.

The basic figures speak for themselves. GDP growth averaged 5.5 per cent — well ahead of the average growth rate of 3.25 per cent for the European Community. Inflation averaged 3 per cent. Exchequer borrowing was reduced to about 2 per cent. The national debt to GNP ratio was first stabilised and then set firmly on a downward path. Ireland's international competitiveness improved. Investment grew by no less than 25 per cent in volume.

[1323] Last year, with recession in some of our trading partners, it was inevitable that economic growth here would slow down, yet we saw striking evidence of this economy's new-found resilience in the face of difficulties abroad. For the fifth successive year, our GDP growth exceeded the EC average. In marked contrast with a decline in GDP of more than 2 per cent in the United Kingdom, GDP in Ireland grew by a similar amount. Our manufactured exports grew about three times as fast as our export markets — a clear demonstration of how our improved international competitiveness is paying dividends. Ireland has clearly shown its ability to out-perform its competitors when times are tough.

We also made further progress on the budgetary front. Despite the impact on public spending of higher unemployment, the Exchequer borrowing requirement was contained at 2.1 per cent of GNP — and this figure excludes of course the once off receipts from the privatisation of Irish Life. The national debt to GNP ratio fell by three percentage points and at end year was more than 20 points below its end-1987 peak.

The improvements in the economic fundamentals have been translated into higher employment and rising living standards. In the three years to April 1990, the number of people at work here increased by 46,000, and when it is remembered that this was a period of adjustment in the public finances with substantial reductions in public sector employment, the net increase in private sector employment during those years was significantly greater. Between April 1990 and April 1991, non-agricultural employment rose by a further 7,000. Despite all the difficulties we faced last year, non-agricultural employment continued to hold up well. In industry and financial services combined, the numbers at work were up by almost 2,000 on average in 1991 compared with 1990, and during the last five years real personal disposable incomes grew by more than 12 per cent.

[1324] Unemployment rose steeply last year, but this was not the result of falling employment. Rather it reflected continuing rapid growth in the labour force, boosted by returning emigrants who had either lost their jobs abroad or failed to find employment there. This was the most immediate impact of the international recession on the Irish economy and on public spending here.

It now seems that the worst of the international down-turn is behind us. According to the OECD, growth in the main industrial economies is expected to improve from 1 per cent last year to 1.75 per cent this year. However, this recovery is still very slow and patchy. The major international agencies have revised down their forecasts for economic growth this year by about a half a percentage point compared with their predictions six months ago. For the European Community, the Commission is now projecting GDP growth of 1.7 per cent which is a modest improvement on the 1.3 per cent growth achieved in 1991.

Despite the continued sluggishness of the international economy, there are clear signs of further progress on the domestic front. Manufacturing output rose by 9 per cent in the first quarter. The volume of exports was up by about 15 per cent in the first two months of the year. This remarkable export buoyancy reflects a continuing strong performance by industrial exports and a very welcome improvement in agricultural exports which are now recovering from a very lean period over the past year or two.

In the home market, the modest but useful rise in real disposable incomes which I predicted in the budget is providing the basis for a worthwhile improvement in consumption. Indeed, there are already signs that a modest pick-up is taking place. Retail sales rose by 2 per cent in the first quarter and the preliminary indicators for April are even better. New private car registrations, which fell sharply last year, were up by 1.4 per cent in the first quarter of this year.

Inflation here continues to remain moderate and compares well with experience [1325] in other EMS narrow-band countries. It has remained stable at around 3.5 to 3.75 per cent over the past 12 months or so and is likely to moderate a little in the second half of the year. The average rate for the year as a whole now looks like being closer to 3.5 per cent than the 3.75 per cent I projected in the budget. Lower inflation will leave more money in people's pockets and hopefully give a further boost to the volume of consumer spending.

While hourly earnings in industry rose somewhat faster last year than in 1990, by international comparison they remained moderate. The latest figures show that hourly earnings in manufacturing rose by 5.5 per cent last year, and that by the third quarter of 1991 hourly earnings in industry generally were 5.25 per cent higher than a year earlier. That is one of the reasons why employment appears to be continuing to hold up well so far this year despite the lacklustre performance of the international economy. Indeed, allowing for increases in pay rates, tax data for the first half of 1992 point, if anything, to some increase in non-agricultural employment over last year's levels. Receipts from the training and employment levy, for example, were up by over 6 per cent to the end of June.

The substantial economic and social progress made in recent years did not come about by accident. Up to 1990, of course, a helpful external international economic environment played a part, but our success was also the outcome of pursuing a clear and consistent economic strategy which was set in place and adhered to by Government in agreement with the social partners — first in the Programme for National Recovery and later in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. In many ways the real secret of our success was in achieving a consensus approach to economic and social policy. This strategy has proved of enormous benefit to us in the more difficult international economic conditions of the past year or so.

The pay provisions of the Programme for National Recovery and its successor, the Programme for Economic and Social[1326]Progress have made a significant contribution to the improved competitiveness of the Irish economy. The programmes provided, in particular, for: modest general pay increases in both the public and private sectors, and the establishment of a framework for co-operation between the social partners, which by and large, allowed for a period of industrial peace, so vital for creating a climate within which business confidence and investment can thrive.

Under the Programme for National Recovery, the Government also agreed arrangements with the public service unions for the phased implementation of deferred special increases, and a moratorium on the processing of new claims. These measures limited the immediate impact on the Exchequer of outstanding special pay increases and, by agreement, arrested a potential build-up of future commitments.

Evidence of how widely accepted the consensus-based approach to resolving problems has now become was provided earlier this year. As the House is aware, the Government's announcement last December of our intention to reschedule increases due to be paid in the public service during the lifetime of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, in the face of difficult budgetary prospects for 1992, caused initial difficulties with the public service unions. Without going into all the details, it is important to remind the House of the successful manner in which this very sensitive issue was handled by all concerned. I put forward, on behalf of the Government, a revised package of measures to the public service unions on 17 January last, which addressed their concerns to the maximum extent possible, in a manner consistent with the budgetary constraints facing the Government.

The acceptance of this package by the public service unions demonstrated, more than anything else, the new level of maturity which we have attained in the conduct of industrial relations. It reinforced the consensus-based approach which has served us so well in recent years. Without the package, I would have [1327] had to find a further £100 million in 1992 to meet the cost of pay increases. This money could only have been found through reduced expenditure on other services such as health, education and social welfare.

It is vitally important that the consensus approach to the formulation of responsible wage cost developments be maintained. It has enabled us to improve cost competitiveness and to increase our share of export markets, but cost conditions in our competitors do not stand still. Other countries, particularly the United Kingdom, are improving their competitive position and our relative advantage is narrowing. We must keep cost trends here under constant review, bearing in mind what is happening elsewhere.

Recent interest rate developments have been encouraging. Comfortable liquidity in the money markets and strong external reserves allowed inter-bank interest rates to ease downwards in the second quarter of the year, so that in early May the Central Bank was able to reduce the key official interest rates by 0.25 of a percentage point. There were subsequent reductions of about 0.5 of a percentage point in retail interest rates, including mortgage rates, thus providing a useful boost to the economy.

Nonetheless, real interest remains unduly high. Together with many other European countries, we are constrained to a large extent by the level of interest rates in Germany. Real rates there are being kept high for domestic reasons. One would hope that as Germany comes to grips with its fiscal problems there will be scope for a reduction in interest rates in Europe generally, and in Ireland in particular.

Key Irish inter-bank interest rates are now only about 0.5 of one percentage point above their German equivalents. The reduction of the differential to this level is a considerable achievement when one considers that it exceeded 9 percentage points just a few years ago. The Government's fiscal policies, and the maintenance of a firm exchange rate in [1328] the narrow band of the EMS have contributed greatly to this outcome.

Firm adherence to budgetary discipline has also played a major part in our progress in recent years. This year, we have set a creditable target for the EBR of under £600 million — less than 2.5 per cent of GNP. We are now consistently producing annual deficits which compare very favourably with the EC average and are well in line with those in the other narrow-band EMS countries.

On this sound platform we have been able to maintain a stable exchange rate policy and a low-inflation economy which significantly reduced interest rates. We succeeded in establishing a virtuous circle where strong growth, low inflation, improved competitiveness and investor confidence mutually support and reinforce each other. Crucial to success on all these fronts has been our willingness, and indeed our determination, to bring public spending under control. Over time, a Government can only spend as much as they can raise by way of taxation or other revenue. We have now reached the stage where our budget deficit is down to respectable proportions. This achievement is all the more remarkable when viewed against some of the factors that have had to be accommodated in recent years.

Deputies will be aware that the ending of net emigration and the return home of many of our emigrants has meant that the number of persons who now rely on the State to meet their basic income needs has risen substantially. The Government have also had to cope with other demand-led pressures on various spending programmes, especially in the health services.

Deputies will also have noted that the Government did not go about their task of reducing public expenditure without regard for the weaker and more vulnerable sections of the community. On the contrary, we have always been mindful of our obligations in that regard and with that in mind the containment of health expenditure, for example, was achieved essentially through greater efficiency in the provision of health [1329] services and not by reducing the level of that service.

The maintenance of discipline over Exchequer expenditure has required a firm commitment to budgetary targets and a willingness to take appropriate action and in good time to keep spending in line with revenue resources. This time last year, when it became clear that there was the threat of a considerable overshoot on expenditure, my predecessor introduced a mid-July corrective package to rein in the emerging slippage.

While the recent half-yearly Exchequer returns show a somewhat better picture than in mid-1991, it is clear that adherence to this year's budgetary parameters will require some corrective action. Otherwise fiscal deterioration will lead to higher Exchequer borrowings and, ultimately, to higher taxation to repay them. Accordingly, I have initiated a review of all areas of public expenditure to see where expenditure can be pared back.

I intend to follow in the footsteps of my recent predecessors and ensure that we do not return to the bad old days and the bad old ways of incrementalism in public expenditure. Notwithstanding the difficulties of this task, I intend to ensure that there is no significant slippage from our budgetary targets this year.

Despite the measures taken to alleviate the impact of public service pay costs on the Exchequer over the last few years, the level of increases in the cost of public service pay continues to be an area of concern to the Government. The Government intend to address this problem through negotiations under the local bargaining clause — clause 3 — of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress pay agreement. Clause 3 provides for negotiations on improvements in efficiency and effectiveness, subject to a limit or “cap” of 3 per cent, which cannot apply in the public service until 1993. However, in the public service the emphasis will be on restructuring negotiations to improve efficiency and effectiveness so as to offset any increases in pay. This approach to the negotiations [1330] is currently being discussed with public service trade unions.

As part of these negotiations the Government will also be discussing ways in which the pay determination system can be made more transparent so that, in particular, the question of the Government's ability to pay can be more readily addressed when pay claims are processed to third party adjudication. Specifically, it is intended that public service wage determination will be revised to provide for greater transparency, less frequent recourse to adjudication, and, more weight to be given to “ability to pay” and budgetary considerations.

These negotiations present the Government and the public service unions with a very challenging task. This is to attempt to balance the budgetary constraints, which limit the Government's ability to continue to finance increased expenditure on public service pay of the order experienced in recent years, against the legitimate expectations of public service workers for new career structures and more fulfilling work.

I am confident that with goodwill and continued co-operation all round, the potential difficulties presented by this task will be overcome so that the legitimate aspirations of public servants can be addressed in tandem with the Government's needs, as an employer, for improved efficiency and effectiveness. I remain confident that the approach we are adopting will ultimately lead to an improvement in the quality of our public services which can be delivered on a more cost-effective basis in the future.

Rigorous control of public expenditure, combined with measures to widen the tax base, have enabled the Government to secure substantial reform of the tax system against the background of considerable improvement in the public finances and the constraints of the EC Single Market. These tax reforms have greatly improved the climate for investment and growth. It is worth looking back very briefly on some of the tax changes implemented in recent years and particularly those made in 1992.

Arguments that this year's tax changes [1331] could discourage enterprise are surprising when one considers that those tax changes are part of a process which has seen the top income tax rate reduced by 10 per cent since 1987 — indeed, by 17 per cent since 1985 — the standard rate cut by 8 per cent and the standard band widened by nearly 60 per cent. Surely there is no greater incentive to effort, enterprise, to risk-taking and business than that a greater proportion of the proceeds should be retained by those who earn them.

Those who quibble with or object to the changes should read what the Industrial Policy Review Group said: “... in no other single area does the Government have at its disposal the tools to make as far-reaching and effective a reform to support an enterprise economy as in taxation”. The review group was advocating reform along the lines set out by the Commission on Taxation, that is, to widen the tax base and reduce tax rates. This is what the 1992 Budget did, as indeed its predecessors had also. It looks as if it would be timely to repeat the warning of the Commission on Taxation ten years ago: the advantageous parts of reform cannot be demanded while the unpalatable are rejected.

This year the Finance Bill addressed the issue of share ownership schemes. Despite comments to the contrary, profit-sharing schemes are being continued, albeit with a reduced ceiling of £2,000 per year per employee. Bearing in mind that if certain conditions are met, income in the form of shares will bear no tax whatsoever, I consider this strikes a reasonable balance between maintaining the incentive for these schemes and not unduly narrowing the tax base. The revised treatment of share options is as recommended by the Commission on Taxation. Relief on interest on purchase of quoted shares has been abolished for new loans and is being phased out for existing ones, because quoted companies have access to capital through the stock market. Frankly, a subsidy for acquiring quoted shares is very hard to justify when the vast bulk of taxpayers can only get [1332] interest relief, on quite a restricted basis, for their mortages. These changes, of course, like the other base-broadening measures in the budget, must be seen in the context of the continuing process of reform and the falling tax rates which these measures facilitate.

Those who object to the changes in relation to the BIK charge on company cars, choose to ignore the fact that the use of the car for business purposes is not taxed at all. It is only the availability of the car for private use that is taxed. Most experts have accepted that the old 20 per cent rate was too low. It was also ludicrous that many people with large company cars were paying little or no tax under the old system. I find it very hard to accept that a tax break for income received in the form of having an expenses-paid car for private use is, in any way, conducive to enterprise.

The sole reason for the revised DIRT arrangements contained in the Finance Act was, quite simply, to ensure that the final abolition of exchange controls later this year would not lead to an outflow of funds from this country. The Finance Act was obliged to address this issue urgently and decisively. Such an outflow of funds would create an upward pressure on interest rates with serious consequences for levels of economic activity and employment. Far from being anti-business, the measures taken were the minimum necessary to protect Irish businesses from the negative effects of higher interest rates. I appreciate that it would have been infinitely preferable from a tax policy viewpoint if we could have maintained parity of taxation across all types of income. However, the plain fact is that this ideal was simply not a viable option in the circumstances facing us next year of mobile capital and low DIRT-type taxation internationally.

Those involved in the life assurance and unit trust industries have expressed concern about the effects of the changes on their markets and consequently on the availability of equity finance for Irish companies. The issue of the taxation of various competing financial instruments is a complex one and my officials are [1333] currently examining the matter in consultation with representatives of the industry. I am well aware of the importance of equity investment for small and medium size Irish businesses and this will be taken into account in the consideration of any proposals for changes in this area. At the same time, I must caution that any expectations of a wide and unqualified extension of the DIRT regime do not recognise the budgetary realities, nor the need to maintain taxation balance vis-á-vis earned income.

With regard to the bank levy, the 1992 Finance Act changed the arrangements for this levy in line with the findings of a special working group comprised of representatives of the banks and of officials. Under these arrangements a bank will be able to offset some or all of its annual bank levy payment against increases in its corporation tax liability above a specified threshold. These new arrangements protect the interests of the Exchequer while ensuring that Irish-based banks will be able to compete effectively in the more challenging environment which is emerging.

Concerted attacks on the so-called “new” Revenue powers are illogical since many of the people making these attacks should know that in many cases the powers are not new at all but are merely adaptations of existing powers to reflect changed circumstances. The provisions on Revenue powers in the Act are there for three main reasons. The experience of the self assessment audit system showed up certain weaknesses in Revenue's ability to secure necessary information. It would have been plainly irresponsible to ignore these; and recent inquiries revealed unacceptable practices in relation to taxation. I cannot believe that anybody would seriously suggest that I could have turned a blind eye to these. The coming into being of the Internal Market will mean the abolition of routine Customs checks and the collection of VAT at point of entry into the State on intra-community trade. I would have been failing in my duty if I did not act to close loopholes which have been identified and which were being used to evade [1334] or avoid tax liabilities. Further, to maintain VAT receipts and to protect compliant busineses post-1992, it was necessary to extend the powers already available to customs officials in relation to the internal VAT collection system, which will prevail for intra-community trade within Ireland in the Internal Market. A point that I must emphasise in this regard is that a number of the measures introduced in the Finance Act flow directly from the requirement to incorporate provisions of EC law into the national legislation.

The main impetus for change in the area of indirect taxation in recent years has been the need for a harmonised tax system throughout the Community. With the exception of tobacco, the rates of excise duty on alcohol have been increased only marginally since the mid-eighties. The duty on petrol was reduced in May this year. With some other member states, particularly the UK, increasing their rates significantly, this approach has brought our excise rates considerably closer to those likely to be sustainable after 1992 against a background of open frontiers.

The standard VAT rate has been reduced from 25 per cent to 21 per cent. The base has also been broadened, and the lower rates brought more into line with our harmonisation needs.

The principal objectives of the significant changes that have been made in corporation tax were to shift the balance of taxation more in favour of employment by reducing the bias in favour of capital in the tax code; to widen the corporate tax base and to increase the yield from the tax. The effectiveness of the measures taken is well illustrated by the fact that the yield from corporation tax has increased from £257 million in 1987 to the budget projection of £678 million in 1992 — representing an increase from 3.9 per cent to 7.6 per cent of total tax revenues. At this stage it seems likely that the budget projection may well be exceeded by the revenue from corporation tax this year.

Capital Taxes have also been reviewed and amended. In capital acquisitions tax, [1335] the two top rates have been abolished, and the discretionary trust tax base has been broadened by the reduction of the limit for exempt trusts from 25 years of age to 21 years. In capital gains tax, a single CGT rate of 40 per cent has been introduced, and the annual small gains exemption has been reduced from £2,000 to £1,000 for a single person and from £4,000 to £2,000 for a married couple.

A major reform of the stamp duty code was introduced from November 1991. A new regime of penalties and interest charges for late stamping, negligence and fraud provides a powerful incentive for compliance against the background of clarity as to what is and what is not chargeable to duty.

The EC Structural Funds are now a very important contributor to developmental expenditure in Ireland and the resources continue to grow each year. Commitments from the Structural Funds will come to more than £800 million this year, compared with about £700 million last year.

The growth in the resources under the Structural Funds has allowed us to increase domestic expenditure further this year in a wide range of areas including tourism amenities, roads and access transport.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sorry to interrupt the Minister but I must remind him that the time available to him as decided by the House this morning is well nigh exhausted.

Mr. B. Ahern: Information on Bertie Ahern  Zoom on Bertie Ahern  The tax reforms and expenditure measures we have taken have one overriding aim. This is to create and maintain the right environment for the fastest rate of growth in output and employment which is consistent with budgetary responsibility and compliance with our exchange rate obligations in the EMS. These policies have been remarkably successful both in periods of strong international growth and more recently during the international downturn. I have no intention of changing them now.

[1336] Although the effects on social spending and tax revenues of the downturn in the world economy make budgetary consolidation more difficult, it is crucially important that we maintain the control that has underpinned our progress to date. This year's budget did just that, and the preparations now being made for the 1993 budget will maintain the discipline we need under both the European Monetary Union convergence criteria and the dictates of any domestic fiscal policy which seeks to support the creation of sustainable employment and future economic prosperity.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  The question to be asked as Dáil Éireann adjourns for the summer of 1992 is a simple one: is Irish parliamentary democracy, as expressed through the Government led by the Taoiseach, Deputy Albert Reynolds, serving the true long term interests of the Irish people? I contend it is not. The Government have accepted that one third of a million of our workforce will have no work to do. There is no sense of crisis about this, just acceptance. As far as other political problems are concerned this sovereign Irish Government see their role as one of responding to the agenda set by others; responding to Jacque Delors, responding to Sir Patrick Mayhew, responding to Commissioner Ray MacSharry, responding to the Supreme Court: always responding, never leading, never originating a view and defending it courageously.

There is a deep lack of intellectual courage and conviction at the heart of Government and, indeed, of public administration in this State. That was not always so. Anyone who reads recently published histories of Governments from the twenties to the sixties will be struck by the vigorous arguments about genuine policy choices within the Dáil and, as is now revealed in published records, within the public service. That argument about choice no longer exists. Governments led in those times because Governments were constantly challenged, constantly scrutinised in this House. W. T. Cosgrave, Éamon de Valera, John A. [1337] Costello and Seán Lemass would never have attempted to deal with profound national problems with banal and evasive one-liners in the way the Taoiseach deals with almost every issue.

We will continue to have mediocre Governments in Ireland as epitomised by the present one until parliamentary democracy is restored in Dáil Éireann. When every section of every Bill, and every subhead of every Estimate, can be questioned without time limit in a committee of this House, we will have a Government that will be forced to think. The unemployed, the homeless, the disabled — the casualties of our present political inertia — are the people who, more than anyone else, need a Government in this State who are forced to think. A Government who are forced to think will be a Government who will lead rather than respond, who will plan rather than muddle through.

Let me refer to one very topical example of the lack of true parliamentary democracy in this House. This House set up a tribunal by all-party agreement to investigate certain matters. It considered the matter sufficiently important to warrant the expense that is inherent in a tribunal. Yet we now see the Government trying to prevent the tribunal getting evidence about what happened at Cabinet meetings. I am a strong defender of Cabinet confidentiality, as some Members of this House will know, and I do not believe it should be breached casually either for short term political advantage or even in historical memoirs. However, where this House has decided that a matter is sufficiently important to warrant a tribunal of inquiry, then nothing should prevent the tribunal getting the information that it decides it needs. A Cabinet, all of whose members agreed to the establishment of this tribunal, have no right, without consulting this House, to seek to frustrate the work of a tribunal established by this House. The issue of whether Cabinet confidentiality——

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  This House should not be seen either to be interfering [1338] with the tribunal. I have said many times that matters appertaining to that tribunal are sub judice. I trust Deputy Bruton will respect that decision of the Chair.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  I will. The issue of whether Cabinet confidentiality should be subject to the requirements of a tribunal is clearly a political matter. It is a matter for this House not for the courts. It is a matter we should decide. The Government have no right to close this House down for two-and-a-half months while they proceed to the Four Courts to frustrate the express wishes of this House.

I am particularly concerned about two major structural changes that are occurring in Ireland at present, almost without notice. One is the growing addictive dependency on EC funds to indirectly maintain our basic systems of health and social welfare. These services are not directly funded by Europe but we have used European money to release our own money from other areas of expenditure, from training, from education, from agriculture, from roads and industrial grants. We are now using those released funds to keep our social welfare and health systems going. What would happen if Europe expanded and decided that east European countries had a higher financial priority than Ireland? Would we then be able to maintain our present social services with our own resources alone?

The other matter which concerns me — it is not getting the notice it deserves — is the gradual disappearance of the productive incentive in our major industry — agriculture. The cheque in the post — not the consumer in the shop — is now the driving force of agricultural decisions. Yet, this is a sector in which Ireland has potentially a huge natural advantage over all other European countries. Irish agriculture, since the reform of the Common Agricultural Policy was agreed, is heading down a cul de sac and the entire policy establishment here seems to be quite happy about that.

This general lack of any sense of serious purpose is not helped by the very [1339] particular instability of this Government. This Government are very much a “temporary little arrangement”. If politics were just a spectator sport, that would not matter very much; but politics is more than a spectator sport, and it does matter. The Irish economy is poised for potentially very high growth. Output and exports are very high. Why is it then that people are afraid to invest, even to spend? Savings are high, but confidence is low; and I believe that it is political uncertainty, the sense that everything is indeed a temporary little arrangement, the sense that the Government and all their policies are actually provisional, that is directly restraining economic recovery here in Ireland. An alternative Government with a disciplined five year timeframe is needed to unleash latent economic recovery in this country.

Look at the evidence of the instability. If I and my Fine Gael colleagues were to come into this House to accuse this Government of being made up of people who are “reckless”, “foolish”, “unwise” and of “acting in a manner not consistent with the proper control of public expenditure”, “engaging in abusive schemes” or, on the other hand, if we were to accuse this Government and their members of being “dishonest”, “dishonourable”, “disgraceful”, “engaging in misrepresentation”, we would almost certainly be accused of going over the top, of hurling political abuse and exaggeration. Yet these words, describing the Government and some of their members, are not our words. They are words used by people on the Government side of the House to describe one another, including the Taoiseach. These are people who pretend to be collectively responsible for the governance of this State, and that is what they think of one another. These descriptions were not used in the charged atmosphere of a political campaign or under provocation in the heat of a Dáil debate. They were used in an entirely uncharged atmosphere, under oath, at a tribunal. They reflect no mere difference of policy. They are criticisms of what, to use the words of the Minister for Education, [1340] could be described as the general modus operandi of other Ministers. The general modus operandi is, of course, the ground upon which the chairman of one of our major semi-State bodies was sacked by this Government. We have seen from the tribunal what the Government think of one another's modus operandi.

These very words display the chasm that lies beneath the thin veneer of this volatile Government. That no one seems to be surprised that these strong statements were made — and indeed the public are not particularly surprised — shows how immune the Irish people have become under the barrage of allegations, tribunals, inspections and investigations that have characterised political life in this country in recent times. Matters that are genuinely and inherently serious are now greeted with an attitude of amused resignation by an electorate that has been immunised to concern about public issues. In the true meaning of the term, politics in Ireland has become debased.

In economic affairs the public will to tackle the public finances has been dissipated by the lost opportunities of the budgets introduced by the present Taoiseach in 1990 and 1991 which culminated in the fiasco of this year's budget and Finance Bill. The momentum of progress in the public finances that was established up to 1989 has gone. Yet the track to which the public finances have been diverted in the last three years will impede economic performance over the next decade. We are losing the ground that was made up in the eighties and particularly, to be fair, between 1987 and 1989. For example, the Exchequer returns for the first six months were claimed to be acceptable because the Government's borrowing target would be achieved. This claim ignores the fact that taxes and other revenues rose much faster than was intended and so also did spending. We are drifting along to become an increasingly overtaxed society. Furthermore, many serious financial commitments proper to this year, or arising from decisions made this year, have been postponed until next year. This postponing of problems adds to the [1341] sense of uncertainty created by the Government's political instability and is directly preventing the investment taking place that would create economic recovery here.

The signals from the Finance Act, 1992, to which the Minister referred in some detail, are actually frightening. Constraining civil liberties with inordinate, untrammelled powers for the Revenue Commissioners is not the mark of an open Government. Favouring risk free savings through low taxes on deposit accounts, while removing incentives from those who put their money at risk in job creating enterprises, is perverse in a society where employment creation is the priority. The budget and the Finance Act lacked any constructive political input. It lacked imagination. It is inspired by a mentality which is anti-self employment and anti-enterprise. It is the predictable outcome of the politics of the lowest common denominator.

