Dáil Éireann

28/Feb/1995

Prelude

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Third Banking Force.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Sterling Crisis.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Tax Covenants.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - European Monetary Union.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Harmonisation of VAT Rates.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Semi-State Privatisation.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Budget Leaks.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Decentralisation Programme.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Restructuring of Office of Public Works.

Ceisteanna — Questions. Oral Answers. - Border Regions.

Adjournment Debate Matters.

Requests to move Adjournment of Dáil under Standing Order 30.

Order of Business.

Report of Sub-Committee of Select Committee on Legislation and Security: Motion.

Social Welfare Payments: Motion.

Financial Resolutions, 1995. - Financial Resolution No. 4: General (Resumed).

Private Members' Business. - Social Welfare Payments: Motion.

Adjournment Debate. - Register of Prohibited Publications.

Adjournment Debate. - Live Cattle Exports.

Adjournment Debate. - Abattoir Hygiene Standards.

Adjournment Debate. - Team Aer Lingus Report.

Written Answers. - INTERREG Funding Secretariat.

Written Answers. - Single European Currency.

Written Answers. - INTERREG Funding.

Written Answers. - Official Report.

Written Answers. - Acts and Statutory Instruments.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funds.

Written Answers. - INTERREG II Funding.

Written Answers. - Access to Information and Rights.

Written Answers. - Regulation of Financial Intermediaries.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funds.

Written Answers. - Ordnance Survey Staff.

Written Answers. - Office of Public Works Sites.

Written Answers. - Salary of the Tánaiste.

Written Answers. - Government Contracts.

Written Answers. - Official Statistics.

Written Answers. - Leinster House Development Works.

Written Answers. - Reports of Select Committee on Legislation and Security.

Written Answers. - Vehicle Registration Tax.

Written Answers. - Single European Currency.

Written Answers. - National Lottery.

Written Answers. - Departmental Operation Programmes.

Written Answers. - National Development Plan.

Written Answers. - Arterial Drainage Act.

Written Answers. - Flooding Crisis.

Written Answers. - Employment of People with Disabilities.

Written Answers. - Community Initiative Programmes.

Written Answers. - INTERREG II Funding.

Written Answers. - Mileage Expenses.

Written Answers. - Production of Biofuel.

Written Answers. - Programme Managers.

Written Answers. - Ministerial Transport.

Written Answers. - Unemployment Figures.

Written Answers. - Designated Areas.

Written Answers. - Programme Managers.

Written Answers. - Execution in Pakistan.

Written Answers. - Drug Smuggling.

Written Answers. - Tax Expenditure.

Written Answers. - County Leitrim Flooding.

Written Answers. - Revenue from Commercial Banks.

Written Answers. - People Included in Tax Net.

Written Answers. - Property Tax.

Written Answers. - Double Taxation Arrangements.

Written Answers. - Income Tax Refund.

Written Answers. - Remit of Ombudsman.

Written Answers. - EU Single Currency.

Written Answers. - Residential Property Tax.

Written Answers. - Economic and Monetary Union.

Written Answers. - Referenda Costs.

Written Answers. - National Lottery.

Written Answers. - Irish Print Museum.

Written Answers. - Offer to Purchase Derelcit School.

Written Answers. - Double Taxation of Maintenance Payments.

Written Answers. - Church of Scientology.

Written Answers. - Medical Card Retention.

Written Answers. - Report on Blood Transfusion Service Board.

Written Answers. - Multiple Sclerosis Sufferers.

Written Answers. - Sight Testing Waiting List.

Written Answers. - Health Board Waiting Lists.

Written Answers. - Eye Surgery.

Written Answers. - Foreign Adoptions.

Written Answers. - Diabetic Clinic.

Written Answers. - Health Board Expenditure.

Written Answers. - Purification Rundown Procedure.

Written Answers. - Orthodontic Treatment.

Written Answers. - Programme Managers.

Written Answers. - Endowments of Arts Council.

Written Answers. - Sunday Voting.

Written Answers. - National Lottery Funding.

Written Answers. - Cork Water Scheme.

Written Answers. - Offaly Water Scheme.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Housing.

Written Answers. - Figures for Homeless Adults.

Written Answers. - Effluent Discharge Licences.

Written Answers. - Group Water Schemes.

Written Answers. - County Donegal Sewerage Scheme.

Written Answers. - County Donegal Water Scheme Extension.

Written Answers. - Provision of Toilets.

Written Answers. - Allocation to Mayo County Council for Roads.

Written Answers. - County Cork Water Supply.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Rent Schemes.

Written Answers. - Funding for Library Buildings.

Written Answers. - Grant Payments.

Written Answers. - Local Authority Planning Applications.

Written Answers. - Skibbereen/Schull (Cork) Water Supply Scheme.

Written Answers. - New Sewerage Scheme for Castletownbere, County Cork.

Written Answers. - Sligo City Relief Road.

Written Answers. - Hamilton Report on Crowd Control.

Written Answers. - PLC Grants.

Written Answers. - Education Psychologists.

Written Answers. - Glenties (Donegal) Comprehensive School.

Written Answers. - Higher Education Authority Grants.

Written Answers. - Adult Literacy Programme.

Written Answers. - School Transport.

Written Answers. - Remedial Teachers.

Written Answers. - Abolition of Fees.

Written Answers. - Educational Psychologist.

Written Answers. - Third Level Support Scheme.

Written Answers. - VTOS Claims.

Written Answers. - Special Finance Allocations.

Written Answers. - Westmeath Vocational Education Committee Figures.

Written Answers. - School Bus Routes.

Written Answers. - Scoil Bhriocáin, Rosmuc.

Written Answers. - Student Intake.

Written Answers. - Lecturing Hours.

Written Answers. - RTC Staff.

Written Answers. - Teacher Appointments.

Written Answers. - Students'Origins.

Written Answers. - Tallaght Regional Technical College Teachers' Centre.

Written Answers. - Delayed Payment.

Written Answers. - Suspension of Student.

Written Answers. - Preventative Programmes.

Written Answers. - Discussions with Dialogue Centre.

Written Answers. - Psychological Assessment.

Written Answers. - Drogheda (Louth) School.

Written Answers. - First Aid Requirements and Training.

Written Answers. - Finglas West (Dublin) Schools Security Project.

Written Answers. - Ballincollig (Cork) School.

Written Answers. - Louth/Meath Garda Headquarters.

Written Answers. - Garda Representative Structures.

Written Answers. - Registration of Title.

Written Answers. - Amendment of Incest Legislation.

Written Answers. - Garda Riot Squad Training.

Written Answers. - Donaghmede (Dublin) Garda Clinic.

Written Answers. - Recent Judicial Appointments.

Written Answers. - White Collar Fraud.

Written Answers. - Drogheda (Louth) Court Facility.

Written Answers. - Registration of Titles.

Written Answers. - Garda Síochána Computer Databases.

Written Answers. - Irishtown (Dublin) Garda Station.

Written Answers. - Indictable Crimes of Violence.

Written Answers. - Refugee Bill.

Written Answers. - Roundstone (Galway) Garda Barracks.

Written Answers. - Registration of Title.

Written Answers. - Office of the Taxing Master.

Written Answers. - Lone Parent's Allowance.

Written Answers. - Cost of Proposed Allowances.

Written Answers. - Sale of Cheap Milk.

Written Answers. - Inquiry into Investment Company.

Written Answers. - Meath County Enterprise Board.

Written Answers. - Science and Technology Research.

Written Answers. - Grain Producers.

Written Answers. - Enfield (Meath) AI Station.

Written Answers. - Classification of Ostriches.

Written Answers. - Export Refund Cutbacks.

Written Answers. - Livestock Exports.

Written Answers. - Cruelty to Animals.

Written Answers. - Radiation Monitoring.

Written Answers. - Bovine Animal Hides.

Written Answers. - Beef Tribunal Fees.

Written Answers. - Building Grant.

Written Answers. - Sheep Scab.

Written Answers. - Flooding Crisis.

Written Answers. - Super Levy Fine.

Written Answers. - Abattoirs Act Requirements.

Written Answers. - Live Animal Exports.

Written Answers. - Departmental Office Access.

Written Answers. - Grant Payment.

Written Answers. - Radiation Monitoring.

Written Answers. - Grant Payment.

Written Answers. - TEAM Early Retirements.

Written Answers. - An Slua Muirí Vessels.

Written Answers. - Reserve Forces Centres.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces Fatalities.

Written Answers. - Defence Forces' Bank Accounts.

Written Answers. - Barrack Damages.

Written Answers. - Radiation Monitoring.

Written Answers. - Clogherhead (Louth) Pier.

[1685] Chuaigh an Ceann Comhairle i gceannas ar 2.30 p.m.

Paidir.

Prayer.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I understand the Taoiseach is ill and unable to attend Question Time. Accordingly, Questions Nos. 1 to 16, inclusive, have been post-poned by agreement until next Tuesday. I am sure the House will join with me in extending to the Taoiseach our sincere good wishes for a speedy recovery. I am proceeding to deal with Question No. 17. The questions we are about to embark upon are priority questions for which 20 minutes only are provided.

  17.  Mr. McCreevy    asked the Minister for Finance    the proposals, if any, he has with regard to the third banking force; and if a decision will be made in 1995. [4409/95]

  22.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the timescale and the structure of the proposed third banking force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4237/95]

[1686]

  42.  Kathleen Lynch    asked the Minister for Finance    his proposals, if any, with regard to the promotion of a vigorous third banking force; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4382/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 17, 22 and 42 together.

A comprehensive review of the options open to the Government in relation to the State banks, including TSB Bank, is nearing completion and I intend to put proposals arising out of this examination to the Government shortly. The House will appreciate that the Government is not long in office and that the importance of the issues involved necessitates care in how we proceed. I assure the House, however, of my determination to advance matters as quickly as possible.

The timetable for giving effect to the decision of Government will depend on the option chosen. Under most scenarios legislation will be required and this legislation could be lengthy and complex.Difficult commercial negotiations could also be required.

Until the Government has had the opportunity to consider my proposals, it would be premature to discuss the structure which may emerge. However, to the extent that the Government may decide that the best way forward for any of the banks concerned involves taking an equity stake by a private commercial entity, this will be done by way of an open competitive process.

Mr. McCreevy:  Should the State retain an equity stake in any new venture, if that is what is decided eventually, or does the Minister believe that the market should be left to dictate its own wishes in that regard?

Mr. Quinn:  A commitment was given by the previous Government and repeated in the Programme for Government.I do not wish to offer a view until I have completed the examination. At [1687] that stage the Deputy will be able to consider the views of the Government.

Mr. McCreevy:  If the Minister does not wish to express his view will he express the view of his party?

Mr. Quinn:  The view of the Labour Party is well known. It is committed to and respects the role played by the State banks in the past. The recent success of both the ICC and the ACC — their annual reports were published recently — bears testimony not only to their profitability but also to their importance in the economy.

Mr. McCreevy:  Given the current state of the economy and having regard to the emphasis placed by successive Governments on the potential of small business for growth in employment, does the Minister think it important that the State should retain an equity stake in any new venture?

Mr. Quinn:  I agree with the Deputy that the State has a positive role to play in the banking sector. Our experience and that of other European Union countries would seem to bear this out.

Mr. McCreevy:  Is that the Minister's view?

  18.  Mr. McCreevy    asked the Minister for Finance,    in view of the current sterling weakness, the Government's policy with regard to tracking sterling or the Deustche Mark; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4412/95]

  31.  Mr. McCreevy    asked the Minister for Finance,    in view of the parity of the Irish pound and sterling, the proposals, if any, he has to financially assist Irish exporters; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4424/95]

Mr. Quinn:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 18 and 31 together.

[1688] The Irish pound broke parity with sterling yesterday morning following the appointment, by the Bank of England, of an administrator to Baring's Bank. Until last Friday it was trading at around 99.7p sterling. The present weakness of sterling has to be seen against a background of tensions in the foreign exchange markets, the domestic political situation in the UK and the immediate aftermath of the problem in Baring's. It remains to be seen whether the current sterling weakness will be anything other than temporary: the Deputy will be aware that sterling recovered somewhat overnight and that the Irish pound opened this morning at about 99.93p sterling. At lunchtime it was about 99.8p.

The Irish pound has been appreciating gradually against sterling. In the circumstances of a small and gradual appreciation of the Irish pound against sterling which is underpinned by the strong performance of the Irish economy, I have no proposals to provide special financial assistance to Irish exporters. Regarding relative competitiveness I have no doubt that the Deputy is aware that bank interest rates in Ireland are significantly below those in the UK and that this is of considerable benefit to Irish firms competing with UK based firms.

As I indicated to the Deputy in response to a previous Question on 25 January last, the objective of exchange rate policy continues to be the maintenance of price stability, that is, low inflation. As the Government's programme, A Government of Renewal, points out, a stable currency is essential to the maintenance of low inflation and competitiveness. By helping to keep inflation and interest rates low, this policy is very beneficial to Irish firms, especially those competing in export markets. My recent budget supports this policy and contains measures such as reductions in PRSI, income tax and corporation tax which are of direct assistance to firms seeking to maintain and [1689] improve competitiveness in export markets so as to maximise sustainable employment.

As regards sterling and the Deutsche Mark, the position remains that while exchange rate policy does not target a specific rate against a particular currency or group of currencies, our aim is that the Irish pound should trade against the Deutsche Mark and the Dutch Guilder at least as well as the rest of the former ERM narrow-band currencies.

Mr. McCreevy:  I would not necessarily disagree with much of what the Minister said. This question was tabled before the Barings collapse and the Irish pound has been appreciating against sterling for some time. What rate would cause alarm bells to ring, bearing in mind the crisis that occurred between September 1992 to early 1993? Despite changes in the makeup of our exports over the years from a total dependence on the UK market and on the sterling market in general in 25 years the position has been almost reversed from a ratio of 70:30 one way to 70:30 the other way. Given the fact that most of our exports are to the UK, what level would necessitate the need for some intervention or the setting up of a scheme similar to that which operated during the last currency crisis?

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy has asked a number of questions to which I will try to reply. It would be unwise for anybody to suggest or nominate a rate for fear that that might in itself become some kind of a target. The slow but steady appreciation of the Irish pound against sterling over the past 18 months has been absorbed by most exporting firms because internal competitiveness within the Irish economy has accompanied that appreciation. Indeed, it is the markets which are determining the consistent rise in the relative value of the Irish pound. We must have regard to the value of the pound against the basket of currencies, not just sterling. The Deputy is not exactly correct when he says that [1690] most of our exports go to the UK; approximately 30 per cent of our exports go to the UK but the level of dependent employment is probably closer to 50 per cent in so far as statistics can enable us to make that judgment.

Many of those engaged in companies trading with the UK are in the more vulnerable sectors in employment terms and, therefore, are much more price sensitive to any rise there might be relative to one currency and the other. The action taken in last year's budget but, perhaps, more importantly, in this year's budget restores and maintains considerable competitiveness for Irish manufacturers and service providers trading into the UK. With the PRSI reductions this year they have had, in effect, 3 per cent off their bottom line in relation to employees who are paid between £9,000 and £12,000 this year. Any concern we might have must have regard to the sudden fluctuations that might occur. Part of the problem, as the Deputy will recall because he was in Government at the time, prior to the formation of the last Government, was the combination not just of currency fluctuation but the accompanying very high interest rates. It was the combination of those two factors that brought about the problems for Irish manufacturers. Those factors do not prevail at present.

Mr. McCreevy rose.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Three priority questions remain to be disposed of. We must have a brief question from the Deputy.

Mr. McCreevy:  Given our experience of the last currency crisis, does the Minister believe that intervention into the market has any effect? The Minister will be aware that a small advisory group of exporters was set up at that time to liaise with various Government Departments.Is that still in operation and has it given any advice as regards this increase in the value of the Irish pound against sterling?

[1691]Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy would be wrong to refer to the present situation as a currency crisis.

Mr. McCreevy:  I am not saying that.

Mr. Quinn:  It is not comparable to 1992-93. Due to purely domestic political reasons in the United Kingdom, now compounded by the collapse of Barings, there has been a domestic problem with regard to sterling combined with a strengthening of the Deutsche Mark against the dollar because of what happened in Mexico. Our concerns are to ensure that the Irish economy, and those people exporting from the Irish economy, have a currency rate that suits their needs. The market development fund set up by the Department of Industry and Commerce, has maintained contact with those companies that were most vulnerable during the previous currency crisis. I am not sure whether that group has been re-established in a formal sense but I will make inquiries for the Deputy. I know that informal contact has been maintained by my Department with the relevant associations representing IBEC and the exporters.

  19.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Finance    the studies, if any, that have been conducted into those receiving tax relief on covenanted income; if he will indicate the proportions in terms of numbers and value of covenants made in respect of children, grandchildren, persons in full-time education, elderly and infirm relatives, other adult dependants and other categories. [4596/95]

[1692]

  54.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Finance    the studies, if any, that have been conducted into those receiving tax relief on covenanted income; if he will indicate the proportions in terms of numbers and value of covenants made in respect of children, grandchildren, persons in fulltime education, elderly and infirm relatives, other adult dependants and other categories. [4419/95]

  97.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Finance    the amount of money to be generated by the abolition of educational tax covenants. [4530/95]

  98.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will give a statistical breakdown in relation to tax covenants, detailing the different sectors in which they are used; and the numbers of people covenanting in each sector. [4531/95]

Mr. Quinn:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 19, 54, 97 and 98 together.

The statistical data sought by Deputies McDowell, O'Donnell and Martin is as follows to the extent that it is available from the Revenue Commissioners.The information is based on a 1 per cent sample of taxpayers on file.

Covenants from parents and grand-parents to children make up 60 per cent of the total of 37,000 covenants and nearly 53 per cent of the total cost of covenants of £37 million in 1994/95. Covenants from other relatives make up 22 per cent of the total number of covenants and 34 per cent of the total amount covenanted; other covenants make up 18 per cent of the total number of covenants and 13 per cent of the total amount covenanted; covenants to persons in third level education, whether from parents or from other covenantors, make up 69 per cent of the total number of covenants and 64 per cent of the total amount covenanted.

In the absence of the changes announced in the budget the cost of tax relief on covenants by individuals for 1995-96 would be £39 million of which £25 million relates to third level covenants.

The savings estimated to arise in a full year from the changes announced in the budget for 1995-96 in relation to minor children and the extension of the 5 per cent limit will be approximately £10 million and the total savings when tax relief is further abolished in 1996 will be [1693] £34 million. It is tentatively estimated that after all the changes the cost to the Exchequer of retaining relief for the aged and incapacitated will be some £5 million in a full year.

The figures referred to above do not include covenants for maintenance and covenants by companies.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I would draw to the Minister's attention one group of people who seem to be left out of these broad categories. They may not appear because they are probably small in number.I have written to the Minister separately and I ask him now to comment on the situation of people who are cohabiting and where the earning partner in the cohabiting relationship, in order to get some relief from paying single person's tax, has to covenant part of his income in respect of his children and/or the person who is cohabiting with him. Has the Minister taken into account those people and the fact that at the moment the covenant system is the only way they can get any kind of recognition of the moral obligation that the cohabiting person has in respect of his partner and their children?

Mr. Quinn:  I am aware that the Deputy has written to me about this matter and it is being looked into. This supplementary question is somewhat separate but nevertheless related to his question. The situation is complex, not least regarding the legal definition of cohabiting.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Given that the Minister is content to rely on the figures from the 1 per cent sample, which presumably is reasonably representative, does he agree the sample suggests that there must be a considerable number of people receiving income transfers under the covenant scheme who are simply down at heel relatives or third parties who need help from a better off person? In his future arrangements what does he propose to do for them?

[1694]Mr. Quinn:  The whole question of covenants and the rapid escalation in their utilisation in recent years — from a figure ten years ago of approximately £3 million or £4 million in tax foregone to the projected figures for 1995-96 of £39 million, had we not made the changes — has given rise to a great deal of concern. There are many allegations of abuse, of so-called back to back covenants, of covenants to neighbours' children rather than to one's own and all sorts of other such allegations sufficient to give rise to considerable concern about the loss to the Exchequer. We are looking at all these aspects in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners to ensure that in the reform of the covenant system, to which I referred in my budget speech, genuine and legitimate cases, in so far as they can be identified, will not be harshly dealt with as a result of the changes that will be introduced.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Does the Minister not agree that the principle underlying the covenant scheme is right and fair? If somebody decides to share his income with another in order to alleviate hardship and he makes such a commitment for at least seven years, it is only right and fair it should not be reckoned in his income and that he should not pay high marginal tax rates on moneys he is willing to transfer to a person who has little or nothing. Although the Minister points to abuses as a reason for changing or curtailing the system to some extent, it is not good enough reason for getting rid of it completely when the fundamental idea underlying the covenant system is the notion of fair and moral income sharing.

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy probably knows as much as I do about the origins and history of covenants. They have been a fact of law for a very long period, I expect going back to the start of the century, and have not been reformed recently. Their current modern use relates exclusively and predominantly to tax planning purposes. We are in the [1695] process, in conjunction with the Revenue Commissioners, of examining covenants in detail with a view to ensuring that abuses where they occur will be eliminated and genuine cases can be properly addressed. That process is ongoing and will be dealt with in this year's Finance Bill.

  20.  Mr. McCreevy    asked the Minister for Finance    the Government's position with regard to EU monetary union; his views on whether 1997 is a realistic date; if 1999 is the preferred option for monetary union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4421/95]

Mr. Quinn:  The Government supports the creation of economic and monetary union (EMU) in accordance with the timetable in the Treaty on European Union. The programme for renewal makes clear the Government's commitment to ensuring that Ireland continues to meet the fiscal conditions set out in the treaty for participation in Economic and Monetary Union. My recent budget was in line with this commitment.

The treaty sets out a timetable for movement to the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union. Briefly, if a majority of member states meet the conditions, the third stage can begin in 1997; if a date for the start of the third stage has not been set by end-1997, the third stage will begin in 1999. It is as yet too early to say whether a majority of member states will meet the necessary conditions in time to enable Economic and Monetary Union to be formed in 1997.

Mr. McCreevy:  Would the Minister think it a good idea to publish a White Paper or a discussion document on this subject so that we could have a wide ranging debate? What is his view on the probability of Ireland becoming a member of the Economic and Monetary Union without the UK and the consequences of that? My questions are [1696] interlinked because that would be one of the major points in any discussion document.