We need to radically change the way we run our industrial policy if we are to create jobs in this country. The excellent report of the Culliton committee laid a lot of the groundwork for this. Fine Gael have put political flesh on those bones by setting out what needs to be done to release the creative talents of our people in our policy document Towards a Jobs Economy. There is work to be done and thousands of people there to do it. The incentive to create that work will not come from blueprints drawn up in Merrion Street telling people what to do and when and where. It will come from the Government of Ireland allowing Ireland to become a place where creating a job is the most profitable thing that any person can do with their money. That is not the case under this Finance Act; it is not the case under this Government.

No better example of the failure of the Government's approach to the jobs crisis can be seen than in the failure of the much heralded employment scheme. There are 18 trainee places instead of the promised 10,000 trainee places. There are 1,300 employees altogether under the scheme instead of the promised 15,000. The Government have spurned a genuine [1342] jobs forum with Ministerial involvement which would unite the country to tackle the jobs crisis and have instead set up yet another committee, this time with backbenchers of their own parties and Opposition Deputies from the left. This committee has to date produced nothing. However, the thoroughly researched Fine Gael proposals in Towards a JobsEconomy are ready to be implemented and they will be implemented.

The recent Social Welfare Bill has undermined confidence in the concept of social insurance. Yet again it penalises those who work or who have worked. I find it incomprehensible that any Minister could bring in a system in which somebody on disability benefit, receiving payments towards which he has contributed all his life by working, should be worse off than a person in the same position who has contributed to the social insurance fund. The Minister is doing nothing to stamp out abuse of social welfare but has settled for the easy option of targeting those who are too disparate and too weak to organise themselves. Indeed, to add to the unease we have hints from the Minister for Social Welfare — hints which are seemingly underlined by the reference of the Minister for Finance to corrective measures over the summer — which were contradicted by the Taoiseach on the Order of Business yesterday. The Government do not seem to know what their intentions are in regard to social welfare or public expenditure matters.

Let me say a word about crime and in particular about the lack of secure places for juvenile offenders who are released, often to reoffend. The Minister for Justice has certainly made many graceful appearances on our television sets but he has not done very much about the problems. People are frightened in their homes, frightened in the streets and frightened, indeed, in rural areas; and I do not believe the Government can name any effective measure they have taken since their formation to deal with the crime problem.

When the Government come to deal with any important issue they seem to do [1343] so with a sort of surprise which suggests that they had never thought about the issue before it happened. On Europe, the Maastricht Treaty and the issues arising from the Supreme Court judgment in the X case, the Government found themselves in a position where they had to look for the help and co-operation of the Opposition on an historically unprecedented scale. This sort of co-operation was never extended by Fianna Fáil on issues such as the Single European Act, the Anglo-Irish Agreement, divorce or extradition when they were in a position to offer it. The Opposition have offered this co-operation to the Government on this occasion. The fact that the Government were so lacking in confidence that they had to seek such assistance is an indication of their weakness.

The Government have no visible priorities, no vision of the future. Honestly spelling out choices and informing people of the real conflicts that exist between objectives is foreign to the Government. Their attitude that everything is provisional, that everything should be made up, that there are no real choices to be made and that everything should be left to the Government who at some time will think of something is making people tired of politics. It is the reason it is difficult for parties to get people to attend political meetings and is making it difficult to get people to become involved in political parties.

Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  That applies to Fine Gael meetings only.


Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  There is no sense that our political system is providing the leadership the country needs.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Bruton has only one minute left. I ask Deputies to allow him to conclude without interruption.

Mr. Connor: Information on John Connor  Zoom on John Connor  As he is making an excelent [1344] speech perhaps he could be given an extra two or three minutes.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That constitutes an interruption, Deputy. You are not allowed to interrupt your leader either.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  At present the public do not think that this House and, in particular, the Government are providing leadership on any important issue: on jobs, it is an matter of committees and postponements; on the Supreme Court judgment, it is a matter of postponement and an attitude of wait and see; and on Europe, it is a matter of responding to other people's agendas rather than setting out any Irish agenda. There is no sense that this country is being led in the way one would expect from a Government under the Constitution of this State. That has to change and it will only be changed by a general election.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  On Wednesday last when President Robinson addressed the Houses of the Oireachtas she referred to the gifts of the Irish people for insight and argument. In her historic and reflective address she reminded us of the things we have contributed, and still have to contribute, to the developing Europe of the future. She spoke of the need for us to be both civilised and creative. Seldom have those two attributes been more urgently required. Seldom, at the level of Government, have they been in shorter supply.

In the short time available to me I propose to concentrate on the issues I consider most urgent. Of course, the entire parliamentary year just ending has been both historic and turbulent. It has also been very revealing. It has exposed the dark under-side of Government dealings with some sections of the business community. It has shown how fragile our whole concept of parliamentary democracy can be. It has demonstrated how important it is that we never turn a blind eye to issues, no matter how trivial they seem at the time.

Indeed, if I were to pick any theme [1345] which has summed up the year, it would be the notion that one of the primary issues on the Irish political stage now must be the issue of accountability. Within the last year, we have seen individual human tragedies, shady business practices and major political issues all intertwine to put that issue at the top of the political agenda. The people we represent are entitled to expect their politicians to be accountable for their actions and decisions. We demand it too of our businessmen, our trade union leaders and even of our churchmen.

If the last year has proved anything, it has proved that we need more than systems of accountability, we need an accountable system. We need to be able to ask and answer questions about the whole shape and direction of our society. We need to be able to find ways of measuring its progress, not just in terms of economic statistics, but in human terms. We need to know better how to make the system as a whole respond to valid needs. That means we need to know who orders the priorities and what process is used.

A great deal needs to be radically changed in Ireland to make it the country its people deserve. Our function is to criticise and analyse and also to contribute to change by being willing to change ourselves where it is necessary. All elected Members of this House have a major role to play in highlighting and accepting the need for greater accountability in every walk of life in Ireland. Our democracy demands it, and the people we represent need that accountability.

I am not just talking about the kind of accountability that brings wrong-doers to justice, important though that is. The homeless have a right to demand that the system accounts for itself, as do the sick, the handicapped and the unemployed. The only way to ensure that that account is delivered is by a greater concentration on justice, equality, and democracy than ever before.

We talk a great deal about social partnership. Real social partnership means that the partners have a real say in the determination of economic and social [1346] priorities. It means that the concept of rights must be reintroduced to the equation. It means that society will not continue to accept that some people have a greater right to work and happiness than others.

We also talk a great deal about economic recovery. I wish to refer to the economy. In the last few years we have seen the stabilisation of our national debt problem — economic recovery of a substantial kind has been a feature of that period too — but for whom and at what price, for whose benefit and at whose expense? An economy in which conspicuous wealth and consumption exist side by side with grinding poverty and alienation is not the kind of economy that we really set out to build for this country. The invisible Ireland of social welfare cuts, restricted access to health care, housing, and education, and increasing family stress is not the model of social partnership to which we aspire. Of course, a recovering economy which can find no place or room for 300,000 of its citizens in meaningful work means that it is not a recovering economy, but a very sick one.

Month after month, new historic records are broken. Month after month, the same bland Government statement blames this feature or that feature of the economy for the ever-increasing spiral. Month after month, the air of crisis which permeates thousands upon thousands of households still fails to penetrate the thick stone walls of Government Buildings.

Presiding over all of this has been a Taoiseach and a Government who have never received a democratic mandate. The only people who voted to put the Government in office were a reluctant and grudging majority of the Members of this House.

I welcomed the new Government when they were appointed, and expressed the hope that they would represent a refreshing and different change of both style and substance. I believed then, as I still believe, that anything would be an improvement on the autocratic and imperial style of the Taoiseach's immediate [1347] predecessor. I have to say that so far this Government have been a grievous disappointment. They have stumbled incoherently from crisis to crisis. It is an unusual failing of any Government, with all the legal and technical advice available to them, that they would often be the last body in the State to understand the complexities and the ramifications of an issue.

This Government, and their Ministers, have demonstrated time and again that their familiarity with the advice they are given and the depth of their understanding is extremely limited. It has been a period of “Government-by-the-seat of the pants”, where the end result has been all that matters and the necessary requirement of public debate and informed participation has been too often neglected. In the past few days, in particular, there have been signs that the Government, with all their promises and protestations about an open style of government, are capable of exactly the same degree of autocracy as their immediate predecessors.

As this debate goes on in this House today, the State is prosecuting an action in the High Court which is aimed specifically at preventing the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Industry from pursuing legitimate and necessary lines of inquiry. I readily appreciate that it would not be possible for me to go into the details of that action without breaching the sub judice convention in this House, which I hope will be changed shortly, but I am more concerned with the motivation for the action than I am with its details. On 24 May last year, after the Government had been forced into accepting the establishment of a Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Industry, the then Taoiseach told this House that:

the terms of reference had been deliberately drawn in a way that will allow as wide-ranging an investigation as may be necessary to take place .... the Tribunal will be empowered to inquire into any matters connected with or relevant to those allegations [1348] which the Tribunal considers it necessary to investigate.

He went on to say:

There has been a certain amount of comment in recent days on the question of privilege and the invocation of the Official Secrets Act as grounds for withholding relevant information from the Tribunal. Let me assure this House that there is no intention whatsoever on the part of the Government that the Official Secrets Act should be used in any way to limit or impede this inquiry by withholding from the Tribunal evidence relevant to its Terms of Reference.

He concluded that speech by promising the Tribunal the unreserved co-operation of the control authorities and all Government Departments in the work of this inquiry, and he looked forward to an open, extensive, non-exclusive and expeditious inquiry. It is not possible to reconcile that commitment with the decision that has now been taken to seek to gag the inquiry, by reference to the convention of Cabinet confidentiality.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Spring, notwithstanding his expression of sensitivity towards what might be correct comment on what is obviously sub judice— and is now, perhaps, being adjudicated upon—will accept that he has gone to the limits of bona fide comment on it.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I can understand your concern, Sir, but I have concentrated on the features of the setting up of the Tribunal and what was said by the former Taoiseach. I think I am in order as long as I confine myself to those remarks.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Spring would seem to be prejudging the outcome of today's court decision.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I have not in any way attempted to do so. I would say to you that I am quite correct in referring to the setting up of the Tribunal, the terms of [1349] reference of the Tribunal and the powers given by this House to the Tribunal.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  Hear, hear.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Bruton's “hear, hear” does not substantiate the case.

Mr. J. Bruton: Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton  It is persuasive, I have no doubt.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Maybe Deputy Spring has exhausted his relevant comment.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I will ski on, conscious of the fact that you have reminded me that I am on thin ice.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I would not want the Deputy to disappear through the thin ice.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  God knows who might need me in the future. I have some difficulty in accepting the frequently expressed willingness of the present Taoiseach to appear at the Tribunal while at the same time the lawyers acting on his behalf are trying to prevent the Tribunal from asking awkward questions. There are a number of situations at present under investigation by the Tribunal in which the Government documents and records that have been supplied to the Tribunal quite clearly fail to tell the whole story. It is for that reason that in these particular instances it is essential for the Tribunal to be able to go behind the written record.

It is clear that the Tribunal is not interested in gossip but in information which is central to getting at the truth. The Government have embarked on a course which is clearly aimed at preventing the Tribunal getting at the truth in relation to these particular situations. It is important to point out that the situations concerned go to the very heart of the Tribunal's terms of reference.

The only justification offered by Government sources in the matter has been the provisions of Article 28 of the [1350] Constitution, which require the Government to act collectively. The same Article, it is worth reminding ourselves, requires the Government to be responsible to the Dáil. In initiating this action, whatever its ultimate outcome, the Government are acting in defiance of the Dáil. It was the Dáil which established the Tribunal as an agent of this House to make these inquiries and to pursue the truth, no matter where it led. The Government promised full and total co-operation with that course of action; but, sadly, they have reneged on that promise.

One has to ask why this decision has been made at this time. What are the Government afraid of? Who has taken that decision? I should like somebody to explain to the House today, as the Government have a responsibility to do, why that decision was taken. Was it taken by the Cabinet? Clearly it was not; otherwise I assume the Minister for Industry and Commerce would know about it. It is equally clear that it was not taken by the former Cabinet, otherwise the former Minister for Justice would have known about it. Surely no one expects us to believe that this is another example of the Attorney General acting independently of the Government. It is only possible to conclude that this is a deliberate manoeuvre aimed at protecting the Taoiseach. Apart altogether from the fact that it begs the question of what the Taoiseach has to hide——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Spring, you have really gone beyond the point of what is appropriate. The Dáil decided that there would be a Tribunal. The Dáil did not give to itself the right to depart from the normal sub judice rules that would apply to the deliberations of that Tribunal. I ask that you do not pursue it.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  If it had been said in this House when the Tribunal was set up that the Government would be going to the High Court, and possibly to the Supreme Court, to suppress information, I do not think anybody in this House would have wanted that Tribunal. That is the crux. [1351] We are talking about accountability and the functions of this House.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  You have established a hypothesis and we do not work here on hypotheses. You said “if” something had happened. I am talking about what did happen. It happened that it was decided here that a Tribunal would be established. The Tribunal is now established, pursuing its deliberations in accordance with the law and governed by the law of what is sub judice.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  It is not being allowed to pursue its deliberations. That is the crux of the difficulty.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  That matter is being decided today in the High Court. The Deputy knows that. He is not entitled to anticipate that decision.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  With all due respect to you and your office and authority, this House is entitled to have certain answers. We have only until 4.30 p.m. today to have those answers. I believe I am quite within my rights to ask the Ministers present to confirm whether or not a Government decision was made in this respect.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I do not want to be at issue or at variance with the Deputy. The Deputy is not entitled to ask any Government Ministers to be in breach of the sub judice rule and that is what he is inviting them to do, having gone too far on it himself. He knows that. I would ask him now to apply himself to the many other matters that would be appropriate to this debate.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  With all due respect, Sir, I as an elected Member of this House will decide what matters I will address.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy may address what is in order.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I intend addressing quite a range of matters.

[1352]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Spring indicated at the commencement of his remarks that unfortunately we did have in the House this constraint in regard to what is sub judice. Deputy Spring, as a legal man, knows that better than I. Until such time as it is changed, the Chair will insist on what is there being honoured — no more and no less than that. We have to do that. The Chair is anxious at all times to carry out the rules and regulations that have been established by the House and is not going to anticipate any change that has not yet occurred.

Mr. Spring: Information on Dick Spring  Zoom on Dick Spring  I will continue to raise the political aspects of what is happening. I believe they raise most serious questions in relation to democracy and accountability. I would have to say in relation to the politics of what is happening that I hope somebody will come into this House on behalf of the Progressive Democrats, reluctant as they tend to be, and inform this House whether a decision was made in Cabinet in relation to pursuing legal action in the Four Courts this morning. It is worth while to establish that in the course of today's debate. Despite all the promises and commitments in relation to open Government, if that is to be the conduct of this Government we are going backwards rather than forward.

It is becoming more and more fashionable — certainly in the case of a certain number of Fianna Fáil backbenchers whose interest in the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry I have yet to establish — to denigrate the Tribunal on every possible occasion. Wildly inaccurate figures are bandied about as to its costs, ranging up to 20 times higher than the figures published as a result of an answer to a parliamentary question yesterday. I have even seen it suggested in print that the chairman of the Tribunal is being paid an extra allowance per month for his work, whereas the truth is that the chairman is not being paid one extra penny for his exhaustive and exhausting hours of work.

It has become easy and trite to dismiss [1353] the Tribunal of Inquiry as an expensive waste of money or to contend that its proceedings are telling us only what we already know. Nobody knows how much longer the Tribunal will continue or how much it will ultimately cost, but nobody knows either how much extra revenue will be raised for the State by the elimination of tax evasion and avoidance as a direct result of the work of the Tribunal. In fact, there is every reason to believe that the State may well be a net beneficiary from this source by the time the Tribunal reports. What has been largely forgotten in this campaign to trivialise the Tribunal is the importance to Ireland of re-establishing confidence in this major industry. What has been largely forgotten is the deep-seated and genuinely felt anxiety about the collapse of regulation, about shortfalls in standards, about underhand methods of operation and about unhealthy relationships between Government and business. No matter how expensive it turns out to be, no matter how many salutary lessons we have to learn in the end, it was and remains absolutely vital that daylight be let into all the murky corners of political life and of public and private transactions.

For my part I believe that Ireland will be the better of the Tribunal even if discomfort and expense have to be encountered along the way. I believe that those politicians and others who spend their time whispering behind their hands about the Tribunal ought be more conscious of the longer term public interest they are supposed to serve.

I want to say a brief word about two issues which must increasingly come to be seen to be interrelated, that is, the decision of the Irish people to vote in favour of the process of European integration and secondly, the unemployment crisis. It is my strong belief that the time has come for a redirection of Government policy to the objective of full employment at adequate levels of income. This must be sufficient to provide for a standard of living which improves in line with the increase in [1354] wealth and income generated in Ireland and within the European Community.

With total unemployment in the European Community standing at 15 million and Ireland's total number of persons out of work numbering 278,000, this may seem unrealistic. Seven million people have been out of work within the EC for over a year. It must be recognised also that involuntary unemployment in the European Community, particularly in Ireland, will continue to grow unless Governments rededicate the main priority of public policy to full employment. Nothing less will achieve the necessary political mobilisation of people and of resources which are available on a scale that did not exist after World War II or in previous decades.

In the early eighties the European Commission estimated that sustained economic growth in excess of 5 per cent per annum would be required to halve European unemployment and cope with a labour force growth of 700,000 per annum. It is estimated that by 1985 approximately 6.4 per cent of the 11.1 per cent unemployment rate was accounted for by labour force growth. Long-term unemployment continued to grow throughout the 1981-89 period and has not been adequately addressed in either national labour market policies of EC countries or EC policies to date.

We face a crucial problem: not only have the European growth rates been insufficient, but little if any attention has been paid to ensuring that that growth is fairly distributed. The policies needed would be aimed at doing that, at maximising the job creation potential of economic growth and ensuring that that potential is fairly spread across the regions of Europe, especially those regions where it is most needed.

I have already made it clear in a whole series of public statements that the Labour Party believe there are a great many steps we can take at home to alleviate the unemployment crisis but the truth we must face is that unless we take a lead in Ireland in shaping the development of a European-wide industrial policy and job creation approach, [1355] we shall not make the inroads into that crisis which need to be made. So far, Ireland has followed, not led, in the European debate. Our Government is the first Government in Europe in a position to ratify the Treaty on European Union with the wholehearted support of its people. If that support is to be earned and maintained, we must move from a reactive position to one where we will be forging alliances across Europe on these fundamental issues.

If we make no other resolution for the next session of this Dáil, at least let us resolve that the priority will be the development of a coherent employment strategy. Much has been said about consensus in the lifetime of this Dáil. The Opposition generally have tried to be constructive in their approaches to all the major issues but the people we represent are rapidly running out of patience. What they are increasingly demanding is a consensus that produces results, not a consensus behind which the Government simply hide.

In some ways this Government have got off a lot more lightly in this session just concluding than they deserve because of the desire on the part of the Opposition to be as constructive as possible. I can promise this Government that unless we begin to see results, unless the Government's commitment to openness and accountability is rapidly restored, they will find the temperature a great deal warmer henceforth.

Minister for the Marine (Dr. Woods): Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I listened for some time to Deputy John Bruton speak about the Government and their performance. The Minister for Finance answered those comments very fully in his opening speech when he pointed out very clearly just how well our economy is doing, how well growth is going, how well inflation is under control, how well borrowing is being reduced and, I might add, how there are in effect more people at work. I agree with Deputy John Bruton and Deputy Spring that we must do a lot more to create jobs. There is no [1356] question about that. We are getting the growth, but we also want more jobs.

Since the Oireachtas returned last October many important measures and instruments have now become law. In my area, for example, the Merchant Shipping Act and the Fishery Harbour Centres (Amendment) Act for Castletownbere are now in place and the Foreshore Amendment Act will follow shortly. We also brought in a number of major conventions to improve marine safety and tackle pollution.

The Government's work continues throughout the summer, while the ongoing business of the Oireachtas Committees gives individual Members the opportunity to make a positive and important contribution to the major issues of the day. The increased number of sitting days this year has ensured that faster progress has been achieved in the conduct of business and the examination of departmental Estimates. At the same time we must not forget the commitment we all have to our local communities, which is a unique feature of our participative form of democracy. Deputies will be busy over the break catching up on local issues.

I listened this morning to what I regarded as something of a charade about the date on which the Dáil would reassemble. It is important to get across the concept that only the plenary sessions of the Dáil go into recess for this period; the committees continue. The work of Government and Deputies continues. There is a great deal of opportunity afforded Deputies to participate in the proceedings of Special Committees and other work that continues over that period. In addition, the Government now begin the task of preparing the Estimates for the autumn, an innovation we introduced in 1987 and which was welcomed at the time. But it does take up a considerable part of the Government time to prepare and have the Estimates ready for October.

The most important political event of the year for all parties has been the referendum on the Treaty on European Union. Based on a partnership of [1357] strength and equality, the Treaty will ensure that the European Community will have the structures needed to deal with the myriad of challenges in a rapidly changing world. The role of the EC in stabilising and assisting the new emerging republics is a crucial one at this historic time.

I noted that Deputy Spring spoke of us following, not leading, in Europe. I could not disagree more in that recently we have given leadership within Europe of historic importance. For example, the eyes of Europe were firmly fixed on Ireland in early June, when Denmark's rejection of the Maastricht Treaty threatened to derail the whole process of European Union. We put European Union firmly back on track. We provided the leadership needed at a crucial juncture to ensure that the ideal of European Union is achieved. We proved that all member states can, and must, tackle positively the issues that most concern people. We restored the momentum to build an economically strong, socially caring, peaceful, united Europe by expressing our deeply held conviction that closer union among the people of Europe is good for Ireland and good for Europe. Let it be clear that the Irish people have been, are now, and will continue to be major contributors to a Europe of the nations.

Our EC partners fully appreciate the importance of Ireland's decision to say “Yes” to European Union. They also recognise the need for extra financial transfers to bring Ireland nearer to Europe and close the prosperity gap between Ireland and the better-off member states, the gap between the periphery and the centre.

The objective of cohesion, agreed by the Twelve at Maastricht, was one of the most important achievements for Ireland during the negotiations. Through a resounding “Yes” vote, we have demonstrated a firm commitment to play a full part in advancing European Union. I believe that at Edinburgh, our EC partners will honour the commitments made at Maastricht.

European Union presents immense [1358] opportunities for further growth, increased employment and higher living standards in Ireland. This is especially important for all those who want to live and work here and especially for our young people. The positive effects of the Single Market and economic and monetary union are tipped to create 55,000 new jobs here by the end of the decade.

We must not underestimate the determination of our people to meet the challenges of the new, emerging Europe. We know that we will have to be competitive to succeed. Irish firms are already meeting the challenges of the Single Market. Our products have a quality and sophistication to match anything produced in the Community. We have provided new job opportunities for young people by channelling their skills into niche markets, like sophisticated computer software.

We send more than 80 per cent of our exports to the Community. Ireland's trade surplus with the EC last year amounted to £2.7 billion. In addition, export performance has been particularly strong in the first four months of this year; the trade surplus between Ireland and the EC is almost £1.1 billion and is expected to remain healthy for the rest of the year. These figures highlight the benefits of our EC membership, apart from the direct impact of Structural and other funds.

Inflation is low and under control. The balance of payments is right; trade and economic growth continue to improve. Our major trading partners, however, have their own economic difficulties. Recession in the UK and the US and the challenges of German reunification must also be taken into account.

Unemployment is our most pressing challenge. The Government are determined to tackle this problem. There is huge potential in the marine area. I am examining every area for which I am responsible to identify and promote all of the possibilities for further development.

We are aiming to create an extra 2,800 full-time and part-time jobs in fishing, fish processing, aquaculture and ancillary activities between now and the end of [1359] 1993. These will ensure a good future for all those who live in coastal communities where fishing can account for up to 25 per cent of all local employment. The recent ESRI report indicated that tourism, fishing and fish-based industries were the best employment prospects for many parts of our coastal communities. In that respect, tourism has a limited timescale over the year and, consequently, the development of the fishing and agriculture potential, and other related activities, is crucial to achieving the employment which is possible in those areas.

The inland fisheries also are capable of creating 1,000 extra jobs. Our inland fisheries are a unique resource in the European Community. It is not an exaggeration to say that our colleagues in the EC simply cannot comprehend what an asset we have here. They have suffered over the years from environmental damage in Europe.

At my request, the eight regional fisheries boards have prepared development plans for their river and lake systems. These plans are now being assessed. They show how we can create at least 1,000 extra jobs in areas of high unemployment. Indeed the plans will be suggesting considerably more than that. I will be pursuing these plans and the investment involved as a top priority.

A major new development for inland fisheries has been the setting up of eight new angling co-operatives to raise funds for the development of our trout and coarse fisheries. The co-operatives are a completely new approach to the funding of fisheries development works. I am confident that they will receive full support from the angling fraternity, angling clubs, the general public and all those involved in promoting angling tourism. I am determined to ensure the best possible launch of the new co-operatives and I am in the middle of a series of promotional events to publicise their importance and ensure their success.

The review of the Common Fisheries Policy is essential for jobs. This year, the European Community will complete its [1360] mid-term review of the Common Fisheries Policy and set the agenda for development into the 21st century. My priority is to get a better deal for the Irish fishing industry and to protect the livelihoods of those who depend on it. That will not be easy but I will be pressing Ireland's case for an increased allocation of fish. I will be pushing for a more progressive approach to the issue of fleet restructuring. Our fleet is extremely old and we do not have boats which are able to catch the tonnage of white fish allocated to us. I will be seeking further restrictions on access to our coastal zone by large vessels of other member states, and seeking an increased contribution from the Community towards the cost of surveillance, including operational costs.

I am determined to ensure that we get the flexibility and the resources needed for the industry to reach its full potential. Our aim is to increase employment in the fishing and fish processing sectors. To do this, we need more fish and further investment in processing facilities.

Aquaculture can create some 1,000 extra jobs. It is becoming increasingly important as a source of product for the sophisticated processing that today's consumers want. This sector of the food industry is worth £40 million and generates 2,500 jobs. The Economic and Social Research Institute in a recent study highlighted the major contribution which aquaculture makes to economic development and job creation in coastal regions. The institute forecast that 1,000 extra jobs can be created in this sector.

I want to bring about a position where the potential of the entire marine and fishing sector will be recognised here. I want its potential output and the contribution it can make to employment recognised, because that is not the position at present. The jobs are there; there are thousands of jobs available immediately. However, we will only create them if we approach fundamentally the development of the whole sector. That is what I intend to do.

The greatest problem to be overcome in relation to our ports is that of distance from our principal European markets. [1361] Soon, we will be the only true island nation in Europe. Yet we are vitally dependent on trade to increase the numbers at work in Ireland and boost the volume and value of exports. The Community must provide the extra resources we need to get our products to market quickly and cheaply.

In the four years to the end of 1993, we will receive £3 billion through entitlements under the Structural Funds. This assistance has been fundamental to the development of our sea fisheries, fish processing, aquaculture and research capacities. Employment gains for full and part-time workers have been substantial and I intend to build on these achievements in the coming years.

The Structural Funds have also enabled the Government to improve infrastructure, especially transport facilities, at a rapid pace. The European Commission's proposal to substantially increase Structural Funds and introduce a new Cohesion Fund to benefit the less prosperous regions of the Community are of major importance. They will help Ireland overcome the problems of peripherality and reap the full benefits of European Union.

These funds are essential to modernise commercial harbour facilities and increase the share of Irish exports in continental markets. Without massive aid from Structural and Cohesion funds to improve the seaports, Irish firms and Irish jobs will be at a competitive disadvantage in the Single Market. Last year, the ports handled almost £17 billion of our external trade. In addition, almost 3.5 million passengers passed through the ports of Cork, Dublin, Dún Laoghaire and Rosslare.

The port authorities have been invited to submit development plans for Structural and Cohesion funding. To date, applications totalling some £365 million to improve commercial harbours and upgrade their facilities have been received. This gives an indication of the work that needs to be done in that area as a whole. We have also applied for £56 million under the Cohesion Fund towards the cost of six new lo-lo container ships [1362] and one new multi-purpose passenger ferry. I know that the applications made by the commercial harbours will have to be trimmed down; I know they will put in everything which they think is necessary and it is important to do that. However, the figure of £365 million gives a clear indication of our real needs and their substance for the future.

I am determined to ensure that we have the seaport facilities needed to meet the competitive environment of the next century. I will shortly begin consultations with the social partners and other interests on the type of legislation required to give seaports the flexibility they need for efficiency, competitiveness and commercial success. I will be seeking approval for my proposals from the Govenment and the Oireachtas as a matter of priority.

My Department, in addition to their crucial economic role, also have important responsibilities towards the environment. These two strands are not mutually exclusive; indeed, far from it. In the years ahead we stand to gain much from the establishment of our environmental credentials. Clean seas and rivers will underpin the marketing of our fisheries products and encourage visitors. The prizes will not fall into our laps. We have to work for them.

I have this week introduced the first ever amendment to the Foreshore Act, 1933. I did this to give to our beaches and sand dunes the protection they need. No longer will our natural strands be open to despoilment and damage by ill-considered acts or by vandalism for commercial reasons. The tough new powers will ensure that local authorities, conservationists and the Minister have the clout to enforce the new laws immediately. Tough new penalties of up to £200,000 and five years in jail will deter would-be exploiters of these tremendous natural resources. The current penalty is a mere £5 to £10. I am committed to a clean environment which can benefit all our people.

Ireland has 52 European blue flag beaches, which are ranked among the finest in Europe, and 27 beaches recently [1363] awarded national green flag status. We plan to protect and maintain these valuable national assets and to provide effective deterrents to those who, knowingly and wilfully or unwittingly, damage our beaches, sand dunes and seashore ecosystems.

In 1933 this situation was not an issue, but it is now and we are addressing the despoilment of our beaches as an urgent matter. For the first time action is being taken to protect the flora and fauna and total ecosystems of our beaches and sand dunes.

This Administration have been responsible for significant and fundamental improvements to the marine search and rescue infrastructure of the State and to the legislative framework governing maritime safety and marine environment matters. I am very proud of our achievements in these areas. New legislation recently enacted will enable Ireland to apply the highest international standards in a number of vital areas. The Merchant Shipping Act, 1992, for example, is primarily designed to make our ships and the waters in which they navigate safer. The Act greatly strengthens the laws providing for the safety of passengers and crew. It will substantially increase the regulatory powers in relation to passenger ships, fishing vessels and pleasure craft. It also provides for stiffer penalties for those failing to comply with the safety provisions.

While the safety of human life is our first concern, the need to protect the marine environment, as I have indicated, is also high on our list of priorities. The Sea Pollution Act, 1991, will give effect to the most up-to-date international conventions on prevention of pollution from ships. It will also give effect to the Intervention on the High Seas Protocol which allows the State to take action where, following a maritime casualty, a threat is posed to the environment from any polluting substance.

Other legislation which I will be advancing or putting into effect will provide for proper insurance cover in the event of oil spillages. Power to facilitate [1364] removal of wrecks is also a priority — possibly the most interesting of my recent innovations in the Department of the Marine in the area of marine safety. I have decided that in future a report of the findings of preliminary inquiries into maritime accidents will be made public. The primary purpose of the preliminary inquiries will remain unchanged: that is to, find out, where possible the precise cause of accidents and to see what lessons must be drawn from the findings so that measures can be taken to avoid their recurrence in the future. The new arrangements will be monitored to ensure that this primary objective is maintained.

With regard to the development of the fishing fleet, I am pleased that in April, when the decisions on FEOP Grant Aid were taken, Ireland succeeded in obtaining EC aid worth over £1 million. This money will be used to modernise 32 fishing vessels. Such modernisation is essential if the Irish fleet is to survive and develop.

I will be working in the months ahead within my Department to progress their contribution to job creation and economic development and to strengthen their capacity to regulate the marine environment and marine safety matters in the public interest. I will be giving top priority to jobs and jobs creation as I regard that as the most important contribution I can make to the Government programme.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Before the Minister for the Marine leaves the House, I wish to ask him if he will look at the possibility of grant-aiding the Maritime History Museum in which I know he has an interest. I know he has already spoken to Dr. John de Courcy Ireland and perhaps has been informed that the museum is in urgent need of assistance. Indeed it may well close if they do not receive help soon and I would appreciate if he would look at the possibility of helping them. They do not need a lot of money and perhaps — even by an nod of his head — the Minister might indicate whether he is willing to take that matter on board.

[1365]Dr. Woods: Information on Michael J. Woods  Zoom on Michael J. Woods  I accept the importance of the museum.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Thank you very much. As the Dáil prepares to go into recess for the summer period, it is appropriate to look back over the political events of the past year and to examine some of the prospects for the future. The past year, and particularly the six months since the beginning of this year, have been some of the most dramatic in the political history of the State.

Much of the summer recess last year was dominated by disclosures of scandalous events in the affairs of a number of our semi-State companies. On the resumption the Government faced a motion of no confidence, which resulted in one of the most bitter debates this House has ever seen. The Government survived, but the leadership of Deputy Haughey was clearly critically wounded and his administration limped on from disaster to disaster. We then had the unsuccessful motion of no confidence in the Taoiseach within the Fianna Fáil Parliamentary Party, accompanied by the dismissal from office of two senior Government Ministers, and a botched attempt at a Cabinet reshuffle which resulted in the withdrawal of the nomination of Deputy McDaid as Minister for Defence.

Deputy Haughey accepted the inevitable in February and departed from office. Deputy Reynolds was just elected as his successor when we were all confronted by the appalling “X” case and the consequences of the Supreme Court judgment. Twelve months ago few people would have believed that it was possible that abortion could have dominated political life in the manner it did earlier this year. As an issue it also had a significant impact in the debate on the Maastricht Treaty. The outcome of the referendum was hardly surprising, given the unprecedented line-up of the political, business, farming and media establishments demanding a “yes” vote. Indeed it was a tribute to their independence and ability to think for themselves that more than 30 per cent of the [1366] people resisted the unprecedented pressure and voted “no”.

All this has taken place against a background of continuing violence in Northern Ireland, which at times, especially in the first weeks of the year, reached new levels of depravity, and of course the continuing efforts to secure political progress. Ticking away in the background all the time was the time bomb of the Beef Tribunal, which still threatens to explode and blow the Coalition to pieces.

For myself and my party colleagues these were difficult times too. We faced up to the difficult decision of leaving the party of which we had been members for very many years and took up the challenge of forming Democratic Left. Almost six months on, I am more certain than ever that the decision we took was the correct one and that Democratic Left will have a significant impact on the future of Irish politics.

Forming a new party is an easy task; establishing it with roots is a more difficult and lengthier process. We can be very satisfied with the progress made to date. Democratic Left is now organised in more than 30 constituencies in the country and will be targeting more over the coming months. We are also organised in Northern Ireland. Despite our loss of rights as a parliamentary group, we have continued to make a substantial input into the work of this House. We have shown again this week that we are not going to allow ourselves to be marginalised or relegated to any second division.

I am particularly pleased with the campaign carried out by Democratic Left during the Maastricht campaign. Despite our limited resources, we had a significant impact on the outcome of the campaign. We concentrated on the issues, played a crucial role in informing the public, and provided a coherent and reasoned alternative viewpoint to that offered by the four pro-Maastricht parties. Democratic Left served the interests of the country and of democracy very well during the campaign.

Some commentators believed that the election of Deputy Reynolds as [1367] Taoiseach was going to open a new and more powerful chapter in Irish political life, but six months on there is not much evidence of this. There has been some small change in the style of government, but little indication of any significant shift in policy. Nowhere is this more evident than in the utter failure of this administration to stem the upward climb of the unemployment graph. The best that the Taoiseach and his colleagues can apparently come up with is a scheme to doctor the live register figures.

The Minister of State in the Taoiseach's Department, Deputy Dempsey, told me last month that had the May live register figures been compiled in the manner used up to 1990, the figure would have been 288,705. There was an increase of almost ten-and-a-half thousand between May and June, so the real level of current unemployment is actually more than 299,000 — less than 1,000 short of 300,000. How far we have come since Jack Lynch said that no Taoiseach should remain in office if unemployment went over 100,000.

The Govenment appear to be totally devoid of any new ideas and incapable of taking any new initiatives. Not only are the Government doing nothing to create new jobs, but they seem paralysed in the face of continuing job losses. The whole series of job losses in the past week — 110 in Babygro in Ballyfermot, 100 in Digital in Galway, 45 in Atlantic Rubber in Belmullet — spell out the depressing picture. The IDA estimate that the cost in direct grants of creating each new job is more than £14,000. On this basis, the cost of replacing these jobs alone would be about £3.5 million. The cost of replacing the 500 jobs which are due to go in Waterford Glass would be another £7 million. What hope have we of reducing unemployment when the Government not only do nothing to create new jobs but stand aside and allow the haemorrhage of job losses to continue unabated.

More than 20,000 people have joined the dole queues since Deputy Reynolds was elected Taoiseach. The continued growth in unemployment is putting a [1368] huge burden on the State and on each and every one of its citizens. The way in which the Government appear to want to deal with this economic problem is not by increasing employment but by looking for areas of expenditure in which they can cut back.

Since the Taoiseach took office there have been a whole series of cutbacks in the social welfare area which, curiously, have received little media attention. Even more curious is the fact that it was only last week apparently that the Irish Congress of Trade Unions discovered the appalling nature of the Social Welfare Bill passed by this House two months ago. The Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy McCreevy, has made it clear that further cutbacks are coming and there are reports that the Government are considering substantial cutbacks in the medical card system, including the introduction of charges for drugs which were previously provided free. We are entering another major era of cutbacks. There are few Deputies on either side of this House who do not believe that there will be many more cutbacks announced before we return here in the autumn — if we return in the autumn.

The 1992 Social Welfare Act marked a fundamental change in the direction of public policy on social welfare. It represented a major erosion of the principle of an insurance based welfare system. It discontinued pay related disability benefit and reduced occupational injury benefit to the level of disability benefit. Pay related benefit was taken away from those working on a week on week off basis, with a resultant loss of £17 per week. Maternity benefit schemes were combined — allegedly for rationalisation purposes — but the result was that women who have no job to go back to after pregnancy are denied maternity benefits although they meet the contribution requirements.

In this year's Act, those earning more than £25,000 per year had their entitlement to dental treatment taken away; and now as a result of the deal done with the dentists people are going to have to pay up to 30 per cent of the cost of [1369] treatment which was previously free. The level of PRSI contributions is going up all the time, but the range and value of entitlements are being whittled away.

This Minister has spoken frequently about better targeting of resources. It is a phrase that makes me feel uneasy, especially as it was one used so frequently by Mrs. Thatcher and her Ministers. The concept is fine in principle, but in reality it usually means taking money away from those who are poor and diverting it to those who are more poor. It is robbing the poor the help the poor. It leaves the contented and the complacent untouched and unruffled, and that may well be the whole purpose in adopting that approach. The recent decision to terminate the alleviation payment for thousands of pensioners is an example of this. The very welcome decision to pay arrears of money to women arising from the delay in implementing social welfare equalisation is being funded — in part, at least — by a nasty decision to take away from those who are in need amounts of up to £16 per week.

The recent report of the Combat Poverty Agency, showing a huge gap in income levels between those on social welfare and those on the average industrial wage, will, I hope, help to focus attention on the appalling level of poverty still found in Ireland. It will hopefully also dispose of the myth that life on the dole is easy and is a disincentive to work. It shows that what we need is not more cutbacks but more resources for those in need.

The problem of poverty must be put back at the top of the political agenda. The term “poverty” did not even merit a mention in the Programme for Government published in 1989 or the review published last autumn. Apart from the financial hardship caused for families, unemployment and poverty are having a demoralising and soul-destroying effect on whole communities. There is seething discontent in low income areas, especially among young people. This was reflected in the poor turnout from many such areas in the recent referendum. It is reflected in the growing problem of [1370] vandalism and petty crime. Last summer there were sporadic outbreaks of violence involving young people in some parts of Dublin. Already this week there have been violent incidents involving substantial numbers of young people here in Dublin in my own constituency and in Bray. It is a problem we ignore at our peril. If we do ignore it, we may well end with a Los Angeles on the Liffey.

Whatever problems we face in this part of the island, at least we have been spared the terrible ordeal of the people of Northern Ireland. Those participating in the talks which opened in London earlier this week involving the Irish Government and the Northern political parties, and which are due to resume in Belfast next week, deserve the goodwill and moral support of all those who want to see an end to the terrible cycle of terror which has scarred Northern Ireland for over 20 years.

While there was no doubt as to the historic nature of the occasion, we can draw some degree of encouragement from the fact that the talks have at last got off the ground. There is a need for those involved to set realistic targets for what can be achieved. The absolute priority, must be the establishment of a proper political framework for democratic politics in Northern Ireland so that the terrorist groups can be isolated and ultimately defeated and peace restored.

If those at the negotiating table insist on rigid positions and unachievable agendas, then there is little prospect of success. Those involved, Nationalists and Unionists, including the Irish Govenment, will have to be prepared to put long term political ambitions “on hold” in order to ensure progress on the most pressing immediate issue — the achievement of peace within Northern Ireland. They must also be prepared to fundamentally reassess the validity of traditional positions, because otherwise a long term solution will not be achieved.

I welcome the Taoiseach's statement on Monday that the Irish Government's position would be one of “openness and generosity”. Government politicians have for years been assuring the Unionists of their generosity if the Northern [1371] parties were prepared to sit down and talk with them. It is now time to deliver on those promises. The one gesture which the Irish delegation could make which would esablish beyond doubt our bona-fides is to give a firm commitment to seek the amendment of Articles 2 and 3 of the Constitution in order to address the concerns felt by many people in Northern Ireland. This should be done not as a bargaining ploy, or as a device to extract a concession from the other side, but as a simple, unilateral gesture of goodwill. Such a dramatic gesture on the part of the Irish Government would create a most positive climate for the conduct of the talks and greatly increase the chances of success, and would alter fundmentally perceptions of the problem on all sides, North and South.

One of the particular promises made by the Taoiseach on his election was for more open government. We have not seen much evidence of it in this House. Question Time remains as unsatisfactory as ever, with the minimum information possible being imparted and every possible excuse being used to divert or to duck questions. One of the innovations introduced by the Taoiseach was a briefing session for political correspondents, held usually on a Thursday afternoon. It is a great success, by all accounts. The political correspondents can question the Taoiseach about any matter of Government policy they wish to raise, but this puts them in a far more powerful position than any Member of this House. Dáil Deputies can only question the Taoiseach about matters for which his Department have direct responsibility to the Dáil. What is of even more concern is that the Taoiseach refuses to be answerable to this House for statements he makes at these briefings. On at least three occasions I have had recent questions tabled to the Taoiseach, arising from statements he was reported to have made at these briefings, transferred to other Ministers. In other words, Ministers were asked to reply to questions about statements they had not made. It is simply not good enough that [1372] a Taoiseach can make statements to the press and then refuse to answer to the Dáil for them.

The Taoiseach has also made repeated promises of substantial Dáil reforms, but we are still waiting. This session was as bad and as unsatisfactory as anything I have experienced in more than ten years in this House, particularly in regard to the use of the guillotine. The guillotine has been used on more than 40 occasions since the beginning of the year. Whole sections of important legislation, entire parts of Bills have gone through this House without ever having been debated by the Dáil in the manner prescribed. What we are getting is, more and more, legislation by ministerial decree. Guillotines should only be used in the most exceptional of circumstances; instead in recent times, in this House, they have become the parliamentary norm.

There are few people in this House who would disagree with the need to reform our procedures, yet progress is at a snail's pace. The Members are expected by those who elect them, to be able to respond on a daily basis to the issues and problems of our society and to lead the country to a solution of those problems. We simply cannot do so under existing structures.

Finally, I want to refer to the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry. I do not wish to make any comment about the matters before the tribunal but I want to refer to what appears to be a systematic campaign on the part of a number of Fianna Fáil Deputies, and some in Fine Gael, to question the value and the need for the tribunal. It is extraordinary that this attempt to manipulate public opinion by denigrating the work of the tribunal should coincide with the arrival of Government Ministers, and former Government Ministers, in the witness box. There is little doubt that the campaign of denigrating the tribunal, an instrument of Dáil Éireann is being orchestrated by Members of Dáil Éireann. Indeed, it is evident to me that this campaign of belittling the work of the tribunal is condoned, if not inspired by members of the Government. [1373] Sources in the media were fed information that the tribunal would cost £40 million and the Minister for Finance lamely refused to deny this figure when the Estimates for his Department were taken on 12 June and he said “I am not going to argue with Deputy Quinn who mentioned a figure of £40 million”. An official reply in this House yesterday clearly pointed out that the cost of the tribunal to date was only £2.5 million. The President of the High Court had an awesome task imposed on him by this House, a task he believes would not have been necessary if Ministers had openly, honestly and fully answered questions in this House.

The primary task of this House is to ensure that no obstacle is put in the way of the tribunal of inquiry getting to the truth. If that means recalling Dáil Éireann in the coming weeks to consider the outcome of the court decision in relation to Cabinet discussions, then we must reconvene in order to resolve that matter. It is important that everything possible is done to ensure the tribunal is successful. We should not assume that because the Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry will cost £X it is a justification for denigrating its work. I appeal to Deputies to allow the tribunal to continue its work.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  The one clear message to date from the over-expensive Tribunal of Inquiry into the Beef Processing Industry is that the entire system of funding of political parties must be tackled immediately. The valid question must be asked as to who funds elections, whether general or local. Under the system we have operated since the foundation of the State it has proved necessary for political parties to seek funds from the private sector. Many Deputies are almost full-time fundraisers, peddling tickets for draws, supper dances and cabarets up and down the country. Although there has been no evidence of political favours in return for donations there is grave public suspicion, and this concern must be put at ease. This can only be done by the introduction of [1374] a comprehensive system of State funding for political parties.

There must, however, be appropriate checks and balances in so far as political parties must produce annual audited accounts and make certified returns. There must be a clear ceiling on private donations and a system of rules and regulations must be set in place on the spending of money by candidates who offer themselves for election. There is broad party support for this concept. Politicians or political parties should not be compromised and if we are to have a healthy constitutional democracy, transparency on the issue of funding is absolutely essential. State funding for political parties must be established to allay the fears of an increasingly cynical electorate.

On the day the Dáil adjourns, it is timely to look back on its year's work. What is clear is that Government targets in many areas have been thrown completely off the rails and the decision-making process is seriously lacking. The two major documents which were to be published before the end of 1991 were the Green Paper on Education, which was published last week and the long-awaited White Paper on Marital Breakdown. We were informed more than a year ago that the latter White Paper was being prepared by the Department of Justice; at Christmas it was said to be near completion but we are still awaiting its publication. Many Bills in the Justice area were not published as promised during this session and the Interception of Postal Packets and Telecommunications Messages (Regulations) Bill, which caused the change of Government early in the year, has not yet been concluded in the Seanad.

A specific commitment was made to reach a decision on voting rights for emigrants before the end of 1991 and this has not been honoured. Although a paper on the constitutional implications has been presented to the Government, we have been informed that no further progress has been made. We understand the Progressive Democrats are challenging the opinion of the Attorney General that a constitutional amendment would be [1375] necessary, nevertheless the Taoiseach has refused to comment on the situation. Emigrant groups throughout the world, but particularly in the United States and in Britain, have pointed out the need to address this problem. Even the President stated that in her view a constitutional amendment would not be necessary. We, the elected Members, do not know whether a constitutional amendment will be necessary. We do not know the Government's views on the matter.

In regard to local government reform the Government promised a new system of funding when the Institute of Fiscal Studies in London submitted their report. The report was published early in the year yet we still have nothing from the Government on their attitude to the document. The new regional authorities were to be put in place not later than 31 March last but Government decisions promised before the end of 1991 on the new sub-county structures to replace the present urban councils and town commissioners have not yet been considered, we are informed.

Urban councils and town commissioners have been elected since 1985 but they have no idea as to how long their remit will run or what extended role and function they might have. We did not have a debate in the Dáil this session on the matter of local government reform. Government decisions to bring forward legislation for the promised holding of local government elections in June of this year were shelved without explanation, reason or excuse. As a member of a town commissioners — I may be the only Member who is a member of a town commissioners — I wish to put on record that town commissioners now have no terms of reference, funds or function. They are the laughing stock of the community, thanks to the inactivity of the Government.

In regard to overseas aid to the Third World, the Programme for Government committed the Government “to a planned programme of increases in the 1992-94” period so as to achieve a higher contribution as a percentage of GNP. In spite [1376] of commitments given by the Taoiseach when he represented Ireland at the recent Environmental Conference in Rio de Janeiro, we do not know what our contribution will be. What we do know is the record of the Government, and 1992 figures show an actual reduction of the ODA contribution percentage compared to that of 1991.

Contained in the Programme for Government was a specific commitment on the matter of the abolition of ground rents, upon which I understand the Government have taken a decision, yet this House has not been informed whether that has to be the subject of a fresh constitutional amendment. There is no leadership from any Department.

In agriculture — and the Minister for Agriculture and Food is sitting opposite me — there is the continued saga of the disadvantaged areas appeal process, which has buried the promise made by the former Minister for Agriculture and Food, Deputy O'Kennedy, that farmers who successfully appealed their exclusion would receive payments in respect of 1991. It now appears that not only will 1991 payments not be made but also 1992 payments will not be made, with no guarantee of payments for 1993.

Perhaps the most glaring inactivity on the part of the Government has been in regard to the Justice portfolio. Not only has the White Paper on Marital Breakdown not been introduced, but other important legislation, including Bills to abolish the offence of suicide, to provide for the seizure and confiscation of the proceeds of crime and to give effect to various international instruments on drug trafficking, money laundering and mutual assistance in criminal matters, have been no more than the subject of press releases and photocalls.

Similarly, legislation to establish a court of civil appeal to bring about changes in the law, to give greater jurisdiction to the Master of the High Court and to deal with several other matters has not been published. The promised Bill to amend the law relating to insanity verdicts, fitness to plead and appeals against verdicts and to introduce a defence of [1377] diminished responsibility has not been introduced. The long-awaited legislation to convert the Land Registry into a commercial State body has not been introduced. There has not even been a discussion in the Dáil on the findings of the important and expensive Martin Committee, which was set up two years ago to deal with alleged miscarriages of justice, and the scandal of civil legal aid continues unabated.

The Bill to give each spouse equal rights of ownership in the family home and its contents has been buried, as has the Criminal Law Sexual Offences Bill, which was promised to bring the law here in line with the judgment of the European Court of Human Rights. The legislation promised to achieve savings in Garda costs through changes in procedure in criminal cases, which would revise the penalties for certain offences against public order and implement changes recommended by the Law Reform Commission in relation to such offences, has not been discussed. The number of reports of the Law Reform Commission that are merely consigned to gathering dust has increased since the Government took office earlier this year.

What we have seen of the Government has been government by guillotine. In all 14 guillotine motions have been put through the House since the Taoiseach took office in February this year — we should remember that the clarion call of the new Administration was that of open government. Fine Gael are committed to eradicating the unauthorised use of the guillotine. We are committed to the introduction of three new Dáil standing business committees, which would speed up the work of the Dáil dramatically by allowing a detailed examination of all Government spending, and to a line by line examination of all Bills to be carried out in committee. We are doing that work in this Chamber day after day and that proves to be a huge handicap. It delays the implementation of legislation and prevents scrutiny of spending. By the business committee method the Dáil would be able to do three times the amount of work in the same time.

[1378] In regard to Estimates, we are merely discharging our constitutional responsibility technically. The Dáil has become increasingly marginalised and irrelevant. That is both unhealthy and undemocratic and may even be unconstitutional, since the Dáil cannot effectively hold the Government accountable to it, as is required by Article 28.4 of Bunreacht na hÉireann. So long as Deputies are denied a right to speak in the Dáil we create and add to a most unhealthy state of affairs. The workings of this House need to be radically reformed so as to be rendered more effective.

Reform of the Dáil is meaningless unless the necessary back up is given in terms of extra allocation of staff to the Houses of the Oireachtas and the office of the parliamentary draftsman. The Houses of the Oireachtas on television will become a long and boring yawn unless that matter is dealt with at the earliest opportunity. A total review of the Standing Orders operating in the Chambers should be included.

I should also like to refer to the Joint Committee on Employment which is the Government's only significant effort towards trying to find an answer to the ever-spiralling and most depressing problem of unemployment. In that regard, Fine Gael simply sought consensus. We wished to take the matter out of the arena of petty party politics and base it on the New Ireland Forum. A Dáil committee of backbenchers, which was the offer of the Government, is too political, has no power and is merely a talking shop. The results and messages that have come from that committee to date prove the point that the Government initiative in the formulation of a backbench jobs committee to deal with the unemployment problem has been a failure. I urge the Government, on the adjournment of the House, to re-think the idea and to bring forward the kind of forum that Fine Gael sought earlier in the session.

I beg the indulgence of the House to share the remainder of my time with Deputy Browne (Carlow-Kilkenny).

[1379]Acting Chairman (Mr. Jacob): Information on Joe Jacob  Zoom on Joe Jacob  Is that request agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  Since the change of Government we have had the experience of an uninspiring Dáil session from an uninspiring Taoiseach with an uninspiring team, content to govern by way of soft television and radio appearances rather than by way of attempting to deal with the real problems faced by the State.