Mr. Quinn:  I welcome the Deputy's suggestion of a discussion document on these issues. They are of enormous significance for the Irish economy. The interrelated issue of sterling's future inside or outside the single currency is in the first instance a matter for the UK authorities but clearly it will be of considerable concern to Ireland in terms of North-South relations as well as relations with our nearest trading neighbour.I will certainly consider the Deputy's suggestion of a discussion document.

At this stage only two countries of the original Twelve are on track for participation in the Economic and Monetary Union in 1997, Ireland and Luxembourg.It is speculative to try to anticipate in advance what other countries will be in that position in 1997.

Mr. McCreevy:  Even though 1999 is a number of years into the future, the logistics of planning for this change will take a considerable time and I urge the Minister to consider having a discussion document in place as quickly as possible because there will be differing opinions among those in the financial community and in the political parties and I think it would be as well to have them all on record. It appears the majority is agreed in principle to this course but it will be far from easy to operate it and I think the Minister should set about this task.

Mr. Quinn:  I will consider the Deputy's proposal but I would not like anyone in this House to have the impression that work of a preparatory nature is not currently being undertaken either by the Commission or my Department. We are full participants in the economic monitoring committee under the chairmanship of Cees Maas, a Dutch national who is examining the complex technicalities surrounding the conversion of at least seven, if not more, national currencies [1697] into a single currency. The House will recall that it took the United Kingdom and Irish authorities about five years to prepare for decimalisation without any change to the currency. The conversion of at least seven, and hopefully more, currencies into a system where every slot machine and cash transaction point is anticipated and accommodated is a task of immense complexity. We are currently participating fully in that work.

  21.  Mr. McCreevy    asked the Minister for Finance    the Government's policy with regard to the harmonisation of value-added tax rates within the EU; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4395/95]

Mr. Quinn:  Our existing VAT rate structure is fully consistent with current EU obligations. The possibilities for reduced rating and transitional arrangements under the governing EU VAT Rates Directive continue to be availed of where budgetary circumstances allow.

The European Commission has not made any recent proposals which would require Irish rates generally to be changed. The Commission has, however, recently presented a report to the Council of Ministers on the approximation of rates within the European Union in which it concludes that the position is generally satisfactory with regard to the functioning of the new Single Market system in regard to VAT rates. No significant changes in cross-Border purchasing patterns have been detected since 1 January 1993. Similarly, there have been no significant distortions of competition or deflection of trade brought about as a result of excessive disparities in VAT rates between neighbouring member states. The Commission further concludes that, in these circumstances, there is no justification at present for introducing major changes to the existing rating arrangements, [1698] including the various specified minimum levels and the scope of the optional reduced rates.

I am quite prepared to accept these general conclusions as they would seem to correspond with our experience to date in Ireland in relation to internal market rating structures.

The Deputy will be aware that the present VAT regime for the treatment of intra-Community trade is intended to be transitional in nature and that any change to a definitive system could have significant implications for rating structures.However, the Commission has not yet made any proposals in relation to the adoption of a definitive system, although it has indicated that a discussion paper on the matter will be presented in the near future. Of course, until the Council decides on the adoption of a definitive system, the existing transitional rules will continue to apply and they will, in any event, last at least until the end of 1996.

The Government will be happy to examine any proposals brought forward by the Commission in relation to the definitive system on their merits bearing in mind budgetary, economic and social considerations.

Mr. McCreevy:  I am aware of the difficulties involved in having a unified VAT rate and the loss to the Exchequer. However, is the Minister not of the view that, in pursuing the ideal of European unity, harmonisation of VAT rates should be pursued as a general policy objective?

Mr. Quinn:  Yes, I am of that view but the Deputy will recall the extensive and difficult debates on the harmonisation of rates prior to the completion of the internal market arrangements. A number of specific proposals were discussed and the present compromise, if we can call it that, emerged. Some of the fears expressed about the compromise did not materialise as is evidenced by the Commission's report. Until it brings forward new proposals we do not propose to take any initiative in the area.

[1699]Dr. O'Hanlon:  Is the Minister aware of the submission made by the small firms' association in which it draws attention to the lack of competitiveness on this side of the Border compared to the North? It mentions that VAT is one cause of that. Has the Minister ever discussed the harmonisation of taxation on this island with his counterpart in Northern Ireland or in Britain?

Mr. Quinn:  I am aware of the submission and of the differences in the rate. In Ireland the standard rate is 21 per cent and in the UK and in Northern Ireland it is 17.5 per cent which causes problems for some small businesses. However, the corporation tax rate for manufacturing companies south of the Border is 10 per cent as against three times that in Northern Ireland. I have not had discussions on the harmonisation of taxation rates on this island with my counterparts.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Did I understand the Minister to say he accepted the proposition that there were no major distorting effects arising from the VAT system? The Irish newspaper market is seriously distorted by the presence on our neighbouring island of a highly organised and capitalised industry which does not pay VAT. Has the Minister asked the EU to take measures to protect the newspaper industry from this unfair competition?

Mr. Quinn:  I was quoting from the Commission's report where it concluded there was no major distorting effect.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Minister said he agreed with it.

Mr. Quinn:  I do because our internal analysis drew the same conclusion.

[1700]

  23.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the Government's policy regarding privatisation of semi-State companies or any of their services; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4238/95]

Mr. Quinn:  The Government's policy in this matter is set out in the policy document A Government of Renewal, which recognises that dramatic change will occur in some State companies. The twin drivers of technological change and EU competition rules will significantly affect what were once “natural monopolies” in the State sector. The Government's approach to these inevitable forces will be to ensure that all change in these companies will be managed in the best interests of employees, taxpayers and consumers. Employment maximisation within the competitive environment will be a key objective. State assets will not be sold except where this protects employment and is in the long term strategic interest of the company and its stakeholders. The Government will retain majority State ownership in these companies. Commercial State bodies will be given a clear commercial mandate and clarity in the financial targets which measure their performance. Opportunities for expansion to utilise the bank of skills in these companies will be encouraged.

Mr. Callely:  What companies has the Government considered for privatisation?

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy did not specify any company in his question. If he wishes to put down a question about that I will be happy to answer it.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Minister enunciated a general and universal principle that there will be a majority shareholding for the State if there is any change in an existing semi-State company.Does he think it ideal that the ESB and Bord Telecom Éireann should commission research into their future or should it be a Government decision? Does the majority shareholding rule apply to Irish Steel?

[1701]Mr. Quinn:  The question refers to general policy regarding semi-State companies. I enunciated what is contained in the policy document A Government for Renewal. Each case will be looked at on its merits. We set out the principles that would guide our approach to the necessity for all State companies to manage and confront change. If the Deputy wants to put down a question on the ESB and Bord Telecom Éireann I will be happy to answer it. The country has been well served by both companies.

Mr. Cullen:  Does the Minister accept that there is a contradiction in his answer in that he stated, quite rightly, that commercial long term viability and maintaining jobs should be at the core of decisions on semi-State companies? He also stated that he is blocking a clear commercial decision being made by a State company or an outside investor, either nationally or internationally, by limiting the scope of involvement of a potential investor within State company by insisting, before any discussions would take place, that the State would retain a majority shareholding.

Mr. Quinn:  The question relates to the overall approach to semi-State companies.The Government, which is a coalition of three parties, has set out its approach to State companies in its policy document. It might not necessarily concur with the policy of the Deputy's previous party but it does with his present party.

Mr. Cullen:  The Minister is aware of companies in the semi-State sector where the State did not retain a majority shareholding. Does he not think it unwise, given the complexity of the issue, to make such a statement in advance of the commercial decisions and discussions that must take place? I subscribe to the view that, where possible, the State should remain the majority shareholder but that may not be feasible in some companies.

[1702]Mr. Quinn:  I was asked to outline in general terms the policy on semi-State companies and I have done so. I do not share the Deputy's view. Each case will be looked at on its merits within the framework of the principles set out in the policy document.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I understand what the Minister has just said but if my recollection is correct the first part of the policy A Government of Renewal document stated that the State would retain a majority shareholding in each company. Would he agree the argument arises because that objective is not capable of being implemented to the letter in the case of each company? Would the Minister give the House his views on any Government plans to hive-off a component within a State company, rendering it fully commercial, while the State retains its majority holding in the company overall? The Minister will be aware that I am referring to Telecom Éireann and the proposals floated in that regard. Would he agree that what is causing greatest upset and damage is the lack of information, that we are given fragmented information about possible or potential proposals for purchase, diminution of the State's shareholding or a sale? Would he agree that it would best serve employees and everybody else in the company if the position were made abundantly clear? I was refused information in this House, yet the chairman of the semi-State company was able to announce such information publicly the following day.

Mr. Quinn:  We set out in our policy document our general policy in regard to semi-State companies. Obviously we are talking about commercial or commercially-oriented semi-State companies.There will be certain circumstances prevailing in relation to the parent or subsidiary of a particular semi-State body which perhaps in the future could form a strategic alliance with the private sector, within a minority or majority shareholding. All of this would have to be tailored to suit the circumstances in [1703] which they found themselves. Although not wishing to evade the question, it would be impossible for me to go into specific details. For example, the Deputy will be aware that, in its former glory, Aer Lingus had a variety of different commercial relationships with its subsidiary companies and with private sector interests, while the parent company remained, as it continues to remain, 100 per cent State-owned. The House will see there are many ways in which the commercial State sector can interact with the private sector. It would be for the Government and the relevant Department to consider what would be in the best interests of the company. The Government's approach to these inevitable forces will be to ensure that all change in these companies will be managed in the best interest of employees, taxpayers and consumers, and employment maximisation within the competitive environment will be a key objective.

Mr. Molloy:  In regard to the policy the Minister has enunciated — that the State will retain a majority shareholding in commercial semi-State companies — will this apply to their subsidiary companies wholly owned by the State?

Mr. Quinn:  I cannot enunciate a detailed application of that policy until we investigate the particular circumstances.The question of ownership per se would have to be balanced against the survival of the company, its development, its need for access to new technology, the need for international strategic alliances and a whole range of other factors, perhaps even encompassing European competition regulations which might very well require a sharing of ownership.

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Minister saying there are circumstances in which the State will consider disposing of a commercial semi-State company or one of its subsidiaries in toto?

[1704]Mr. Quinn:  It would depend on the circumstances and the overall objective.

Mr. M. Ahern:  In view of the remarks of the chief executive of Irish Steel over the past weekend, is it the Minister's intention and that of his Government to retain the State shareholding in Irish Steel? If there is to be a partnership, would he say whether it is the intention of the State to hold a majority shareholding in Irish Steel?

An Ceann Comhairle:  This is a very specific question with regard to Government policy which, if submitted to me for consideration on the Adjournment Debate this evening, will receive my attention.

Mr. M. Ahern:  I am sure the Minister has the answer.

An Ceann Comhairle:  This question must be brought to finality.

Mr. McCreevy:  Is the Minister saying it is Government policy to consider the sell-off of the State's interest in some commercial State-sponsored bodies? Is what he said in reply to supplementaries in conflict with Labour Party policy enunciated in the course of the November 1992 general election?

Mr. Quinn:  I do not have to remind the Deputy that, contrary to appearances, there is not a majority Labour Government. I am referring to Government policy.

Mr. Molloy:  The policy has changed since last December.

Mr. McCreevy:  And is changing.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Can we summarise by saying this Government will not privatise any semi-State company unless it decides that it will?

Mr. Quinn:  I have always admired the rhetorical skills of Deputy Michael McDowell.

[1705]Mr. Molloy:  We are now witnessing a famous U-turn.

Mr. Callely:  There have been some contradictions in the cross-fire across the floor of the House. In considering strategic alliances and the best interests of employees, taxpayers and consumers, will the Minister say whether the Government will continue to hold a majority shareholding in these semi-State companies?

Mr. Quinn:  It is Government policy to retain and maintain a majority shareholding.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  In all semi-State companies?

Mr. Molloy:  Has the Minister approved the disposal of 100 per cent of the assets of Salmara Teoranta?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is a separate question.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister is shaking his head. This State company has been sold in toto.

  24.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the obligations, if any, of programme managers and advisers in relation to official secrecy; and the action, if any, he proposes to take in relation to the leaking of the budget proposals. [3178/95]

  47.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has carried out an investigation into the extensive leaks surrounding the details of the 1995 budget; and the measures, if any, he proposes to take to ensure that there will not be a recurrence. [3217/95]

[1706]

  49.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    if the former Minister of State, Deputy Phil Hogan, was the only Minister for State to have confidential budgetary information before the budget. [3964/95]

  56.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will make a statement to Dáil Éireann, setting out the factual position with regard to previous investigations into budget leaks in recent years. [3963/95]

  62.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Finance    the reason Deputy Phil Hogan, former Minister of State, believed it was customary to issue budget details to the Fine Gael press office; the person who gave Deputy Hogan such information; when it was given to Deputy Hogan: and whether Deputy Hogan checked these matters with the Taoiseach or other Minister. [3965/95]

  67.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Finance    when precisely former Minister of State, Deputy Phil Hogan, authorised the giving of confidential budget information to the Fine Gael press office; when the document was delivered to this office; the person who delivered the document; and the person to whom it was delivered. [3775/95]

  87.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of Minister of State and programme managers who were aware of the contents of the 1995. budget before 8 February 1995. [3365/95]

Mr. Quinn:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 24, 47, 49, 56, 62, 67 and 87 together.

In accordance with the statement made by the Taoiseach to this House on Wednesday, 15 February, the Secretary of my Department is co-ordinating an investigation into the leaking of budget material in the run-up to the 1995 budget.

The investigation will be carried out by the heads of those Departments or Offices with access to substantial information on the contents of the budget. The investigation will cover all those who received relevant information [1707] within that Department or office and will deal, inter alia, with the action taken to keep the information confidential. The heads of Departments or Offices will also consider what additional procedures could be instituted to minimise the internal distribution of budget information in future.

The head of each Department or Office will furnish a report on these issues to the Secretary of the Department of Finance. He will co-ordinate the reports and present a composite report to Government within two months. The Government will take whatever action it deems necessary at that time.

In regard to the question of the obligations of programme managers and special advisers in relation to official secrecy, I can confirm that, where these officials are appointed from outside the Civil Service, they are appointed on a contract basis to temporary, unestablished positions in the Civil Service. As such, they are governed by the normal Civil Service regulations regarding official secrecy and integrity and are subject to the Official Secrets Act, 1963.

The investigation being co-ordinated by the Secretary of my Department will include relevant programme managers and political advisers.

Regarding the question of the Ministers of State and programme managers who were aware of the contents of the 1995 budget before 8 February 1995, as far as I am aware, Deputy Phil Hogan, in his capacity as a member of the Cabinet budget and economic sub-committee, along with a number of programme managers and special advisers would have been aware of some or all of the contents of the budget prior to 8 February in their capacity as members of an informal tax strategy group.

With regard to questions relating to the actions of Deputy Phil Hogan, I am not in a position to add to Deputy Hogan's statement to this House on 9 February last.

Finally, in regard to the factual position about previous investigations into [1708] budget leaks in recent years, as I indicated in my statement to this House on 15 February last, a limited investigation did take place in the Department of Finance and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners following the 1990 budget. This consisted of the officials most closely involved being asked whether they could shed any light on the source of the leaks. No breach of budget security in my Department or in the Revenue Commissioners was found as a result of this inquiry. No investigation took place in the years 1991 to 1994.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  Does the Minister consider it is desirable that programme managers who have come from outside the Civil Service should be in possession of this very sensitive information? Will he indicate which programme managers, in the course of what we saw as their duties, were in possession of that information on the days preceding the budget?

Mr. Quinn:  It is desirable that programme managers come from outside the Civil Service. Indeed, the former Deputy, Dr. Martin O'Donoghue, was perhaps the first such person to be so described and he was actively involved in sensitive financial affairs in the Government under the former Taoiseach, Mr. Jack Lynch. I believe it is essential for programme managers to participate in that way.

Mr. Molloy:  In what years?

Mr. Quinn:  During 1971-73.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Is the Minister for Finance aware that under the present procedures for Government Ministers there are provisions for a Garda investigation into leaks of confidential matters arising from the Cabinet's deliberations? As the Taoiseach was reluctant to answer this question when I asked it on an earlier occasion, will the Minister indicate the Government's views on this and if it [1709] will initiate a Garda investigation in this regard?

Mr. Quinn:  No decision has been made in respect of that, but I imagine — and I offer an opinion as no decisions has been made — that until such time as a report from the Secretary of the Department of Finance becomes available a decision as to whether to request help from the Garda along the lines to which the Deputy referred will not be taken.

Mr. T. Kitt:  In the event of programme managers or advisers being found guilty of breaching the Official Secrets Act, will it lead to their dismissal or what action will ensue? Given that the information arrived at the party press office, will the Minister indicate if an investigation will include those involved at party press office level?

Mr. Quinn:  I do not want to anticipate the inquiry's recommendations or findings, but the Government takes a serious view on the question of leaks in so far as they have occurred, including leaks from party offices.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Regarding the matters and investigations the Minister described so far, will he indicate the position in relation to the Department of Social Welfare? Has any official of that Department been suspended? The Taoiseach indicated that an inquiry was being carried out as to whom that official might or might not have imparted information. Can the Minister cast further light on that issue?

Mr. Quinn:  I am not in possession of information on the precise position in the Department of Social Welfare, but I will try to get it for the Deputy.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Was an official suspended?

Mr. Quinn:  I do not know.

[1710]Mr. M. McDowell:  That is some inquiry.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Let us not tax the Minister with matters appertaining to another Department.

Mr. M. McDowell:  The Minister is conducting the inquiry and he does not even know if someone has been suspended as a result of it.

Mr. Cullen:  When the Taoiseach received the offer of resignation from the former Minister, Deputy Hogan, did he consult the Minister for Finance regarding the action he might take and, if so, did the Minister offer any support to Deputy Hogan given that there had been substantial leaks in advance in regard to what Deputy Hogan was found guilty? Does he not consider that Deputy Hogan took responsibility for all the sins in respect of everything that happened before the budget and that it was grossly unfair that some members of other parties within the Cabinet should not have acted likewise?

Mr. Quinn:  I repeat what I said elsewhere, I did not seek Deputy Hogan's resignation and he put on the record that the decision he took was his own.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Did the Minister offer him support?

Mr. Callely:  Did the Minister advise him?

Mr. Quinn:  I did not seek his resignatio and I made that very clear to him and the Taoiseach. As far as Deputy Hogan and I are concerned, he has said more than needs to be said on this matter.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Did you hand him the sword?

Mr. Molloy:  We all heard the Minister's response on television.

[1711]Mr. Callely:  Was there any head hunting?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I will forego a reply to that question. I note the Minister's endorsement of the recruitment of outsiders as programme managers, on an earlier occasion the Taoiseach reiterated that view and that he had been converted to it. Was it a programme manager who gave the Minister the advice to call people suffering from alcoholism “duds”?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am not sure if that is a serious question.

Mr. D. Ahern:  It is a very serious question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Order, let us not be facetious.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the Minister accept that Members are entitled to know the outcome of the inquiry that will be carried out in his Department into these events? Will he accept that the structure he announced, that the Secretary of the Department shall report merely to the Cabinet, is unsatisfactory? Given that the inquiry will be carried out possibly into the activities of members of the Cabinet and people who work closely with them, will the Minister accept that in the interests of openness and accountability the Government has responsibility to publish the findings of the inquiry so that Members and the public will know who was responsible and what action will be taken?

Mr. Quinn:  The Government does not have an obligation to publish the findings of the report. As the Deputy is well aware, not every report is required to be published.

Mr. Molloy:  What about a report of this kind?

Mr. Quinn:  However, having regard to this issue and the seriousness with which it is judged, it may well be the [1712] case that the Government might consider publishing the report when it is received, but that decision will have to be taken by the Government.

Mr. Molloy:  In the event——

Mr. Hilliard:  I wish to ask a brief question.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Order, this matter must come to finality. I called Deputy Hilliard earlier and I am pleased to call him again.

Mr. Hilliard:  Will the Minister indicate who will carry out this inquiry and when it will be completed?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Mr. Hercule Poirot.

Mr. Quinn:  As I said in my reply, the inquiry will be carried out under the supervision of the Secretary of the Department of Finance and it is expected to be completed in approximately two months.

Mr. McCreevy:  I wish to ask a brief question.

Mr. Molloy:  I wish to ask a brief question also.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I will permit two brief questions from the Deputies who have risen.

Mr. Hilliard:  May I ask another supplementary question?

An Ceann Comhairle:  Very well.

Mr. Hilliard:  Will the Minister indicate who, with the Secretary of the Department of Finance, will carry out this inquiry or will the Secretary carry it out alone?

Mr. Quinn:  The Secretary has at his disposal a professional team of civil servants in the Department of Finance and [1713] he is also getting the co-operation of all the other Government Departments.

Mr. Hilliard:  May I ask——

An Ceann Comhairle:  I wish to tell Deputy Hilliard, and the House, that this cannot go on interminably, it must come to finality.

Mr. Hilliard:  The Minister is vague in informing the House that the Secretary of the Department, with a number of specialists in his Department, is carrying out this inquiry.

An Ceann Comhairle:  A question, please.

Mr. Hilliard:  How many of these specialists in the Department are carrying out the inquiry with the Secretary?

Mr. Quinn:  Do I take it that the Deputy wants their names, addresses and dates of birth.

Mr. Hilliard:  I did not ask that question.I asked the number of specialists within the Department of Finance, together with the Secretary, who are carrying out this inquiry. Can the Minister give that information to the House?

Mr. Quinn:  I do not have that information with me but I will get it from the Secretary and convey it to Deputy Hilliard.

Mr. Hilliard:  I wish to thank the Minister.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I call Deputy McCreevy for a brief question and then Deputy Molloy for a final question.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the Minister indicate if the provisions of the Official Secrets Act apply in the same way to programme managers and advisers who are employed on a temporary contract?

[1714]Mr. Quinn:  Yes. I will read the precise statement again regarding a programme manager:

In regard to the question of the obligations of programme managers and special advisers in relation to official secrecy, I can confirm that, where these officials are appointed from outside the Civil Service, they are appointed on a contract basis to temporary, unestablished position in the Civil Service. As such, they are governed by the normal Civil Service regulations regarding official secrecy and integrity and are subject to the Official Secrets Act, 1963.