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): For some time we have listened to discussions on the pro-life issue. For some reason or another, we seem to focus completely on the unborn. I suggest that being pro-life means that we should look after the elderly in our care. If the Government can be criticised on anything they can be rapped over the knuckles for the lack of care given to the elderly in this State. The people in their seventies and eighties grew up in a very infant State endured much hardship and worked hard with very little reward, some of them paying tax even when very few others were doing so. In their old age it is difficult to get them into hospital and to keep them there. Today I emphasise my strong objection to the way elderly people are often discharged from hospital into the care of another elderly person. Sending a woman in her late seventies who is very ill home to her husband who is also in his seventies and also very ill and expecting him to look after her is not good enough in a State that is supposed to be pro-life.

I do not want to blame the hospital staff. I can understand the frustration of the hospital administrators when they get a call from a TD about sending a person home to no care. They have to try to keep beds free for acute patients. I can understand their frustration, although I do not accept their argument. The blame lies with the Minister and the Government who are not providing beds. Last May I tabled a question to the Minister for Health as to what plans he had in mind to provide beds for people aged 65 or over whose numbers are projected to increase to 55,000 in the next 20 [1380] years. He quoted freely from The Years Ahead — A Policy for the Elderly which recommended many good things and said that in principle the Government were accepting it. It ended by saying that the commitment of this Government to improve hospital services for the expanding elderly population had been demonstrated by the level of additional funding made available for this purpose over the past three years. I quote: “I intend to maintain this momentum to ensure that the elderly receive as high a quality of hospital service as possible and long-stay care when required”.

That statement is fine on paper. Of course the practical realities are that patients do not have these facilities and they are not getting the care the elderly deserve. These patients, because of their age grouping, worry about everything. It is unfair that they are under pressure to leave their beds and go home. It is unfair to the elderly people at home who are not able to look after them and I suppose it is unchristian that we regard the elderly as people who can disappear into the horizon and survive.

The last Taoiseach did not realise that health affairs were as bad as they were until he found himself in the middle of an election. I hope the present Government are not going to continue to walk in the dark as well until the next election. I was amazed on one occasion when a medic asked me: “What do you expect? That man is in his eighties”. I said at the time that I expected the best of medical care for that person. I would hate to think we had a society where anybody felt that the elderly could be dispensed with. They deserve the best care that can be given to them, and I want to criticise the Government for not making the beds available so that these people can be taken into hospital, kept there until they are fit to leave and then, while recuperating, sent to minor hospitals where they can be looked after. I hope the Government will take this problem seriously in the future.

Many of us put much effort into the work of this House. Having spent three years here now, I find it most frustrating [1381] to be part of an Opposition when we have a Taoisseach who, as I pointed out in a Parliamentary Question that was disallowed, gave 60 non-answers to questions here, like “as soon as possible”, “shortly” and “in the course of preparation”, and when Standing Orders prevent the Ceann Comhairle from insisting that answers are given. As has been mentioned, there is the guillotine problem. Important Bills to which people want to speak cannot be dealt with because of the guillotine that has been brought in on 47 occasons.

Acting Chairman:  The Deputy has two minutes.

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): That is another guillotine.

A Deputy:  Marie Antoinette would be proud of the Minister.

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Carlow-Kilkenny): What is the point of coming in to the Dáil where Bills are rushed through in days, when at county council level you can at least take on the county manager, who has to answer? Here you ask questions and you do not get answers. Bills have to go through in a certain time. Dáil reform is so vital that I do not know why we are not dealing with it as a major part of Government policy.

Housing has gone into fiction stage in this Government session. Housing does not exist. At the last monthly meeting, for the first time since I went on a council in 1979, housing in progress was one house which was finishing at the end of the month. This Government claim to be an open Government. I suggest it is open Government if you have to live in the open, it is fiction to be talking about housing that does not exist. At the moment there is quite a queue of frustrated people coming looking for houses. I do not know exactly what is going to happen but we will have a housing revolution if something is not done.

Minister for Agriculture and Food (Mr. Walsh): Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  I would like to take this [1382] opportunity to inform the House of the present state of agriculture and food in this country and of how I see its future prospects.

It may be a well-worn phrase to say that we are at a turning point. I believe, though, that when the histories of our era come to be written, the historians will see 1992 as the year when, not just here but in the European Community as a whole, the agriculture and food sector was set on a new course. I refer to the recent agreement on the reform of the Common Agricultureal Policy which has just been finally accepted at EC Council level, though I will be mentioning other new directions also. The conclusion of the Common Agricultural Policy reform negotiations was a very considerable success for this country, and that is not just my view. It has recently received independent confirmation from a number of objective quarters including a number of objective agricultural economists. A Teagasc report published yesterday estimates that over 75 per cent of Irish farmers are likely to gain from the reform and that overal farm income could increase by up to £94 million.

The Common Agricultural Policy reform charts a new course for Europe's farmers and food processors. It is, I am glad to say, a course that aims to continue support for farm incomes but at the same time to orient production more towards the requirements of the food industry and the consumer. Both of those objectives are essential to Ireland in different ways. Without EC support for farm incomes we could not maintain viable rural areas, and without a move towards market-oriented production we could not get this country into the forefront of the modern food-producing nations where it belongs. The reform agreement is accompanied by two features that I regard as vital for the on-going GATT negotiations. One is that the payments to farmers in compensation for price and support cuts are not limited in time. The other is a firm stance by the Community to the effect that the compensatory payments just decided will not be subject to cuts in any agreement on the Uruguay GATT Round. Unanimous acceptance by the EC member states in [1383] Council is needed for the Community to accept any Uruguay Round settlement. I can assure the House that this Government will not accept any outcome which does not take proper account of the needs of Irish farmers and food processors or which does not respect the basic principles of the Common Agricultural Policy.

I would draw attention now to one rather novel feature of the Common Agricultural Policy reform agreement. As Deputies will know, we in this country have always had a very seasonal pattern in our production of beef cattle. This arises from the pattern of grass growth here, a pattern which makes us the “green island” of Europe and gives us an unrivalled source of cheap summer feed but which at the same time has meant that we usually have a glut of cattle to be marketed in the autumn and a relative shortage in the spring. We are the only member state of the EC to have such pronounced seasonality. That production pattern has made it difficult for our beef processors to provide the steady year-round supplies that, for instance, supermarkets need. Up to now, the EC market-support systems such as intervention, designed as they are for the Community as a whole, have simply ignored this problem. In fact in some ways they have made it worse and reinforced it. This year, I was determined to do something about it. The final reform agreement contains a special and substantial premium for male cattle slaughtered in the spring months. That slaughter premium will come into operation on 1 January next. Taken together with forthcoming restraints on beef intervention, it is my hope and belief that this premium will keep substantial quantities of our beef out of the EC cold storage systems and put it where it should be, on the consumers' tables.

Of course, the very scale — increasing from £280 million to £650 million per annum over the next three years — and number of the EC premia on livestock now to be available to farmers under the new direction of the Common [1384] Agricultural Policy have implications for our domestic administration of the schemes. Here I have two important aims — maximum benefits to our farmers and fully correct administration under the EC regulations. Deputies know that there have been problems under the present schemes, with many incorrect and excessive claims being made — many, no doubt, due to genuine errors and many to marginal errors. I have always said in this House that the penalties do not fit the errors concerned; they are far too rigorous. In order to avoid such problems in the future I have already arranged for forms to be simplified and for a major information campaign to be undertaken in order to ensure, in so far as is humanly possible, that all applicants and potential applicants know how to make their applications correctly. If they do so, they will have no problems with my Department and indeed I am aiming at a very considerable acceleration of payments. I have given a commitment to this House that payments will be made in the year in which they fall due. But Deputies will understand that where there are no objective grounds to show that an excessive claim was a genuine mistake, it is simply not possible to ignore the matter or to justify it to the EC Commission, who provide the funds. Within that requirement I will be working to ensure that every valid applicant obtains the full benefit due and obtains it as rapidly as possible.

These and other EC premia will become an increasingly important part of farmers' incomes, and thus of the income of rural areas, in the years ahead. But they will not be the only income source, nor will the farmer become a pensioner of the EC. A noticeable feature of recent years has been the increase in the share of farm households' income coming from non-farming activities such as part time outside jobs or the provision of services. I would expect this trend to continue. I have no doubt, however, that the sale of farm products will continue to play a central role. Even with EC quantitative restrictions in many sectors, I believe that farmers will still have many opportunities [1385] to improve their incomes from farming by way of improved farm management practices leading to higher productivity.

There will, it is safe to say, continue to be fluctuations in farmers' incomes in the years ahead, though the increasing relative importance of premia and of non-farming activities should help to reduce the extent of variation from year to year. Even at the best of times, farming can be a chancy business, a high risk business——

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Very risky in some cases.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  It is subject to the vagaries of the weather and the state of product markets. We are subject to a few other vagaries——

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Such as elections.

Mr. Walsh: Information on Joe Walsh  Zoom on Joe Walsh  ——but the weather is one we can usually deal with. This is one of the reasons why the EC, and we in this country, have always seen it as necessary to intervene in the formation of farm incomes and to attempt to stabilise and improve them, whether overall or sector by sector. Last year, for instance, income from farming fell; this year there are welcome signs that it is on the rise again overall, though it is as yet of course far too soon to make firm predictions for 1992.

The picture sector by sector is, as usual, varied. I would very much like to be able to ensure rising incomes every year for every farm sector; but that is, as Deputies well know, outside even my power. Apart from weather factors, disease outbreaks here or abroad and other uncontrollable events, there is the fact that we are part of a Community that runs its Common Agricultural Policy on a basis of proposal and consensus or majority vote.

That system has on the whole benefited this country enormously. But there can be occasions on which the benefits are reduced. Currently, for instance, I am very conscious of the concerns of sheep producers, for whom a period of weakness in the lamb market has coincided [1386] with the implementation of a much earlier Community decision — that was in 1989 — reorganising the basis of the ewe premium. This caused a reduction of the premium in this country, partially compensated by an increase in the EC rural world premium in the disadvantaged areas, which now cover more than 70 per cent of the country. This outcome was certainly not the one expected by the EC when the reorganisation decision was made. Then it was expected that greater convergence of market prices would prevent it. I have for some considerable time been indicating to my colleagues in the Community that that expectation was not being realised and that as a result a major problem was likely to arise this year, at least for Ireland. As soon as it was clear that my concerns on this point were justified — and that was only within the last few weeks on 19 June — I pressed for corrective action, particularly at the last meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers, and so did some Ministers of other member states. The Commission has been fully alerted to the situation and has undertaken to examine it and report back to me. I will continue to press the issue with a view to getting adequate redress. I have also just announced special arrangements to accelerate ewe premium and rural world premium payments as an exceptional measure. I have also been in contact with CBF, the Irish Livestock and Meat Board, and they have arranged for three major promotions in France next week to see if a greater volume of products can be moved onto the market place in an effort to improve the market price. Payments to sheep producers in respect of ewe premium and headage payments in 1991 amounted to £121.5 million and £17.2 million respectively. This year already £84 million has been paid to 52,000 sheep farmers.

I should point out too that I am always sensitive to the needs of the farming community and I am always prepared to take appropriate action on their behalf. I am continuing to promote the interests of Ireland's agriculture, including those of Ireland's sheep farmers, not because of [1387] but despite the recent actions by some sheep farmers, which I utterly deplore and which no cause can excuse.

I turn now to what needs to happen in this country if we are to meet and overcome the challenges that lie ahead and build up a strong, prosperous and successful farm and food sector under the reformed Common Agricultural Policy. From that point of view I would place heavy emphasis on research, education and advisory services. As Deptuies know, I have provided this year a special allocation to Teagasc so that they can build up a special advisory service directed to smaller farmers and to those at financial risk.

The whole processs of information and advice to farmers is one that I regard as basic and essential. It is for that reason that I have arranged for my Department to hold a whole series of public meetings throughout the country in order to explain to farmers what the Common Agricultural Policy reform means and to assist farmers in the friendliest possible way to complete their application forms correctly so that they will be able to obtain full payment under the headage and premia schemes. I also recently arranged for my Department to hold a major seminar at UCD on the implications of Common Agricultural Policy reform. The seminar was extremely well attended, which was evidence of the desire of all concerned to come to grips with the new situation. On that occasion, my Department and I conveyed to those present all the information at our disposal. Some detailed points still have to be legislated by the European Commission under its own powers, or, in the case of some structural provisions, approved at Community level on the basis of national programmes to be submitted. However, the main decisions on Common Agricultural Policy reform are now formally adopted.

I would hope in the next week or so — certainly within a matter of days — to be in a position to make additional announcements in relation to Common Agricultural Policy reforms so that as [1388] soon as information becomes available the farming community and the agricultural industry will know about it.

I also attach major importance to the whole rural development effort, under the aegis of Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food Deputy Hyland, which is now getting under way. This too is a necessary part of our adaptation to a changed future. In addition to our national programme, the structure for which is now being set up, there are two EC rural development programmes underway in this country. One is a special scheme for cross-Border projects, known as INTERREG on which we are working in close co-operation with the Northern Ireland authorities. The second is LEADER, a programme where a considerable number of Irish projects has been approved by the EC. That programme has generated very considerable enthusiasm in this country and I am confident that we will begin to see its concrete results in terms of rural development within the next 18 months. I am confident also that the Community will decide to build further on those results, here and elsewhere in Europe, and will decide to extend the LEADER programme for a further period. Applicants who applied under the LEADER Programme and were successful on the last occasion should reapply when additional funds are received. The current drive for rural development is based on a “bottom-up” concept which aims to encourage local groups to use their own initiative within a minimum framework of financial rules, thus building up a spirit of confidence and self-reliance in rural areas.

A prosperous agriculture depends in large part on a successful food industry. We are lucky to have the benefit of the experience of our second Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Deputy Browne. Quite clearly, we can no longer rely on a preponderance of commodity trading, though commodities will continue to have a place in our food products portfolio. But the advance of our food industry must be spearheaded largely by [1389] products of a kind that consumers are increasingly demanding and are prepared to pay for.

As the Culliton report made clear, new approaches in and towards our food sector are now needed. In accordance with a recommendation of that report, and in pursuance also of a Programme for Economic and Social Progress commitment, I recently set up an expert group on the food industry under the chairmanship of the Secretary of my Department. I have asked that group to produce within six months an action programme for the food sector. The group contains persons experienced and eminent in farming, food processing and retailing, together with representatives of State agencies. I have every confidence that it will fulfil its task successfully and that its recommendations will be a milestone in the development of this country's food sector. I am confident I will have their proposals to ensure that they can be implemented from early next year.

Another important element in the advance and development of our agriculture is the health status of our livestock. As a major producer of livestock, and livestock products our high animal health status is a critical factor. Traditionally we have protected that status through a very cautious approach to imports and through the use of quarantine. The completion of the Single Market entails the removal of these frontier controls and dependence on checks at the points of origin to prevent infected animals and products getting into circulation. Initially there was some concern on our part about the consequences of this proposal

However, the various proposals have been agreed to our satisfaction and there has been a genuine Community effort to harmonise standards upwards. It is also encouraging that the animal health status of the member states has improved significantly. The best example is the fact that the Community is now completely free of foot and mouth disease and vaccination has been abandoned in all member states. Therefore, the arrangements being put in place for the Single [1390] Market provide good guarantees and will not put our high status at risk.

Of course, bovine TB remains a blot on our copybook. The ERAD arrangement formally ended in april. Under ERAD many improvements and support systems for the TB eradication programme were introduced. A large body of information on the disease has been accumulated. The main focus of attention now is the securing of very substantial Community support for the programme 1992-96 and to secure the agreement of the farming and veterinary interests for the conditions involved. What is at stake is £20 million per annum for three years — £60 million — but there is a degree of conditionality involved. The exercise of securing the agreement of the farming community, and the veterinary authorities, has been extremely difficult. We are at a point where we will have to settle on a set of conditions to enable the funding to be drawn down. It is unthinkable that we should fail to secure major Community funding of this scale towards the cost of compensation and testing when one considers the pressure on public finances and the burden of disease levies on farmers. The levies on farmers would be reduced by one-third if we could avail of this £60 million.

It is also worth mentioning that a sizeable volume of testing has been carried out this year. More than 4.5 million animal tests have been carried out and a relatively satisfactory disease picture has emerged.

I have said enough to show that quite a great deal can be done, and is being done, by the Department of Agriculture and Food to create conditions in which the agriculture and food sectors can develop and become more effective. Indeed, by restraining interest rates and inflation the Government as a whole are providing one of the most basic conditions, but, in the last analysis, success or failure will depend on the actions of farmers and processors. That will not just be a matter of increased productivity. It will be a matter also of quality-consciousness and of sensitivity to consumer and environmental needs. We need to [1391] establish and safeguard a culture of excellence, of top performance in all sectors of agriculture and food production. Deputies might think that that was only a vague and cloudy aspiration, but I do not see it as such. I see it as a matter of the practices and standards already operated by our best farmers and food processors being adopted much more widely.

Our farmers, our factories and our marketeers are the best in the world. I want to see more of those and a greater percentage adopting those practices. What some have done, others can also do. Already, some farmers are participating in quality schemes and quite a number of food firms have reached the ISO 9000 standard. I was very proud recently to present the ISO 9000 — international quality — standard to the first meat company here and only three in the European Community have reached that standard.

I am encouraged too by the ability and initiative shown in particular by the younger generation in farming and in food production. That generation is already in the process of proving conclusively that it is capable of meeting and overcoming today's challenges. Overall, I am confident that over the coming years we can build here a farm and food sector to match the best in Europe, or indeed in the world.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  With the permission of the House I wish to share my time with my colleague, Deputy Enright.

Acting Chairman:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Members on this side of the House could be lulled into a false sense of security by listening to the speeches from the Government side. I am sure if I were a Government Minister about to go home for the summer break this evening I would feel a little uneasy in much the same way a little schoolboy who had not done his homework would [1392] feel returning to school after the summer break——

Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food (Mr. Browne,: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  Wexford): It is a long time since the Deputy went to school.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  I would also be thankful, at the same time, that there had been no examination and I would hope that there would not be one for some considerable time.

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Wexford): It will be two years more.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  If the examination did take place there would likely be some retribution and the teacher would likely allocate marks in a fashion that would cause the unfortunate student to wilt somewhat.

I know that from the Opposition benches the world never appears as rosy as it does from the Government benches. There are reasons for that which I will not dwell on today. I find it very difficult to understand how the appearance of something can change so much between Opposition and Government benches. For example, when Fianna Fáil were in Opposition and were speaking on the subject before us today they would decry everything from agriculture to social welfare, from the problems that best young people to those that beset the old. They would talk about unemployment, agriculture services generally and hospital services and they would have all the reasons the Government of the day were not doing well. It is amazing that they have not said anything, that there has not been a murmer from that side of the House——

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Wexford): We are solving all the problems.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Something in the air in the House must cause them to change their minds when they move across the [1393] floor of the Chamber. We were promised open Government but what did we get?

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  Closed Government.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  In a few days time we will be celebrating Bastille Day. There are more guillotines in this House than there were in the weeks before the original Bastille Day. If the Government say we will have open Government why do we not?

Mr. Browne: Information on John Browne  Zoom on John Browne  (Wexford): The Deputy's party were good at using guillotines.

Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  We have been through a pretence of open Government for the past few weeks in relation to Dáil business. We went through the pretence of working on Fridays but we debated Estimates on Thursdays, which was new. We always dealt with Estimates on Fridays and serious legislation on Thursdays. We are going through the pretence of open Government and it means nothing. Legislation such as the Housing (Miscellaneous Provisions) Bill and other Bills that required urgent attention were guillotined. Members opposite should cop on and let us have open Government. If we are to have open Government please tell us when.

We have heard about the recovery of the economy frequently and we have waited for it for so long we do not know what we are talking about. I cannot understand how any Member on the Government side can talk about the recovery of the economy when more and more people are going on the live register every day; last week being a classic example. I am delighted to see the Minister for Labour in the House. He will recall the demise of Lullymore, just outside his own constituency, in the last three months. That was the issue in which he had some considerable interest and which involved the employment of some of his own constituents as well as mine. The people of Lullymore do not think the economy has recovered. The people of Lullymore are not too sure exactly what the Government are talking about [1394] because, despite the best efforts of both parties in the Coalition Government, Lullymore closed, putting 150 more people on the live register, resulting in more social welfare payments.

Let us look at industrial investment in this country. Why can we not compete with other European countries as an attractive investment location now that the economy is recovering? It is because investors do not see this country as an attractive investment location. There are a number of reasons for this, some of which are within the power of the Government to resolve and some of which will require considerably more time. I accept that the infrastructural support funds which come to us from the European Community will be of benefit in the long term in improving our infrastructure; but, what is our attitude towards Europe at present? What was our attitude during the campaign on the Maastricht Treaty? What were the people saying to us and to the Government during that campaign, and will the Government take on board what was said? What they were saying was that we have been members of the EC for some considerable time with benefits accruing to this country year after year by way of pay-outs and subventions and support grants etc, but so far we have little to offer other than to say that we have almost 300,000 unemployed and about 40 per cent of the population in receipt of social welfare benefits.

Those were not palatable things to have to say to the people when asking them to support the Maastricht Treaty. In a few years' time the people will be asked to ratify a further agreement. I wonder will we be able to say then that we have made some progress. Hopefully the present Government will be long gone and sitting in the far back benches of the Opposition but, if they happen to be in Government, are they going to be able to say that they have solved the unemployment problem? Are they going to be able to say to the young people leaving schools and colleges that there is some chance of them achieving employment within the next couple of years? Will [1395] there be a serious attempt to attract the degree of investment necessary to provide jobs for ourselves so that we can forget about the handouts from Brussels that we have become accustomed to?

At present the Government seem to want to rush down into the constituencies promising subsidies, pilot programmes, schemes etc., in other words, just another form of social welfare, another way of getting people to sit back and assume that money will come like manna from heaven and that they will not have to solve their problems themselves. Let us remember that the European Structural Funds will not be with us forever but will ease out eventually. If we do not use those funds to improve our attractiveness as an investment location we will be totally dependent on subsidies and subventions. That is not in the interests of the people and it is certainly not in the interests of the coming generations.

It is obvious to me, as a representative of both an urban and a rural constituency, that there is a general acceptance in the community that law and order has broken down. Women, young and old, are potential targets for some thug who will mug, rape or rob them. This is because the perpetrators of such heinous crimes know that if they are caught they will get off lightly and that there is a good chance that they will not be caught at all. A male who is either young or elderly is a potential target for some thug who will rob, mug or terrorise him in one way or another. Again this stems from the recognition by the perpetrators that they are relatively safe from the law. Until such time as the Government seriously tackle the problem of the rising crime rate in this country that will continue.

Over the last couple of years tourists coming to this country have been attacked and have found themselves in court giving evidence against an attacker. It is disgraceful that we have not made a serious attempt to tackle that problem. We have talked about it for long enough. It is time the Government stopped talking and dealt with the issue.

We have talked so long and often about [1396] the question of motor insurance in this House that it has now become a bore. Everybody recognises that motor insurance premiums are unacceptably high. Many reasons have been trotted out as to why this should be so. However, there will be no change so long as the Minister persists in saying that we are lucky we have such companies to give us cover. Insurance companies have a vested interest in keeping insurance premiums high. They invest the premiums they obtain from motorists, so the higher the premiums the better for them. They have no intention of reducing motor insurance costs as long as the Government continue to adopt a protective attitude towards them.

I know I have well nigh exhausted my time, but perhaps in the new session — which may or may not take place — the Minister for Industry and Commerce will take a serious look at the way motor insurance companies account for the insurance premiums that they invest to see whether or not those investments are included in the assessment of profits and losses in motor insurance companies generally?

Mr. Enright: Information on Tom Enright  Zoom on Tom Enright  As this is the first occasion on which I have spoken in the House since Deputy Cowen was appointed Minister for Labour, I would like to wish him well. As an Offaly man representing the same constituency, I wish him every success with a most difficult brief. I would also like to wish Deputy Kitt good luck in his position.

This Adjournment Debate is taking place at a time when the country is faced with some of the most serious economic problems ever to confront an Irish Government. The unemployment crisis facing this country, with just over 280,000 people out of work, should be enough to set alarm bells ringing in Government Buildings. Instead of reducing, the levels of unemployment appear to be increasing even further. If we had a united Government working to tackle that problem we could retain some hope that matters would be tackled positively. However, the Government are so divided with [1397] jealousies and tensions running through the Cabinet and through the Fianna Fáil Party in particular that they are unable to work together to formulate a comprehensive policy to tackle this problem. The lack of unity is one of the most serious problems. This infighting between the different factions is not good for the country.

The increased powers being granted to the Revenue Commissioners in this year's Finance Act and in the Finance Bill promised later this year shows just how out of touch the Government are. These powers would mean that an employer, an industrialist or a person running a small business here in Ireland would have fewer rights than a criminal or a subversive. The Revenue Commissioners are seeking powers of entry to premises, the right to demand information and the power to seek and seize documents, and there is no right to silence. These powers are being sought by the Revenue Commissioners to be used against people who have the initiative to create employment. The Garda Síochána have less extensive powers for dealing with criminals. To take it a stage further, the Revenue Commissioners are interested in obtaining powers of arrest, the power to enter business premises without a warrant and the power to enter private homes. These are very extensive powers. I accept the Minister's point that, even if this law is put on the Statute Book, it may never be used. I wish to point out to him that once a law is put on the Statute Book it will remain there until it is removed. I believe that the granting of such extensive powers to the Revenue Commissioners would curtail investment by foreign investors here. The possibility of being interrogated, as happened to people in County Donegal and elsewhere, is a major disincentive to people with money. I ask the Government to be very careful in the granting of further powers to the Revenue Commissioners.

Agriculture is going through a very difficult period. Farmers' incomes are falling and the number of people employed in agriculture is declining. The Government should consider ways of [1398] helping farmers to overcome their financial difficulties. One way they could do this is by providing low interest loans for medium and small farmers. Similar schemes were introduced previously when farmers were going through difficult periods. The recent reform of the Common Agricultural Policy will mean a reduction in the incomes of Irish farmers of approximately £30 million per annum. Farmers who have taken out large loans from the banks and the Agricultural Credit Corporation require some financial assistance in the form of reduced interest payments. This would give them the opportunity of surviving. The introduction of a scheme which would enable farmers to meet their financial commitments over a three to five year period is essential. As the Minister knows only too well, large numbers of farmers are experiencing financial difficulties. The introduction of such a scheme would be of benefit to them.

I wish to refer briefly to the Beef Tribunal. The former Taoiseach gave a commitment that all relevant information and documentation would be furnished to the Tribunal. The headline on the front page of yesterday's Irish Times stated “State to fight Beef Tribunal on Cabinet confidentiality”. This Tribunal was set up by this House and a High Court judge was appointed to oversee the proceedings. Any information on discussions which took place at Cabinet level should be furnished to the Tribunal. If the details of any discussion which took place at Cabinet level cannot be disclosed, then I believe something is seriously wrong and it should be brought to the attention of the Irish people. I am not saying that there is anything amiss, but full disclosure of all information is required irrespective of whether it took place inside or outside the Cabinet. The Government should have the courage of their convictions to disclose this information so that it can be discussed publicly.