Mr. McCreevy:  I am interested in this issue. I wonder whether the Minister is correct — I am not saying he is misleading the House. As the Minister is aware if a civil servant is found to be in breach of the Official Secrets Act he or she is prosecuted in the courts. Even if it does not go that far and they are found guilty of some other misdemeanour, a recommendation for their dismissal would go before the Government under the Acts governing the appointment of civil servants.Am I right in assuming that that procedure would be followed in the case of a special adviser or programme manager from outside the Civil Service? I suggest the Minister may be incorrect because I do not think he has outlined the procedure that would be followed. I would be happy to accept it if the Minister says so, but somehow I think he is incorrect.

Mr. Quinn:  If an unestablished temporary civil servant, such as a programme manager or special adviser, was found to be in gross breach of a particular regulation such as the Official Secrets Act and his or her dismissal was sought, or he or she was obliged to resign, the procedures as I understand them — I can get confirmation for the Deputy — which would be followed, one of which he would have been familiar with, would be that a recommendation would come from the Department [1715] of Finance from the line Department. The Cabinet would not formally make a decision because it would seem to me that the person would be gone at that stage. The tenure of a permanent civil servant is more secure than that of a temporary unestablished civil servant.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  He would not have the security?

Mr. Molloy:  As the Minister responsible for the public service, can the Minister say if a public servant can be suspended without the Minister being aware of the suspension? Will the Minister confirm or deny that a social welfare official has, in fact, been suspended?

Mr. Quinn:  I do not have the answer to both question but I will get the information for the Deputy.

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Minister covering up on something?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I must get on to other questions.

Mr. Quinn:  Deputy Molloy asked from a seated position whether I was covering up on something. The answer is no, I am not.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Why does the Minister not know?

Mr. Quinn:  Because, unlike the Deputy, I do not profess to know everything.I am a mere human.

Mr. M. McDowell:  This case was mentioned in the House last week. The Minister for Finance is the Minister responsible. Has an official been suspended?

Mr. Hilliard:  Will the Minister agree it is most strange that a Minister of a Department is not aware of the people who are carrying out an investigation for his Department?

[1716]Mr. Quinn:  I am aware of the people who are carrying out the investigation. The Deputy asked how many were carrying out the investigation. I am not sure of the number or whether they are involved full-time or part-time. If the Deputy wants the precise number, and the extent of their involvement, I can get that information.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I must bring this matter to a conclusion. Deputy Molloy for a final question.

Mr. Molloy:  In view of the nature of this inquiry, the sensitivities involved, and the possibility of colleagues of the Minister being involved in the leaks, does the Minister consider it satisfactory that he informs the House that the final decision in regard to publication of the report would be made by the Cabinet? Will the Minister accept that the public would be sceptical about this in the event of the report being embarrassing for any party in Government or for an individual in the Government, and if the Government reserves the right to decide whether the public should be told?

Mr. Quinn:  Deputy Molloy has had more Cabinet experience that any Member present and knows precisely the rights and privileges of collective Cabinet responsibility in these matters. The question of leaks, on something as central to Government activity as the budget, is a matter for all Government members and not for an individual Minister. Until such time as we receive a copy of the report, with its recommendations it would be imprudent and unwise for any Minister, including the Minister for Finance, to give a unilateral commitment that it would be published. That decision under our system of Government rightly belongs exclusively to the Cabinet.

Mr. B. Molloy:  Will the Minister adjudicate? This is most unsatisfactory.

Mr. Hilliard:  The Minister is not serious, he is playing for time.

[1717]Mr. B. Molloy:  This is a serious cover up.

Mr. Quinn:  I would remind Deputies that in previous years when there were leaks no inquiries were instituted.

Mr. Hilliard:  I am concerned about the action of the Government. The Minister should be ashamed of himself making that statement.

Mr. Quinn:  It happens to be a fact.

Mr. Hilliard:  If the Minister wants to live in the past, so be it.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Question No. 25, please.

  25.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has for further decentralisation of Government offices to the west of Ireland. [2630/95]

  51.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will include Kenmare, County Kerry, in the next list of towns in which decentralised Government offices will be located; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4410/95]

Mr. Quinn:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 51 together.

By the west of Ireland I take it the Deputy means the counties of Connacht together with Clare and Donegal — those counties under the ambit of the Western Development Partnership Board recently launched by the Minister of State, Deputy Carey.

The programme of decentralisation to the west is well under way. The programme will take some time to complete however. Pending its completion and a review of its effectiveness, the Government has no plans to extend decentralisation to any further centres in the west or, indeed, the rest of the country.

[1718] Considerable progress has been made in the Government's decentralisation programme for the west. According to the most recent estimates available more than 1,000 staff have decentralised to Connacht, Clare and Donegal, resulting in considerable social and economic benefit to the designated centres of Galway, Sligo, Ballina, Letterkenny and Ennis.

Benefit to the west and to Munster generally has also been derived from implementation of the Government's decentralisation programme in the other designated centres of Longford, Athlone, Nenagh, Limerick, Killarney and Cork.

Mr. Callely:  Will the Minister acknowledge the difficulties the decentralisation programme has caused in the Dublin area where there are social, economic and unemployment problems above the norm? Does he consider that decentralisation has contributed to these and, if so, how can they be redressed?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy is straying outside the bounds of the question.

Mr. Quinn:  I do not want the Deputy to lose the Whip by answering him.

Mr. Molloy:  Does the Minister support the decentralisation programme and, if so, why has the Government called a halt to that programme? Why is he not prepared to continue with the programme? Does he recognise that the problem, which has been referred to by the previous speaker, relates more to over population in the Dublin area and the imbalance that is causing in the structure of this country?

Mr. Quinn:  The ongoing programme of decentralisation is continuing and I am not aware of any new plans for decentralisation. As a Dublin Deputy, I concur with the observations made by [1719] Deputy Callely that Dublin has a dis-proportionately higher than average rate of unemployment.

Mr. M. Kitt:  Will the Minister agree it is somewhat ironic that having appointed a Minister of State with responsibility for western development the Government is now saying that the decentralisation programme has been effectively stopped? The Minister should be aware of the figures on rural depopulation — his Minister of State, Deputy Higgins, gave the figures in the Dáil on many occasions. Will the Government continue the successful policy of regionalisation within certain Departments?

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy's question referred to western development. I am sure that he, a western Deputy, does not think the people of the west are so bereft of entrepreneurial skill that they require the transfer of offices from the east to the west to supplement their activities. The Minister of State, Deputy Carey, will seek to assist development by people in the west, together with the considerable array of existing supports, including the extensive county enterprise board system set up by the previous Government and SFADCo in the mid-west region. To answer the Deputy's specific question, more than 1,000 jobs have been decentralised from the Dublin region.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister opposed that decision.

Mr. Quinn:  Yes, I did. It is history now.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister tried to block it again.

Mr. M. Ahern:  The 1982-87 Fine Gael-Labour Government sold all the sites which had been purchased for decentralised offices. Will the Minister confirm that the Government will not reverse the decentralisation policy, [1720] which was a success in the west, south, north and northwest between 1987-94, and that the thousands of rural people working in Dublin who wish to return to Munster, Leinster or Connaught will have an opportunity to do so?

Mr. Quinn:  I hesitate to come between Deputy Ahern and his frontbench colleague, Deputy Ivor Callely, but I can confirm that the existing decentralisation proposals will be implemented. I am not aware of new proposals for further decentralisation on top of the ones in the process of being implemented.

Mr. Callely:  Dublin Deputies are 100 per cent behind the Minister.

Mr. M. McDowell:  As a Deputy who apparently knows everything, may I ask the Minister to assist me in regard to one point which I cannot understand at all, that is his two statements made in rapid succession that the programme of decentralisation is going ahead and that there are no further plans for decentralisation?Will he explain in ordinary words of one syllable to a fool like me which of those two propositions is correct?

Mr. D. Ahern:  It was Fianna Fáil policy.

Mr. Quinn:  I hesitate to engage with Deputy McDowell's renowned debating skills——

Mr. M. McDowell:  Just answer the question.

Mr. Quinn:  ——but I can say that the existing programme is going ahead and there are no proposals for a new programme.

Mr. McCreevy:  Given the success of the decentralisation programme, as evidenced in the towns to which the Minister referred, and the Taoiseach's pauline conversion in regard to programme managers, will the Minister say if he still [1721] holds the view he held some years ago that the decentralisation programme was a mistake?

Mr. Quinn:  The decentralisation programme has conveyed considerable benefits to a substantial number of people and the economies of the towns in which the offices are located. As the Deputy will appreciate as Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Finance, the programme has introduced additional fixed costs in public expenditure which will not be recouped.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Given that the scope of the question has been broadened, will the Minister circulate to Deputies on this side of the House a list of existing and proposed decentralisation locations so that we will at least know the locations under the existing programme?This includes my town of Dundalk.

Mr. Quinn:  If the Deputy does not want to put down a question I can write to him directly with the information.

Mr. D. Ahern:  I put down a question on Dundalk but I would like to know the full details of the programme.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  We are moving way beyond the scope of the question. I want to facilitate other Deputies. I call Deputy Molloy for a final question.

Mr. Molloy:  Does the Minister understand the anger of parents and young people in the west at the system whereby they must live in Dublin if they want to take up a position in the Civil Service? Does he recognise the urgent need to continue the decentralisation programme so that people from rural areas will be given the opportunity to return to those areas and also to provide a better opportunity for young people in rural areas to obtain a position in the Civil Service and live locally? It is a matter of great concern and a cause of [1722] much anger, resentment and frustration——

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That should be adequate, Deputy.

Mr. Molloy:  ——that people who wish to work in the Civil Service must live in Dublin.

Mr. Quinn:  If the Deputy and his party colleague beside him can propose how one can have decentralised Civil Service offices in virtually every town and at the same time reduce public expenditure then I would be very anxious to hear from them.

Mr. Molloy:  I must complain about the flippant way in which the Minister has answered questions today. He has no understanding of or concern about the problem.

  26.  Miss Quill    asked the Minister for Finance    the proposals, if any, there are for the restructuring of the Office of Public Works involving the separation of its principal functions and the reassignment of responsibility for these functions to the Department of Finance, the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry and the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1913/95]

  64.  Miss Quill    asked the Minister for Finance    the statutory powers relating to heritage and cultural institutions which are to be transferred from the Minister for Finance to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1906/95]

Mr. Quinn:  I propose to take Questions Nos. 26 and 64 together.

The document A Government of Renewal sets out the Government's plans in relation to the restructuring of [1723] the Office of Public Works and the reassignment of its principal functions. As that document indicates, these changes are to be carried out on a phased basis.

Since taking office, the major thrust of my and the Government's activity in this area has been to prepare and effect changes in the heritage and cultural functions of the Minister for Finance and of the Office of Public Works. Accordingly, the functions of the Minister for Finance in relation to wildlife and whale fisheries have been transferred to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht by Government order under section 6 (1) of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1939. Arrangements are in train for the making of a similar order which will transfer to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht the functions of the Minister for Finance in relation to St. Stephen's Green, Phoenix Park, Bourne Vincent Memorial Park, the Royal Botanic Gardens, national monuments and the Shannon navigation.

The only function in these areas being retained by the Minister for Finance are functions of a fiscal nature akin to those exercisable in relation to Departments and offices generally.

Various enactments over the years have conferred powers and functions in the heritage and cultural area on the Commissioners of Public Works rather than on any individual Minister. These functions are currently being indentified with a view to determining the most appropriate legislative and institutional mechanisms for ensuring their discharge under the aegis of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Mr. Molloy:  It seems from the Minister's reply that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will have a whale of a time looking after wildlife. Will the Minister say if the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht is the Minister who will make a decision on the location of the interpretative centre at Mullaghmore?

[1724]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy is raising specifics which were not referred to in the question.

Mr. Molloy:  It relates to the division of responsibilities. It is very hard to decipher whether the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht has been given responsibility for this matter.

Mr. Quinn:  I do not want to go into the specifics of a decision which has already been taken. We are talking about the transfer of functions and, broadly speaking, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will have responsibility for the formulation and implementation of policy in these areas. In so far as it is an executive agency carrying out and implementing that policy, the Office of Public Works will assist the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht in its implementation.

Mr. Molloy:  Can I take it that the current position on the division of responsibility in terms of policy matters is no different from what obtained when the Fianna Fáil and Labour parties were in Government?

Mr. Quinn:  As I stated in my reply, there have been two transfers. One has already been made and another is in the process of being made.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Will the Office of Public Works be under the direction of the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht or under the Minister's direction?He used the phrase “assisting the Minister with the implementation of policy”. Can the Minister tell the Office of Public Works what to do?

Mr. Quinn:  The Office of Public Works will be under the direction of the Minister for Finance and of the Minister of State, Deputy Higgins. As the Deputy is aware, the office predates the establishment of the State. In regard to the implementation of heritage and cultural policies, under previous Administrations when there was no specific [1725] department of culture or Minister with responsibility for arts and culture, cultural functions in general were assigned to the Office of Public Works. We are now systematically identifying and transferring functions to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht where it makes sense to do so. Where the Office of Public Works is in situ and in a position to provide or maintain a service, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Office of Public Works will arrive at the most efficient, effective and common sense approach to the matter, on a case by case basis. To answer the core of the Deputy's question, the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will determine policy and ensure its implementation, with the co-operation of the Office of Public Works, and give direction if necessary.

Mr. M. Ahern:  When does the Minister envisage a decision will be taken about the separation of functions confirming that the Office of Public Works will effectively be a sub-contracting agency of the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht?

Mr. Quinn:  It would be a mistake to conclude that. The Office of Public Works is more than 150 years old and from time to time has had functions assigned to and taken from it. For example, at one time it was responsible for the primary school building programme but that was transferred to the Department of Education. It also had responsibility for harbours and harbour repair works, but that responsibility was transferred to the Department of the Marine when it was established. We now have a Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht which has been a great success and it is appropriate that it should formulate and implement policy in terms of functions which are properly within the remit of such a Department.Where it can avail of the resources and experience of the Office of Public Works, common sense and public prudence in terms of taxpayers' [1726] money demands that should be done, with the co-operation of the Office of Public Works.

Mr. Cullen:  Will the Minister accept that this is a ludicrous way to treat the Office of Public Works and that there is no strategic decision at the root of this, rather it is a political decision relating to the political nuances of the relationships between the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Department of Finance? Will he accept that as a result of this we will have a Department incapable of making a decision? The Minister stated that decisions will be taken on a case by case basis to determine who should take responsibility for projects. That will lead to conflict between the two Departments, nobody will take charge and the Office of Public Works will be emasculated. In no way could this be considered a strategic decision. It is political balderdash.

Mr. Quinn:  I hope I have not inadvertently misled the Deputy. I stated clearly that statutory responsibility for heritage and cultural matters, in so far as they were within the legal remit of the Office of Public Works, is by order of the Ministers and Secretaries (Amendment) Act, 1939 being transferred to the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister should relate that to Mullaghmore.

Mr. Quinn:  The question of the implementation of specific policies in certain areas utilising the agency services of the Office of Public Works will be evaluated on a case by case basis where it makes good economic sense from the point of view of the taxpayer, having regard to the existing experience of the Office of Public Works. Under the orders which will be laid before the House in due course — one of which already has — legal responsibility for the formulation and implementation of [1727] policy is now a matter for the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.This is similar to what happened when primary schools was taken from the remit of the Office of Public Works.

Mr. M. Kitt:  Does it not state in the Government's programme that the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht will give written instructions to the Office of Public Works in relation to certain matters? Will the Minister agree that this is a new procedure? Which Minister Higgins is running the show? Will it be a question of Higgins v. Higgins?

Mr. Quinn:  To avoid confusion, all instructions must be given in written form. The Deputy would not want to read much into that statement. There is very positive co-operation between the Office of Public Works and the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht.We are systematically reinforcing and consolidating a Department set up by the previous Administration that is less than two years old in terms of its legal incorporation and which, because of its age, has taken time slowly but surely to co-ordinate in an integrated and coherent way its statutory functions in the discharge of cultural and heritage matters.

Mr. Hilliard:  Is the Minister aware that bodies are very confused because of the lack of information and clarification from his office? Can the Minister advise people where they can have matters negotiated? I seek the Minister's advice in regard to a problem relating to a heritage centre which is about to be established in County Meath. As we wish to bring the Book of Kells to the centre, will the Minister advise me where to go to have the matter negotiated?

Mr. M. McDowell:  To Trinity College.

Mr. Hilliard:  I have written to one or [1728] two Departments about the matter, but cannot get informarion.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That matter is worthy of a separate question.

Mr. Hilliard:  Is the Minister aware that the public is confused because of the lack of clarification from his Department?

Mr. M. McDowell:  Let us keep the Book of Kells in Dublin.

Mr. M. Ahern:  In reply to Deputy Kitt the Minister stated that what is contained in the Programme for Government should be taken with a grain of salt. Does that apply to the entire programme?

Mr. Quinn:  I did not say that.

Mr. M. Ahern:  He did. When are we likely to get a decision in regard to the break up of functions? Can the Minister give a timescale in that regard?

Mr. Quinn:  I am not sure to what the Deputy refers.

Mr. M. Ahern:  I am referring to restructuring of the Office of Public Works.

Mr. Quinn:  I do not have that information to hand but I can supply the Deputy with it.

Mr. McCreevy:  I offer the Minister my sincere sympathy in having to adjudicate between the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht and the Office of Public Works. When I hear him refer to positive co-operation I know he is in deep trouble and that things have reverted to the way they were for the past two years.

It is time to have a clear division of responsibilities. I am sure the Minister does not need to be told about the necessity for positive co-operation as he heard all about it in the past two months [1729] in Government. However, I advise him to get the matter out of the way once and for all and ensure a clear, unequivocal breakdown of the functions, because there is confusion right around the country.

Mr. Quinn:  The decisions we are taking on the transfer of functions under the legislation to which I already referred, the amended Ministers and Secretaries Act, 1939, remove some of the confusion and we will continue to eliminate all confusion.

Mr. T. Kitt:  We are trying to be helpful.The Minister should come back to the House at a future date and ensure greater clarity in this area. I agree with Deputy McCreevy that the issue is fudged by the idea that there is great co-operation between certain Departments.We, on this side of the House, greatly value the work of the Office of Public Works. Rathfarnham Castle, in my own constituency, is an example of work carried out by it and my colleagues could give many more examples. Much of its work is of an aesthetic quality and of a technical nature. The Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, Deputy Michael D. Higgins has a lot on his plate and has been applauded for much of what he has done, but giving him additional responsibilities may not be necessary.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Question, please.

Mr. T. Kitt:  Will there be implications for staff in the announcements the Minister has made today?

Mr. Quinn:  This work will be undertaken on a phased basis. We will examine the question of the implications for staff and come back to the Deputy on it. I concur with the Deputy, as would the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Higgins, that the work of the Office of Public Works is of a very high quality and renowned throughout the country. This [1730] is an effective and sensible division of responsibilities.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the Office of Public Works or the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht designate the national heritage areas which will have such a devastating impact on the policy of the Department of Agriculture? The Office of Public Works did this in the past.

Mr. Quinn:  I will get the information for the Deputy.

  27.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Finance    the new initiatives, if any, being considered to enhance the Border region to make it more attractive for inward investment and to offer greater encouragement for existing industry to grow; if he will consider special tax concessions for exports; and, in view of the fact that the EU and the countries contributing to the IFI recognise the need for special measures, if he will ensure that funding provided for the Border region is additional. [3730/95]

Mr. Quinn:  There are a number of initiatives specifically targeted at the Border region which should substantially boost economic development in the region.

Commission approval for the Ireland-Northern Ireland INTERREG Programme was announced yesterday. This is the successor to the INTERREG programme for the Border region which ran from 1991 to mid 1994. It is a multisectoral programme comprising a wide range of measures which will give a substantial boost to economic development in the region.

The EU funding for the joint programme amounts to 157 million ECU (approximately £125 million in Irish pound terms). Of this, 89.5 million ECU (approximately £72 million) will go to the Southern Border counties.

As a coherent economic development [1731] strategy for the Border region is dependent on adequate infrastructural foundations, the bulk of the funding will be allocated to the infrastructural and environmental protection sub-programmes.Roads, sanitary services, electricity networks and telecommunications are vital underpinnings to the tourism, agricultural, food processing, industrial and service sectors.

As the Deputy will be aware, additional EU funding is being provided to support the Northern Ireland peace process. Draft guidelines have now been approved by the Commission and are in course of examination by the European Parliament, committee of the regions, the economic and social committee and the management committee on community initiatives. Formal adoption of the initiative is expected around the end of April and the operational programme is expected to be approved before the end of the year.

The total EU funding available to the initiative will be in the region of 300 million ECU over three years. The Border counties on the southern side will get at least 20 per cent of the aid amounting to approximately 20 million ECU (£16 million) per annum over the period. Funding over a further two year period will be subject to a review of the situation by the Commission. As with the INTERREG programme the funding available under the peace programme will represent a significant contribution to economic development in the Border region.

There will be an extensive consultative process as part of the preparation of the peace programme. Arrangements in regard to this will be announced at a later date.

President Clinton has appointed Senator George Mitchell as his special adviser for economic initiatives to support the peace process in Ireland. He has been mandated to organise the US investment conference on Ireland to be held in Washington on 24-26 May 1995.

The conference is part of a package of economic measures announced on 1 [1732] November by President Clinton to assist in the consolidation of the peace process in Northern Ireland. The most significant of these has been the announced intention to increase the US funding to the International Fund for Ireland by an additional $10 million in 1996 and 1997 on top of the $20 million funding announced for 1995.

The conference will offer a major opportunity to attract new US investment to Northern Ireland and the Border counties. Both Governments will be availing of the conference to reinforce the message that there is now a lasting peace in Northern Ireland and that this dramatically improves the environment for US trade and investment in Ireland.

The Government is targeting considerable additional resources at tackling infrastructural weaknesses in the southern Border counties to further enhance their attractiveness as an investment location. The EU INTERREG programme is an important element of our approach. INTERREG, the peace initiative and the Washington investment conference will greatly complement existing programmes.

As regards the Deputy's suggestion relating to the introduction of special tax concessions in the Border regions to encourage exports, such a course of action would fall foul of EU law. Under the State Aids provisions of the Treaty of Rome, any aid which distorts or threatens to distort competition by favouring certain undertakings or the production of certain goods shall be held to be incompatible with the common market where trade between member states is affected. A special tax concession designed specifically to encourage exports would clearly act to distort competition in this way.

I would point out to the Deputy that a special concessionary rate of corporation tax of 10 per cent already exists for manufacturing and this is available country-wide including the Border regions. In addition, in this year's budget I made the first step in a move [1733] to reduce the standard rate of corporation tax paid by services companies and other non-manufacturing concerns towards a level comparable with overseas competitors. Even if EU law were not a barrier, I would not be prepared to start recomplicating the corporate tax system by the introduction of special rates of corporation tax for particular regions. The Deputy is well aware of the tax planning opportunities which such a course of action would open up and the demands I would receive for similar special treatment from many other areas which would view themselves as being just as deserving as the Border regions.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I thank the Minister for his long and comprehensive reply. Is he aware that the European Union has, over the years, recognised the problems in all frontier areas and provided special funding? In Ireland the situation has been even more difficult by virtue of the 25 years of violence. Does the Minister accept that in the last 20 years, indeed, since we joined the EU in 1973, successive Governments have tended to make the moneys substitutional rather than additional with the result that the Border counties are underdeveloped? At present inward investment comes within 20 miles of Dublin where there are good roads, good water and sewerage and good telecommunications and telemarketing.Is the Minister aware that in the Border counties there is practically no fibre optic cable for telemarketing? Now that the peace process is in place and the EU and the US recognise the problems at the Border, will the Minister ensure that the funding will be additional and that the Border counties will receive their fair share from the National Exchequer for the provision of infrastructure so that we attract badly needed inward investment.

Mr. Quinn:  It is my intention to ensure that the moneys will be additional but it would be rash to give a guarantee that the percentage will be 100 per cent. The vast bulk of the [1734] money under the INTERREG programme will be used to rectify the infrastructural deficiencies to make the Border counties an attractive investment location. The fact that they are no longer close to a zone of violence — the position for the past 25 years — but to a market of 1.5 million people will enhance their attractiveness.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  I understand that provision is made in the new INTERREG programme as agreed for urban renewal in Northern Ireland and that this provision will not apply to the southern part of the island. The IFI has been providing funding for urban renewal in Border towns but serious difficulties are being encountered in obtaining matching funds. The urban renewal programme would be beneficial if it was applied to all 12 Border counties.

Mr. Quinn:  I am not aware that provision is made for urban renewal in Northern Ireland in the INTERREG programme. It is possible that opportunities could be availed of either under the infrastructure sub-programme or the environmental protection sub-programme to combine some elements of the urban renewal provisions with our designation provisions. To the best of my knowledge there are no similar provisions in Northern Ireland.

Mr. D. Ahern:  We on this side of the House have been making representations and have raised questions about the proportion of funds to be allocated to the six Northern counties and the six Southern counties. The figures of 75 per cent for the six Northern counties and 25 per cent for the six Southern counties were used as a yardstick. We feel it should be divided on a 50:50 basis. Agreement has now been reached that the funds will be allocated on an 80:20 basis. Does the Minister accept that the six Southern counties do not receive the same level of funding from the Exchequer and this fact has not been taken into account? Does he further [1735] accept that under the INTERREG programme funding has been provided for projects such as the Ballyconnell Canal and other infrastructural developments rather than to replace the jobs lost following the introduction of the Single Market? That is the reason the INTERREG programme was introduced.For instance, 250 jobs in the customs clearance agency in my area disappeared overnight. Will the Minister endeavour to target the available funding at the replacement of jobs that have been lost rather than at the provision of infrastructure?

Mr. Quinn:  I agree with the Deputy's colleague, Deputy O'Hanlon, that the Border counties have been placed at a disadvantage during the past 25 years in particular — he made specific reference to the lack of a fibre optic network for telemarketing services — because of the lack of infrastructure. We can make the most effective use of the available funding by upgrading infrastructure on a once-off basis so that local small businesses and entrepreneurial talent can flourish within a modern framework. By the same token the IDA can attract state of the art foreign companies to this region which would otherwise not locate there. It would be shortsighted to use the money to replace jobs which have been lost because of the dismantling of the customs barriers between North and South; it would be better to improve and upgrade the system to allow economic activity.

Mr. Leonard:  The Minister mentioned the environmental protection sub-programme, which is one of the five sub-programmes of the INTERREG programme. Strong representations have been made for an increase in the allocation for roads. Under the programme for 1991-93 only £3.9 million was provided which accounted for between 4 and 5 per cent of the total allocation. According to the Book of Estimates there will be a reduction in the allocation this year. If additional [1736] funding is not provided under the INTERREG programme we will find ourselves in a serious position. Will the Minister examine this matter and increase the allocation substantially? There was also a reference to the Delors package. We were led to believe, in replies to a Dáil question, that funds would be allocated on a 75:25 basis. For whatever reason it has been decided that they will be allocated on an 80:20 basis. I hope there will be no further reduction.

Mr. Quinn:  We were all led to believe certain things about Delors packages.

Mr. D. Ahern:  We lost out.

Mr. Quinn:  As Deputy Ahern confirmed, in this instance funding will be allocated on an 80:20 basis. The amounts of money involved are substantial and it will be up to us to make the best and most effective use of them. I noted what the Deputy said about the road network and I will bring this to the attention of the Department of the Environment.

Mr. Cullen:  Given the importance of the peace process, having regard to the impact of the INTERREG programme and that the new INTERREG II programme will have, the efforts of the IFI, the conference which will take place in America to which the Minister referred and the fact that the Framework Document has been made available to people in Northern Ireland to make them aware of the economic benefits, does the Minister agree that it may be possible for him, in conjunction with the European Union and his British counterpart, to do something similar to highlight the tangible economic benefits to solidify the process? There should be a major drive to provide this information to every home in the Border areas as this may be of benefit.

Mr. Quinn:  I agree with the Deputy. The criticism was expressed by many people in Border areas that there was a [1737] low level of recognition and understanding of the INTERREG I programme and that there was a communications problem in that many of the ongoing activities were not understood or recognised by people in the counties affected. Provision is made in the INTERREG II programme for the establishment of a local office in the region, for an extensive consultation process and community involvement. The Deputy's suggestion that this should be broadened to consolidate the peace process and the discussions on the Framework Document has much merit and I will consider it in consultation with the Department of Foreign Affairs.

Mr. B. Smith:  Has the Government given instructions to all Government Departments, State and semi-State bodies to attach the utmost urgency to an investment programme for the Border counties and, if so, has a special monitoring system been put in place to monitor the work of these agencies?

Mr. Quinn:  By virtue of the fact that there is the INTERREG programme and now the Delors package co-ordination will be required. A higher profile for this activity both at Government and public level will also be required and I will be happy to try to do something along the lines suggested by the Deputy.

Dr. McDaid:  Deputy O'Hanlon mentioned the Washington conference. Does the Minister have any idea of the format? Will it be attended by public representatives and members of the business community? What type of conference will it be? Will it be for one or two days or has the Minister any idea of the format?

Mr. Quinn:  The conference is being organised in Washington. The person partly responsible for its organisation is a namesake of mine, although no relative, a lawyer called Paul Quinn who is actively involved in Irish-American political affairs. I understand it will be a three day conference. The details of it [1738] are still being formulated. The Deputy may have met former Senator George Mitchell who was in Ireland with his advisers taking soundings and opinions from people both North and South to decide how best to organise and structure the conference. The object of the exercise is to proclaim to United States investors the advantages of Ireland as a location and how attractive it has now become as a result of the peace process. The conference will be held from 23 to 26 May, inclusive. The exact programme has not yet been finalised.

Dr. O'Hanlon:  The Minister referred to a consultative process in regard to the European Union finding. Will the Minister elaborate on that? In regard to the Washington conference, the IDA regional managers in the two regions along the Border know the situation. Will the Minister ensure they will be involved? In regard to American industry, in five counties along the Border there are only 16 American companies out of a total of 400 in Ireland generally. It is important that we make proper representation at the Washington conference to attract new investment.

Mr. Quinn:  In response to the Deputy's first question, my understanding of the Delors package is that its details have to be worked out but provisions will be made for much more consultation and local community participation both in the formulation and the operation of that programme than was previously the case. In respect of the Washington conference, I will certainly bring to the attention of the Minister for Enterprise and Employment the desirability of having local IDA representatives at the conference in addition to the personnel who would normally attend.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Will the Minister confirm whether his Department has a proposal to set up a secretariat in the Border areas to deal with INTERREG funding into the future? If there is not any such proposal, does the Minister believe it would be appropriate in view [1739] of what is said in the Framework Document with regard to North-South bodies?

Mr. Quinn:  I can confirm that consideration is being given to a proposal to set up a local secretariat to provide closer contact for INTERREG II. With the advent of the peace programme, the logic for doing that seems very compelling.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  I wish to advise the House of the following matters in respect of which notice has been given under Standing Order 20 and the name of the member in each case: (1) Deputy Ned O'Keeffe — Ireland's annual subscription to the European Space Agency; (2) Deputy Molloy — the serious consequences for transport companies involved in the live export of cattle due to the recently introduced restrictions applying to sea travel direct to continental ports; (3) Deputy Eric Byrne — the urgent need to review and update the Register of Prohibited Publications; (4) Deputy Sargent — the need to expedite the application by St. Maur's Regional Cultural Auditorium Project at Rush, County Dublin, to the National Heritage Council for grant assistance; (5) Deputy Ellis — the problems relating to the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry's offices in Sligo where people have to walk to the fourth floor to have problems dealt with; and the need to have facilities provided at ground floor level to accommodate callers; (6) Deputy Kenneally — the need for additional classrooms at Ballygunner National School in Waterford City; (7) Deputy Noel Ahern — the failure to reply to several requests from the European Commission in relation to waste management at Dunsink Tiphead; (8) Deputy Dermot Ahern — the decision to move the Divisional Garda Headquarters from Dundalk, County Louth; (9) Deputies Séamus Brennan and O'Rourke — the current situation in TEAM Aer Lingus; and the need to make the special report from the chairman of Aer Lingus generally available; (10) Deputy Michael Ahern — the [1862] threat to the continued existence of certain abattoirs supplying the domestic meat market with the consequent threat to jobs; (11) Deputy Michael Kitt — the need for the appointment of a remedial teacher to Mountbellew, Moylough, Cooloo and Briarfield national schools, and (12) Deputy Lawlor — the difficulties that will arise for South Dublin County Council in the event of the transfer of Dublin Corporation properties to the council under the provisions of section 35 of the Local Government (Dublin) Act, 1993.

The matters raised by the following Deputies have been selected for discussion: Deputies Eric Byrne, Molloy, Michael Ahern, Séamus Brennan and O'Rourke.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Before coming to the Order of Business I propose to deal with a number of notices under Standing Order 30 in regard to four topics with which I propose to deal separately. I will call on Deputies in the order in which they submitted their notices.

Mr. S. Brennan:  I ask the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications to urgently brief TEAM Aer Lingus staff on the situation in the company; if he will agree to furnish the staff with a copy of the special report this week from the chairman of Aer Lingus and if he will now make a statement on the matter.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Having considered the matter fully I do not consider it to be one contemplated by the Standing Order. I cannot grant leave, therefore, to move the motion.

Mr. McCreevy:  I request the Adjournment of the House under Standing Order 30 to discuss a matter of urgent public importance, namely, the remarks of the Taoiseach regarding [1863] public servants and civil servants. Will the Minister for Finance clarify those remarks and does he believe the Government should apologise for this?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Having considered the matter fully I do not consider it to be one contemplated by the Standing Order. I cannot grant leave, therefore, to move the motion.

Mr. B. Ahern:  You would if you were a civil servant, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle.

Mr. Cowen:  I seek the Adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 30 to discuss a matter of extreme urgency and public importance, namely, the continuous inaction of this Government to take proper remedial measures to alleviate continuing and now increasing hardship for many families in rural communities as a result of the widespread flooding and damage to property.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Having considered the matter fully I do not consider it to be one contemplated by the Standing Order. I cannot grant leave, therefore, to move the motion.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  I seek permission to move the Adjournment of the Dáil under Standing Order 30 to discuss a matter of major public importance, namely, the discovery of a large amount of cocaine on a beach in County Clare last Sunday evening.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Having considered the matter fully I do not consider it to be one contemplated by the Standing Order. I cannot grant leave, therefore, to move the motion.

Mr. D. Ahern:  So much for accountability, openness and changing the rules.

(Interruptions.)

[1864]Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  It is proposed to take Nos. 1, 5, 10 and 11. It is also proposed, notwithstanding anything in Standing Orders, that No. 5 shall be decided without debate.

Private Members' Business shall be No. 19.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is it agreed that item No. 5 shall be decided without debate?

Mr. Sargent:  Given that the technical group is not represented at the Whips meeting, could a short description of the motion be given for the information of Members?

Mr. Dukes:  They could not make up their minds.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Is it agreed that item No. 5 shall be decided without debate?

Mr. Sargent:  Can I be given an answer?

Mr. Quinn:  It is on the Order Paper but if the Deputy wishes to get more information on No. 5, he may go to the Whips office for it.

Mr. Molloy:  On item No. 1 on the Order Paper, what is the Government's intention in regard to this report? When will it be made available to Members and what are the procedures for its release? Is it intended to have a debate on it?

Mr. Quinn:  I understand it is being formally presented today and it is a matter for the Whips and this House to decide on how to proceed.

Mr. Molloy:  On a point of order, what is the procedure in regard to the release of this report, at what stage is it legally circulated to Members?

Mr. Quinn:  My understanding is that [1865] the committee will report to the House today and that the report will be circulated to Deputies in the normal way.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is on today's agenda, we will come to it.

Mr. Molloy:  On a point of order, is it in order for officials or a Minister to have released this report to members of the press prior to this order being made in the House?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That will be dealt with after the Order of Business.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Sir, is it your understanding that No. 1 is to be taken without debate?

Mr. Quinn:  As I understand it, and it is subject to what the chairman of the committee wishes to state to the House, No. 1 is listed to be taken and there is no requirement for it to be taken without debate. It will be moved in the normal way.

Mr. D. Wallace:  I wish to assist the House; no copies of the report are to be circulated to anyone until the order is put before the House. After that copies will be circulated to all Members and to members of the press.

Mr. Molloy:  I wish to respond to the statement by the chairman of the committee.To my knowledge the report has already been circulated.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I want a simple ruling as to whether this report is being taken with debate, in other words are we to debate this report today?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The chairman of the sub-committee of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security will be asked to move item No. 1 after the Order of Business.

Mr. M. McDowell:  I am entitled to a fair answer, I have asked three times.

[1866]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  No debate will arise on it.

Mr. B. Ahern:  When will the Social Welfare Bill be published? Normally the Social Welfare Bill has been passed by mid March as various processes have to be put in place throughout the country.I understand that as yet no work has commenced on this and since there is no Government meeting until the end of the week we are running late. I presume that during the week of St. Patrick's Day there will be a limited Dáil session as usual. Are there, as has been reported, difficulties in Government about the Bill?

Mr. Quinn:  Work is proceeding very satisfactorily on the preparation for this Bill which is due to come before the Government shortly. It will be published immediately afterwards. It will be published in accordance with normal practice.

Mr. B. Ahern:  Normally it would be published around this time. Will it be published this week?

Mr. Quinn:  No, it will not be published this week, it will be published next week.

Mr. B. Ahern:  At the end of Question Time the Minister for Finance answered questions on the investment conference to be addressed by President Clinton which will take place from 24 to 26 May. In reply to Parliamentary Questions Nos. 19 and 36 on 23 February the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs said: “Deputies may be assured that representatives will be at a very senior political level and I expect to lead the Irish delegation myself”. From that may I take it that the Taoiseach will not attend the investment conference at which the President of the United States will speak?

Mr. Quinn:  That matter has not been finally decided yet.

[1867]Mr. M. McDowell:  When will Dick decide?

Mr. B. Ahern:  We on this side of the House are trying to facilitate and help the Government in every way, in being involved in the organisation of this conference — if Deputies think the investment conference is a laugh, so be it. A colleague received a reply which states that the Tánaiste will lead the delegation but the Minister for Finance has said that no decision has been taken. Does that mean the reply received by my colleague is incorrect?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not a matter for debate now.

Mr. Quinn:  The Deputy asked a separate question as to whether the Taoiseach would be at the conference. That matter has not yet been decided but the Tánaiste will lead the deputation.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the acting Taoiseach inform the House when the Government proposes to introduce legislation to bring to trial hearings of incest cases other than in secret?

Mr. Quinn:  The matter will be brought to the Government very shortly.

Mr. Molloy:  Is the Minister aware of a second case of incest reported in today's newspapers?

Miss Quill:  Arising from the horrendous incest case in the west before the courts last week, will the Government hold an inquiry into the failure of certain State agencies to intervene successfully and rescue the children who were the victims of that horrendous brutality?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That can be dealt with otherwise.

Miss Quill:  It is very serious.

Mr. McCreevy:  Given that the Minister for Finance is also Minister for the [1868] Public Service does he wish to comment on the Taoiseach's allegations last week regarding senior public servants?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Molloy:  Will the Government declare south Galway a disaster area in view of the ongoing tragedy for those whose houses have been flooded and who have lost their property? This is a very serious matter. The Minister will realise that Ministers, party leaders and Deputies have called for the problem to be looked at but there is no evidence of action having been taken. This is a very serious matter for the people of south Galway.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy will know this is not appropriate at this time. It can be dealt with in another way.

Mr. Molloy:  This is a crisis for people throughout the west, particularly in south Galway.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy is raising a matter which is not appropriate to the Order of Business.

Mr. Molloy:  The Minister wishes to comment.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  It is not in order for him to do so.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  When is it proposed to introduce the Bill regarding prompt payment to small businesses?

Mr. M. McDowell:  Fairly soon.

Mr. Quinn:  In reply to a question by Deputy Molloy I said the legislation on incest would come to the Government very quickly. In fact, it will be published very quickly.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  The Minister did not reply to my question.

[1869]An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Was it on promised legislation?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Yes.

Mr. Quinn:  The proposed legislation is being examined in the Department at present.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  That sounds as if it is at a very early stage of preparation.

Mr. N. Ahern:  At what stage of preparation is the Bill dealing with the control of horses? Wandering horses cause hassle and inconvenience to residents in many suburban areas. When will the Bill be introduced?

Mr. Quinn:  It is at an early stage of preparation.

Mr. N. Ahern:  A draft Bill was prepared by the ISPCA. Will that be used as the basis for the legislation? Everyone concerned regarded that as a solution to the problem. I do not think there is a need for exhaustive work to be carried out on the Bill.

Mr. Quinn:  I understand the Department is examining the draft legislation at present and is engaged in consultations to ensure that it is well drafted and adequate.

Mr. D. Ahern:  Has any progress been made on the publication of the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Bill?

Mr. Quinn:  The matter is being treated as urgent and the Department hopes to be in a position to publish the Bill shortly.

Mr. Cowen:  It has been transferred to the Minister of State.

Mr. Molloy:  When will the Government publish the Bill amending the Arterial Drainage Act in view of the flooding in south Galway?

[1870]Mrs. O'Rourke:  We have a Bill on that subject.

Mr. D. Ahern:  The Government should accept our Bill.

Mr. Quinn:  Work is proceeding in the Department of Finance and the Office of Public Works on that as a matter of urgency.

Mr. Molloy:  When will it be published?

Mr. Quinn:  As soon as possible. We are aware of the difficulties and of the fact that £2 million was made available in agricultural support and £4 million was made available for roads.

Mr. Molloy:  It will not benefit many people.

Mr. Cowen:  It will be published as soon as it goes to the printers.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Will the Minister convey to the Taoiseach our disgust at his remarks on public servants?

Mr. Martin:  When will the governance of universities Bill be published?

Mr. Quinn:  Proposals are being prepared at present. I am not in a position to say when it will be published.

Mr. Kirk:  The control of the cost of insurance Bill was due to issue when the Minister was Minister for Enterprise and Employment. When is it proposed to bring it forward?

Mrs. O'Rourke:  Capping insurance. The Minister must remember he spoke on radio about it.

Mr. Quinn:  I do and I remember the encouraging support we received from members of the public. Detailed work is ongoing in the Department and the Bill will be published as soon as possible.

Miss Quill:  Has the Minister for [1871] Enterprise and Employment received the consultants' report on the position in the Sunbeam plant in Blackpool, Cork? If so, what action will he recommend to save the jobs?

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is an excellent question which should be tabled in the ordinary way.

Mr. Dempsey:  When will the review of the Official Secrets Act, promised in the Programme for Government, commence?Will it apply to speeches made by the Taoiseach?

Mr. M. McDowell:  Before the House proceeds to deal with item No. 1, I seek the direction of the Chair——

Mr. Dempsey:  I asked a question about the Official Secrets Act.

Mr. M. McDowell:  Is it in order that the report referred to in item No. 1 should be circulated to the media before it is reported to this House, as has been the case?

An Ceann Comhairle:  I have no knowledge of that matter.

Mr. Molloy:  The report referred to in item No. 1 has been circulated, which makes a farce out of the regulations of the House. Prior to the Ceann Comhairle coming back to the Chair, the chairman of the committee assured the House that the report would not and could not be circulated until the order was made in the House.

Mr. Cowen:  Those Progressive Democrats cannot be trusted.

An Ceann Comhairle:  If the Deputy feels there is something irregular or wrong, he might refer it to the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. Molloy:  I am bringing the matter to the notice of the Chair.

[1872]An Ceann Comhairle:  I advise the Deputy to bring it before the Committee on Procedure and Privileges.

Mr. D. Wallace:  I wish to clarify the matter referred to by Deputy Molloy. The instructions I gave the secretariat were that the report would be available immediately after I gave it to the Dáil. These were the instructions given to me in regard to Members of the House and the press.

I move:

That the report of the Sub-Committee of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security on matters referred to it by Orders of Dáil Éireann on 15 December 1994 be laid before the Dáil and that the report and the proceedings be printed.

Question put and agreed to.

Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach (Mr. Barrett):  I move:

That, notwithstanding Standing Order 52 of the Standing Orders relative to Public Business, the motion in the names of Deputies Joe Walsh and Mary Wallace relating to social welfare increases may be moved in Private Members' time on Tuesday, 28th February, 1995.

Question put and agreed to.

Debate resumed on the following motion:

That it is expedient to amend the law relating to customs and inland [1873] revenue (including excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.