Minister for Labour (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I thank Deputy Enright for his words of congratulation.

It is universally accepted that the [1399] Programme for National Recovery and Programme for Economic and Social Progress, and the associated pay agreements, brought about a dramatic improvement in our industrial relations. As a result, days lost through strikes have been reduced to record low levels. Employers have enjoyed wage-cost stability while at the same time providing real increases in take-home pay for workers, which in turn has created a climate for investor confidence. This confidence was reflected in the good performance of the Irish economy in 1991 despite international conditions.

A good industrial relations environment is essential not only in maintaining competitiveness but in building investor confidence. Investor confidence is very susceptible to the perception of instability and uncertainty arising from industrial disputes. Of course, in the five and a half years since the introduction of the Programme for National Recovery there have been ups and downs in the figures for strikes and days lost. It would be foolish in the extreme to think that in the area of employer-employee relations disputes and strikes can be totally eliminated. Recently we have had a number of high profile disputes which have to some extent dented the good record of previous years. However, it would be wrong to concentrate on these disputes and lose sight of the broader picture. As I have said before, I would regard these disputes as a temporary setback dealing with structural problems that arose in these sectors rather than an indication of any long term trend, and I am confident that the underlying industrial relations climate remains healthy and will continue to remain so. Any objective assessment of the situation must conclude that the industrial relations climate compares more than favourably to that prevailing prior to the coming into operation of the Programme for National Recovery and Programme for Economic and Social Progress.

Later this year the parties to the Programme for Economic and Social Progress will meet to review the operation of [1400] the agreements under the programme in the light of economic and fiscal developments over the period. The experience to date has demonstrated what can be achieved when all the main social partners come together and are involved in the drawing up of a range of agreed targets and objectives. It is my hope that in the forthcoming discussions the momentum generated to date through the national programmes will be maintained and built upon.

There is a real need for the creation of more jobs. With the help of Government policies the direct and indirect impact of the manufacturing sector is holding very strongly in Ireland compared with most European countries. In 1991 the total spent in Ireland on wages, Irish raw materials and services was £11.1 billion. This is an increase of £600 million on the previous year in real terms and represents an increase of 7.6 per cent in spending by Irish companies, while overseas owned firms showed an 8.7 per cent increase.

There are over 1,000 overseas companies in Ireland, employing 93,000 people. In 1991 they contributed approximately £4.1 billion to the Irish economy. Of this sum, wages accounted for about £1.4 billion, purchases of raw materials in this country by such companies were about £1.3 billion and approximately £1.4 billion was spent on services. The competitive cost and good industrial relations environment in Ireland in recent years has a very beneficial impact on overseas companies already established in the country. As a result these companies play a crucial role in giving positive recommendations to potential new overseas investors.

The success of the consensus-based approach at national level sets a clear example of what can be gained by the adoption of participative arrangements and is something which should be copied and translated into action at the level of the individual enterprise. In this context, the FIE-ICTU joint declaration on employee involvement is an important development. The FIE and ICTU have shown their commitment in the declaration to the concept and practice of [1401] employee involvement. The provisions of the document form the basis on which employee involvement in enterprises can be encouraged and developed. I am encouraged by recent developments which show that employers recognise that involving workers in the running of the company is essentially good management practice and makes good business sense. Benefits to be gained from such involvement would undoubtedly help companies to cope more effectively with the increasingly competitive environment in which they have to operate and to manage change in the workplace without giving rise to industrial unrest. It is also essential to have agreed procedures in place to enable contentious issues to be processed without recourse to industrial action.

The aim of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990, is to put in place an improved framework for the conduct of industrial relations and for the resolution of trade disputes with the aim of maintaining a stable and orderly industrial relations climate. The code of practice on dispute procedures, including procedures in essential services, drawn up by the Labour Relations Commission is designed to help encourage employers and unions to agree appropriate and practical arrangements for dispute resolution. The document provides a framework for comprehensive and reasonable procedures without being over prescriptive and can be adapted for use in all employments. It has the potential to make a significant contribution to the orderly processing of disputes, including those in essential services, and the maintenance of good industrial relations generally. However, this potential cannot be fully realised without the commitment of all parties and I would urge all concerned to play their part in making the code work. I should like to compliment the excellent work of the LRC and the Labour Court, with the LRC working on conciliation matters and the Labour Court making recommendations for settlement of disputes.

A very important provision of the Industrial Relations Act, 1990 — namely, the requirement that trade unions include [1402] a pre-strike ballot rule in their rule books within two years of the passing of the Act — comes into effect on 18 July next. Even prior to the passing of the Act many of the larger unions already had pre-strike ballot rules and the holding of secret ballots is considered normal good practice.

The provisions in the Act are designed to ensure that this good practice is extended to all unions, thus promoting greater order in the conduct of industrial relations. Failure to comply with this requirement will result in the trade union automatically losing its negotiation licence and will no longer enjoy the immunities provided under the Industrial Relations Act, 1990. However, indications are that all unions are complying with the requirement and I am confident that this will lead to a further improvement in the conduct of industrial relations in the future.

The Programme for Economic and Social Progress commits the Minister for Labour to bring forward certain legislation during the currency of the programme. Arising from these commitments, legislation dealing with part-time workers, and the payment of wages, was enacted last year by a previous Minister for Labour. I will follow these achievements by placing on the Statute Book the remaining legislation committed in the programme. These are the amendments to the unfair dismissals and employment equality legislation.

This Bill is the outcome of a review of the Unfair Dismissals Act, 1977, during its 15 years of operation. The review has confirmed the essentially sound nature of the original Act. The scope of the Bill will extend to updating and enhancing some aspects of the 1977 Act and to introducing desirable technical changes and measures aimed at improving the administration of the legislation.

The other labour legislation due for amendment under the programme is the employment equality legislation. Work on proposals in this area is onging and involves the preparation of a single piece of legislation that will replace both of the existing statutes and the succession of statutory instruments made over the past [1403] 16 years. These developments will ensure that the basic principles of equality law are accessible and comprehensible to the public.

The Programme for Economic and Social Progress also commits me, as Minister for Labour, to review the existing legislative arrangements as they relate to holidays, employment agencies and agency workers, conditions of employment and protection of employment. Work on the review of legislation in each of these areas has commenced.

In addition to legislative commitments in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, there is an undertaking to provide on a statutory basis for leave from employment for adoptive mothers. This legislation was signalled in the Budget Statement of the Minister for Finance who indicated that the Government would be promoting legislation to provide for such leave and that the Government intended making available a benefit to these mothers along the lines of the existing maternity benefit scheme for women in employment. It is my intention that the necessary legislation will be introduced later this year.

In so far as the EC Social Affairs Council under the Portuguese Presidency is concerned, the individual item which attracted greatest attention in the social affairs area was the proposal for a Directive on the organisation of working time. At the Social Affairs Council on 24 June, the Council reached broad agreement on the Directive as a whole but some problems of a technical nature regarding derogations from the provisions on the maximum weekly working time were unresolved. These problems, resulting from the diversity of national legislation in this field did not concern Ireland directly; they concerned in particular the reference period which would apply in calculating maximum weekly working time and also the level at which derogations may be allowed for by the social partners.

The Council instructed a technical group to solve the outstanding problems as soon as possible and, at the latest, [1404] before the next Social Affairs Council on 1 December 1992, when it is hoped a common position can be adopted. It is now a matter for the UK Presidency to organise the agenda for the technical group.

I may say that the latest Presidency text on the draft Directive which formed the basis of the broad agreement has been substantially improved from our point of view, as compared with earlier drafts. The latest text achieves a much better balance between the improvement of working time conditions for workers and the maintenance of reasonable flexibility for employers so as to allow them to organise working patterns efficiently and effectively. There are also more realistic time-spans for implementation. There remain some technical points which we will pursue in the technical group to be established under the UK Presidency. I am hopeful that Ireland will be able to subscribe to a common position on this Directive in December next.

Another draft Directive which was the subject of much interest was that on the protection of pregnant workers which was before the Council for final adoption after consideration by the European Parliament. At the Council, eleven member states, including Ireland, favoured retaining the common position on the draft Directive agreed in November 1991. However, because one member state could not agree, the Directive could not, unfortunately, be adopted in final form. In order not to abandon the progress already made and with a view to adoption of a Directive at an early date, a political compromise was reached to resolve the impasse reached at the Council. Under the compromise, the Commission undertook to examine with the European Parliament its opinion, on which the Commission had based its revised proposal, and to bring forward a revised proposal which could be adopted at a forthcoming Council, hopefully in September next.

The UK Presidency, which began on 1 July, has adopted “A Community at Work” as its theme for social affairs. This reflects the Presidency's stated intentions [1405] to consolidate the achievements of the Community to date and to take a leading role in the debate about the Europe of 1993 and beyond. The dominant themes of the Presidency's programme are employment, safety and health and free movement. These are matters which are quite satisfactory from our point of view.

In particular, we welcome the Presidency's intention to focus greater attention on employment and job creation in the Community by bringing forward an initiative which would aim to promote regular debate on employment problems, for instance in the context of the Commission's annual report on employment.

We fully support this focus on employment. The Community has an essential role to play in supplementing the efforts of national Governments to tackle this problem. Ireland will in this forthcoming debate press for concrete Community action particularly to assist the regions of the Community which are most in need of Community help and for the implementation of the cohesion provisions of the Treaty of European Union.

In its second priority area, the UK Presidency intends to support the European Year of Health and Safety and to take forward various proposals promoting high standards of health and safety at work. These include proposals relating to extractive industries, fishing vessels, biological agents and the setting up of the European Safety and Health Agency. A Presidency initiative on common principles for health and safety inspection is also proposed. These are all areas to which we will give our full support.

As regards the establishment of the European Safety and Health Agency, I should say that Ireland has been pressing very strongly to have this agency added to the existing European Foundation for Living and Working Conditions at Loughlinstown, County Dublin. We believe that this would be a logical move in view of the affinity of matters handled by the two bodies and in the interests of economy and efficiency.

In the area of free movement, the UK Presidency intends to encourage the [1406] Council to take initiatives on further measures to promote the free movement of workers such as the transferability of occupational pensions and the recognition of vocational training qualifications. Here again, we will be able to offer our general support.

The Presidency hopes to progress a number of other proposals, including those on sub-contracting, transfer of undertakings and the employment of young people. We will, as always, play a full and constructive role in the discussion on these proposals.

The UK also intends to give special consideration to what the Presidency programme describes as “even-handed and effective” implementation and enforcement of existing EC legislation”. Ireland will, of course, co-operate fully in any such exercise.

In addition to the formal Social Affairs Council on 1 December, the UK Presidency will host an informal meeting of Social Affairs Ministers in October and a number of conferences dealing with employment, training, equal opportunites, health and safety, social security and the disabled. Irish representatives from my Department, and others, as well as other agencies as appropriate will be participating in these events.

As the Minister with responsibility for the European Social Fund, I have a particular interest in ensuring that it continues to centrally contribute to vocational training and education provision post-1993. We have benefited very significantly from Social Fund transfers to date. Let me give the House an idea of the scale of funding involved. In the ten years 1973-83 we received £326 million from the ESF. Last year alone — 1991 — payments amounted to £371 million. This sum was greater than that paid from the ESF in the course of the first decade of our memberhip of the Europen Community.

When the five-year period 1989-93 is over, Ireland will have received in excess of £1 billion from the Social Fund. When matched by the Exchequer contribution this will fund training and employment programmes for an averge of 150,000 [1407] people each year. Training is being provided by a range of agencies to enhance the employment opportunities of participants. That training seeks to anticipate and address the manpower needs of the different economic sectors — the industry and services sectors, the tourism sector and the agricultural sector.

Training programmes for the long-term unemployed, young people seeking to enter the labour market and the disabled are also assisted and in the current year the ESF will contribute £75 million to support such training. Clearly the scale of financial transfers from the European Community is very significant. It amounts to almost 40 per cent of all Structural Funds approved under the Community Support Framework for Ireland for the period 1989-93. As the responsible Minister I want to ensure that we make maximum use of this funding.

In this country we find it all too easy to be self-satisfied and indulgent of our own systems and standards for the training and development of our people — the development of human resources as the jargon has it. It is time we started to make comparisons with the best in the European Community and beyond it. In a global economic environment where industrial change and the continued refinement of technological applications is the order, complacency about training standards and skill levels would be a most dangerous attitude to adopt.

I am looking at different vocational training models elsewhere within the European Community and hope to incorporate the best practices into our own systems as soon as possible.

As the House will be aware there is as yet no political agreement on the scale of increase in the Structural Funds in the 1994-97 period. The Taoiseach and the Government will be resolute in requiring that the resources available to the Structural Funds and the Cohesion Fund are doubled. This increase, allied to higher rates of Community support for our programmes, should ensure that the European Social Fund plays an even [1408] more central role in financing training and education programmes in the next phase.

At this time the European Commission are preparing regulations to govern the operations of the various funds. We have learned a lot from the current reform. The emphasis on multi-annual programming and the monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of expenditures have been positive features. We share a joint concern with the European Commission to ensure that the financial transfers to Ireland make the fullest contribution in facilitating economic growth, employment creation and greater cohesiveness among the member states of the Community. We have also identified areas in the administration of the Structural Funds which can be improved. A less bureaucratic approach and greater efficiency in the timing of the transfer of Social Fund finance is clearly necessary. Delays in payments to the promoters of training have been a consistent theme in our contacts with the European Commission. Such delays have caused real problems in that agencies have been unnecessarily exposed to debt servicing and interest payments on borrowings while they await, often for long periods, the receipt of committed Social Fund moneys. I know that an interest is being taken in this question by the Commission President, Jacques Delors. I am confident that problems which have arisen to date will not recur in the future. I shall continue to make representations in that regard.

It is my intention to bring forward this year a White Paper on Manpower Policy. The groundwork includes the Green Paper on Education for a Changing World published last week and the report of the Industrial Policy Review Group — known as the Culliton Review Group published earlier this year.

The Green Paper on Education sets out the future contribution of the educational system to industrial development. The proposals start from a more vocationally-oriented base within the school system. This will be followed by bringing together the various elements of [1409] vocational education and training into a more cohesive, modularised and graduated system which will include employer and trade union interests. Within this system all vocational training programmes will be progressively constituted under an extended training system modelled on the dual system operated effectively by countries such as Germany.

The proposals in relation to educational development have implications for existing FÁS and CERT programmes for young first-time job seekers. There is a need to review the programmes provided by FÁS, CERT and the educational sector to ensure that their work is complementary and avoid unnecessary duplication. This work is already under way.

The Manpower Policy White Paper will also have to take account of the recommendations of the Industrial Policy Review Group. The group concluded that a higher priority must be attached to the acquisition of usable and marketable skills.

Perhaps of more importance, is the emphasis put by the group on the existence, within Irish industry of a serious deficiency of intermediate production skills, an absence of multi-skilling, both among technicians and crafts people, and an absence of integrated financial and technical skills at management level. The group concluded that these deficiencies inhibit productivity growth and competitiveness in the typical Irish industrial firm. The group recognised that this skills gap needs to be addressed both by industry and by the educational system.

In the past, in our manpower planning, we have concentrated on identified and quantified skill shortages. The concept of a skills deficiency is perhaps, a more difficult problem to address, since here we are dealing with attitudes. The real cause of concern is — in the words of the Industrial Policy and Review Group — the perception of many managers that there is not a skill shortage which may itself be part of the skills problem facing Irish industry. A similar finding emerged from the report of the Galvin Committee [1410] on Management Development and Training four years ago in relation to the negative attitude of many firms to management development. At the end of the day we are faced with the challenge of how to change the attitude of Irish firms to skills development. This is something I intend to tackle head-on.

In more recent times, we have the job training scheme. I have always accepted that the job training scheme is a medium to long term measure and it would be unrealistic to expect immediate gains. Nevertheless I must say that the up-take to date has been disappointing and will have to be explained. The Taoiseach and I met employer organisations and ICTU last week to review the take-up of the scheme. Since then FÁS have met the employer organisations and ICTU. During these discussions, a number of issues have been raised including the question of excessive bureaucracy, a lack of flexibility on the part of FÁS in administering the scheme, the conditions of the European Commission when they agreed to fund the scheme and the question of the live register requirement acting as a deterrent to employers. FÁS staff are now meeting individual firms in an effort to reach conclusions on the difficulties under each of these headings. I look forward to receiving a report on these difficulties by the end of this month.

Central to our system of training on the job is the apprenticeship system now in the process of being reformed by FÁS. There have been, and continue to be, obstacles to increasing and expanding apprenticeship training. Our economy is dominated by small firms and international experience has been that small firms do not train to a significant extent. There have been suspicions on the part of those with an interest in the old apprenticeship system towards change.

Of course, another issue we shall have to address is that of certification of courses. Discussions are taking place at present between the Departments of Education and Labour to establish before the end of the year a new authoritative certification agency which will certify courses from both the education and [1411] training systems. These are some of the issues that will have to be addressed in the White Paper on Manpower Policy. Following publication of the Green Paper on Education it is my intention to meet employers, trade union bodies and the boards of FÁS and CERT before the end of this month. The ESRI are currently engaged in in-depth research into manpower and employment matters, paying particular attention to the turnover in employment. I shall be closely examining the results of that research. Then it will be my intention to take decisions on the various issues and publish the White Paper before the end of the year.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  With your permission, Sir, I should like to share some of my time with Deputy Mac Giolla.

Acting Chairman (Mr. M. Barrett): Information on Michael Barrett  Zoom on Michael Barrett  Is that agreeable to the House? Agreed.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  This debate takes place at the end of what can be described as a turbulent period in Irish politics within which we have seen a change of Taoiseach, of Government and the Opposition play a consistently constructive role. We have witnessed also public worries about inquiries into Telecom Éireann and the changes effected at the head of that semi-State body. There has been widespread public concern about Government involvement in the purchase of Carysfort College and the difficulties within An Post which have not yet been resolved following a lengthy dispute. It would appear that the Government answer to the problems obtaining within An Post is the purchase of people's jobs. On this occasion I hope that the board of An Post will ensure that, in any redundancy scheme, there will be some provision made for the continuance of a very essential public service particularly in rural areas.

There have been concerns voiced also about electricity supply, with the earlier announcement by an existing director on the board of the ESB that charges would remain static over a specific period. Yet, [1412] in recent days, we have heard announcements from the board that they hope to increase electricity charges by some 20 per cent over the next four years.

In a detailed contribution about his legislative programme the Minister for Labour never once touched on the crisis of unemployment which is dogging this country, pressurising all of us to do something in this area in which there are now 280,000 people wanting to work, with no jobs available. Indeed there have been restrictions imposed on social welfare payments for those genuinely endeavouring to get work, restricting those payments in the case of people who contributed to the overall fund, thereby dismantling the whole concept of a pay-related social insurance scheme. People are now dependent on FÁS and social employment schemes. But what the Minister for Labour did not admit was that millions of pounds have been cut from the funding of this social employment scheme by Government, denying rural areas any opportunitity — whether it be on the part of local authorities, “Tidy Towns” committees or others — of involving people in local community works, which is in fact just an excuse for employment but gives such people some hope of being reinstated in the workplace. There are thousands of jobs which could be created through the provisions of this scheme but the Government were not prepared to fund it sufficiently. Admittedly they invested over £70 million in the scheme but it was obvious that they were totally dependent on the attitude and funding of the European Community for its implementation.

We have witnessed also in recent weeks the most fundamental changes ever in agriculture with the total reform of the Common Agricultural Policy. I shall deal with that in greater detail later since it falls within my remit. Furthermore, our health services are slowly grinding to a halt, with hospital beds being closed for the summer and wards remaining closed since last year. In spite of our public commitments we have not made any real contribution towards assisting the handicapped. In regard to [1413] the Justice portfolio we had nothing but promises of White Papers and Green Papers and no action by the Minister. The free legal aid scheme has almost ceased because staff are unable to cope with demands from people in need of assistance.

The tourist industry is tottering and trying to compete in a very competitive market worldwide, while the major controversy drags on about whether the Government will agree to the continuation of the status of Shannon Airport. The Government must address these areas and put aside any doubt or indecision in these matters. If they do not, people will lose confidence in them. As my party leader said this morning the Opposition have been constructive in all those areas and never acted like Fianna Fáil when they were in Opposition. That is a matter of public record and a disgrace.

There have been major changes in regard to environmental control, but there is still a housing crisis in areas where local authorities are unable to meet the demands. We are almost totally dependent on European regional funds and Structural Funds to construct and repair roads. We must revamp the financing of local authorities. What is the answer? The Minister for the Environment has commissioned fiscal studies on the rate support distribution here. The concept will mean that local authorities who benefited or were progressive in the past will not do so now under the rates support system. While we have had a cutback of £2 million in the rates support grant to my local authority over the past nine years, if the report produced by the Institute for Fiscal Studies on Rate Support Grant Distribution is accepted by the Minister — and the legislation is in place to accept it — it could mean a further reduction of almost £1.75 million in the grant to that body. The same applies in other areas where people have been making efforts to better themselves. While the legislation is in place empowering the Minister to accept this report he would want to tread warily, particularly in regard to members of his party, who [1414] will be under tremendous pressure at local level following the changes. I plead with the Minister to address the housing crisis and reintroduce a new house purchasing scheme.

I should like to deal with some of the problems that have arisen in agriculture in the past few days. The Minister referred to those problems and stated that the picture, sector by sector, is as usual varied and that he would like to be able to ensure rising incomes every year for the farming sector. He said, as all Deputies were aware, that was outside the power of any Minister for Agriculture and Food. I do not accept that the Minister is powerless; his powers are equal to those of any other in the Council of Ministers. He should act stringently at the Council meetings.

An example of the enthusiam we want him to show was displayed following the passing of the Referendum on the Masstricht Treaty which received great support from the farming organisations. However, the following day the farmers were insulted by a decision of a previous Minister for Agriculture in 1989 to change the premium for ewes. That resulted in the collapse of the wool market. Farmers are now losing £6 per head in premia and £5 per head in market prices. Those changes cannot be tolerated. While the farming organisations were unhappy yesterday — and one can share their unhappiness — at least the Minister is committed to continuing the fight against that extraordinary decision by his predecessor. As the Minister said, the outcome of the 1989 decision was not that expected by the EC when the reorganisation decision was taken. It was then expected that greater convergence of the market prices would prevent this but it has not. The decision has created a crisis in sheep farming areas, 70 per cent of which are disadvantaged while the remaining 30 per cent are almost totally dependent on the lamb and mutton trade having responded to our request to get into this production. The reform of the Common Agricultural Policy means that intervention will not now be the way to the market place.

[1415] The figures submitted yesterday by the Minister indicated that 202,000 head of cattle, valued at £165 million, were put into intervention this year alone and up to 30 June, £97.5 million worth of dairy products were placed in intervention. Inevitably, this system will have to be curtailed. I hope that with the change in emphasis in the marketplace, where farmers incomes will be protected by special payments in the green box or in the post, the Government will ensure they are assisted in getting those income supports. Every assistance should be given to promoting our good in the marketplace.

Let us hope that the need for a tribunal of inquiry into one of our most important industries will not recur and that Ministers, who have been touched by this problem will learn the lesson that to be so closely involved with big business is a danger to democracy. I hope the Government, and their partners have learned their lesson and that the tribunal of inquriy will prove worth while.

Tomás Mac Giolla: Information on Tomás MacGiolla  Zoom on Tomás MacGiolla  When Deputy Albert Reynolds was elected Taoiseach he had two priorities. Unemployment was to be at the top of his agenda as the most important issue to be tackled and he promised open government. What ever about open government, the issue of unemployment has remained on the agenda and nothing has been done about it. Since he became Taoiseach 20,000 more people have become unemployed. Almost daily we hear of company closures the most recent being Babygro, in Ballyfermot in my constituency; Digital in Galway and Clonmel; Apple Computers in Cork and Waterford Crystal where 500 people have been made redundant. Up to 1,000 redundances are expected in An Post. Where will this end? Jobs were the priority of The Workers' Party throughout the eighties. Our policies were clarified in numerous documents and pamphlets published during that period. We indicated full support for efficient State companies, for the use of indigenous resources, food, land, sea, [1416] wool and linen from native crops, timber, minerals, lead and zinc and so on. These policies could not be implemented in a free market economy because they require social control which is essential for a job creation programme. The Government do not have a job creation programme and insist that it is not their function to create jobs.

Our ability to implement our programme was greatly reduced in the past few years as our party and policies were turned upside down. In February last a major part of the leadership of the party left to form a new party. These people abandoned the working class, employed and unemployed. They also abandoned socialism and embraced the free market economy. They continue to talk about unemployment — as Deputy De Rossa did today — poverty and job losses and how terrible they are, yet, as I said, they embrace the free market economy which has caused these job losses and the daily closures which I outlined in Finglas, Ballyfermot, Cork, Galway and Lullymore. It is the unfettered free market sources which can decide to move Waterford Glass to Czechoslovakia, Taiwan or wherever they wish; if you give support to that free market and do your best to try to smash the only party which try to defend workers by putting controls on such a free market, naturally you will win the support of the media and all the other free market forces, as the Democratic Left have. However, it is sheer hypocrisy to continue to embrace the free market economy as the very basis of their policy and then complain about its obvious effect in causing unemployment and mass poverty all over the world, including Ireland.

The policies of The Workers' Party take a long time to be implemented. We can see in Northern Ireland, after more than 20 years, that our policies are now being generally accepted as the only way forward, i.e. a bill of rights and devolved Government. I have no doubt that The Workers' Party policy on jobs will also be accepted as the only way to provide tens of thousands of jobs, required to keep our people employed at home.

[1417] I wish to refer to the proposal by Mr. Tom Roche to build a tunnel under the Liffey in Dublin, which is the most dramatic proposal which has ever been made for the city; it could do an outstanding job for it. However, the Government should reopen the whole question of the rapid rail system to Tallaght, Clondalkin and Blanchardstown, which existed until 1987 when the Government decided it was too expensive to implement. Now it is certainly not too expensive when a two mile tunnel can be built for £100 million. This original proposal by CIE is very much back on the cards with an underground linking Heuston and Connolly stations as the CIE plan originally proposed. It could be the most dramatic solution to the traffic problem in Dublin, not LRT, which is using existing roads. This would make a great difference in terms of jobs and infrastructure, especially in the development of new towns where people do not have any support or facilities. Tallaght, Clondalkin, Lucan and Blanchardstown should have a rapid rail system, which would be very important for them. Mr. Roche could advise the Government in this regard. He is certainly well qualified to do so since he produced a dramatic proposal like this out of the blue, which none of us thought was feasible or economic. However, he showed that it is both feasible and economic and I ask the Government to accept its feasibility and to ensure that a new proposal is made for a rapid rail transit system in Dublin.

Minister for Industry and Commerce (Mr. O'Malley): Information on Desmond J. O'Malley  Zoom on Desmond J. O'Malley  As the Dáil adjourns for the summer recess, perhaps the most sombre fact for all elected representatives to take away with them is that the level of unemployment at the end of June had reached unprecedented levels. The fact that more than 280,000 people are now registered as unemployed in this country underlines the necessity for us as a nation to give this problem our utmost attention.