— (The Taoiseach).

Mr. Cullen:  I was nearing the completion of my remarks when I moved the adjournment of the debate. Many couples in a second relationship will be in difficulty as a result of the proposed changes in covenanting. A couple who have been together for the past 20 years came to see me recently. I had no idea they were not married. They have four children. One partner earns £22,000 a year and covenants £10,000 to the other partner, which is worth £90 nett per week to the family. That is substantial given that they are unable to avail of a married couple's tax allowance and so on. The change in the Finance Bill is grossly unfair. I do not think the Minister intended this to happen and I hope he will rectify it.

The abolition of fees for third-level students is difficult to understand at a time when the human resources programme is one of the biggest we will have over the next four years. We will spend more than £2 billion in that period and approximately £1.5 billion will be funded by the EU. Most of that money is to be spent on current expenditure.I have reservations about how the money will be spent and hope that real benefit will accrue from the education and training facilities it is intended to finance.

I wonder how we will cope with this huge loss of income and spending power in these areas when funds are not available under the Community Support Framework in five years time. Given that we say to our European counterparts we need this very large, substantial transfer of funds to sustain our education and training programmes, I find it astonishing that the Government can remove the only non-State income of the universities. Not so long ago 92 per cent of their income came from the State. This has been reduced to approximately 62 per cent. Yet, in one fell [1874] swoop, this Government will reverse that policy, thus removing the vital independence of our third-level education structures. It is my firm belief that that decision is wrong and will not have a positive effect on third-level education, given that there is a huge lack of facilities and places available in third-level institutes. We cannot create any more places because we are not investing any additional resources. Therefore, the whole premise of the Minister's argument that the removal of fees will encourage more people, particularly those from the less well-off socio-economic groups, to attend university, does not stand up. I predict that the requisite points to gain access to various courses will increase substantially, thus rendering such access more difficult.

This is a budget without a soul, without vision and, above all, without belief that even the minimal strategy outlined in it can be achieved. The Labour Party has failed its greatest test. Democratic Left has been strong on rhetoric but without any substance and Fine Gael has sacrificed authority and control for the trappings of power. The unprecedented leaking of the budgetary proposals culminating in the resignation of the former Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Deputy Hogan, has seriously undermined the credibility of this Government. This is not a Government built on trust and partnership, but one composed of three parties with three separate identities, each intent on maintaining its identity while sitting around the Cabinet table. That is a recipe for disaster.

It is very doubtful that this Government will complete two and a half years in office, since success in Government is dependent on trust, credibility and commitment, which now lie in tatters on the floor beneath the Cabinet table. The great experiment that was the rainbow may transpire to be no more than a mismatch of colours viewed through a flawed prism. The jury is out and, in my view, has already departed. The scope remaining to the Minister for Finance to [1875] rectify this position lies within the forthcoming Finance Bill, in respect of which a huge range of issues has been raised by me and other Members which need to be addressed.

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affirs (Ms Burton):  I wish to share my time with Deputy Penrose, if that is in order.

An Ceann Comhairle:  That is in order.

Ms Burton:  The annual budget may be over-dramatised and subjected to too much hype. Nevertheless as the Minister for Finance said, it provides a means by which priorities can be established and values affirmed.

For the first time ever these budgetary provisions establish the priority of the welfare of women and children, recognising that women's work, inside and outside the home, is valuable and that work both at home and in developing countries is to be encouraged and rewarded. It is very rare to be able to claim that a budget positively benefits women, as this one does, providing for a major increase in child benefit, which in many cases is the only independent income available to mothers. I have always supported the improvement of child benefit as constituting the best means of attacking poverty within families with children and I heralded improved child benefit as far back as September last. Child benefit is a well-targeted measure, usually going to the mother, and it does not affect incentive to work. The proposal in the programme A Government of Renewal to introduce a child benefit supplement is to be welcomed also. I am happy to note that the details of that supplement are to be worked out by the expert working group on the integration of tax and social welfare which I established in 1993. That group is working on its final report, which I anticipate will constitute [1876] a major contribution to the development of the income maintenance system in tandem with the income tax system.

I have been surprised at some of the negative comments I have heard from Members of the Opposition about the social welfare aspects of this budget since the many women I have met have unreservedly welcomed the improved child benefit and the commitment to women and children it represents. Other commentators have called for the taxation of child benefit. I must reemphasise that, while that argument may be intellectually valid, it has inherent practical and conceptual difficulties.Constitutionally it may not be possible to tax child benefit as the income of the parent and its taxation could result in some parents having no tax free allowance available for set off against income from work, thus severely affecting the incentive to work. A universal, non-means-tested, non-taxed child benefit is a simple and equitable way of giving State support for children.

Other State support is given on a non-means-tested, non-taxed basis, for example, in health services and education.I am aware that a number of organisations, ranging from the Combat Poverty Agency to the Conference of Religious in Ireland, have suggested the taxation of child benefit as a means of targeting the problems encountered in this area. They need to think out their proposals very carefully and examine their constitutional implications which could render them invalid.

Women are disproportionately represented among lower paid workers. These budgetary provisions represent a major step in improving the position of the lower paid by means of changes in taxation and PRSI contributions. The abolition of third-level fees will be of great benefit to many low and middle income families since very often within such families it was the mothers who made sacrifices to provide an education for their children. I am aware this proposal has been criticised on the basis that it does not tackle disadvantage in education, but the abolition of fees and [1877] addressing disadvantage are not mutually exclusive. It is possible to address both in tandem, as the Minister for Education is doing.

Turning to my responsibilities as Minister of State with responsibility for development co-operation, I welcome the budgetary provisions on overseas development aid, this being the 150th anniversary of the Great Famine which marked our history and psyche so deeply.The significance of this anniversary is reflected in the budgetary decisions on our assistance to the Third World. In the programme A Government of Renewal the Government has maintained its commitment to give further support to the peoples of developing countries. Under the Programme for Government adopted in 1993 a decision was made, reaffirmed in the programme A Government of Renewal, to adopt the target of increasing overseas development aid by 0.5 per cent of GNP annually for the period 1993 to 1997 in order to make steady progress towards achieving the international target of 0.7 per cent of GNP.

The Government's objective is to reach an ODA-GNP ratio commensurate with the European Union average by 1997. This year the Government will spend a total of £89 million on overseas development aid, representing an increase of £19 million over the corresponding figure for 1994. This increase will mean that in the three-year period since 1992 we shall have doubled our expenditure on overseas development aid. The new figure will represent 0.27 per cent of GNP, our highest ever percentage.

Although our level of overseas development aid is somewhat below the OECD average, which was 0.3 per cent in 1993, Ireland is one of the few OECD member states whose aid has been increasing in recent years, in which respect I welcome the OECD praise of our development programme in its most recent report. The increased funding will be used to expand all facets of our overseas development aid programme. For example, the OECD talked about [1878] our programme as being generally of high quality, of a grassroots participatory character, with an emphasis on capacity building. We hope to build on the achievements of this programme between now and its twenty-first year.

Within the past year Ethiopia and Uganda have been earmarked as priority countries for Irish aid. We plan to triple our expenditure in both countries in 1995. With increased resources we shall be able to consolidate our programmes in Zambia, Tanzania and Lesotho. The increased ODA budget will allow us to spend £1 million on rehabilitation projects in Rwanda in the hope that, with the creation of the structures of a civil society, their refugees in camps in Zaire and Tanzania will be encouraged to return home. It is planned to double our expenditure in Mozambique and to consider signing a technical co-operation agreement with the Government there, making it also a priority country.

We have been able to increase our commitment to the co-funding of development projects with non-governmental organisations and to emergency humanitarian assistance to meet the ever growing number of complex humanitarian emergencies of the past few years. A growing proportion of aid budgets of developed countries is being devoted to these emergencies. In 1990, less than 3 per cent of bilateral aid from OECD countries was spent on emergency assistance, but by 1993 this figure had risen to 8 per cent. These complex emergencies are putting pressure on donor funds for long-term development. While no one begrudges humanitarian assistance, the absolute cost of such assistance is very high and its long-term return on investment is generally poor. It is therefore all the more important that we should make more provision to avoid such disasters and that from the beginning of a humanitarian emergency like the one that occurred in Rwanda, one begins planning the next phase of rehabilitation when the people of a [1879] country emerging from a traumatic crisis are equipped to help themselves.

For this reason I have decided that this year we will establish a separate budget line for rehabilitation so that we can begin to help countries that have come through terrible emergencies to make the transition through rehabilitation to the point where development can take over. Last year alone APSO placed 1,150 volunteers abroad. Last year when the Government decided to release public servants for service in the Rwandan crisis, it was APSO which recruited and prepared them for the field. This year the Government is providing £8.5 million to APSO, which represents a record level of funding and which is more than three times the level of support of three years ago. It is evidence of our deep commitment to promote and fund an expanding flow of skilled volunteers and workers to the developing world.

Most of the people recruited by APSO are on a small living allowance when they are abroad and it is all the more important that they should not be burdened in the longer term because of their service overseas. The Government is anxious to give every encouragement to volunteers. Many people who have been interested in serving with APSO have commitments and fear that the loss of superannuation entitlements would be too difficult to make up. I therefore welcome the commitment of the Minister for Finance to introduce steps to protect the pension rights of public servants serving in developing countries with APSO. The protection of superannuation entitlements for public servants has been one of APSO's aspirations since it was set up and I am glad that this aspiration will be shortly fulfilled. Service in developing countries not only enriches the individual, it is also an invaluable experience from a professional point of view and I hope that other employers will follow the lead by the Government and give appropriate recognition to the value of service in developing countries.

[1880] The Minister for Finance is to be congratulated for having introduced tax rebates for designated Third World charities. When I visited the camps for Rwandan refugees in Tanzania with our President last October, I was repeatedly struck by the leading role Irish humanitarian NGOs are playing out of all proportion to this country's size. This Government intends to do everything it can to show solidarity with the humanitarian Third World organisations in their work. I therefore welcome the decision of the Government to match private contributions of between £200 and £750 by tax rebates to the charity concerned. The donor gains nothing, only the encouragement of knowing that his or her donation is directly supplemented from the Exchequer.

Irish people already contribute almost 0.1 per cent of GNP to Third World charities, giving Ireland one of the highest rates of private development assistance in the world and I am sure that with this type of incentive the level of donation will go even higher. In fact, just today Bishop John Kirby, chairman of Trócaire, said that in the last 20 years Trócaire, one of our leading NGOs, has contributed something like £120 million through the subscriptions of Irish people to the developing world. It is a common experience of anyone visiting the developing world that Ireland is held in great respect, first of all due to the work of Irish missionaries and nowadays the achievements of Irish NGOs in arresting humanitarian disasters and providing for long term development needs. I am glad the Government gives so much financial support to the work of NGOs for they, each in their own way, convey the humanitarian message and the message of solidarity that the Government wishes to convey to the peoples of the developing world. Along with the official aid programme of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the work of NGOs which the Department also supports multiplies the impact we can have in the developing world by giving a range and diversity to the assistance provided by the Irish taxpayer [1881] which a bilateral aid programme on its own could not achieve.

In 1993 a strategy plan published by the Department of Foreign Affairs gave details of how the expanded aid programme should be implemented but it is clear that we need to focus on the wider relationships such as that of debt, trade and environmental protection. Our ODA has to be seen and articulated in this broad context rather than measured exclusively in its own terms. It is obvious, for instance, that there is a need for a lasting solution to the debt problems of developing countries. The situation of many African countries has deteriorated in so far as poverty is concerned.In Tanzania, for example — the living standards of many ordinary people have deteriorated since the 1980s when I was working there and the sight of children begging on the street, which I saw on my recent visit, was unknown in the early 1980s.

The structural adjustment programmes of the World Bank and the IMF which were introduced to restore economic stability must include safety nets to prevent severe poverty and safeguard education, health and other important social programmes. I look forward to these issues being taken up in the forthcoming White Paper on foreign policy as part of a comprehensive discussion of our ODA policy. We have an overseas development assistance programme which has three elements in terms of policy. One is the development programme, which I am glad has now reached the level of £90 million this year, but equally important are the questions of debt and trade relations. We have to be conscious that more money flows from the south to the north in debt repayments than flows from Europe and other rich countries to the developing world in development assistance.That is something we have to keep before us.

Mr. Penrose:  I am delighted to have an opportunity to make a contribution to the first budget brought in by the first Labour Minister for Finance since the [1882] foundation of the State. It is significant that despite attempts by some commentators to suggest that a Labour Minister for Finance would somehow endanger the nation's financial stability by spending or taxing recklessly, the financial markets have shown no signs of apprehension.This budget clearly shows there is no basis for any such apprehension.I have never understood why prudent financial management and efficient use of resources should become exclusively associated with conservative political parties whose policies would not favour redistribution of resources to people struggling to survive.

The Labour Party recognises that markets are efficient but inequitable and that the State has a role to play in minimising those inequities and in ensuring that some of the fruits of economic growth will be enjoyed by those whose rewards from the market economy may be much less than their efforts warrant, and by those who through age, illness or disadvantage cannot contribute to the market economy at all. The budget strikes an excellent balance between keeping the State's finances within the limits set by our commitment to economic and monetary union under the Maastricht Treaty and the need to give additional resources to State services which are clearly inadequate.

The budget also makes the most significant contribution so far to addressing the tax wedge, or poverty trap as it is sometimes called, which is a major disincentive for unemployed people to take up the relatively low paid jobs which might be available to them. We have recently witnessed industrial problems focusing sharply on the problem of the low take home pay of many workers in the manufacturing industry. The budget also reduces the rate of corporation tax from 40 per cent to 38 per cent. While this is a small decrease it is vital that the tax burden on the services sector which is now as important as the manufacturing sector in creating new jobs, be addressed. This provision, together with a reduction in employers PRSI will significantly contribute to job [1883] creation and I genuinely hope these measures taken together with a co-ordinated plan for job creation and a new employment service for the long term unemployed will lead eventually to a significant reduction in unemployment.

There is a widely held belief in Ireland that we are heavily overtaxed but this must be viewed in the context of the measure of taxation. We rank eleventh of 23 OECD countries on tax as a proportion of national product and seventh of the 12 EU countries on the same measure. What is extremely burdensome about our tax system is that workers enter it and begin paying the higher rate of tax at too low an income. The budget will remove substantial numbers of low paid workers from the tax net and reduce the tax burden on many others. As a result of these changes 800,000 workers, that is 66 per cent of workers, will now pay tax at the standard rate of 27 per cent.

On the expenditure side this budget allocates badly needed resources to health and education. An additional £95 million has been allocated to education and this will provide for improvements in the education available in schools in disadvantaged areas and also for improved education for the handicapped.An extra 700 teachers will be recruited and an additional psychologist will be employed to work in disadvantaged schools. These provisions will contribute significantly to reducing educational inequality, as will the provision of extra places on the Youthreach and vocational training opportunity schemes.

Since I entered politics I have been consistent in advocating a change in the eligibility and assessment criteria for applicants qualifying for third level education grants. A system which is essentially based on the gross income of applicants' parents is inherently unfair and has precluded many young people who have attained the necessary academic qualifications from attending the courses of their choice. Many parents have had to rely heavily on their [1884] local banks or credit unions to allow their sons or daughters to attend third level colleges. I have known of parents who have had a number of children of equal academic brilliance but were only in a position to fund the education of one of their children and had to ask the other child or children to defer their desire to attend college for a year or so. It was about time that this inequitable system, whereby the children of thousands of PAYE workers were prevented from qualifying for third level grants, was changed. I raised this matter on numerous occasions at meetings of the Labour Parliamentary Party and urged that third level fees be abolished and that the level of maintenance grants be substantially increased. This is a two pronged approach.

I am astounded by the fact that the decision to phase out third level education fees has attracted so much attention.It has been argued that this will not contribute significantly to reducing educational inequality but this shows that people do not know of the considerable hardship caused to many families on modest incomes who have children at third level education. Ireland is one of the few developed countries where third level colleges charge substantial fees. They constitute a significant barrier to many families and undoubtedly lead to some young people taking up courses which are not their first preference but which charge lower or no fees. It should also be kept in mind that the abolition of fees is largely self financing and will cost approximately £6 million because the abolition of covenants will increase tax revenue by almost as much as the cost of the abolition of fees.

All the studies on poverty undertaken in recent years show that families with children are more likely to experience poverty, whether they are unemployed or in low paid employment. Child benefit, which is paid directly to the mother, is a particularly effective way of meeting the needs of children and is an important independent source of [1885] income, in particular for women working in the home. A recent Combat Poverty Agency report entitled Income Distribution Within Households clearly illustrates the importance of child benefit to households. Some of the findings make very interesting reading and reinforce my long held view about the importance of State income support, which is now even more important for families due to the abolition some years ago of the child tax allowance.

The ESRI survey of lifestyles and poverty, which formed the basis of the Combat Poverty Agency report, found that separate incomes of wives are important for their own well being and that of their children and women's earnings and incomes directly received give them greater control of how money is used. Child benefit emerged as the sole independent income available to most married women with children. Some 58 per cent of women who receive child benefit have no other source of income. Women's incomes are largely devoted to their families rather than to personal spending. It is my view that the substantial increase in child benefit is the most effective way of diverting additional resources to families with children and I was delighted with the increase of £7 per child announced in the budget.

The budget commits significant additional resources to local authority housing. Housing starts and acquisitions will be increased from 3,594 to 3,900 in 1995. The Government is committed to achieving an annual programme of 7,000 local authority and social housing starts. The balance of the 7,000 starts will come in the voluntary sector which will be supported through various social housing schemes. Housing has been, is and always will be a top priority for the Labour Party. It is no coincidence that every time Labour participates in Government the output of local authority housing increases. It is important that we provide proper housing accommodation for people living in caravans, mobile homes and substandard accommodation.We must continue to increase the number of local authority housing [1886] starts. This will give a boost to the building industry and employment in general.

I must express my disappointment with the level of funding provided for county roads. The maintenance and improvement of county roads is of crucial importance. The situation has deteriorated rapidly over the last six weeks as a result of the recent flooding and heavy rainfall. I initiated a study in County Westmeath, which was carried out by the executive of Westmeath County Council, on employing more permanent outdoor staff. The net cost of doing so would amount to £5,000 per person employed per annum. This extra personnel could be engaged in road maintenance, hedging, opening water cuts and preventive maintenance. This would ultimately lead to less money being required for road maintenance. I am disappointed that no effort has been made to seriously address my proposal. I should warn that I do not intend to let this worthwhile idea die and it should be further examined by an interdepartmental committee without further delay.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Will Deputy Penrose vote against the budget?

Mr. Penrose:  I call on the Minister for the Environment to set up a sub-committee immediately to tackle the problem of funding for county roads. I proposed this last year as well but did not get much support. Deputy Howlin, when Minister for Health, drew up a plan to tackle the long waiting lists for specialties such as orthopaedics and eye, nose and ear treatment. This succeeded to a large extent because he specifically ring fenced financial allocations to tackle these serious long waiting lists.

The problem of county roads should be tackled in a similar fashion and account should be taken of the views of county managers, county engineers and local representatives. This should be done over a five year period and a specific ring fence fund of about £600 million should be made available to local authorities to make a sustained and [1887] planned effort to take potholes off the agenda once and for all. This necessitates a root and branch approach and an end to ad hoc allocations of money thrown at this problem. Each local authority should be assured in advance of the sum it will receive to carry out these much needed works over a period of years and in a planned way.

Machines never replace human beings. For a net investment of £20 million, that is £0.5 million for each of the 40 local authorities, 4,000 outdoor workers could be gainfully employed in road maintenance, environmental works and parks maintenance and improvements.The benefits would be tremendous with a very positive cost benefit analysis.

This leads me to the concept of rural regeneration. The employment of 100 extra personnel by Westmeath County Council would allow four people to be allocated to each of 25 villages to work in them and in the surrounding areas for up to five miles. These people would settle in the rural areas, get married and have families. They would contribute to the local economy, ensure the local post office, Garda station and school are retained and ultimately make a contribution to the local football team as it is obvious in some areas that it is becoming more difficult to field teams due to emigration and declining populations. This proposal would be a real boost to rural regeneration rather than playing platitudinous lip service to this concept, which is often the case.

As somebody who has strong links with the farming sector, having worked as an agricultural consultant for a number of years, I welcome some of the measures introduced in relation to capital taxation and stock relief. I have encountered a great deal of worry in farming circles about the stock relief provisions which were due to expire on 5 April 1995. I am particularly pleased that these have been renewed and that 100 per cent stock relief has been introduced for young qualified farmers. The budget increased agricultural relief [1888] under the capital acquisitions tax by raising to 50 per cent the current 30 per cent rate of relief for land and buildings over £300,000 and the 25 per cent rate for livestock and machinery. Improved instalment provisions for capital acquisitions tax on agricultural property are being introduced. These changes will take effect from February for gifts and inheritances. With effect from 6 April 1995 a change to capital gains tax relief will be made to allow a farmer whose land has been acquired by compulsory purchase order for road building or widening to defer payment of capital gains tax subject to certain conditions.

Stock relief was due to cease on 5 April but the budget renewed it at the existing level of 25 per cent for a further two years as an incentive for farmers to continue to increase livestock numbers. A new scheme of stock relief at the rate of 100 per cent is being introduced for young qualified farmers. The relief will be available for four years from 6 April 1995 in the case of young farmers installed between 6 April 1993 and 5 April 1995, and four years after installation in the case of young farmers installed between 6 April 1995 and 5 April 1997.

This relief is linked to the same criteria applying to young farmers getting the installation aid. I hope the Ministers for Finance and Agriculture, Food and Forestry will ensure that some flexibility is allowed in granting this relief as the criteria applying to this installation aid are too rigid. I welcome the fact that the relief will not be subject to a clawback.

In cases where a farmer has to restock as a result of the compulsory disposal of his entire herd in compliance with a statutory disease eradication programme, 100 per cent stock relief is also being allowed over a two year period on profits arising from this disposal which are reinvested in replacement stock. I take it that this treatment will be backdated to apply to compulsory disposals which took place on or after 6 April 1993. I am glad that this provision has been implemented in the budget to deal [1889] with a situation which has caused farmers some heartache in the past.

Funds totalling £5 million have been provided to finance the investment associated with the charter of farmers' rights. This investment will go towards improving information technology, upgrading office accommodation and increasing staff numbers as well as providing additional training for staff in the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry.