The reasons for the high and increasing levels of unemployment are clear: a labour force increasing at a higher level [1418] than any other comparable economy in the European Community; a rush of new additions to the unemployment rolls as school leavers and teachers on temporary contracts are added to the register of unemployed; an influx of returned emigrants from the UK as the economy of our single most important trading partner continues in recession.

The present level of unemployment and the prospects for the remainder of the year means that the average level of unemployment for the year will be significantly higher than had been anticipated at the time of the budget. It is also contributing to an emerging slippage in the budgetary spending targets for the year, as last week's Exchequer returns for the first half of 1992 indicated.

The unemployment crisis, and the peculiar factors contributing to it, should not, however, blind us to the strong employment creation performance of the Irish economy in recent years with the help of disciplined budgetary policies adopted. Between 1987 and 1991 more than 50,000 net additional jobs were created in the non-agricultural sector of the Irish economy. This compares with a net fall of 38,000 jobs in the same sector over the previous five years.

This weekend also represents the third anniversary of the formation of the current Coalition Government arrangement between the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil. They are founded on the Programme for Government negotiated in July 1989, which was revised and updated last October.

In the intervening three years, this Government — now effectively in their second administration — have made many vital social and economic advances on behalf of the people, based on a host of policy initiatives which we negotiated with Fianna Fáil over that period.

From tax reform to industrial policy and company law reform; from the ending of planning scandals to effectively tackling Dublin's smog problem; from the provision of greater resources for our health services to the simplification of the social welfare system; from comprehensive legislative reform to radically [1419] changing how the Oireachtas does its business — these are just some of the areas where the involvement of the Progressive Democrats in Government, and the adoption of many of our policy initiatives, have enhanced the quality of life in Ireland, and improved the way Government and politics works.

I am immensely proud of our outstanding achievements in Government, which could not have been realised without the co-operation of our Government partners. The revised Programme for Government last October builds on the impressive policy agenda of the July 1989 programme, and many of its provisions are now being implemented. However, a lot more remains to be done, and I am confident that over the next 18 months to two years, many more of the ambitious policy initiatives spelled out there, and agreed with Fianna Fáil, will be steadily implemented.

In recent years, we have significantly enhanced our company law provisions, and a number of inquiries under these have already proved necessary. I believe that these provisions have demonstrated their capacity to investigate wrongdoings. We have also learned much about methods to be employed to deal with such needs in the future. There are a series of well balanced provisions available in the new company law code which can be employed, short of full-blown investigations.

Some of the inquiries commenced last autumn have been concluded and further action is a matter for the Director of Public Prosecutions who has the benefit of the results of those fact-finding investigations. The Telecom inquiry by Mr. John Glackin is still under way and has been bedevilled by a large number of legal proceedings. Significantly, unlike the scenario which applied to inquiries under the earlier company law code, these legal actions have been positively and successfully fought to good effect by the State and the official inspector.

I hope that Mr. Glackin will be in a position to report to me shortly and I can [1420] assure the House that I will act speedily on the inspector's recommendations.

Most business here is carried on properly with due regard to the law of the land. I have previously acknowledged this in the House, but we must ensure that the actions of the honest majority are not tarnished by the wrongdoing of the few. This is my focus in seeking to deal in a balanced way with legislating for the regulation of business and the enforcement of such legislation.

The Beef Tribunal is also of vital public importance and it is already clear, from the evidence revealed to date, that this inquiry is abundantly justified. Vital issues relating to the conduct of big business, its relationship with Government, and the effectiveness or otherwise of the regulatory agents of the State, are at the core of the proceedings. I take the opportunity to place on the record, as there seems to be some doubt about it from what people have said, that the proceedings currently in the High Court at the instance the Attorney General were not taken as a result of a decision by the Government acting in their collective responsibility.

Of course there is legitimate public concern about the cost of the Tribunal, and public inquiries in general. This is a matter that will have to receive more attention, and the issue of the scale of professional fees that apply to such inquiries conducted in the public interest may have to be reviewed. But it is vital that we do not confuse the purpose and necessity of particular inquiries, with the question of their cost.

The past few weeks has seen the commencement of vital talks over the future of Northern Ireland involving the British and Irish Governments, and all the constitutional parties in Northern Ireland. This is an historic opportunity that is essentially without precedent since the establishment of the then Irish Free State and Northern Ireland in 1920.

It is particularly significant that the Unionist parties are participating in these talks, and I want to commend the courage shown by their leaders in joining in this unique effort to bring stability and peace [1421] to Northern Ireland. An awesome challenge faces all the parties to these talks. It will require flexibility, ingenuity and generosity on all sides if we are to succeed. It will also take time. But one has only to recall the horror and barbarism of the naked bodies dumped recently in South Armagh, and the litany of so many other atrocities in Northern Ireland, to realise the absolute necessity for these talks to eventually succeed.

I am quite satisfied that my party, and the Government as a whole, will make every effort and commitment to help ensure the success of this initiative, and to bring an end to the many years of terrorism and suffering in Northern Ireland.

European Community membership has been extremely beneficial for Ireland, and its contribution to employment growth is just one of the reasons why I welcome greatly the massive endorsement of the Maastricht Treaty by the people on June 18 last. In the nineteen years that have elapsed since we joined the European Community, non-agricultural employment has grown from 787,000 in 1972 to 966,000 last year — an increase of 179,000 or 23 per cent. Even when the fall in agricultural employment is taken into account, there were 72,000 more people at work in Ireland last year than there were in 1972.

By endorsing Maastricht we have signalled clearly as a people that we want to play a full part in a progressive and outward looking Europe: that we want to have a voice in the shaping of that new Europe rather than simply reacting and adapting to decisions taken by other countries which will profoundly affect employment and living standards here.

The move towards Economic and Monetary Union is an inherent part of the Maastricht process. We are already participants in the first stage of the European Monetary Union process from its inception on 1 July 1990. This stage includes the completion of the single market programme by the end of this year; the removal of controls on capital movements — particularly between member states — and the greater [1422] co-ordination of the economic and monetary policies of Community countries.

Our participation in this stage has already paid dividends in helping to maintain the financial disciplines that have contributed to restoring investor confidence in the Irish economy over the past four to five years and also contributed significantly to the improved performance in employment creation over that period.

The second stage of economic and monetary union will start on 1 January 1994 and will involve the more intensive co-ordination of economic and monetary policies. Again Ireland will be a full participant. The process will involve certain constraints on the budget deficits of member states and the way in which such deficits can be financed.

The third stage of European Monetary Union will start on 1 January 1999 at the latest. It will involve a European System of Central Banks consisting of a European Bank as an independent body with full responsibility for a single monetary policy for the Community, together with the central banks of the member states. The ECU will become a currency in its own right.

The rates between the currencies of the different Community countries in relation to each other and in relation to the ECU will be irrevocably fixed. Membership of the Community's Economic and Monetary Union at the third stage will be confined to those countries which meet certain economic norms, specified in the Treaty, in relation to inflation, Government budgetary deficits, exchange rate performance, the level of interest rates and Government debt.

By participating fully in the process now leading to European Monetary Union Ireland will send a clear signal of economic stability and discipline to potential investors domestically and overseas. Exchange rate uncertainties will be removed with a resultant downward pressure on interest rates. These developments will greatly facilitate our efforts to increase investment in the manufacturing sector, for example.

[1423] The eventual emergence of a single currency will remove transaction costs for Irish trade within a Community which at present accounts for three-quarters of our total exports and two-thirds of our imports. These transaction costs bear more heavily on Irish industry because of the relatively small scale of most industrial firms here.

The deadline for the completion of the Single European Market is now less than six months away and its achievement will require a considerable effort by all concerned. At present, approximately 86 per cent of the measures needed to implement the internal market have been agreed.

Since the beginning of the year, progress has been made in the insurance and public purchasing sectors so that the internal market programme in these sectors is now virtually complete. This is a major achievement. But a considerable amount of work remains to be completed over the coming months. Member states will have to redouble their efforts to reach agreement in the fields of company law, liberalisation of road transport, intellectual property, including the location of the Community trade mark office, and other outstanding areas. This is not the time to slacken, but rather to forge ahead so that, with all the necessary legislation in place, we will join with other member states in seeing the Single European Market become a reality.

I continue to be hopeful that the Uruguay Round of GATT negotiations can be successfully concluded. A successful outcome would be a significant contribution to the future of the world economy and would provide a very welcome stimulus to European Community trade and to Ireland's trading prospects, both within the Community and externally. It should be borne in mind too that agriculture is only one element of the GATT talks. The negotiations cover the whole range of trade-related topics, from tariff reductions on trade in industrial goods, to the trade aspects of intellectual property rights; from liberalisation of trade in services to anti-dumping trade mechanisms. [1424] The longer it takes to complete the negotiations, the more likely it is that we will see a proliferation of international trade disputes and major trading nations will increasingly resort to bilateral measures to resolve disputes.

Even though attempts made at the G7 Economic Summit this week were not successful in achieving a breakthrough on agriculture, the leaders, in their communique, have set the end of 1992 as the new deadline to reach an agreement. I am sure all partners, and particularly the EC and US, will continue to try to break the present deadlock with this new date in mind.

As I have said many times before, Ireland is fully committed to achieving a successful agreement — but not at any price. In the agriculture talks, the Community, fully supported by Ireland, has put forward a far-reaching realistic set of proposals for liberalisation of supports. These proposals, taken together with the recently agreed Common Agricultural Policy reform package, represent a major contribution to the negotiations, and it is now up to the other participants in the discussions, particularly the United States, to reciprocate with realistic paroposals.

If Ireland is to fully benefit from the opportunities of closer European integration, the process of reform in the management of our economic affairs will require to extend well beyond that of budgetary discipline. That is one of the main messages that comes from the Culliton Report.

That report identifies many of the reforms required to achieve the more efficient and productive economy that gives the best prospects for tackling our unemployment problem and the tragic social consequences that go with it. The strength of the report lies in the cohesive and integrated vision which it brings to the development of Irish industry.

The basic message of the Culliton report is simple and straightforward. It points out that industrial policy has, in the past, been too narrowly defined by often in practice being confined to grants, tax incentives and the direct industrial [1425] promotion activity by the State; it goes on to explain why industrial policy needs to develop a wider vision to encompass not only grants and incentives, but also the impact of budgetary, taxation, infrastructure, education, training and competition policy.

The Culliton report sets out a series of sensible and cohesive recommendations in these areas. They have been widely endorsed by the Government, by Government Departments and agencies, by social partners and most importantly, by industry.

In line with the recommendations of the Culliton Group a high-level task force, including the Secretaries of the main Government Departments on whom responsibility for implementing the recommendations will lie, was established.

The task force have completed and submitted their first implementation report. I have been in consultation with my Government colleagues and the picture emerging is very positive and encouraging. There is widespread acceptance of the Culliton recommendations across different Government Departments and agencies. I believe the Government will embark on a comprehensive progrmme of policy changes as the basis of implementing the Culliton blueprint over the coming months.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  With the permission of the House, Sir, I wish to share my time with Deputy Dukes.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. Currie: Information on Austin Currie  Zoom on Austin Currie  Today is the end of another year, the third year of this Dáil. I wonder if Members are satisfied with those three years, and with the past year in particular. I, for one, am not, as I do not think we had a particularly productive year. There were too many scandals, and as much evidence of low standards in high places outside this Chamber. A great many of our activities of recent years have had to be investigated by tribunals and others outside this House. I do not [1426] think we can be complacent about that. The emphasis on the scandals and the allegations has distracted our attention from our priorities in Parliament. I am particularly concerned about the effects that the allegations of wrongdoings have had on our young people. I have no doubt that the cynicism which I first detected when I entered politics in the south has increased quite considerably, and over the past 12 months in particular. This has affected our young people because they tend to be idealistic and they expect those whom they elect, the leaders of our country, to have some idealism in public life. In the eyes of many of those who elect us, we are on holiday over the summer months and are not concerned with the affairs of the nation. We should consider this fact and we should look at ways of restoring the people's faith in our democratic institutions. I hope we will be able to do that. Indeed, if we are successful in doing that, we will be in a much stronger position.

I listened with interest to the Minister for Industry and Commerce but he did not hold out a great deal of hope for the unemployed. We have a very high rate of unemployment and all the trends seem to indicate that unemployment will be much higher by the time we resume in October. We are not giving sufficient priority to the serious problem of unemployment. The former Taoiseach was very fond of referring to Northern Ireland as a “failed political entity”. Even though a great many people in Northern Ireland found this phrase objectionble, I understood the basis on which he used this epithet. However, in that “failed political entity” the rate of unemployment is lower than in this State for the first time since the foundation of this Republic. It gives me no great pleasure to say that but it illustrates how serious the situation is and how necessary it is to come to terms with the crippling unemployment problem. The joint committee on employment which was hailed so loudly by members of the Government parties — indeed, our failure to participate was used to attack us — have failed to report on the progress, if any, they have made.

[1427] Before we adjourn, we ought to consider the talks on Northern Ireland. I very much welcome the progress that has been made and I hope it offers some solution to the problem. I am one of those who said the least said in public the better because some people are not entirely aware of their ignorance in this matter and others believe themselves to know more than they actually do and in many instances the safest thing is to say nothing. Anything can happen over the summer and I hope some arrangements will be entered into and that in certain eventualities consultations will take place between the Government and the leaders of the Opposition parties. I hope this will happen over the summer and that public comment on it will be kept to the minimum.

I now wish to refer to a matter that I first raised by way of parliamentary question on 30 June last and on the Adjournment yesterday, that is the very serious circumstances in which a constituent who will be 18 years old in December has not received any education since before his 13th birthday. I made some serious allegations in the course of my remarks yesterday. I accused the State of being negligent in its responsibility to provide education for my constituent and I pointed the finger in the same respect at the current Minister for Education, Deputy Brennan, and, to an even greater degree of culpability, at the former Minister, Deputy O'Rourke. They were serious allegations, particularly when related to the additional responsibility we ought to have in a so-called caring society for the less fortunate, including the mentally handicapped. The reply of the Minister of State was nothing short of pathetic, especially in view of the fact that the Department, according to letters received by the young man's mother from them, from Minister O'Rourke and from another Deputy, going back to 1988, were thoroughly investigating the matter. The reply effectively sought to place the responsibility for the provision of education on the parents. It was alleged by [1428] the Minister of State that in January 1988 “the boy was referred to St. Loman's Special School for emotionally disturbed children, but I understand that the parents declined the offer”; that Stewarts Hospital wrote to the parents in January 1990 with a view to arranging a meeting but “it appears, however, that the parents were unable to attend”.

The Minister of State further alleged that in February 1990 a social worker visited the parents to determine what arrangements could be made to have the boy reassessed with a view to having him re-enrolled in the school but “his mother expressed the view that she would like him to be placed in a workshop-type situation”. That was all that the Minister had to offer, all he had to say in reply to my serious allegations. The boy's mother has told me that she was not at any time offered a place for her son to continue his education. That was before yesterday and I have not had the opportunity to speak to her about the specific points made by the Minister of State. But even supposing the comments of the Minister are accurate, do they excuse a case in which a boy more than two years younger than the compulsory school leaving age was not being educated and in which the lack of education has continued so that for almost five years he has not received any education? If the parents were responsible for that state of affairs, why were they not prosecuted under the school attendance legislation? If the parents were responsible, I ask that question in all seriousness. Originally I was concerned about this case. Now I am angry at the neglect and the complacency. But I am also determined. This boy has suffered a monstrous injustice and it must be remedied. I say to the Minister that I am determined to get to the bottom of this matter; I am determined that the negligence will be exposed, and I am determined that this young lad will receive an education. Much more will be heard in this House and elsewhere in relation to this matter unless it is remedied very quickly.

Mr. Dukes: Information on Alan M. Dukes  Zoom on Alan M. Dukes  It would be fair to say that [1429] of all the Governments we have ever had in this State the present one must hold the record when it comes to long-fingering important issues. Indeed, if there were Olympic Games in prevarication and tergiversation this Government would certainly come out with a gold medal. All kinds of issues qualify for that kind of treatment, and I shall name just a few of them.

The simple business of setting up a foreign affairs committee of this House has been ongoing since 1987. Today we had agreement on the setting up of a special committee to deal with the Roads Bill. I am delighted at that development. The sitting of that special committee will be only the third occasion on which we have had a special committee to deal with the Committee Stage of a Bill. It has taken almost five years of hard and unremitting effort on the part of the Opposition to get the Government just to see the wisdom of dealing with important issues in that way.

Recently the Green Paper on Education was released. That Green Paper must have had the longest gestation period of any document of its kind. However, now we see that even that record will be broken by the much-promised White Paper on Marital Breakdown, which in itself is just another way that the Government have found to put off decisions in relation to divorce and in relation to the provision for marital breakdown — decisions that should have been taken a long, long time ago. The issues have been well researched and well reported on, including by committees set up by this House.

The Government is long-fingering the issues of the right to travel and the right to information. Again those are issues in which we can clearly see what needs to be done. The Government are failing to state what they have in mind, if anything, in relation to what the Taoiseach calls “the substantive issue” of abortion and the other issues arising from the X case.

Only this week another issue was put on the long finger, the question of making a sensible decision on where condoms might be sold. I would have to say that I [1430] have a little sympathy for the Minister for Health on this matter, because he is clearly uncomfortable with the Bill that was passed through the House yesterday and he is obviously, in part at least, dancing to the tune being played by another member of the Government, the Minister for Energy. The Minister for Energy, Deputy Molloy, used to be called “Íosagán”, I recall, and now I know why. The Minister for Health made the asinine statement in the course of the Final Stages of the Health (Family Planning) (Amendment) Bill yesterday that he would think again about the kinds of outlets where the sale of condoms would be allowed “when circumstances change”. I had to laugh when I heard that statement. What circumstances are going to change? I wonder whether we are about to be overtaken by some new sexual revolution about which only the Minister for Health knows, or are the Irish people suddenly going to change their sexual habits in a way that will make it possible for the Minister to again reconsider where condoms should he made available?

I do not know why we should have all the delay and long-fingering on these issues when it is very clear that sensible decisions can be made now if the opinions of the House were listened to.

The Government have long-fingered key components of the famous Programme for Economic and Social Progress. The chickens are coming home to roost, though; they are settling on their perches now and some of them are fairly hefty birds. They will have an effect on the Estimates process that is going on now and on next year's budget. The budget is already out of kilter this year. It seems that the Exchequer borrowing requirement will be higher than the Government bargained for at the beginning. Social welfare spending is outside the limits, and the reaction of the Minister is to come into the House and make veiled statements about things that might have to be considered. He should instead do the decent thing: come in, level with the House, tell us what the problem is [1431] and discuss the options for dealing with it.

One of the options for dealing with the problem is to give up the nonsensical idea that this House cannot ever debate a real issue. We are told that we must have a committee to talk about employment. That is only an excuse for not talking about the real issue in the Chamber and setting out for this House, for the social partners and for all the interest groups, what are the ways that employment can be increased. There is no mystery about that. The way we will increase employment in this country is by manufacturing goods and producing services more competitively than is done anywhere else. In the House we should be talking about the measures needed to bring that about. We do not need committees and we do not need any more consultants' reports. What we do need is a Government that will discuss the issues frankly and that will argue the issues in the House and with the interest groups. That is not being done because it is easier to kick the issue off to a committee. We will come up against those decisions very quickly.

At the beginning of the year the Government long-fingered some of the famous Programme for Economic and Social Progress provisions in relation to both the pay and the non-pay aspects of the programme. What are we faced with now? The Minister for Finance and the Government will have to find £200 million next year for public service pay over and above what was found this year. The Minister for Finance will have to find £200 million to deal with the effects of the abolition of VAT at the point of entry on imports from other EC member states, and find another £90 million to deal with the changes he has been forced to make in the DIRT. These factors were all present, foreseeable, sticking out a mile for the last three years, but nothing was done about them. It was far easier to shrug off the problem, but when you add those three together you find the Government have £500 million of a problem to deal with in the budget next [1432] January before they start to do anything about taxation, before they have another half step in this ludicrous process of tax reform and before they do anything about social welfare provisions. The size of the problem is £500 million. That is an enormous figure. Let us look at it in comparison with things done in this year's budget.

The total of this wonderful programme of tax reform on income tax in this year's budget was £220 million, and here we are looking at a problem more than twice that size. Of course, the fraud in this year's budget was that, having had tax reform that gave people back £220 million, the Government proceeded to raise another £233 million in taxation from the same people. Tax reform this year, over which, apparently, the Progressive Democrats sweat blood and tears, resulted in people paying £13 million more in taxation than they otherwise would have paid. I must say that is some tax reform.

All that is going to be put in jeopardy next year because the Government have to deal with £500 million of a problem that they have kicked off from year to year until it finally lands on the table and cannot be kicked off any more next year. What will be the result of that? I wonder if that is going to bring new economic tension into this Government to add to the cordial atmosphere that is already there as a result of the beef tribunal and other things that are going on.

What did we have this morning then? We had a speech from the Minister for Finance, a real cutie speech from a cutie Minister that had headings on paragraphs in the script and I was amused when I read them. I will quote some of them: “National Consensus”, “New Level of Maturity”, “Virtuous Circle”, “No More Bad Old Days or Bad Old Ways”. Of course, the Government set out in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress to get a national consensus that ignored budgetary constraints. It showed a new level of irresponsibility rather than the new maturity that the Minister is talking about. It makes a laugh of any idea of having a virtuous circle because it is [1433] clear we are in a vicious circle with £500 million there as a hole to fall into. The old Fianna Fáil days of the “bad old days and the bad old ways” are being replaced with a super de luxe version that has the Progressive Democrats sanctimonious irresponsibility built in on top of them. I wonder if that does not really mean that, when you get to the bottom line, as the Minister for Finance told us this morning, the Government are setting out to renegotiate the public service pay provisions that were presented to us at the beginning of last year as being the most sagacious answer to our problem but which have been torn up once already and are now going to be torn up a second time.

I have no doubt that when we come back here again on 7 October we will be treated to another round of long-fingering by this Government who appear to be able to decide on only one thing, that is to make no decisions.

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Smith): Information on Michael Smith  Zoom on Michael Smith  I am pleased to have this opportunity to contribute to the Adjournment debate which marks the completion of the long and busy Dáil sessions which began with the introduction of the budget on 29 January last. This House and the Seanad have sat for unusually long periods, with extended sittings on some days and additional sittings of Friday. We have completed a very substantial amount of business and all of us can take some satisfaction from this.

For me, my Ministers of State and my Department, the past few months have been a particularly busy period in terms of legislation and other Dáil business. This reflects the fact that this is a reforming Government — a Government who have set out to ensure better public services, more protection for the environment, and the highest possible level of sustainable development and job creation, while at the same time adhering to the budgetary targets set out in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and ensuring better value for money and the best possible use of resources. As we move to full economic [1434] and monetary union at European level, and as we take steps towards political union, we will have to continue on this path if we are to derive maximum benefits for all our people.

The Environmental Protection Agency Act became law during this past session after marathon debates both in this House and in the Seanad, and work is now underway with a view to getting the agency into operation later this year. As a first step, it is necessary to set in motion the statutory selection process for a director general and other directors and I envisage that this will happen soon. Once these essential appointments are made, I expect that there will be rapid progress in transferring to the agency those existing activities and functions which the legislation assigns to them and in developing, on a phased basis, the new functions and activities for which the agency will be responsible.

The Environmental Protection Agency will be responsible for the operation of a new integrated licensing system for all major activities with a potential for serious pollution, and, as a corollary to this, the planning system will no longer deal with the specific environmental aspects of major development. But other changes are needed in the planning system and that is why I was pleased that both Houses have found it possible to complete their consideration of the Local Government (Planning and Development) Bill in this session also. The Bill focuses primarily on the appeals systems which, over the years, has been criticised by many Members of this House because of the delays it can involve.

As recently as September 1990 An Bord Pleanála had some 1,700 appeals on hands, and it was taking an unacceptably long time to dispose of individual cases. Since then, as a result of action taken by the board and by my Department, the number of appeals on hands has been reduced quite significantly. I am pleased to tell the House that it now stands at just below 1,000.

But much more than this is needed. It is necessary for developers and, indeed, for all of those concerned in the appeals [1435] process to have more assurance about the maximum time likely to be taken to determine individual appeals and that will be the great merit of the Bill which is now about to become law. I will be taking action within the next few weeks to put in place the regulations and other arrangements necessary to ensure that there will be a smooth transition towards the coming into operation of the new four-month time limit in January next.

About this time last year, the news media here and in Britain were reporting, almost on a daily basis, incidents in which children and, indeed, adults, were savagely attacked by particular breeds of dogs. There was a considerable outcry about this, and a demand for action. My predecessor responded by making regulations under existing law providing for new controls over particular breeds. It was never suggested that these regulations represented the ultimate solution or, indeed, an ideal solution, and that is why the Control of Dogs (Amendment) Bill was brought forward in the autumn of last year. I am very pleased that this Bill is now about to become law and that it will be possible for me, under the new powers available in the Bill, to introduce a new and more flexible control regime which will provide all sections of the public with the level of protection to which they are entitled against dangerous dogs and without, at the same time, imposing unreasonable requirements on responsible dog owners. I will be aiming to make the necessary new regulations to give full effect to the Bill within the next few months and, in doing so, I will be taking full account of the various submissions I have received from the wide variety of interests concerned.

Since February last, over 23 hours were devoted by this House to debating Second Stage of the Roads Bill, 1991, perhaps the most important single piece of roads legislation put before the House since the foundation of the State. Spending on roads is now rapidly approaching the point where it will account for 50 per cent of my Department's overall expenditure, current and capital, and [1436] substantial additional expenditure is financed by local authorities from their own resources, including the rate support grant. In these circumstances, it is absolutely essential that the roads programme operates on the basis of an up-to-date modern legislative code and that is what the Roads Bill will provide. In particular, the Bill will enable us to establish the National Roads Authority on a statutory basis to take over, from me and my Department, overall responsibility for the management of the national roads programme and to ensure that that programme is carried through as efficiently and as economically as possible, and with full adherence to the targets set out at national level and agreed with, and supported by, the EC Commission.

In the first three years of the present Operational Programme there has been very little slippage from the targets established in 1989. And the slippage that has occurred is being made good through a combination of accelerating the construction programme for certain ongoing schemes and by bringing forward the commencement of work on other schemes. I am concerned, however, that a number of major schemes in the Dublin area are not coming to construction stage as early as had originally been planned, because of delays in the planning stages. This is one area in which the National Roads Authority, when it is established on a statutory basis, will be able to make a contribution by stepping in and taking over aspects of the work directly itself where this is necessary for full adherence to the overall programme targets. I am pleased that the Dáil has agreed to establish a special committee to deal with the Committee Stage of the Roads Bill and I look forward to working with Members of the House on that committee during the recess, and to the final enactment of the new legislation as early as possible in the next session.

The Electoral (No. 2) Bill, 1991, is now before this House, having completed its passage through all Stages in the Seanad. This Bill is a positive and constructive restatement of the existing law relating to Dáil elections, with some desirable [1437] amendments in relation to the registration of electors, improvements in the arrangements for home voting by the disabled, new provisions for dealing with the hassle that occurs outside some polling stations, and so on. When the Bill becomes law, it will mean that for the first time in the history of the State, all of our Dáil electoral law will be contained in a single document. For that reason alone, I think that the Bill is a particularly valuable one and I hope that the Dáil will find it possible to complete its consideration of the remaining Stages of this Bill in the next term.

This past term has also seen the enactment of the Referendum (Amendment) Bill, 1992, which facilitated the inclusion on polling cards at the recent referendum of a statement explaining the subject matter of the poll. The opportunity was taken to enable similiar arrangement to be made at all future referenda without the necessity for specific enabling legislation. Incidentally, I hope that when the Oireachtas has completed its consideration of the Electoral Bill dealing with Dáil elections, it will be possible for us to complete the preparation of consolidating legislation in relatiion to presidential elections and referenda also, incorporating whatever changes are finally agreed in relation to Dáil electoral law.

I am particularly pleased that the House completed its consideration of the Housing Bill during the term which is now ending, and that the Bill has already completed second stage in the Seanad. I attach a special importance to this Bill, underwriting as it does many of the new schemes provided for in the Plan for Social Housing which was published last year, allowing for the introduction of new arrangements in relation to the management and maintenance of local authority housing estates and providing a charter of rights for private tenants. I will return to this subject later in my remarks but, before doing so I want to mention some of the other elements in the legislative programme.

Drafting of a new Road Traffic Bill is now at an advanced stage and I hope that it will be possible for both Houses to give [1438] this a speedy passage, early in the next session. As I have indicated already to the House, the Bill will deal primarily with the problem of drink and driving, and with insurance and motor tax evasion. Under these headings, there will be provision for new and more stringent controls and enforcement machinery with a view to reducing the amount of death and injury on our roads and the level of insurance and tax evasion. On these latter points, I recently published the results of a 1991 survey by the Garda Síochána which showed some improvements under both headings, but the level of evasion is still unacceptably high and we must take all possible steps to reduce it still further. The new Bill will, I am convinced, make a significant contribution towards this and I look forward to the co-operation of the House in the next session on its enactment.

New legislation on waste is another legislative priority, since waste is now in effect the last significant area of environmental management which is not well covered in Ireland by modern legislation. Policies, public attitudes and technologies in relation to waste are in a rapidly developing state. Agenda 21 of UNCED has established important principles for waste management which must now be actively implemented. A major international agreement on transboundary movements of hazardous waste, the Basel Convention, has been signed by Ireland and must soon be ratified and implemented. Against this background, it is essential for Ireland to develop a comprehensive and flexible framework which will allow statutory effect to be given, as necessary, to new waste policy initiatives. With the completion of the legislation for the Environmental Protection Agency, it is now opportune to address this task.

During the current Dáil term, we have all dedicated considerable efforts to ensuring a full Irish contribution to the United Nations' Conference on Environment and Development which took place in Rio de Janeiro last month. Following publication by my Department of the Irish national report to UNCED, [1439] both Dáil and Seanad debated UNCED issues.

There was a strong Irish participation at the conference involving the Taoiseach and my colleagues the Minister for environmental protection and the Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs, as well as myself. An all-party group from this House assisted the Irish delegation and the Government also sponsored attendance at Rio by representatives of Irish environment and development NGOs.

UNCED was of historic importance and we must now urgently address the task of implementation and follow-up.

Last year was a watershed for local government reform. The enactment of the Local Government Act, 1991, signalled an escape from the inertia which for decades had stymied the development of local government in Ireland. The Act was, however, just the first stage of the reform process. The next stage will consist of implementing reforms under the 1991 Act and further legislative and other follow-up action.

Since taking up office, I have been reviewing the whole legislative framework of Irish local government. I am astonished at the antiquated maze of law. The 1991 Act made a start at law reform but local authorities still have to operate under a regime of archaic and oppressive procedures, restrictions and requirements. I intend to bring reason and common sense to bear on this.

As a first step, I will be proposing draft regulations under the 1991 Act for the approval of both Houses of the Oireachtas, to remove certain statutory controls which apply to local authority operations. Later in the year, I hope to be in a position to bring forward a Local Government Bill to move further towards the ideal of a simple, modern code of local government law. This Bill would confer broad new powers on local elected representatives, for example, to make local bye-laws dealing with matters of local concern and activities which are seen to cause nuisance, or are in need of regulations. These new powers would [1440] replace the thicket of 19th century bye-law powers by new streamlined arrangements to be operated by local authorities without the need for Ministerial involvement. Other areas where procedures can be simplified or controls lessened or removed will also be tackled. For example, in the whole area of parking, traffic management and control, including speed limits, I see much scope for a far greater local authority role in dealing with local situations, and I will be making a start in implementing this approach in the Road Traffic Bill now being drafted.

There is a maze of law governing local authority meetings and procedures, scattered over many Acts. The law in this respect is anything but user friendly. I see no reason why such matters should not be placed in a more simple, logical, consistent and coherent format, and I propose to avail of the opportunity presented by the next Local Government Bill to tackle this matter also. I will be considering changes in the statutory provisions for local authority meetings and related procedures, including committee meetings, attendance of public and press, circulation of documents, voting procedures, standing orders, minutes, calling of special meetings, and so on.

Action is proceeding on the reorganisation of local government in the Dublin area where three statutory area committees are now in operation and a reorganisation report is being prepared as required by the Local Government Act, 1991. Following consideration of the report, I am empowered by the Act to make regulations to give statutory effect to necessary preparations for the establishment of the three new county councils. This will implement the transitional phase leading towards the formal establishment of these councils and the abolition of the existing county council and Dún Laoghaire Corporation. These will be the first county councils established since 1898, the date of birth of the current county council system.

The most vital element of local government reform is probably the devolution of functions to local authorities. A ministerial committee, which I am chairing, [1441] is working on this in conjunction with the related matter of sub-county structures. This is not something which can be finalised overnight but I can assure the House that the committee will be reporting back to Government at the earliest possible date, and certainly well before the end of this year.

I would now like to address the major issue of housing. As Deputies are aware, this issue dominated the recent debate on my Department's Estimates for 1992 and has been debated at length in the passage of the Housing Bill through this House. However, I make no apology for returning to this major issue today.

The extent to which the King Canute syndrome still dominates the thinking of many people in relation to housing is a matter of great concern to me. The contribution of many Opposition Deputies to housing debates is to repeat ad nauseum the catch-cry “build more local authority houses”. The fact is that the majority of those concerned with housing, whether as local authority officials, management, elected members or Members of the Oireachtas, recognise that the day of the massive local authority housing programmes are gone for good. We must never again build the large scale local authority estates which blight many of our towns and cities. I would appeal to those who recognise that the social housing plan is the way forward to help advance and develop the new measures in a positive way rather than simply oppose the new measures for opposition's sake.

I do not say that there never was a role for local authority house building on a large scale. There was, of course, a need for such housing when it was necessary to clear the slum dwellings and tenements we inherited from the last century.

However, I would ask everyone genuinely concerned with housing in this country to step back a bit from the old solutions and recognise that State provision of housing is not necessarily the only way in which the community can discharge their housing responsibilities to the less well off. Other European countries have moved on to a more responsive [1442] and broadly based response to needs, and so should we. We have to look no nearer than the position in the North of Ireland for that.

I believe there is a continuing role for a local authority housing programme on a scale that can integrate with existing communities. In this regard, I would differ from Deputy Jim Mitchell who has argued in this House that there is a strong case for the phasing out of the building of local authority houses as a means of solving our housing problems. Deputy Mitchell has advanced three reasons for ending local authority house building, firstly, the high administration, maintenance, rent collection and assessment costs; secondly, social segregation and, thirdly, the aspiration to home ownership which we all share.

These are indeed telling arguments against local authority house building but to advance these views and at the same time criticise the Government for not building more local authority houses, is simply inexplicable. The plan for social housing and the housing Bill have been criticised for not being radical enough and, at the same time, for being so radical that some local authorities are having difficulties in coming to grips with the range of options now available to households in social housing need.

I am certain that, if the plan for social housing and the housing Bill did not provide for the shared ownership system, I would be pilloried for failing to introduce a system which has, for example, worked extremely well in Northern Ireland. In the North, over 13,000 households have benefited under what is called the co-ownership scheme which is based on essentially the same principle of assisting potential house purchasers into home ownership sooner than they could otherwise afford.

I have already referred to the striking desire, particularly among Irish people, to own their own house. In the last analysis we must remember that home ownership is the preferred choice of the vast majority of Irish people, including those who are on local authority waiting lists or already in local authority housing. [1443] Indeed, many on local authority waiting lists or already in local authority housing actually see it as a step towards home ownership, generally by way of a tenant purchase scheme.

The plan for social housing is here to stay but that does not mean that the details of the schemes in the plan are cast in stone. Far from it, the schemes in the plan were initially introduced on a pilot basis and I believe we can learn many lessons from practical experience in their operation. There may well be scope to revise the schemes to make them more effective in achieving their basic objective of improving the housing conditions of those in housing need. What is not subject to change, however, is the clear direction of policy which is to put in place a co-ordinated range of housing measures which are appropriate to the greatly altered housing needs of the nineties. I would again ask that all those genuinely concerned with housing should encourage and assist the development of these new measures in their own areas.

I have endeavoured in my contribution to focus on the major legislation in my area which the Dáil has debated in the last term. Substantial progress has been made on a number of fronts and I look forward to the continued co-operation of Deputies in processing other significant Bills speedily after the summer recess.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  With your permission I wish to share my time with Deputy Boylan.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Normally the Adjournment debate is used as a time of reflection on the achievements of Government during the recent parliamentary session. On this occasion I am absolutely astonished at the level of contribution from the Government. All we have heard are the Government's intentions, their aspirations, their intention to establish, that there may well be scope to improve our objectives, that we [1444] may adopt the measures appropriate to the nineties and so on. The type of bluff and jargon that has been put on the record of the House today should be condemned and is a reflection on the ineffective, indecisive Government of this country.

During the debate no reference has been made to the appalling tragedy of over 280,000 people unemployed and the sense of hopelessness and despair that has brought to those people and their families. The Government have not put on the record any solid proposals as to how they intend to correct or end that tragedy. This is one of the most serious matters that needs to be tackled and yet Ministers have ignored this serious problem.

We have just heard the Minister for the Environment speak as if there was no housing crisis in this country. We all know of the list of people in every country, city and town who are anxious to secure a local authority house but to no avail because the Government are not providing the necessary housing. Yet, the Minister for the Environment has said the social housing scheme is here to stay. That is not written on stone and it can be adopted as appropriate measures are introduced to address the problem of the nineties. This is of no satisfaction to the person who is living in a tenement or to the unemployed person who is receiving dole, not to mention the person who is forced to emigrate or who has already emigrated and who is not being offered any hope of returning to his or her country for gainful employment.

We had the historic visit of President Mary Robinson two days ago when she addressed this House. That historic occasion was not due to the initiative of Government but to the President herself because she chose to exercise her constitutional right to address both Houses of the Oireachtas. I commend her for taking that initiative and for giving us in this House, the entire nation and, particularly, the Government a very inspiring address. In one part of her address she spoke very specifically about our being a country which has held in principle to [1445] a policy of non-involvement in military alliance. Yet, we have a proper sense of responsibility to our partners, she said. She very carefully crafted this speech and particularly the section in which she referred to non-involvement in military alliance without, of necessity, using the word neutrality.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sorry to interrupt the Deputy. The Chair has been careful to ensure that the incumbent of the office of President is not drawn into political controversy on the floor of this House. I would ask the Deputy to desist from any further reference to the President. The President is above and beyond politics.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I agree fully with you and I do not intend to bring the President into any type of political controversy.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  It would not be in order.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I am aware of that: I am merely referring to one aspect of her speech when she addressed this House.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  I am sorry, Deputy, I ask you now to veer away from any aspect of the President or her address to this House.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  It was an inspiring address, a Cheann Comhairle, and it is proper that the Members of this House would commend her for the inspiration she gave. It is my hope that the Government will find, from her address, inspiration on which to build.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  The Deputy should obey the Chair in respect of what I have said.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  The Maastricht debate in this country was carried out with extreme haste by the Government and was conducted in a manner which attempted to instil fear in the hearts and minds of the people. The grand finale [1446] was the Taoiseach's address to the nation on RTE to ensure that the Maastricht Treaty was carried. I hope similar tactics will not be adopted by the Government when it comes to the referendum on defence policy in 1997. The Government should start a debate to address the issue of neutrality which is very fundamental and which caused controversy during the debate on the Maastricht Treaty. People have various ideas as to what neutrality is. We should be asking ourselves if Ireland is neutral, why we are neutral and what our neutrality is based on. At the time of the Second World War in 1942 we chose not to get involved militarily but that was a political decision at the time, specifically so that the Government would not be seen to be allied with the old enemy, England. It was because of national domestic policy rather than an ideological commitment to neutrality that that decision was made. This matter needs to be discussed nationally and it needs to be discussed now. The Government should commence the discussion so that in 1997 the people will be adequately informed when they are asked to vote on our involvement in some type of European defence union.

We must realise that as members of the Community we have responsibilities to our partners and there is an onus on the Government to see that we live up to those responsibilities. It is equally important that the people of the country recognise that we have those responsibilities. We must decide whether to involve ourselves in a defence union of a close political nature or of a less close political nature. We must decide whether it will take the form of an active involvement in an overall military alliance or be for peace-keeping purposes. These questions must be addressed. These are questions that everybody must ask themselves. It is important that there would not be fear in the minds and hearts of people when they come to vote on that issue.

In regard to the Department of Defence, the former Taoiseach commissioned an efficiency audit group report which was furnished to Government [1447] five or six months ago. We on this side of the House have repeatedly requested that the report be laid before the House so that we can examine it. That has not yet been done. While that report lies around, there is fear among Army families that the various barracks around the country will be closed and that personnel will be transferred to areas other than those they are in at the moment. It is important that the Minister for Defence recognise those fears and address them. This is something that has not been done to date, despite repeated calls from this side of the House.

The Minister for Defence has set up a group to examine the issue of Border duty allowance. No decision has been taken although it is quite a simple matter to sort out. Unfortunately the Minister has not chosen to do so. What we have seen within the Department of Defence is a series of very good photocalls around the country to convey an image on the part of the Minister of doing something constructive for the Army. However, everything is very much as it has been and nothing has changed dramatically since the former Minister for Defence, Deputy Lenihan, made the major breakthrough in relation to the establishment of the representative bodies for the Army, for which they are very grateful. The Minister needs to further address the matters on which these representative bodies are reporting to him and take constructive action on them rather than leaving things on the long finger.

There are many other areas which could be addressed here today. I would like in particular to refer to the Government's Green Paper on Education. Some of the aspirations therein are very commendable. I would like to refer in particular to one aspect and that is the proposal to amalgamate one, two and three-teacher schools with a view to establishing schools with a minimum of four teachers. Anybody who represents a constituency outside of Dublin recognises the social value and importance of the local two and three-teacher schools. The local post office has been closed; the [1448] local Garda Station has been closed and now it is proposed to close the local school. This is totally unacceptable. It is an attempt to break down community spirit in rural areas and it cannot be accepted. It is an indication that the Government have lost complete contact with their roots and with the realities of life on the ground. These schools have traditionally provided a very fine standard of education across the country. Some of the finest professional, educationalists and even politicians across the country have been educated in two, three and four-teacher schools. The amalgamation of these schools is something that the bureaucrats should not be allowed to carry out and that the Government should not condone.

A matter of national importance in my own constituency — some people would say it is of parochial importance — is the question of Shannon in the context of transatlantic flights on which the whole economy of the west depends. Over three years ago the former Minister for Tourism and Transport, Deputy Brennan, put a doubt over the future status of Shannon. The doubt of the past three years has done untold damage to the economy of that region. It has prevented investment in industry and in tourism. People are not prepared to take a risk because of the question mark over the future of the area.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I would advise Deputy Taylor Quinn that she might be running the risk of losing her undoubted popularity with her colleague. She has about eight minutes left.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Thank you, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle. My colleague will not mind if I take another minute to wrap up on that very serious issue. Having promised to make a decision on this issue the Government have again failed to fulfil their promises. They have allowed the question mark to remain over Shannon. As a result investment and jobs are being lost. Jobs are not being created and there is a real danger that existing jobs will be lost. I would like to take [1449] this opportunity to again appeal to the Government to make a decision very quickly. Otherwise irreparable damage will be done to the midwest and the entire western region of Ireland.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  I thank Deputy Taylor-Quinn for sharing time with me. I am annoyed and disappointed that sufficient time has not been given here for proper discussion and debate on the Adjournment of the Dáil. It is being rushed just as has been the case in dealing with business over the last number of weeks. The guillotine has been applied. People are not being given time and it is not good enough. As a public representative elected by the people, I am entitled to time to make my contribution.

We are here this evening supposedly discussing the Adjournment of the Dáil. Whether we are discussing the Adjournment of the Dáil or the demise of the Dáil altogether is a matter for conjecture. I would say we are in the dying moments of this Dáil. The statements by the Ministers are lacklustre, to say the least. There was no new, original talk, of which they are not capable. Individually the members of the Government are the best of people but collectively they are a dismal failure and the sooner they give up the reins of office and allow people in there who can do the job the better for this country. If the allegations they are making about each other in another premises in this city were being made about board members of a large business in any part of this country the shareholders would have them sacked overnight. The shareholders of “Ireland Limited” have a right to voice their opinion about sacking the managers that have been appointed here for the last six or seven years. They are entitled to that right. Unfortunately the system does not give them the right that the shareholders of a company have of calling an extraordinary general meeting. It is a matter for the Government to do that. The Government should face the issue, call a general election and let the people make a decision. I am not saying that Fine Gael [1450] can solve all the problems but we are willing and able to tackle them.

Anyone who watched the “Today Tonight” programme on television last night must have been saddened to hear unemployed young people talk about their plight. Some of them manage to get work for three, six or even 12 months but they have no prospects of getting long term employment; there are no job opportunities for these young people. The Government say that that is not their responsibility, but I believe it is. If the Government are not prepared to accept their responsibilities they should get out of office. I was particularly saddened at the plight of a middle aged man who has been made redundant. He broke down and cried on that programme. He explained how he had gone to London to look for work but there was none available. This man was on the verge of committing suicide. I wonder if the Minister for Health and the Minister for Social Welfare are aware of the number of people who commit suicide out of a sense of despair. The Government must take the responsibility for this.

These problems can be resolved. We must encourage investment and confidence, but I question how people can have confidence in a Government who make accusations about one another. Recent statistics show that while our level of exports and production have increased dramatically no new jobs have come onstream. People are not investing their money because they do not have any confidence in the Government. Business people, publicans and grocers have told me that people are cutting back and are not spending money at the rate they used to; they are saving for the future. Those people can rest assured that the Minister for Finance will find some way of extracting his pound of flesh from those savings.

I wish to refer to agriculture and tourism. Yesterday I was very annoyed with the Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Walsh, whom I admired when he was a junior Minister, for accusing me of being arrogant and insolent in this Chamber at Question Time. Far be it from me to do that; I state the facts as I see them. I [1451] am entitled to ask him a question and he is entitled to answer it. Of course, if he does not have the answer he should at least have the decency to say he does not have it. He glossed over questions about the number of farmers who had got out of farming over the past decade. He failed to give straightforward answers to those questions. He referred to other issues which were not relevant to the extent that a large number of farmers who were in the public gallery walked out in disgust. We cannot ignore the fact that agriculture is the bedrock of our economy. Unfortunately, the Government have closed the door on our agricultural industry; they are making every effort to drive farmers off the land. “Afforestation” is now the in word.

We will not allow the Government to drive people out of rural Ireland. My colleague, Deputy Taylor, referred to the Green Paper on Education which proposes the closure of one, two and three teacher schools in rural Ireland. Even though these schools are small, they give students a good education. Another example of the Government's efforts to drive people out of rural Ireland are the proposals to close rural post offices. This cannot be allowed to happen, and we will not allow it to happen.

The Minister for Agriculture and Food is not prepared to face up to the fact that sheep farmers are living on the poverty line. He will not admit that they have lost £6 per sheep. He claims he is doing everything he can in Brussels to get money for farmers, yet he stated yesterday that they were losing 45p per sheep. I ask the Minister not to make beggars out of our farmers. It is estimated that farmers will lose £1 million if this premium which was introduced to compensate farmers for the fall in prices is done away with.

I wish to refer to agri-tourism. Farmers have been advised to get involved in alternative enterprises and to avail of the Leader programme, the INTERREG programme and Structural Funds. Many farmers developed pitch and putt courses——

[1452]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy's time is almost up.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  I know you have a rural background, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and I am sure——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I do not manufacture time; that is the only thing I cannot do.

Mr. Boylan: Information on Andrew Boylan  Zoom on Andrew Boylan  Having encouraged these people to set up enterprises, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Ahern, slapped 12.5 per cent VAT on them from 1 July. This VAT was imposed on small enterprises such as pitch and putt courses, driving ranges, boat hire and pony trekking. Yet big golf clubs such as Portmarnock are not subject to this VAT. The fat cats are getting fatter while the poor are getting poorer. Hopefully I will have an opportunity to refer to this matter in greater detail another day.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy would have purloined a minute of Deputy Lenihan's time.

Mrs. Taylor-Quinn: Information on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  Zoom on Madeleine Taylor-Quinn  I am sure he would not object.

Mr. Lenihan: Information on Brian Lenihan Snr.  Zoom on Brian Lenihan Snr.  I propose to focus on our economy and the related problem of unemployment which have received far too little attention in this debate. Much of our attention seems to be diverted to areas which are not of real importance to our society today. It is important for Members of this House to emphasise the fact that we have a jobs crisis. There is a real problem, not just in Ireland but throughout the free world, of equating jobs with expansion and financial stability. Even though things may appear to be well, there is no increase in jobs or economic activity.

Today's Financial Times states that Ireland has proved more resilient to the recession that its main trading partners and, on economic convergence criteria, it is better placed for an early incorporation into the European Monetary Union than most of the EC member states. Since [1453] 1987 we have developed a low-inflation economy and responsible financial policies which have provided a stable platform for inward investment. US investment comprised 52.5 per cent of all overseas investment in Ireland during the past two years. Over 1,000 overseas companies in Ireland employ nearly 100,000 people, and contribute £4.1 billion to the economy in wages and purchases. It is significant to note that 45 per cent of our manufacturing workforce are employed by foreign companies. The positive vote in the Maastricht Treaty referendum will accelerate these developments as we move into the Single European Market from 1 January next.

However, the other side of the coin is that there is a jobs crisis. The magnitude of the task we face is that in the absence of emigration an additional 20,000-25,000 jobs need to be created each year to the end of the decade to prevent unemployment rising higher. The economic challenge of the nineties is the search for an adequate response to this unemployment crisis. We share this problem with the rest of the world, but this must not be used as an excuse for inaction on our part. We need a national economic strategy to promote investment and jobs at every level in our society. The Minister for Industry and Commerce must now address himself to the implementation of the Culliton report by Government Departments and agencies at every level on a comprehensive and detailed basis. Here I would ask what is the position in regard to the task force established by the Government under Dr. Moriarty to report on the implementation of this report?

The Government should do something real by establishing the priority of our education and training systems in co-operation with the European Community.

The Culliton report is devastating in its indictment of our training and education systems, stating that, despite its enviable academic standards, the Irish education and training systems have serious gaps when it comes to technical and vocational education. It goes on in greater detail to [1454] identify the serious gaps which exist and quite bluntly states that a higher priority must be attached to the acquisition of usable and marketable skills. It emphasises that there should be a close involvement with industry in the development of a high quality stream of technical and vocational education, with a new curriculum. There is a blunt statement that the provision of training for work is inadequate and that new structures are needed. The report calls for positive Government intervention in devising an interrelated programme between our education and training systems, geared to economic requirements in regard to jobs.

This relates directly to the provision in the Maastricht Treaty which puts education clearly on the Community agenda. This follows a suggestion by NESC that education generally should be grant-aided from Brussels. I recommend the Government to consider placing to the forefront of Government policy the development of human resources at every level of education and training with a view to substantial aid from the EC Structural Funds.

The whole concept of fund tranfers from the Community should relate to social as well as regional disparities and should have positive human as well as infrastructural connotations. When talking about these funds we are not just talking about roads or communications but also about human resources, the biggest single asset in this country. These resources should be geared towards jobs and an integrated educational and training system related to the jobs that are available.

A suitable example in this respect is the German education and training system which has worked for many years. Integrated into the whole German economic scene are educational and training programmes in which not only the State is involved but also industry and trade unions. There is sophisticated apprenticeship in every area of German industry.

Social expenditure under organisations such as FÁS should be geared towards [1455] apprenticeship and training for jobs that are available, as well as towards fulfilling short term requirements. There is a lack in regard to medium and longer term requirements. There should be an overall macro-economic plan which is geared towards jobs for the future. Too much of our educational system relates to academic subjects and achievements, to courses, degrees and diplomas that do not get people jobs.

The recommendations in the Culliton report in this area are important and the Government should take them on board very quickly. As the report rightly emphasises, a review is taking place at present in regard to the Structural Funds under the Maastricht Treaty. It is important in that review to place emphasis on the administration of Structural Funds, which the report says has heretofore been too narrowly defined. We now have a chance in the upcoming review of the Structual Funds and the creation of the Cohesion Fund to examine the areas in which these refunds should be spent.

It is not good enough to go to Brussels with this single view, important as it is, of increasing the level of these funds. We must also have a developmental attitude with regard to guidelines for the future. If we are to get increased Structural Funds it is vital that we decide in a sophisticated way how they will be spent.

When seeking increased funds from the European Community we must be able to tell the Community what our priorities are, that we want the money to train and educate our people to equip them with the marketable skills for the jobs that will be available over the next ten years. This sort of approach would be welcomed by the Commission. Our whole training and educational systems should be geared towards that objective. We should tell the Community that our requirement is to build up our greatest resource, which is our human resource. It is important for Ireland and for the European Community that our people, through training and education, acquire the skills that will be required in industry [1456] and services throughout the nineties and the next century.

The link between education and training schemes organised by agencies such as FÁS should be strongly emphasised. Training and education should be considered as one unit. We should not comprehend them as being under separate Departments, which is the case at present. Training and education systems under the Department of Labour and the Department of Education should be considered in an overall developmental plan aimed at producing marketable skills for our young people in the future.

It is in that context that we should seek further funds for this area under the Maastricht Treaty. We should then be in a position to make a policy declaration to the Community that this is where the Irish priority lies, and this is the area where funds are required for the future.