A fund of £2 million has been provided for a scheme of compensation payments to farmers who have lost livestock or fodder in the floods. The scheme will be co-ordinated by the Minister of State at the Department of Finance and I hope that flexibility will be a hallmark of the scheme's implementation.It is important for us to adapt to the situation as we find it on the ground. Overall, this budget represents a significant turning point in the management of the economy which will hopefully lead to increased and sustained employment. The strategy underlying the budget is that of the social market economy which has been the basis of economic success underlying the high level of social provision in other economies. Further, this is the first instalment of a three budget process.Much remains to be done but a good start has been made by the Minister for Finance and we look forward to the next two budgets with enthusiasm.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Hugh Byrne. This budget is the first introduced by a Labour Minister — it lacks innovation and foresight. It has too many flaws and cannot be regarded as constructive or responsible. It must surely be seen as criminal at this stage to plot a return to budget deficiting thereby automatically increasing the burden of the national debt which is already a millstone around the neck of every taxpayer.

Our debt ratio has been improving over the last five years but, unfortunately, in monetary terms the debt is increasing. With that goes the increase [1890] in servicing the national debt which now stands at £29 billion. Thus, out of a total of £14,253 million spent by the Minister, some 20 per cent — or £2,410 million of current spending — will go on servicing the national debt, which means £193 million more for foreign bankers. One can understand how awful this is when one considers that the extra amount given to social welfare recipients this year was a miserly £57 million. Since, for the first time in many years, the books were handed over with a current spending surplus, one wonders what could have been done.

The PRSI system is certainly in need of reform, and a number of budget items in that area are welcome. The extension of the lower 9 per cent employer rate threshold to 12 per cent was welcomed by firms paying low wages. However, the whole concept of encouraging low wages by a Labour Minister for Finance is really inconceivable when one considers that in this budget the good employer does not benefit unless one takes into account the 2 per cent drop in corporation tax. This hardly constitutes an appreciable change. The punitive 40 per cent rate of capital gains tax has been retained and, coupled with the £1,000 threshold per person for investors, must — by whatever yardstick — be driving savings out of this country, quite apart from the imposition of DIRT.

Regarding taxation, Ireland is seriously uncompetitive for both employers and employees. We must seriously compare our position with that of Northern Ireland where employees' PRSI is no more than 5 per cent as against 7.75 per cent here. On top of that, rates are much more punitive here than in the UK. Even with the welcome changes in taxation it is still reckoned that 36 per cent of all taxpayers here are paying at the 48 per cent rate thus losing more than half their marginal income when unseen personal taxes are taken into account. Employers are charged a further PRSI rate of 12.2 per cent per person. Effectively, this could force existing companies — particularly those [1891] along the Border — to relocate outside the Republic in the Six Counties. This must have connotations for the effectiveness of the IDA in attracting international mobile investment. In tax terms how can it counter the attractions of Northern Ireland or Britain? We should contemplate this issue seriously if we deem international investment important in our drive towards job creation.

The biggest flaw in the budget is its failure to control the increase in public spending which is supposedly at 6 per cent but will probably reach 10 per cent. That is about two and a half times the rate of inflation. Recent indicators seem to point to a rise in interest rates and inflation and so the targets set in this budget must be open to serious question.If we had kept inflation at 4 per cent we could have had another £200 million available for tax reliefs, and could have provided more meaningful allowances where they matter — in people's pockets.

We must remember that last year's spending figures were boosted by a number of amnesty-financed items. We are now at the top cycle of the growth rate and it is fair to suggest that over the next two budgets Ireland's economic boom will not be sustained. Will Fianna Fáil again be faced with clearing up the financial mess? Will history repeat itself when the bill for the Government's fiscal indulgences falls due?

Many of the policies this Government is pursuing will make serious inroads into the Exchequer finances. They will all have to be paid for and will have major consequences for the target set in this budget.

In an article in The Sunday Tribune the Sunday before the budget the heading was “Make a convenant prior to the budget”. In the House, the Minister for Finance, and others, said that budget leaks contained no sensitive market information. Why were so many Revenue Commission offices experiencing a rush to applications for covenants in the week, and particularly the three days, [1892] prior to the budget? Even on the morning of the budget, covenant applications were being made throughout the country.

It has been suggested that the leaks could have cost the Exchequer in excess of £10 million. That is a conservative figure because in the three days prior to the budget, it is estimated that in excess of £0.5 million worth of covenants were lodged in one district. There was a frenzy. The leaks were out, the budget was known and obviously people were getting in before the off. There was nothing new in the budget. There is no doubt that there was plenty of openness and transparency and absolutely no accountability in it.

The recent announcement of extraordinary bank profits of £341 billion for AIB has left customers reeling when they consider the bank charges and interest rates levied on them. One can imagine how even more distressing it is for widows and senior citizens who received a 2.5 per cent increase in the budget while the Government removed a levy of £36 million from the banks. They cannot understand it. I cannot understand it. Nobody can understand it particularly when we are told that the removal of this levy was not solicited by the banks.

The scandal is that these profits are reported against the background of a debate on the lack of competition in the banking system. The rise in bank charges for ordinary customers seems endless. There is no doubt in my mind that the banks are losing the public relations battle. We have helped them in this budget, through the Government, to continue to lose that battle.

Small and medium sized businesses, from which the bulk of profits arise, are unhappy with the services being offered and complain bitterly that the banks are unwilling to take risks. Is the Minister telling me that by removing the levy and encouraging the banks to make more capital available for small businesses they will forget about the risks? Did the Minister not read, even in today's papers, that bad debts are a major problem [1893] for banks? Is anybody seriously saying that in the future the banks will look dispassionately on people looking for further loans to start up businesses? It is inconceivable and will not happen.

The small business sector also claims that one third of companies cannot fulfil orders because of a lack of working capital. At the same time the banks earn £5 billion in interest free money and yet are lending it at 11, 12 or even 13 per cent. The ordinary customer feels he is ripped off, has no remedy for the imbalance and is certainly not happy about it.

Supplementary welfare allowances increased from £7 million in 1989 to £55 million this year. Are we receiving value for money for the payments and are they achieving the objective for which supplementary welfare allowance was intended? There is an inadequate number of local authority houses available but perhaps through a short sighted policy we are encouraging a high demand for supplementary welfare allowance. If one examines the status of those in receipt of supplementary rent allowance one will find that 69 per cent are single with no dependants — this is an extraordinary figure — while married people represent 12 per cent; cohabiting couples, 3 per cent; separated families, 12 per cent; widows, 2 per cent; deserted wives, 1 per cent and divorcees, 1 per cent.

We have a policy in social welfare whereby single persons living at home are means tested. I welcome the increase of £10 in the minimum payment for those living at home but would we need to ask ourselves what we are doing. The supplementary rent allowance is breaking up families. If one examines the age profile of those receiving supplementary rent allowance one finds that 5 per cent are under the age of 20, 28 per cent are 20 to 25 years of age and 23 per cent are in the 26 to 30 age bracket. This must have serious social and economic problems.

If the 5 per cent under 20 years of age who leave their homes, go out into flats and are faced with social problems were [1894] at home in the security of a home environment, the chances of social deprivation or anti-social behaviour would be minimised. It is economic and social madness on the part of the State to encourage the break up of families and effectively cause private rents to be artificially inflated because of the excessive demands the State is placing on private rented accommodation. I call on the Minister for Social Welfare particularly to look seriously at this issue and ensure we do not continue the process of breaking up families unnecessarily.

Mr. H. Byrne:  I thank Deputy O'Keeffe for sharing time with me. I congratulate the Minister of State, Deputy Carey on his new post and wish him well. I ask him not to forget that there is an “eastern bloc” on this side of the country.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Not to mention a “southern bloc”.

Mr. H. Byrne:  This budget is like the tale of too many cooks spoiling the broth. Like anything designed to please all of the people some of the time, its value is short term. The 1995 budget is the politics of bread and circus. The circus of leaks and the ministerial resignation is well known. What this Government has ignored is that eaten bread is soon forgotten. When the cupboard has been emptied nothing of value will remain. This will be remembered as a lotus year.

There is no doubt that this Government failed to control public spending. From this crucial mistake all else flows. Government spending is rising at the colossal rate of between 6 and 7 per cent.

Mr. E. Byrne:  Is the Deputy objecting to that?

Mr. H. Byrne:  The Government says it will have an Exchequer borrowing requirement of 2.4 per cent of GNP, which is within the Maastricht Treaty guideline of 3 per cent. The Maastricht [1895] Treaty guidelines were drawn up three years ago when Europe was in the grip of a recession and Government deficits were spiralling. Last November the President of the Bundesbank, Hans Tietmayer, said that the 3 per cent criterion was a ceiling when economies were at the bottom of the cycle. The Government found itself in an excellent position in 1995, but adhering to the Maastricht criteria is not synonymous with sound management; it is political window dressing.

The scale of the spending spree is underlined by the reinvention of the current budget deficit. Part of the necessary tax concessions in this budget has been paid for by borrowing. Despite progress, Ireland still has a debt which absorbs 20 per cent of total tax revenue. For every £5 paid in tax, £1 goes to service this debt. Government spending should be tailored to meet this inescapable cost to our economy. Our fiscal position is helped by substantial transfers from the EU, but this will end in 1999. We must reduce the debt now to avoid a major reduction in the level of the public service or a significant tax increase in five years' time. The Government has postponed, not avoided, the day of reckoning and we can all look forward to paying with interest.

The abolition of third level fees, which was mentioned by most speakers, is wasteful and opportunistic. The move presupposes the availability of extra resources and grossly underestimates the resources required. As regards the needs of our education system, abolishing third level fees now is a misplaced priority. In last Saturday's The Irish Times, Dr. Garrett FitzGerald said:

...it has been encouraging to see the almost universal criticism that has met the Government's decision to start phasing out third-level fees. This reflects a healthy sense of the need to order our priorities in the education area as elsewhere.... The bulk of this additional state spending will benefit [1896] the better-off half of the mainly middle-class in the university sector.

I wonder if that aspect of the budget was discussed at a barbecue with his daughter-in-law, the Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise and Employment, Deputy Fitzgerald.

We are in a unique situation because over the next ten years 19 per cent of our population will be old enough to enter third level education. That is half as much again as the European average. A higher percentage of young people here want third level education than in Europe. Of the 67,000 young people who reached 18 years of age in 1993, a staggering 86 per cent sought places in higher education, of whom 77 per cent were eligible on the basis of their leaving certificate results. Of the 77 per cent academically qualified for a third level place, 51,650 in total, 27,000 received no offer or no offer for the courses they wished to pursue.

The crux of the problem at third level is lack of places and the difficulty of maintaining children at college. I speak from experience because I put four children through college without a grant and I know the pain and suffering involved. Abolishing fees does not solve these problems. Free fees makes it easier for those who already have access to third level education. As someone who represents County Wexford, which has no third level institution and which has, by national standards, a low rate of third level participation, I am disappointed by the waste of scarce resources. Our priorities for third level education should be more college places and more maintenance assistance. This Government has turned its back on the disadvantaged, especially those from rural areas.

The Government's generosity in abolishing third level fees for the advantaged was not seen in its approach to social welfare recipients. The 2.5 per cent increase to the marginalised and disadvantaged in our community will do little or nothing for social justice or to break the cycle of poverty, poor housing [1897] and unemployment which has affected some families for generations. There is an under class in Ireland whose situation will be perpetuated by a continuing lack of educational or employment opportunities. Social welfare payments are not a long term solution, but they are crucial to many people's survival.

Discussion has taken place about the dignity of the elderly and the need to give people on social welfare a minimum standard of living. The widespread nature of such sentiment is matched only by its shallowness. There is no willingness to transfer wealth in Ireland. This Government is charging in the opposite direction to what we expected. Our social welfare system is the protection money which the haves pay to the have nots. It is the price which vested interests pay to be left alone. The Government's policy further marginalises the marginalised. A 2.5 per cent increase in social welfare underpins exclusion where it is already most extreme. A policy of “let them eat cake” can only have one conclusion. I challenge the Government to contemplate the quality of life without hope. It is pathetic that an old age pensioner will receive an increase of £1.70 per week. In case someone suggests that an increase in the living alone allowance may redress that imbalance, that has gone up by 10p per week.

The budget's approach to agriculture, as announced by the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy Yates, is false. His claim of a 4 per cent increase in Government spending on agriculture, as published in the Estimates, is spurious. Take away the once-off cost of the beef tribunal and the Estimates for the Department reveal a 6 per cent decrease in spending. It is a pity the rectitude of that Department was not matched by reticence on the part of its Minister.

Certain matters relating to agriculture mentioned by the Minister for Finance on budget day are to be welcomed, such as the two year period for restocking herds after disease eradication before subjecting the process to taxation; the [1898] £5 million allocation to a charter for farmers' rights and the promised attempt to deal with stock relief for young farmers.

The main function of the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry is to administer and deliver the policies and payments of the CAP in Ireland. The level of service given to its client, the Irish farmer, is deplorable. If the Minister delivers on his promise to improve client service in his Department he will be deserving of praise and I will be the first to give it. The delivery of certain of the Minister's other promises is proving troublesome.

His promise to reduce the pig veterinary inspection fee by 25 per cent did not happen; he cut the fee by 5 per cent and made up the difference by suspending the An Bord Bia 20 pence levy for one year. That is a temporary arrangement which leaves both the veterinary inspection fee and An Bord Bia's funding in a quandary. The Minister has been telling “porkers” to pig farmers and taking the bit from An Bord Bia's mouth at the same time.

During Question Time on 6 February last, the Minister all but admitted his intention of increasing the veterinary inspection fees for cattle. He is on the Dáil record citing the need to meet what he describes as the overly high level of costs in this area. His solution, it seems, is to charge the farmer rather than challenge the vested interest in his Department.

The Minister made great political capital out of promising to reduce his Department's bills arising from the beef tribunal but he has yet to explain how he intends to do this. He has had no success to date in persuading his Government colleagues, the Tánaiste, Deputy Spring, and the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, to forego their right to claim legal costs for representation before Mr. Justice Hamilton.

The most hard pressed sector in Irish farming are those involved in dry stock production. Successive reports from Teagasc testified to the appalling income being earned by these farmers. [1899] Our meat industry depends on a viable dry stock sector. Yields are now so low that a holding of 218 acres is necessary to earn £14,000 per annum. The average income for 70,000 livestock farmers is £3,300. In the agricultural sector the Government must concentrate its resources and energies on obtaining a fair share from the CAP for the dry stock sector.

I have little argument with the particulars of this budget, third level fees aside; what I deeply regret is the lack of cohesion and purpose. The Minister, Deputy Quinn, has managed to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The rainbow coalition has no identity or philosophy. It lacks cohesion and, without doubt, internal trust. Judging by this budget, we earnestly hope it will be the last offered by this Government.

Mr. E. Byrne:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Kavanagh.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is satisfactory.

Mr. E. Byrne:  My colleagues and I in Democratic Left did not enter politics to preserve the status quo, nor are we engaged in “Band-Aid” politics, a quick fix at election time, which is the Fianna Fáil formula. Democratic Left believes the fundamental problems in this society — unemployment, poverty and marginalisation — can only be confronted by serious, radical reform.

Mr. H. Byrne:  Would old age pensioners agree?

Mr. E. Byrne:  We know the rising tide does not lift all boats; it leaves behind the weak and vulnerable, beached on the economic shore. It is because of the stark realities of life that Democratic Left entered Government; not to tinker with the system and play games, as is the Fianna Fáil practice——

Mr. H. Byrne:  Had it nothing to do [1900] with getting four party Members into Government?

Mr. E. Byrne:  ——but to radically reform it. Together with our partners in Government we made a start in that direction in this month's budget, but only a start. The voices opposite, which are accustomed to shouting matches outside churches, have been loud but they have been forced to hide the paucity of their economic thinking behind the high pitched squeals of mock outrage, as we have just heard.

Mr. H. Byrne:  Is that a quotation from Deputy Rabbitte?

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Deputy Byrne is in possession.

Mr. H. Byrne:  Which one of us?

Mr. E. Byrne:  For the first time a Government has produced a budget which is clearly child and family centred. Now the PD and Fianna Fáil fathers have no clothes.

Some months ago Democratic Left entered into a pact with its voters and coalition partners. That is clearly set out in the programme A Government of Renewal. I will refresh the memory of those Members who refuse to recognise and appreciate what we have committed ourselves to do. We promised to address the causes of poverty and marginalisation in our society; to reform the tax system and relieve the burden on the low paid and those with families, and to revitalise public enterprise and the public sector.

This month's budget was the first step towards achieving the aims of that programme.Like all budgets, it is a compromise between what is possible and what is desirable but it laid the groundwork for further progress in the 1996 and 1997 budgets.

My Fianna Fáil colleagues who criticise and dismiss the 35 per cent increase in child benefit may care to examine some statistics — incredible figures of [1901] which I would be ashamed if I was sitting in their seats——

Mr. H. Byrne:  The Deputy will be sitting here soon enough.

Mr. E. Byrne:  ——that show that nearly 40 per cent of children live on the poverty line and the larger the family, the greater the poverty. If I was a Fianna Fáil Member I would keep quiet and wish my party was not highlighting the miserable crime it has committed against the poor of Ireland.

In early 1994 Democratic Left recognised the need for a ruthless assault on child poverty. The result was our document entitled Ending the Poverty Trap which Fianna Fáil Members should read — I will send a copy to any Member who puts his hand up. In it we call for substantially increased child care payments, together with the abolition of poverty and unemployment traps by the integration of all child income supports into a combined child benefit payment. The 35 per cent increase in child benefit is a first step towards establishing a basic child income and tackling family poverty. It is also a first step towards giving mothers working in the home, who are primarily responsible for the arduous task of raising children, an independent income.

Democratic Left knows that the old remedies — a little here and a little there — did not succeed in uplifting their recipients from poverty. In line with progressive thinking throughout Europe, we believe that the basic income concept is the only means to eliminate poverty and to ensure some form of equity between the taxpayer and those dependent on social welfare. The increase in child benefit is a first step in that direction. However, before a basic income can be achieved it is necessary to integrate fully the tax and social welfare systems. Democratic Left campaigned on this issue long before it became fashionable. An expert group is at present examining the complex issue of integration.

[1902] By the same token, Democratic Left has identified PRSI reform as crucial to ending the poverty and unemployment traps which kept 300,000 human beings on the live register and countless thousands more in the limbo of low pay. The programme, A Government of Renewal, negotiated between Democratic Left, the Labour Party and Fine Gael, has committed this Government to targeting the low paid. There is a slight bias towards the lower paid in this budget. A low paid taxpayer earning half the average industrial wage, for example, will receive a real 2.1 per cent increase after tax while a taxpayer on the average industrial wage will receive a 1.8 per cent increase.

In the next two budgets my party will seek further measures to target the low paid. In particular we will seek a substantial increase in the £50 PRSI allowance.Democratic Left will give serious consideration to abolishing the ceiling and reducing the rate of PRSI. These measures taken in conjunction would act as a redistributive PRSI package.

The Opposition parties — which are represented by only one Member at present — would need the skills of a latter day Houdini to extricate themselves from the trap of their own rhetoric. They know they cannot reconcile accusations of fiscal recklessness with their demands for higher spending. They know that the “red rainbow of ruin” is a rainbow of recovery for the excluded and deprived in our society, for those on low income, for carers and for those on with children. The Opposition has closed its eyes to the fact that Democratic Left and its partners in Government will present at least two more budgets. It has closed its eyes to the fact that reform can also be achieved between budgets.

Mr. H. Byrne:  The Deputy is an optimist.

Mr. E. Byrne:  The Opposition parties know that the effect of the 35 per cent increase in child benefit and the increases to come will be felt long after [1903] their crocodile tears on behalf of the poor are forgotten.

Democratic Left is proud to have put its stamp on this budget. We will make further demands on the Government in the years to come. We will demand a concerted assault on unemployment, including the full implementation of the National Economic and Social Forum report.

Mr. H. Byrne:  Talk about old age pensioners.

Mr. E. Byrne:  That report called for direct public and voluntary employment of 35,000 long term unemployed in properly paid long term jobs together with individual counselling and guidance for those filling the jobs. A start was made in the budget with the establishment of the guidance service. The Deputy has not perhaps read the report to find out about the special employment measures. The programme states that a new employment measure will be introduced for the long term unemployed, targeted at disadvantaged areas. Job opportunities with a range of public authorities and agencies, voluntary bodies and private sector employers will be identified through the guidance service. They will be based on models, including those advanced by both the Conference of Religious in Ireland and the National Economic and Social Forum, and an important feature of the models will be agreement with employers on three to five year contracts attracting agreed rates and conditions. The contracts may involve different levels of weekly working hours.

Mr. H. Byrne:  Has the Deputy a guidance service for old age pensioners?

Mr. E. Byrne:  I am not sure what area of the country the Deputy represents. I represent Dublin south-central which suffers from the crisis of unemployment. The report's recommendations are incorporated in the Programme for Government. The National Economic [1904] and Social Forum proposals would cut our dole queues by 10 per cent. About 35,000 people would earn a decent wage packet and pay taxes working in the voluntary and essential public services. They would plough money back into their communities. Taxpayers' money would be saved since the plan would address the causes rather than the symptoms of the problems which are currently draining us of resources to fight crime, social alienation, poor housing, illness — as we know, the poor are more likely to be ill than the rich — substance abuse and the complete dependency of many on State services.

The Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil have indulged for too long in set aside economics. Democratic Left does not believe that 300,000 of our citizens can be set aside as they have been by Fianna Fáil. We will not tolerate anything less than an all-out assault by the Government on unemployment. The special employment measure in the Programme for Government must and will be implemented. There is currently an economic boom in Ireland accompanied by rapid economic growth. There has never been such an opportune time to translate this growth into jobs.

While our actions on PRSI will maintain and increase the number of employed, we must mobilise the whole country — the institutions of the State, the trade unions, employers and the general population — for a massive jobs crusade. If we create jobs more people are off the dole and paying taxes. The economy benefits. Every economic indicator is booming except, sadly, our unemployment figures. More must be done by the Government and we all must play our part in this crusade.

The crusade for jobs must focus on four areas. Internationally, the Government must take the lead in regulating the international financial markets. The 1993-94 currency crisis should have inspired action by Governments against currency speculation and instability. It did not. On the contrary——

Mr. H. Byrne:  Before the Deputy [1905] finishes he should mention old age pensioners.