The integration of policies in regard to the environment and planning generally should be designed to ensure that environmental or planning policies do not run counter to industrial policies. As in the case of education and training programmes, environmental and planning programmes should be integrated, with a view to breaking down bureaucratic divisions. They should be regarded as one package relating to jobs. I know that conflicts in this area cannot be entirely eliminated but as far as possible we need to resolve potential conflicts that may arise from interpretation of legislation, regulations or inter-department priorities. If our priority is jobs we should concentrate on environmental planning and educational and training programmes under one comprehensive policy.

Our objective is job creation and we should not allow restrictions under any heading to frustrate that objective. The overall promotion of the environment is a fundamental bedrock for producing jobs of the right kind but there should be no bureaucratic conflicts or divisions in this area. The whole question of breaking down administrative restrictions and differences between local authorities, the Department of the Environment and the [1457] new Environmental Protection Agency is very important in providing a common structure for job creation. There should be nothing inherent under any of these headings to frustrate job creation.

Above all else, the urgency of job creation should not be frustrated by interdepartmental policy differences. We should take an overall approach through the whole structure of Government and all Government Departments, and we should indicate clearly to the European Community that our national priority in regard to Community funds is the development of our human resources which, in my view, are the best and most intelligent in the Community.

We will be only tinkering with the basic problem in our community if we continue along the lines that have been followed heretofore. We have seen that the well-intentioned employment subsidy scheme is not achieving the desired results. The employment committee are functioning excellently but none of these initiatives will achieve success unless there is overall co-ordination at Government level to ensure that departmental jealousies, rivalries and conflicts are eradicated and that every aspect of administration at national and local authority levels is geared towards this fundamental need to create more jobs.

We must give the people the necessary political leadership by showing that the Dáil and the Government are serious about tackling this problem. There is a massive credibility gap in regard to our seriousness of purpose. That credibility gap is created by the trivialisation of politics that we see too often in this House and in the newspaper columns of the social commentators, who never attend our proceedings in the Dáil. I am not referring to the media commentators who are here daily reporting our proceedings and who know something, through their interaction with us, of what politics is about. I am referring to the social columnists who trivialise politics, yet who never appear in this House and know nothing about politics. They are stimulating the politics of envy and greed [1458] and contempt for politics and political institutions generally.

It is all-important for us in this Parliament, for those of us in Government and the political parties represented here, whether in or out of Government, to give our people the necessary leadership, to show them that we are homing in on what is real, what matters substantially to them. What is real to the people outside this House at present is not so much what passes here for debate and comment but rather where we as a country are going, where they themselves, their families and young people are going, where their future lies in regard to the development of our economy; where future jobs will arise from educational and training processes within our jurisdiction; in what way we utilise our link with the European Community in a positive way to focus people's minds on the objectives I have mentioned. This is the real politics of the nineties.

Much of the debate here, and certainly much of the comment in the media that passes for politics, is not real politics at all and, in the public perception, is leading to a lowering of their view of what we are at in endeavouring to give them appropriate democratic leadership in the nineties.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  It was rather interesting to listen to Deputy Brian Lenihan, former Tánaiste and member of a Government, speak as if it were his maiden speech and as if he were discovering problems for the first time. Listening to him one would never have thought he had been a member of the Cabinet on and off over the past 25 years. But his comments were indicative of the level of fatigue, physical and intellectual, now pervading the corridors of Government offices. This is a tired Government, exhausted by their internal dissensions. Theirs is a flawed marriage that was never a happy one, never based on love to begin with; now there does not remain even any trust between them. We have already witnessed that. The very fact that Deputy Lenihan sits in the back benches today is [1459] testimony to the internal divisions that have afflicted this Government for the past 12 months and which continue today.

In this House this afternoon the constitutional prerequisites of collective responsibility were abandoned by the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Desmond O'Malley, Leader of the Progressive Democrats, when he effectively disowned the actions of the Attorney General and of the lawyers representing the Government at the Tribunal of Inquiry this House set up to investigate the mess that Government have made of the biggest and most important industry——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Quinn.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I am not offside yet, Sir. You can correct me when I am offside but I am not offside yet.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy, I will adjudicate on whether people are offside. The Deputy will appreciate that this House established the Tribunal of Inquiry. The Ceann Comhairle, in October 1991, ruled here that the actual deliberations of the Tribunal of Inquiry were not open for discussion here.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  I was not going to talk about——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy has already referred to statements made at the proceedings of that Tribunal of Inquiry; of course, he is opening it up. I have stated the position; the Deputy knows that their deliberations are governed by the same sub judice regulations that govern all court hearings.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, I have a democratic mandate and responsibility. You, Sir, have a democratic responsibility as well. This House set up that Tribunal of Inquiry to go out and do a particular job. We said we would leave them alone to do that job. It was [1460] the Minister for Industry and Commerce who raised this matter in the House this afternoon. The Minister for Industry and Commerce came into this House and said that the Attorney General was not acting for him. If you want to hand-trip somebody, Sir, I suggest that you start with the Leader of the Progressive Democrats who effectively has torn up the Irish Constitution, has said that the private war between the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil — that, inter alia, put Deputy Lenihan on to the back benches — is still going on. That is fact, Sir.

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  On a point of information, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, the Attorney General has stated quite clearly that he is not representing the Government. Deputy Quinn is not speaking in accordance with the facts.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Deputy Quinn, please accept that it is not the function or desire of the Chair to hand-trip anybody. The Chair carries out the rules and regulations prepared for it by you and other Members of the House. If you want to change the sub judice regulation, please do so, but you cannot offend it while it exists. I am asking Deputy Quinn, a respected and intelligent Member of the House, to stay within the limits of the rules of the House however frustrating he may find them in pursuing what he interprets to be his democratic right.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Before the Republic got its independence Dublin Castle was the repository of everything that was wrong with this country, the repository of bad administration, the home of people who were out of touch with the needs of our people. Tragically that tradition continues to this very day. What is now proceeding in this State, what is in evidence up there, what has come from here, is an indication of what is now wrong with this country.

According to official statistics we have an economy that is doing well, that is if one refers to the OECD or the European Commission. Yet, if one talks to the [1461] people, the reality is that they are doing badly. We are the victims of an orthodox approach to economics that has resulted in our people having the highest level of unemployment within the entire OECD family of nations. I should have thought that, confronted with that set of statistics, a Government of all the talents would have spent the past year endeavouring to solve that problem, whereas in fact they have spent the last year endeavouring to put knives into one another's backs to hang one another on meat hooks. That is what has been happening. The Tánaiste can reply to this if he wishes. The reality is that the eye of the Government has been off the ball for the past 12 months in regard to this matter while the people outside this House suffer as a result.

This afternoon we are about to decide to adjourn until 7 October next. We may not come back, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle; we may not come back because this Government may not hold to that timescale. We do not yet know whether the revelations from Dublin Castle, to which of course I cannot refer but upon which I might speculate, finally will be the straw that will break the back of this two-humped camel of unlikely partners who now distrust each other so much they have separate legal advisers, speaking from different platforms, on different occasions, endeavouring to purport that what one said was not in accordance with what another did. There has never been an administration that has been so divided, so much at each other's throats than the present one. Perhaps on reflection, I am historically incorrect. There was a previous administration that was worse; they actually took each other to court. The House might recall that one. I am thinking of the Arms Trial, the purported attempts at——

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  This is a “dirt bird” exercise.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  No, it is not. This Government have the mandate to run this country from this House through the ballot box. I am saying to them that they have destroyed that mandate because of [1462] the internal divisions within the Fianna Fáil Party and between the Progressive Democrats, ex-Fianna Fáil, on the one hand, and current Fianna Fáil on the other. Were they a private little company running themselves into the ground, that would be a matter for themselves, their shareholders and incorporated banks. But it so happens that the shareholders of this Republic are the people with the highest level of unemployment within the entire OECD member states.

While I welcome the comments made by Deputy Lenihan, and share many of his concerns, I do not see them being reflected in the views, the sense of urgency or priorities of the Cabinet. The day before yesterday in this House the Minister for Finance indicated there was no such thing as a credit squeeze within this economy. Then, somewhat like President Bush, he said: “mark my words carefully, read my lips: I am informed by the Central Bank that there is no such thing as a credit squeeze within this economy”. If the Minister listened to anybody out there endeavouring to transact business they would confirm that there is a credit squeeze which is compounded by the disastrous implementation of the Companies Act, 1990, now requiring anybody who invests here to pledge the livelihoods of their grandchildren as collateral to the bank manager in order to meet its provisions. But we have the Leader of the Progressive Democrats who regards the design and construction of the Companies Act, 1990 as such a perfect monument to his ability to modernise Irish society, he will not hear any teeny-weeny bit of criticism about it. Yet, most investment analysts and financial advisers in this capital and country will tell one that, unless the provisions of that Act are changed in some form, many financial institutions will not make moneys available without enormous collateral back-up.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Whatever about the credit squeeze I regret I must subject you to a time squeeze and ask you to conclude.

[1463]Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  Will you not allow me any injury time?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  The Deputy would be stealing time from the Tánaiste and I know he would hate to do that.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  The only thing I would like to take from the Tánaiste is power and hopefully we will get a chance to do that very soon.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  On a point of order——

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  I am not going to be interrupted.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  ——in view of the fact that the Tánaiste is about to make the last speech of what may perhaps be the last contribution in the present Dáil the least he could be afforded by the House is a quorum. I request a quorum. I am sure his backbenchers would wish to hear what he has to say.

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Reducing my time. That is very clever.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  I am sure the Tánaiste would like to have the support of his backbenchers and his partners when he makes his contribution.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I do not know where these inclinations of mortality have come from.

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

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I now call the Tánaiste. I regret to have to advise the Tánaiste that because of the order of the House the Vote must be called at 4.30 p.m. and he must endure the loss of time.

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  I regret that Deputy Quinn came into the House and gave a shallow, cheap speech on this important occasion. He talked about the fatigue of the Government — at least nobody ran [1464] away from the Government as Deputy Quinn did some time ago. I will not call him an Achilles because that would be an insult to Achilles skulking in his tent, but a pygmy posturing and displaying moral cowardice and running away from its partners, Fine Gael in Government, because he could not face up to the responsibilities of Government. I will have to truncate my remarks.

The new Administration under the Taoiseach, Deputy Reynolds, which took office on 11 February 1992, have made important progress in a number of key areas. A fresh impetus has been provided, building on the achievements of Fianna Fáil-led Governments over the last five years, as well as implementing the revised Programme for Government negotiated last autumn.

I would like, in particular to register progress under the following broad headings: an open style of Government, including an important package of Dáil reform: a continued strengthening of our economic performance after a period of weakness in the first half of 1991; publishing a Green Paper on Education; tackling difficult problems in the social area; enactment of further significant tax reform; securing the passage of the Treaty on European Union in a referendum; successful Lisbon Summit with the Cohesion Fund guaranteed plus full commitment to appropriate increases in Structural Funds; negotiating a highly satisfactory Common Agricultural Policy reform package and carrying the process of dialogue on Northern Ireland to a stage not previously reached.

A new degree of democratic accountability has been introduced into Irish politics. Apart from being regularly answerable to this House, the Taoiseach has instituted a system of weekly briefings for political correspondents and has been personally available to the media, both Irish and foreign, to a degree not practised before by any Administration.

Mr. Flanagan: Information on Charles Flanagan  Zoom on Charles Flanagan  He should be more accountable to this House.

[1465]The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Another symbol of open Government has been the opening up of Government Buildings, including the Taoiseach's office and the council chamber, to the public on Saturdays since the beginning of June. Already over 1,700 people have paid visits.

Mr. Ferris: Information on Michael Ferris  Zoom on Michael Ferris  We paid enough for it.

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  This Government have sought and accepted, whenever appropriate, a consensus approach in relation to important, but difficult, national issues, such as the aftermath of the Supreme Court judgment in the `X' case, and in relation to the setting up of the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment. A joint approach was established by the four party leaders in the approach to the referendum on the European Union Treaty in an unprecedented show of solidarity. I put on record the Government's appreciation of that solidarity.

Proposals have been submitted by the Government to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges for Oireachtas reform, covering such matters as sitting arrangements, voting procedures, the raising of topical or urgent matters, and improved procedures for the passage of legislation and consideration of Estimates. Agreement has just been reached on a scheme of the registration of Oireachtas Members' interests as well as a new Standing Order to provide for relaxation of the sub judice rule. The Government have also brought forward legislation on ministerial pensions, and issued guidelines to regulate business standards in State bodies. The Estimates for different Departments have been discussed separately, and in great detail, with some flexibility on the time as between Estimates. The Friday sitting has become the norm. The Dáil itself will return after the summer recess in the first week of October.

New committees have been established since last autumn on crime, employment and a new foreign affairs committee with a European sub-committee still under active discussion. The Roads Bill and the Solicitors Bill will be [1466] going into committee. These committees will be sitting in July and September together with other Oireachtas committees. The House should note this considering the charade we had this morning. The Finance Bill, Committee Stage was discussed in Committee this year. This was a radical innovation, incidentially, it was not included in last autumn's revised Programme for Government.

From 1992 to date there has been a strengthening of our economic performance, which weakened in the first half of last year. It is now widely acknowledged that Ireland succeeded in avoiding the recession and in coming through an adverse international climate reasonably unscathed. This has been described by the ESRI in their most recent quarterly as `a considerable economic feat'.

Economic growth last year is now expected to be in the region of 2 per cent, rising close to 3 per cent this year. There has been a significant recovery in export growth, yielding a balance of trade surplus of £900 million in the first four months of this year. There are also some indications in the first quarter and in the April figures of a rise in consumer spending at home. Tax revenue has been reasonably buoyant and, with some adjustment to expenditure, the budget targets should be achieved this year. In the last six years there have been no significant budget overruns, and there was one spectacular underrun. The level of our public expenditure has moved from being way above the Community average to being the second lowest.

Our competitive position has continued to improve, with inflation likely to rise by about 3.5 per cent this year, somewhat better than envisaged at budget time. The recent world competitiveness report ranked Ireland ninth overall this year, up from 16th place in 1989. An important national objective will be to continue to meet the criteria for full participation in Economic and Monetary Union. We are at present one of only four countries that does so.

The view has sometimes been expressed that Ireland's remarkable economic performance of the last few [1467] years — because it has not solved unemployment — is irrelevant. Nothing could be further from the truth from two points of view; first, rapid economic growth has enabled us to expand employment, albeit not at the pace that we would wish. Over the past five years employment has risen by over 40,000 net in contrast to a drop of 66,000 over the previous five year period. Deputy Quinn should put that in his pipe and smoke it. Second, if we are to be in a position to support our population, including a high rate of dependants, we need to generate substantial national wealth.

Our first priority is to increase employment and I agree with Deputy Lenihan that it is our most important objective. Unemployment is currently very high, on an internationally standardised basis of 17 per cent. Unemployment always rises at this time at the end of the school and college year, in fact 14,000 — or 35 per cent — of new entrants on the live register in June were students or ex-students. Of course, when I was a student I would have been run from the labour exchange if I had tried to claim benefit.

In addition, there were 2,700 new entrants on the live register who were either returned emigrants or non-nationals taking up residence in this State. Taken together, their move accounted for the rise in the live register in June. The combination of demographic pressures and labour market weakness here and elsewhere make it difficult to reduce the live register at present even though employment has held up well.

Mr. Doyle: Information on Joseph Doyle  Zoom on Joseph Doyle  Where?

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  The Government have continued the consensus approach based on social partnership. The revitalisation and expansion of the economy since 1982 have been firmly based on a foundation of shared economic and social objectives and policies between the Government and the trade unions, employers and farmers. This partnership is currently reflected in the Programme for Economic [1468] and Social Progress and a progress report on the programme will be published in September. The Central Review Committee continue to meet monthly.

Last week the Taoiseach and the Minster for Labour met representatives of the employer organisations and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions to review progress in relation to the employment subsidy and job training schemes. Measures were agreed to increase recruitment on the employment subsidy scheme. Over 4,600 jobs have now been approved and 1,400 people have been recruited. It was also agreed to examine the requirements of the job training scheme to see how the uptake could be improved. I am very pleased to note that there was a marked increase last week in the number of jobs applied for and in the number of job approvals under the employment subsidy scheme.

The overall jobs target of 60,000 in manufacturing and international services for the period of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, reflecting an annual target of 20,000, was substantially met in 1991. The Government hope to consider very shortly the first report of the task force on the implementations of the recommendations of the Industrial Policy Review Group.

While the weak international economy continues to have an impact on the level of unemployment, there have been some encouraging employment indicators recently. Information supplied by the CII shows that manufacturing order books are significantly better than they were six months ago. No doubt Members of the House saw this in the graphs they received from the CII. Industrial capacity is now running at 78.5 per cent, according to the latest EC survey, which has been equalled only in the first quarter of 1990. Job advertisements recorded in June at 7,500 were the highest for any month this year and compared with 6,900 for February.

Twelve partnership companies were established last year to pilot the area-based response to long term unemployment outlined in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. These [1469] companies have prepared area action plans for the period to the end of 1993 which they are now implementing, in consultation with relevant agencies and organisations, with special schemes to get the long term unemployed back to work announced by the Taoiseach on 30 April. Discussions with the EC Commission are far advanced in regard to an agreement on a global grant of about £8 million for local socio-economic development.

The task force on employment who were established in June 1991 under the Central Review Committee, continued to examine and make recommendations on initiatives to increase employment and to reduce unemployment. To date, 15 reports of the task force have been submitted to Government covering a range of issues. A large number of the recommendations contained in these reports are being implemented. For instance, a working party set up by the task force have launched a major initiative to double the purchasing of Irish-made components in the electronics industry with the potential of creating more than 3,000 jobs.

A major economic initiative being developed on the proposal of the Taoiseach is the putting in place of an integrated economic development programme for the Shannon Estuary to advance Ireland's capacity to provide an economically strategic trading bridgehead between Europe, North and South America and other third countries. An outline prospectus has been prepared and project teams are now in place in the IDA and Shannon Development to identify potential international customers for the global transportation and industrial centre being developed. Countries which have already shown interest in the project include Brazil, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Mexico, Russia and South Africa.

The International Financial Services Centre continues to grow. Dublin is now firmly established as a profitable location for international banking, corporate treasury, insurance and collective fund management. This has come about through the provision by Government of a favourable [1470] tax and legislative climate, through resource of a highly qualified workforce available to those companies setting up in the centre, and through the commendable work of the IDA in marketing the centre internationally.

Mr. Doyle: Information on Joseph Doyle  Zoom on Joseph Doyle  How many new jobs did they create?

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  If the Deputy listens he will find out. The statistics for the level of project approvals and job commitments are encouraging. Projects in excess of 200 have been approved. The new jobs created are in excess of 1,000 and it is expected that a further 2,000 jobs will come on stream as these projects develop. Additional jobs will also arise in the services area outside the centre, such as accounting, legal, hotel and catering services. The Government remain committed to the full achievement and success of the International Financial Services Centre.

The Oireachtas Joint Committee on Employment are up and running with their sub-committees in place. These sub-committees are novel in that not alone are they representative of both Houses of the Oireachtas but also of the employers, the Irish Congress of Trade Unions, representatives of youth and the unemployed, the area partnership companies and the Combat Poverty Agency. The Government have asked the committee to examine the question of a substantial increase in the numbers participating in the vocational training opportunities scheme. Under this scheme, persons on the live register are paid an allowance to re-enter the education system in lieu of unemployment payments. This is against the background that 50 per cent of unemployed males and 25 per cent of unemployed females do not have education or training beyond primary certificate.

This year's budget and Finance Act represent a further major step along the road of tax reform which has enabled the standard rate of tax to be reduced by 8 per cent and the higher rate by 10 per cent since 1989.

[1471]Mr. Durkan: Information on Bernard Durkan  Zoom on Bernard Durkan  Everyone is on the higher rate.

Mr. Wilson: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  The standard rate of VAT has been reduced to 21 per cent. The broadening of the tax base has been a necessary part of this process, on the basis that many schemes and incentives were introduced, in part, as a way of mitigating very high rates of tax. As the top rate of tax is reduced, the need for many of these costly schemes is less. There has been much controversay about powers given to the Revenue Commissioners. I would point out that the introduction of the self-assessment system in 1988 removed many oppressive and inefficient features from the tax system, but the new system creates an extra onus to combat evasion, where the scope for it is discovered to exist.

Since 1987, we have sought to create a more egalitarian tax system and on a number of occasions the measures we have introduced have been too strong for Fine Gael and Labour with their closeness to certain parofessional vested interests. The increased flow of tax revenue has been our justification. Ridiculous suggestions have been made that, unlike the entire Opposition, this Government are not interested in social equity.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Tá nóiméad amháin fágtha ag an Tánaiste.

[1472]The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Is mór an trua é. I might cheer up the lugubrious faces of the Deputies opposite, if I had a few more minutes.


The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  There have been major improvements in social provision over the last few years in contrast with the very meagre performance of the Fine Gael/Labour Coalition in the mid eighties, but we do not believe in keeping taxation at penal levels which simply chokes off economic growth and does nothing for the less well off in our society. Social welfare spending has increased by £1 billion since 1986. The social welfare system is stretched at the moment because of very high unemployment. The general increases given at budget time, which come into effect this month, are ahead of inflation.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  Gabh mo leithscéal, a Thánaiste, you might now conclude.

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  Tá mé urramach duit. Tá brón orm nach féidir liom dul ar aghaidh chun na daoine seo a thabhairt chun an solais.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on James C. Tunney  Zoom on James C. Tunney  I am required now to put the question.

Votes put.

Ahern, Bertie.
Ahern, Dermot.
Ahern, Michael.
Aylward, Liam.
Barrett, Michael.
Brady, Gerard.
Brady, Vincent.
Brennan, Mattie.
Briscoe, Ben.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Calleary, Seán.
Callely, Ivor.
Collins, Gerard.
Coughlan, Mary Theresa.
Cowen, Brian. [1473]Hillery, Brian.
Hilliard, Colm.
Hyland, Liam.
Jacob, Joe.
Kelly, Laurence.
Kenneally, Brendan.
Kirk, Séamus.
Kitt, Michael P.
Kitt, Tom.
Lawlor, Liam.
Lenihan, Brian.
Leonard, Jimmy.
Leyden, Terry.
Martin, Micheál.
McCreevy, Charlie.
McDaid, Jim.
McEllistrim, Tom.
Molloy, Robert.
Morley, P.J.
Nolan, M.J.
Noonan, Michael J.
(Limerick West).
Cullimore, Séamus.
Daly, Brendan.
Dempsey, Noel.
Dennehy, John.
de Valera, Síle.
Ellis, John.
Fahey, Frank.
Fahey, Jackie.
Fitzgerald, Liam Joseph.
Fitzpatrick, Dermot.
Flood, Chris.
Flynn, Pádraig.
Gallagher, Pat the Cope.
Geoghegan-Quinn, Máire.
Harney, Mary. [1474]O'Connell, John.
O'Dea, Willie.
O'Donoghue, John.
O'Hanlon, Rory.
O'Keeffe, Ned.
O'Kennedy, Michael.
O'Leary, John.
O'Malley, Desmond J.
O'Rourke, Mary.
Power, Seán.
Quill, Máirín.
Roche, Dick.
Smith, Michael.
Stafford, John.
Treacy, Noel.
Tunney, Jim.
Wallace, Dan.
Wallace, Mary.
Walsh, Joe.
Wilson, John P.
Woods, Michael.
Wyse, Pearse.

Ahearn, Therese.
Allen, Bernard.
Barnes, Monica.
Barrett, Seán.
Belton, Louis J.
Boylan, Andrew.
Bradford, Paul.
Browne, John (Carlow-Kilkenny).
Bruton, John.
Bruton, Richard.
Byrne, Eric.
Connaughton, Paul.
Connor, John.
Cosgrave, Michael Joe.
Cotter, Bill.
Creed, Michael.
Crowley, Frank.
Currie, Austin.
Deasy, Austin.
Deenihan, Jimmy.
De Rossa, Proinsias.
Doyle, Joe.
Dukes, Alan.
Durkan, Bernard.
Enright, Thomas W.
Farrelly, John V.
Ferris, Michael.
Flaherty, Mary.
Flanagan, Charles.
Gilmore, Eamon.
Higgins, Jim.
Higgins, Michael D.
Hogan, Philip.
Howlin, Brendan.
Kenny, Enda.
Lee, Pat.
Lowry, Michael.
McCartan, Pat.
McGahon, Brendan.
McGinley, Dinny.
Mac Giolla, Tomás.
McGrath, Paul.
Mitchell, Gay.
Moynihan, Michael.
Nealon, Ted.
O'Brien, Fergus.
O'Shea, Brian.
O'Sullivan, Gerry.
O'Sullivan, Toddy.
Owen, Nora.
Quinn, Ruairí.
Rabbitte, Pat.
Reynolds, Gerry.
Ryan, Seán.
Shatter, Alan.
Sheehan, Patrick J.
Stagg, Emmet.
Taylor, Mervyn.
Taylor-Quinn, Madeleine.
Timmins, Godfrey.
Yates, Ivan.

Tellers: Tá, Deputies Dempsey and Dennehy; Níl, Deputies Flanagan and Howlin.

Votes declared carried.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Anois tá an Dáil ar athló go dtí 7 Deireadh Fómhair 1992 ar 12 nóin. Slán agus beannacht.

The Tánaiste: Information on John P. Wilson  Zoom on John P. Wilson  On behalf of the Taoiseach and myself I thank you, Sir, for your greeting and wish all the Members a fruitful and happy holiday.

Miss Flaherty: Information on Mary Flaherty  Zoom on Mary Flaherty  On behalf of the Fine [1475] Gael Party I wish to thank you, Sir, for seeing us through so ably to the end of the session. I thank the Tánaiste for his good wishes and I wish one and all a very pleasant summer.

Mr. Quinn: Information on Ruairí Quinn  Zoom on Ruairí Quinn  On behalf of the Labour Party I would like to be associated with the remarks to you, Sir, personally and I wish you a very enjoyable summer recess. I regret if on occasions I have been the cause of any duress from which you or any other Members require relaxation. No doubt we will see you here on 7 October.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Sonas ort, a Theachta.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  Sir, I, too, wish to convey my good wishes to you. Although we have crossed swords on numerous occasions, I am sure we are still capable of sharing the odd joke.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Absolutely.

Proinsias De Rossa: Information on Prionsias De Rossa  Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  We might also wish [1476] that we all come back here after the summer recess.

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Miss Harney): Information on Mary Harney  Zoom on Mary Harney  On behalf of the Progressive Democrats I join with the other parties in wishing you, Sir, a very pleasant summer. Obviously this has been a particularly difficult year and I am sure you are looking forward to the break. I thank you, a Cheann Comhairle, for the courtesy you always extend to Members on all sides of the House. I wish all the Deputies a very pleasant summer and I look forward to our return on 7 October 1992 when I hope we will have yet another fruitful year.

An Ceann Comhairle: Information on Seán Treacy  Zoom on Seán Treacy  Go raibh míle maith agaibh. Go dté sibh slán.

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