Mr. E. Byrne:  I will draw my remarks to a close.

Mr. O'Dea:  We cannot wait.

Mr. E. Byrne:  I wish to remind my adversaries in Fianna Fáil that we are here for the long haul.

Miss Coughlan:  That is what you think.

Mr. H. Byrne:  Is the Deputy talking about hours or days?

Mr. E. Byrne:  We are in Government to put in place a programme that will leave the Opposition battered and bruised every step of the way.

Mr. E. Byrne:  You have already battered old age pensioners.

Mr. E. Byrne:  The budget was a step in the right direction but there is still a long road to travel. The measures in this budget must be built upon in forthcoming budgets and new measures introduced. Democratic Left has set itself clear targets.

Miss Coughlan:  Five Minister for a six member party.

Mr. E. Byrne:  At the end of our term in Government we want to see a basic income for children and the groundwork laid for a basic income for all citizens.

Mr. H. Byrne:  Even pensioners.

Mr. E. Byrne:  We wish to see full implementation of the National Economic and Social Forum-inspired special employment measure. We wish to see spending levels increased to the limits outlined in the Government programme.We wish to see the tax base expanded so that all — including corporate companies — pay their share. [1906] We also want further social welfare increases, fundamental reform of the PRSI system, including substantial increases in exemptions and a greater increase in personal tax allowances.

Short term measures have failed; that is why Fianna Fáil failed. Democratic Left is in Government for the long haul and we will be campaigning proudly on our policies in Government——

Mr. H. Byrne:  The Deputy will not be campaigning on behalf of old age pensioners.

Mr. E. Byrne:  ——in the Dáil and within local communities.

Mr. Kavanagh:  Having been a Member of this House at a time when over 26 budgets — allowing for more than one budget in some years — were introduced, the present budget is the best I can recall in previous years.

The budget targets employment creation and improvements for the family, and it has scored strongly in both these areas. My colleagues in the Fianna Fáil Party should be aware that the macro economic factors which underlie the budget were created by four, and not just three parties in the House, because over the last two years the economy has been well run, with a sound basic economic structure on which the budget can proceed.

Mr. H. Byrne:  The Deputy's party let down old age pensioners when it went off on its own.

Mr. Kavanagh:  There are differences in emphasis in the budget to what would have appeared if the previous Government had continued in office. Nevertheless, it was apparent from Deputy McCreevy's contribution that he had not a great deal to say in condemnation of any facet of the budget. Indeed his main criticism related to leaks which have little to do with its provisions which are the purpose of this debate.

The benefits in the budget are apparent to all and they have been well [1907] rehearsed and talked about over the last three weeks. However, this debate requires us to again consider the tax breaks in the budget with the improvements provided for employment. The increase in the standard rate tax band, which is widened by £700 for a single person to £8,900 and by £1,400 for working married couples to £17,800 is the biggest ever increase and three times the rate of inflation.

The increase of £150 for a single person and £300 for married couples in personal allowances in the tax area results in huge increases in the allowances to £2,500 for a single person and £5,000 for married couples. In addition, the improvements in the PRSI allowances of £50 per week in respect of full rate contributions and the employers' PRSI income threshold, which was at the lower rate of 9 per cent, represent an employment generation policy.

The issue which every Deputy has argued for on election platforms is employment generation. It is a first necessity for all Members of the Dáil and ranks with our concerns for the North of Ireland. In the area of employment generation the budget has been fully vindicated by subsequent events.

Deputy Eric Byrne spoke of social welfare, and the Minister for Social Welfare has indicated that he wished he could have done more for pensioners in the budget. However, the budget increased child benefit by £7 per month — the biggest ever increase in this area — and social welfare increases were moved forward by six weeks. Pensioners always felt aggrieved about this issue because if they got an increase they had to wait four or five months for it. Deserted wife's benefit and lone parent's allowance are to be increased in a new unified scheme and there is provision for a minimum unemployment assistance payment of £15 per week for single people living at home. This last measure is a necessary and welcome increase because we are all aware of how many young people are forced to [1908] leave their own home to obtain an increase in unemployment assistance.

An increase of 2.5 per cent in social welfare benefits must be taken in line with the rate of inflation and when people talk of much higher rates of increase in previous years, they generally speak of percentage increases but never mention the rate of inflation. I was a member of the Government in 1981 which provided the highest ever increase — 25 per cent — in social welfare benefits in the history of the State. The inflation rate at the time was 23 per cent and by the time the increase had worked its way into the benefits received by pensioners and the unemployed, four months had elapsed and the rate of inflation had wiped out the benefit of the increase, leaving people worse off at the end of the 16 months, which was the time the next increase was provided.

It is, therefore, pointless to compare increases with previous years as the rate of inflation and the other benefits pensioners received in the budget must be taken into account. More could be done, as the Minister indicated in his contribution to the budget debate and I hope that old age pensioners especially, will see a far larger increase in next year's budget.

One of the problems the Department of Social Welfare has had to contend with in the budget is the provision of £60 million in respect of equality payments which takes away a great deal of the money which could have been devoted to other increases. However, it is a payment which must be made and an issue which must be grasped, and the sum of £60 million is only one fifth of the amount of money which must be made under these equality payments. The problem of equality payments must, therefore, be tackled this year and the Department of Social Welfare had to take account of that matter in its budgetary arithmetic.

I warmly welcome the abolition of third level fees. It is an issue on which I have argued over many years and I cannot understand why a demand for free [1909] education at every level would not be warmly welcomed on all sides of the House, especially by former Members who are criticising the measure. The abolition of third level fees will be of benefit to all those on a reasonable income, who must pay mortgages and other expenses.

An increase in the budget in the old reliables was usually made to fund some of the increases in social welfare. However, because there were no increases in beer, spirits or petrol this year, nobody appears to suggest that this is a benefit to those of us who drive or who take the odd drink now and again.

Miss Coughlan:  Smokers are not too happy.

Mr. Kavanagh:  The lack of such increases was welcome to all who saw what happened over the Christmas period following the application of the drink driving laws and the problems which many of the rural pubs have encountered. An increase in the price of beer or spirits was therefore not justified at this time.

I am also pleased that the price of petrol was not increased, because it has been of great benefit to keep the balance between the price of petrol and diesel on both sides of the Border which has been achieved over the years. It is a balance which should never be allowed to get out of line again. It brings benefits to the Border counties — and to the country in general in that it makes the country much more attractive for visitors if there is not a big divergence in the cost of travel between North and South, or between Ireland and the UK.

The novel idea of a vehicle registration tax benefit of £1,000 for anybody scrapping an old car and buying a new one is one which those who attended SIMI meetings were told about. I would have preferred to see a reduction in the vehicle registration tax which would discourage the importation of second hand cars from our near neighbour and would perhaps be of greater benefit. However, [1910] we were asked to lobby for this, which we did, and I welcome its inclusion in the budget.

Another aspect of the budget of which I am critical is the tax incentive for eight resort towns. I do not begrudge that increase to those eight towns but I cannot understand why every town on the east coast was excluded from that benefit. You, a Leas-Cheann Comhairle, and I represent the constituency of Wicklow which has three resort towns of Bray, Wicklow and Arklow, which is an unemployment black spot. At least one of our towns could have been included in that provision. I hope that mistake will be remedied in next year's budget.

During the debate on the Estimates, I heard an interesting contribution from my good friend and colleague, Deputy Hilliard, who listed many percentage increases in the Book of Estimates. He pointed out what he regarded as excessive increases, particularly in Ministers' offices. One of the increases which he missed was the increase from £4,000 to £115,000 under the subhead dealing with the review body on higher remuneration in the public sector. That is probably a record increase in any Book of Estimates. Many criticisms are made of how this House operates and how much it costs. According to the Book of Estimates, it costs £28 million to run democracy in this country. That compares very favourably with the £90 million it costs to run RTE, which criticises us for spending money unwisely. However, it should be mentioned that 0.5 per cent of the total Book of Estimates is spent on the running of the Houses of the Oireachtas and our representation in Europe. It is worth reminding people of the size of that cost to taxpayers.

I hope that the Minister of State, Deputy Jim Higgins, will deal with the result of the decision by An Bord Pleanála to refuse permission for the interpretative centre at Luggala. The financial repercussions of that decision are very far reaching. The cost of the contract was £4.5 million and the work [1911] done had reached £2.5 million when it was stopped. The reinstatement cost of the site will be about £600,000. That represents a total loss of £3 million. Who will pay that? I do not think the EU will provide money for work which has not been done. Under which subhead in the Estimates will that £3 million be paid? Will the contractor, who had a contract for £4.5 million, be entitled to compensation for the loss of the remainder of his contract? Have the deals which were done on behalf of the Office of Public Works by the previous Minister with local landowners for swaps of land etc., taken place? If they have, will those deals fall by the wayside because of the lack of any further work in that area?

It is important that we get these answers because £3 million is a great deal of money to lose. We have lost the possible benefit of an interpretative centre in the county and acquired nothing but an additional cost to the taxpayer. I hope that during the course of this debate we will get full transparency on what has happened and what will happen as a result of this decision. Many people over the last few weeks have applauded the decision as a great success.It has been a great failure for County Wicklow and a great cost to the taxpayers. I look forward to total transparency in this whole area in the near future and to knowing the full loss to the country and my constituency.

There are other areas with which I wish to deal but my time is up. I will look for another opportunity to raise some of the other problems which I wish to discuss.

Mr. O'Dea:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Coughlan.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is satisfactory.

Mr. O'Dea:  There are some good things in this budget, as was the case with each of its predecessors. However, looked at in its totality it has to be said [1912] that the budget is directionless and lacklustre.

The decision, in current financial circumstances, to return to current budget deficiting is particularly staggering. The Minister for Finance said in his budget speech at column 1808 of the Official Report of 8 February 1995 “We said we would keep the increase in current expenditure this year to 6 per cent over last year, and we have done so”. That statement, which has been repeated by Government spokespeople on several occasions outside the House, is nothing other than a fraud on the electorate.

Last year's current public expenditure included one very important once-off item, namely the expenditure of the proceeds of the tax amnesty. There will not be a tax amnesty this or next year. We have probably seen the last of the tax amnesties. The proceeds of the amnesty must be deducted from current expenditure last year to see the real increase, which is 8.6 per cent. It is the most blatant form of creative accounting to justify an increase by reference to a base figure which includes a once-off item which will not be repeated.

Why, with the economy growing so strongly and unemployment falling, do we need any real increase in public expenditure? The inexorable upward thrust in annual public expenditure must be arrested. It seems that the mechanisms which we have in place to control public expenditure do the reverse. That is what the economic history of this State has proved, particularly in the last two decades.

There are about 800,000 households in this country, from mansions to local authority flats. Our national debt of £30 billion represents a mortgage of about £40,000 on every household. At a time when the economy was growing very strongly — the strongest rate of economic growth in Europe — and unemployment falling, instead of tackling this millstone around the neck of our people the Government decided coldly, calculatedly and deliberately to bring in a total budget deficit of £857 million, which represents an increase of about [1913] £1,000 in each of those notional mortgages.There is an old biblical maxim, “Blessed are the poor for they shall inherit the earth” which should be changed in this country to, “Blessed are the young for they shall inherit the national debt”.

Every 1 per cent increase in the average cost of servicing this debt works out at an increase of more than 2 per cent in overall public spending, which is a sobering thought. If international interest rates rise, which they are showing every sign of doing, the burden of the interest repayments on the national debt will increase. The fastest way to reduce taxation, if that is the Government's policy, is to eliminate borrowing and to go into surplus if growth continues.At this point, the cost of servicing the debt would fall in absolute terms and the real level of taxation could fall more rapidly.

It is not only the rates and overall burden of taxation which tend to suppress initiative, growth and enterprise, but also the level of interest rates. I am aware that as a small, open economy, heavily dependent on foreign trade, we are to a very large extent in the hands of world events in regard to interest rate trends.

Nevertheless, a determined effort to tackle our national debt and promote responsible fiscal policy would help to encourage and increase domestic confidence.It would also help us to resist international pressure to raise interest rates.

The nation's finances have not been in better shape for more than 25 years. If ever there was a time to make a serious effort to tackle the national debt, it is now. Unfortunately, the budget of this makeshift Government has been designed to pursue a whole range of often conflicting hobby horses. Some of these interests are genuine. However, they range from the genuine to the genuinely bizarre. The problem is that each interest is half pursued; nothing is properly pursued. This is how the money is being frittered away. There is no plan or vision. As I said at [1914] the outset, there is no direction. It is a textbook example of Government run by committee.

I would like the Minister for Finance before this debate concludes to answer one question in clear, simple and unambiguous terms that we can all understand.Why have we returned to borrowing for current expenditure when it took an entire generation to wean ourselves off it? The Government apparently believes that solvency is more a matter of temperament than money. After two and a half decades of hardship, we had arrived at a situation where this nation was in a position to make ends meet. Just as we reached that point, the rainbow warriors on the Government benches moved the ends once more. The budget consists of a plethora of interests pursued by each part of the Government. If I had been told six months ago that this combination would be in power today——

Mr. Carey:  The Deputy would have won a large amount of money.

Mr. O'Dea:  —— and it would introduce a budget which, despite an opening surplus on the current account side, would ultimately result in a £310 million deficit in the current account borrowing requirement——

Mr. Carey:  The Deputy would even have made that type of money.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy without interruption, please.

Mr. O'Dea:  Given the composition of the Government, I would have imagined that this would be due to its commitment to the poor. However, the budget gives the lie to that. The allocation to the weakest and most vulnerable in society is positive proof, if any further proof were needed, that the high flowing rhetoric we heard, particularly from the left wing parties in Government when they were in Opposition, was nothing more than a cruel deception.

[1915] In 1989, in less favourable economic circumstances, social welfare was generally increased by 3 per cent and the long term unemployed received an increase of 9 per cent. At that time, Deputy De Rossa, now the proud Minister for Social Welfare, took it upon himself to describe these increases as “particularly cruel”. He is now part of a Government which has pegged social welfare increases at 2.5 per cent. This is the most optimistic forecast for inflation over the next 12 months. The great alibi, to which Deputy Kavanagh referred, is the increase in child benefit. While I welcome any improvement in this allowance, I do not welcome it when it is to be paid, as apparently it will be, by the poorest and most vulnerable in society.

Everybody will receive the increase, including the wealthiest in society, and it will be paid for by the poorest. If inflation exceeds 2.5 per cent, it will be paid for by a real cut in the rate of social welfare. Regardless of the rate of inflation over the next 12 months, it will be paid for by a real cut in child dependant allowances received by social welfare recipients. Is the Minister for Finance aware that there are 240,000 pensioners here who will not gain from the child benefit increases? Is he aware that there are many recipients of unemployment assistance, unemployment benefit, disability benefit, disabled person's maintenance allowance and every other category of social assistance who will not gain from the child benefit increases for the simple reason that they do not have children?

It is a cruel irony that the most left wing Government in the history of the State, in terms of membership and rhetoric if not reality, awarded an increase in social welfare payments that makes Scrooge look like a philanthropist. The champions of the dispossessed have awarded old age pensioners an increase of 22p a day. The increase for the unemployed is marginally less; they could only manage 21p a day there. The increase for people on disabled person's maintenance allowance, who are ill as [1916] well as poor, is 21p a day. This is big money. It might be enough to enable one to buy a packet of peanuts in some of those establishments in the city where left wing ideologues gather to suffer together on behalf of the poor. However, I would not hold my breath. The important point is that it seems sufficient to satisfy the keepers of the nation's conscience.

It is particularly stark when looked at in conjunction with another budgetary measure, the abolition of fees for third level students. I am not criticising this move as I agree with it in principle. However, I profoundly disagree with the manner and particular context in which it was done. It will benefit only one sector of society, those whose income is too high to enable them to qualify under the means test. For those people in that upper strata of society, at least in terms of income, the benefit will be more than £2,000 per annum, or more than £40 a week.

This is £40 a week, from a Government which leans to the left, for people whose income is such that they cannot satisfy the means test for the third level grant. Old age pensioners living alone will receive an extra £1.60 a week. In Democratic Left's scale of values, one daughter of a beef tribunal lawyer is worth 27 old age pensioners. The position appears to be that the longer and louder a party trumpets its ideology in Opposition, the quicker it abandons it in power. The rainbow law is performance in inverse proportion to rhetoric.

The Labour Party and Democratic Left are the ultimate political acrobats, keeping their balance while doing the opposite to what they said they would do.

However, there is a serious aspect. We are all aware of the campaign which preceded, with ever increasing intensity, the fall of the last Government. We are all aware of the rhetoric, the promises made and the protestations about State cars, the number of Ministers of State, ministerial advisers and spin doctors. When one looks at the numerous U-turns, the ultimate of which is the Left's [1917] attitude to the poor, it reminds me of a George Orwell quotation. He had a rather jaundiced view of politicians and the language they used to express their ideas. In 1984 he stated:

Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful, murder respectable and give the appearance of solidity to pure wind.

We are rapidly approaching the position here where nothing any politician says will be taken, or deserve to be taken, seriously. The only achievement of this Government will be the institutionalisation of cynicism about politics and politicians.As I am sharing my time, I do not have much time to refer to the tax changes.

Due to the fact that a cold, calculated and deliberate decision was taken to go back to borrowing for current expenditure at a time when there was clearly no need to do so, it should come as no surprise that the approach to tax reform is, to put it at its most charitable, minimalist.The change in the 27 per cent band from £8,200 to £8,900 looks deceptively impressive at first sight but when inflation is taken off this figure, it is only a 3 per cent increase in real terms and it is even less when one takes into account the continuing restrictions in VHI and mortgage interest reliefs.

The same applies to the £150 increase in personal allowances. The PRSI exemption for the first £50 of income is welcome but it is partially offset and clawed back by a reduction in the PRSI allowance for tax purposes from £286 to £140 per annum. These paltry real increases in allowances are hardly consistent with the Minister's claims of radicalism on the tax front.

It is surprising that the Minister continued to maintain the old fiction of taking so many thousands of people out of the tax net. Those people will be back. They always come back; it is the ultimate boomerang effect. I have listened to claim after claim, year after year and budget after budget of many people being taken out of the tax net. If all those whom successive Ministers for [1918] Finance rightly claimed at the time were taken out of the tax net were permanently out of it, we would have a tax paying population of about 250,000 people. The people taken out of the higher tax rates and put into the 27 per cent rate will also be back paying the higher rates because our income tax system is grindingly progressive. There is no need for the Minister for Finance to peddle those old fictions about taking so many thousands of people out of the tax net. It is a nonsense and a sham and should be abandoned not only by this Minister for Finance but by all future Ministers unless the tax system is radically altered.

The net result of all of this tinkering with the tax system in the budget is that somebody below the average industrial wage still has to pay tax at the margin of 55.75 per cent of their total income. At column 2049 of the Official Report of 9 February, Deputy De Rossa said: “In the coming year, the Government must set about monitoring and evaluating these reforms to ensure that they are effective as job creators”. This shows a blinkered approach to the relationship between tax reduction and unemployment. He still does not believe that tax reduction or reform has anything to do with creating employment. He believes that one should monitor every bit of tax reduction to see how many jobs it creates, as if one was talking about two chemical elements in a laboratory that were supposed to produce a certain reaction that could be measured scientifically.

The reality — and every developed economy has shown it — is that a low taxation climate is conducive to enterprise initiative and ultimately economic growth out of which jobs are created. Of course we are not doing enough to translate our economic growth into employment, but that is another argument. It does not take from the fact that a favourable tax climate is a sine qua non to economic growth, which again is a sine qua non to employment creation.

When this Government was in the [1919] process of forming, Democratic Left held a meeting in a Dublin hotel where it duly wrestled with its conscience for a few minutes and decided that it was going into Government. It did so on the basis of a paper produced by the leadership.On the following day, all the national newspapers carried quotations from some of the speeches made at this meeting. One speech was delivered by a Mr. Fergal Ross, who was described as the son of the party leader, Proinsias De Rossa. Mr. Fergal Ross opposed Democratic Left's decision to go into Government on the basis of the paper presented by the leadership, which he said was “full of classic fudges”. Who am I to disagree with Mr. Ross? It was full of classic fudges and that is reflected in the budget because this budget is a classic fudge from beginning to end and the people, with whose welfare this Government has been entrusted, will be the losers.

Miss Coughlan:  Má tá cead agam, ba mhaith liom cúpla nóiméad de mo chuid ama a thabhairt don Teachta Callely.

An Ceann Comhairle:  Ceart go leor.

Miss Coughlan:  My colleague spoke about fudges; a fudge is a sweet thing, and that is the last thing this budget is. This was an opportunity lost, irrespective of who is in Government. We will never again have such an opportunity to rectify many of our problems. I feel sorry for the Minister for Finance because much more could have been done; it was an itsy bitsy budget. I now wish to refer to some of the issues which particularly impinge on my constituency.

The paltry increase of 2.5 per cent in social welfare payments in the budget is an insult. People would have been better off if their hopes had not been raised. If the economic indicators continue as they have over the last number of days, the direction our country will take will be of concern to many of us, [1920] with the fluctuation in sterling in particular and the fact that the punt is being affected as a consequence.

The Minister said this was to be a child centred budget. Indeed, we welcome the £7 increase in child benefit. However, there are a number of other aspects of child centred policy which should have been examined in conjunction with child benefit that were totally neglected. The child dependant allowance was not even touched. I do not see how it is less expensive today for people on social welfare than it was last year. The family income supplement, which was not looked at in this year's budget either, is also a cause for grave concern. The clawback of family income supplement payments will more than offset the gain these people will receive in child benefit. Family income supplement payments are designed to help those with families who find it difficult to cope. I do not know if it is too late but the Minister should examine those aspects of the social welfare system. Reference was also made to the granting of free television licences to the elderly and the adoption of the Fianna Fáil women's committee's suggestion of free travel for the elderly going to and from Northern Ireland. While these measures are welcome, another free scheme — the free fuel scheme — needs to be examined. There has been no financial increase in this scheme over the last number of years, although there has been an increase in the cost of fuel and energy. The £5 allowance for this scheme has remained at the same level and it should have been looked at in the light of the fact that spare money was available in this budget.

Coming from a county that has depended on labour intensive industries, I welcome the continuation of the increase in the PRSI thresholds from £173 to £231. This will benefit labour intensive industries, especially the textile and woollen industries. I hope that such increases will continue next year to ensure that labour intensive industries remain in counties as remote as my own with traditions of textile manufacture.

[1921] Fadhb amháin faoin díospóireacht seo nár chuala mé dada i nGaeilge, bhímid ag caint faoi chúrsaí cánach agus shíl mise go mbeadh athrú mhór ar cháin chorporáide — corporation tax — do na comharchumainn. Níl se ceart go bhfuil na comharchumainn ar aon leibhéal le Kerry Group agus comhlachtaí mar sin. Tá na comharchumainn antábhachtach do mhuintir na Gaeltachta agus ba cheart go ndéanfaí rud éigin mar gheall ar an cháin seo.

The other taxation measure — it has been debated in this House and I know my colleagues in Fine Gael are also concerned — is in regard to double taxation.This impinges particularly on Border Deputies. People feel aggrieved they must travel to Northern Ireland to obtain employment which they cannot find in the Border counties, and the fact that they must pay tax to the Northern Ireland authorities and also pay tax here similar to the self-employed. The Minister has met this group, and I hope he will be able to do something for them and not just give them aspirations which he will not be able to fulfil. In the light of the ceasefire and the Framework Document, this should be seriously considered by both Governments. I impress upon the Minister to ensure the committee he has set up advises him as quickly as possible in order to address this grievance which many of my constituents, and those in other Border counties, have.

I welcome the continuation of tax incentives given to seaside resorts, including Bundoran. A lot has been done to improve Bundoran as a seaside resort, although it has been difficult because there has been little sunshine over the past number of years. A great deal of investment has been made in alternative types of entertainment for visitors and I heartily welcome this incentive which was mooted last year by a colleague in Bord Fáilte. However I appreciate concerns expressed by other Deputies in that all the old traditional [1922] seaside resorts should have been included in the scheme.

Mr. Callely:  Including Dollymount.

Miss Coughlan:  I do not know much about Dollymount Strand, but from what I have heard, what happens there might be irrelevant to tax incentives.

Mr. Ring:  Some of the Deputy's constituents are coming to Westport.

Miss Coughlan:  With respect, maybe it takes a Donegal person to show the people in Westport how to earn money. Salthill and other areas should have been looked at. It is a good scheme which I hope will work well. While I am glad Bundoran has been included in this scheme, Buncrana, a traditional resort, has not.

There has been a lot of talk about the abolition of third level fees. We could be opportunistic and say we do not welcome this measure but we do. There are, however, more important matters to be considered, including third level places. Where will people go this year? What will the points race be like? What will happen to those who cannot afford to leave rural areas in particular, to go to the university towns? Maintenance should have been looked at, given that £1,400 is irrelevant to many who wish to go on to third level education. This is an issue which must be addressed. It is unfair to raise young people's hopes and expectations especially when their parents cannot afford to send them to third level education because only a paltry amount of money has been made available.This haphazard education policy should be reconsidered.

Money should be resourced to additional places and an increase in maintenance. The situation of those in this new poverty trap as regards the assessment of means should be looked at. I welcome the provision of maintenance for children travelling to universities in the UK next year. That is something we in the Border areas have looked for. This budget has been a lost [1923] opportunity and I hope the people will not regret what they will not get in their pockets next year.

Mr. Callely:  I congratulate the Labour Party Minister for Finance on the introduction of his first budget and my good friend, Deputy Jim Higgins, on his appointment as Minister of State at the Department of Finance. The Minister and most speakers to date have acknowledged the positive economic situation which exists due to the excellent management of the economy by Fianna Fáil led Administrations since 1987. It gave the Government of the day an excellent opportunity when introducing the 1995 budget. This budget was hyped up out of all proportion, mainly because of the leaks. Regrettably, the budget failed to deliver on any of its promises and the Government lost a great opportunity to be innovative, radical and imaginative.

The Minister stated that his budget intended to address three objectives: reward work, promote enterprise and strengthen social solidarity. The intention to reward work is a good one, but it goes no further. The Government may claim it has widened the standard rate tax band and has moved on PRSI. However, if we compare the rainbow coalition's moves on tax bands with those of last year, we can easily recognise that the taxpayer benefited more last year. A single person earning £13,000 per annum will be £6.60 per week better off in 1995, while a married couple earning £24,000 will gain £8.87 per week. If that is what the rainbow coalition regards as rewarding work, it is not a definition with which I would go along.

Some worthwhile adjustments have been made to PRSI levies for employers and employees, particularly the £50 per week allowance for full rate PRSI contributors, the renewal of the income tax allowance to £140 per annum, the extension of the employers' PRSI exemption scheme and the increase in income thresholds.

[1924] If the opportunity arises, perhaps the Minister could comment on the reduction in corporation tax. Is it targeted?From where will the benefit come? As regards the recommendations of the small businesses task force, could I have a report on the progress being made? It is regrettable that the residential property tax was not abolished this year.

Mr. Bell:  This is my twelfth budget in Government and in Opposition and one of the things I have learned is that when in Government everything about the budget is right but when in Opposition everything is wrong. It is always black and white.

Miss Coughlan:  Not necessarily.

Mr. Bell:  I am glad my colleagues on the Opposition benches recognised that there is some good in the budget. It is rare that the Opposition even goes that far.

Mr. Callely:  That is Fianna Fáil in Opposition.

Mr. Bell:  That is a sign of the times. People have accepted that there will be Coalition Governments for a long time so they should keep all their options open.

Mr. Callely:  We have learned our lesson.

Mr. Bell:  This is the first budget to be presented in this House by a Labour Party Minister for Finance and it represents a significant development in the history of the Labour Party. The Minister rightly concentrated on boosting job creation and redistributing wealth to the less well off in our society. One of the main aims of the budget is to create the right economic climate to get people back to work. Job creation is undoubtedly the biggest challenge facing us.

[1925] We are witnessing a decline in the number of people out of work. Last year alone average unemployment fell by 14,000 from 294,000 to 282,000, although this figure is still unacceptably high. Job growth must be accelerated so that every man and woman who wishes to work is given the opportunity to do so. Many of the measures contained in the budget will ensure that unemployment continues to move in a downward direction. The economic outlook for 1995 is good. As recently as last Friday the ESRI forecast that unemployment would fall by 13.5 per cent by the end of 1995. Inflation is expected to remain at 2.5 per cent, which is well below the EU average, and economic growth is expected to be close to 6 per cent, which is well ahead of the European average. In addition, strong growth in consumption and investment is also expected. We must ensure that these figures are translated into increased jobs growth and higher living standards for all.

Debate adjourned.

Mr. J. Walsh:  I wish to share my time.

An Ceann Comhaile:  Is that agreed? Agreed.

Mr. J. Walsh:  I move:

That Dáil Éireann condemns the Government for its uncaring attitude towards social welfare recipients, especially the old, widows and the majority of the unemployed without children, notes with alarm that the general increase in social welfare this year at 2.5 per cent will not keep pace with inflation and is the lowest in 30 years; and calls on the Government to give a substantial increase in the amount already provided to bring it at least up to the levels normally provided.

[1926] Before this House on 8 February 1995, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, presented what he called a “radical budget”. He said it would demonstrate a commitment to the social fabric of our community — one of the most valuable assets we have. According to the Minister, the principal objective was that it would strengthen social solidarity.I must seriously question the Minister's statement that with his published budget he was aiming to strengthen social solidarity.

My first reaction to the budget is one of total dismay. At a time of major opportunity to provide real increases in the standard of living among those who are most deprived in our society, it is beyond belief that this rainbow Government should treat their just and urgent needs with cruel indifference. Can anyone seriously defend a paltry increase of £1.50 per week for someone on a basic income of £61 per week? Yet this is the extent of the consideration given by the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa and his Cabinet colleagues to the recipients of old age non-contributory pensions, blind pensions and the base unemployment benefit and assistance recipients.

How can the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, representing the supposed “left” element, the Democratic Left, sit comfortably since budget day given his lowly and abysmal consideration of those in society who crucially depend upon social welfare? One might have expected that the presence of the Minister, Deputy De Rossa in the Department of Social Welfare would have ensured a real improvement in living standards for poorer families since he and his party have always highlighted the needs of the under-privileged in their public comments and policies. It is abundantly clear to all that he and his party failed to deliver on the plethora of promises made by him and his colleagues from the safety of the Opposition benches.

There will be social welfare increases of 2.5 per cent. What about such fundamentals as the cost of living? We all, [1927] rich and poor, live in a world where inflation exists. Only today the indication is that rising house prices are nudging inflation up beyond levels forecast by the Government. With the ESRI last week predicting inflation levels of 2.8 per cent for 1995, the social welfare increases of 2.5 per cent will not even cover the rate of inflation and can only be interpreted as a studied insult to the poorest members of our society. There is absolutely no excuse for this callous behaviour, particularly with the current vibrant and healthy condition of the national finances and economy — a healthy condition re-emphasised in last week's ESRI forecasts and a healthy condition in no small measure due to the sound planning and economics of the previous Government. It is bitterly disappointing to see the miserly 2.5 per cent increase for a wide range of social welfare recipients. This single statistic only too clearly illustrates the powerless and ineffective role of the Minister, Deputy De Rossa, and his non-voting party colleague at the Cabinet table. What in the world has happened to the Minister Deputy De Rossa and the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte and their espousal of the cause of the under-privileged?I must put the question again, can there be any remaining credence in the spurious claim that we now have a Government of consensus?

When we examine what the Minister for Social Welfare is offering to recipients of specific so-called “benefits” we witness extreme miserly actions. First, there is a proposal to increase the survivors pension for widows and widowers from £64.50 by just £1.60. Deserted wives under 80 years are provided with the same remuneration. The personal rate of disability benefit has been increased by just £1.50 per week. Again, the same statistics apply to the carer's allowance and the personal rate of pre-retirement and infectious diseases maintenance allowances. An absolutely miserable increase of £1 is provided for the orphan's non-contributory pension and, as we witnessed on budget day, the [1928] laughably sad case of the living alone allowance which will increase by 10 pence per week from £4.80 to £4.90 — the price of a box of matches.

While the increase in child benefit is very welcome, there were no increases in child dependant allowances and thus we have the cruellest rub of all. For example, a long term unemployed man with three dependent children will receive £139.60 per week compared to £137.20 before the budget a rise of only 1.75 per cent. This is a case of absolute cruelty.

Bodies such as the Irish National Organisation of the Unemployed and the Conference of Religious of Ireland have echoed our deep regret over the 1995 budget. They called it a budget of half measures and huge disappointments.It was a budget in which the real issues associated with poverty and unemployment were not addressed, a budget in which we saw a decline in real terms in social welfare payments. Yet again it is those who can least afford it who end up bearing the brunt of the so-called benefits of this budget. Those thousands on the edge of survival, who depend on social welfare, yet again carry the can and, in this case, the dregs in the can.

This year more than ever the Government, because of the prudent work of the previous Government, should have and could have made a difference to those depending on social welfare. This budget could have made a difference. There has been absolutely no attempt by the Government to make any sort of advancement towards an adequate level of social welfare as set down by the Commission on Social Welfare in 1986.

At the outset of his Budget Statement the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, said that the 1995 budget would be the first of his three budgets prior to the next general election. If the Minister's social welfare policy continues in this vein, those particularly dependent on social welfare will be delighted if they never see the next two budgets.

As I have already said and as Deputy Bell said earlier, we want to give credit [1929] where credit is due and we welcome the child benefit increases. Similarly, we welcome the proposals in relation to back to school payments, free cross-Border journeys for all pensioners North and South of the Border — first suggested by the Fianna Fáil Women's Association — increased grants to various community and voluntary services and the further extension of the free colour TV licence to all social welfare pensioners currently receiving an electricity allowance. The Minister has followed the lead of the Fianna Fáil led Government in these measures. However, these represent a miserly set of welcome benefits in an altogether derisory budget for those dependent on social welfare. For those thousands on the lowest rates of social welfare, the 1995 budget saw the abandonment of the strategy of giving above inflation increases to those on the lower rates of social welfare payments. The 1995 budget has given its lowest increases in the area of social welfare for over 30 years.

As I said, the ESRI reported that the economy had grown by a massive 6.8 per cent last year. That is great news, but what about those who will never have an opportunity to share in this massive growth? According to the ESRI the recent budget could be regarded as a missed opportunity. Given the scale of economic growth, that the ESRI forecasts for 1995 suggest that the economy will continue to grow steadily, competitiveness will be maintained with interest rates and inflation remaining at relatively low levels and both business and consumer confidence remaining strong, why was more funding not provided on 8 February to help those dependent on social welfare?

By laying this motion before the House this evening we in Fianna Fáil call on the Government to give a substantial increase in the general level of social welfare already provided to at least bring it up to the levels normally provided.

Deputy Woods remarked to the House on 14 February 1995 that the [1930] Taoiseach said his rainbow coalition Government was giving historically low increases to enhance the incentive to work among people on social welfare. Both the Labour and Democratic Left parties supported this approach but, as Deputy Woods pertinently asked, since when did the old age pensioner, the widow, the invalid or the homeless person need an incentive to go out to work? Those people cannot work, but why are they being penalised? This attitude is consistent at least with the old Fine Gael Ernest Blythe way of doing things. What those people need is an adequate level of support payments, and the support of all the community if they are to survive in meagre comfort. They are entitled to that support but did not get it from the rainbow coalition Government.

Echoing our views, Vincent Browne recently commented that the poorer sections of society have little to rejoice about in this budget. He stated that the unemployed are now to be the sole members of society not to benefit from the projected growth. While those in employment will gain from the 2.5 per cent increase in earnings due under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, the unemployed will gain nothing from that. As Vincent Browne succinctly, put it, this is the agenda to which this left-dominated Government is committed.

What will the Government do? That the budget largely fails to cater for those most vulnerable in our society does not and cannot mean that their cause will not be comprehensively addressed for at least another 12 months. An increasing focus must be placed on ensuring the necessary effective and caring policies are rapidly developed for implementation at the earliest possible date. In this regard a number of issues must be taken into account. For example, we may not be fully aware of the degree of social welfare dependency in our society with in excess of 40 per cent of the community in receipt of such payments. That means a very high proportion of Government decisions have either [1931] direct or indirect relevance for the social welfare sector.

Another critical point is that when attempting to address the issue of poverty effective Government action is all important and the only thing that counts. Aspirations and sympathy are of absolutely no value. I stress the failure of this budget to attack the roots of marked social inequality in the country, since nothing less than the future social cohesion of our society is at stake.

Whatever happened to the unprecedented opportunity inherited by the rainbow as a legacy from the outgoing Fianna Fáil-Labour Government? I will finish by quoting the Conference of Religious of Ireland. It states:

The 1995 budget provided Government with Ireland's best opportunity in more than thirty years to tackle the poverty, unemployment and exclusion which affects a substantial portion of the country's population. The Government missed this opportunity.Instead of giving priority to tackling poverty, unemployment and exclusion it has once again produced a budget which benefits the better off more than it benefits the poor. Budget '95 has failed poor people and unemployed people. The poor have waited too long.

The 2.5 per cent increase in social welfare is the lowest in 30 years and we, in Fianna Fáil, are totally opposed to it and will vote against it.

Miss M. Wallace:  I wish to share my time with Deputy Hughes.

An Ceann Comhairle:  I am sure that is satisfactory.

Miss M. Wallace:  In his budget speech on 8 February the Minister for Finance, Deputy Quinn, listed as his first of five social welfare objectives, the protection of the spending power of social welfare recipients. It is precisely because of his failure to live up to those objectives that this motion is before us this evening. [1932] Many old age pensioners, particularly widows, are very disappointed with many of the provisions in the first budget of this Government. It simply cannot be held by this Government that it is protecting the spending power of the weakest group in our society when it has set an increase below its projected rate of inflation for the coming year.

During the past three weeks since the shocking announcement of the social welfare increase in the budget it has been pointed out by many Fianna Fáil speakers that it is the lowest increase introduced in 30 years. It must surely be taken as reflecting a specific move in Government policy. It is extraordinary that Deputies who sat on this side of the House and spoke with what seemed to be sincerity about various percentage increases in last year's budget and previous budgets should on entering Government act in a completely opposite manner. Over the past few years we have become used to the parties now forming the Government ritually condemning Fianna Fáil for a supposed failure to care for the poorest in society. One would have thought that when they entered Government they would do wonders. In spite of this, recent Fianna Fáil Governments have consistently increased social welfare payments by at the very least the rate of inflation and frequently a good deal more. Those increases were criticised time and time again.

It has been our consistent policy to seek to use part of additional resources available to Government through economic growth to improve social welfare provisions. Given the favourable economic forecasts for this year, it is extraordinary that this Government did not do likewise. Our theory is based on a clear understanding that social welfare cohesion — a term used in the speeches of members of this Government — requires a policy. Social cohesion is frequently talked about, but unless there is a policy and a clear commitment to it we will go nowhere.

The projections of the Department of Finance on inflation are at the lower [1933] end of the range, at 2.5 per cent to 3 per cent. It seems likely that in order to provide a fig-leaf to cover the embarrassment of the tiny social welfare increase to the socialist conscience of the Labour party and Democratic Left, the Government deliberately chose to err on the side of wild optimism with regard to inflation rates. This is no good to the people who have suffered as a result of the tiny increases given in this budget which leaves them less well off. While optimistic financial projections are part and parcel of Government, they are dangerous when used with such a small foundation as has been the case this year.

It will surely not have escaped the attention of Ministers that yesterday the Central Bank issued a warning that it is expected inflation will increase in the short term. That expectation is based on the continued buoyancy of the economy and the general demand for goods and services. Increased inflation means that pensioners and widows will get less value for their money. What is striking about that forecast is that nobody is surprised by it and even before the proposed social welfare increases are awarded to the people, it is clear that inflation will increase by at the very least 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent above social welfare increases. The inflation rate will have increased in advance of the payment of these pitiful social welfare increases.

The shortfall of 0.5 per cent to 1 per cent may not initially seem to be too great; however, it is significant to the old, widows, the single who are unemployed and the many categories relying solely on the pitiful 2.5 per cent increase to protect their living standards. It is extraordinary that members of Fianna Fáil should have to try to get this message across to members of the Government who when in Opposition lectured us for many years when we introduced proper increases to the people who count. It will become increasingly significant when the shortfall evident this year multiplies. It is not just the loss this year that counts for these people, it will [1934] be the loss that will ensue in the coming years because they were treated so badly in the 1995 budget.

A striking feature of the Government's decision to hold down social welfare levels is that it simply cannot be argued that there was no alternative, especially this year. This Government has rightly become notorious for taking a deliberate decision to put the concerns of hugely profitable financial institutions above those of the needy in this society. One would think the people on social welfare would come first, but this did not happen this year. It is to be hoped that the Government as a whole has not moved closer to the Fine Gael Party's position on social welfare. Throughout the country people are genuinely shocked. They thought, having listened to Democratic Left and the Labour Party over the years, that this would definitely be their year — a year of buoyancy in the economy — and that those on social welfare would benefit. This has been a major disappointment to those in receipt of social welfare. People are baffled by the attitude of the Government following their miserable 2.5 per cent increase in the budget.

The Leader of Fianna Fáil, Deputy Bertie Ahern, has already cited the critical comments of the Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, on social welfare increases when they were announced by Fianna Fáil Ministers in budgets since 1987. Perhaps the Minister and others thought they would never be in Government. They criticised Fianna Fáil increases ranging from 3 per cent to 11 per cent. Today, they sit back and try to justify a miserable increase of 2.5 per cent which they put through. It is not good enough to sit on this side of the House and say one thing and then go into Government and do something completely different. It is very disappointing for those who have listened to the rhetoric of these people in Opposition to find that they have turned their coats since going into Government.

This motion points out that the [1935] miserly increase in social welfare proposed by the Government will have significant adverse effects on large numbers of the poorest people in our society. It is a genuine concern and annoyance. This increase is set at a level which does not enable people to maintain their standard of living at a time when the economy is buoyant.

This increase is a result of a deliberate decision of the new Administration to choose to use the best fiscal outlook in a generation to the benefit of financial institutions. This is what is so disappointing for the people on social welfare who had hoped for much more from the people who formed the Government because of all they had heard in the past and because of the buoyancy in the economy. Because they have been let down so badly and will have less money than in the past due to inflation and the 2.5 per cent increase, they are bitterly disappointed and will not forget it.

Mr. Hughes:  Frequently during Private Members' time the public gallery and the corridors of this House are full to capacity. Other than occasional visitors tonight the group we are trying to represent are not here. The Minister represents the most vulnerable, the poor, the voiceless, the hidden Ireland. That is why his responsibility is even more burdensome than that of many other Ministers who, on a daily basis, are visited by sophisticated lobby groups and organisations representing sectional interests. Some of those groups were successful in having their interests catered for in the budget, with generous tax reliefs and allowances being given. That suggests it was a reward for work budget. How thankful the banks must have been when at one stroke of the pen they benefited to the extent of over £40 million without any public demand or need for that measure.

As an Opposition party, we have a task to carry out. We will do so fearlessly and will represent the most defenceless in our community. That is [1936] the reason I join with my colleagues this evening in supporting the motion so well put by Deputies Joe Walsh and Mary Wallace. In the Budget Statement of 8 February 1995, Official Report, columns Nos. 1801 and 1802, the Minister for Finance stated:

The annual budget is about establishing priorities. It reflects choices and it affirms values. It is an indication of the type of society that we want for ourselves over the next 12 months and beyond... It will demonstrate a commitment to the social fabric of our community, one of the most valuable assets we have.

I welcome the emphasis on rewarding work but I question its intended purpose to strengthen social solidarity. All the economic commentators and others tell us that this country is enjoying sustained economic growth, falling unemployment and will continue to prosper for the foreseeable future. This scenario was not achieved overnight but by prudent management of the economy over the past number of years. The fruits of this labour are not being distributed in an equitable way when large financial institutions gain more from measures in this budget than the 14 per cent of the population aged over 65 years. Added to that 14 per cent are the single unemployed and childless unemployed couples. The 2.5 per cent increase is best described as miserly and uncaring.

The spin doctors try to equate the level of increase to the rate of inflation but I question the method of calculating the inflation rate. An old aged pensioner living in a rural area invariably has to depend on a private hackney service once or twice a week to go to purchase food from shops in his or her local town or village. How is the rate of inflation calculated? Is it based on a particular group of citizens. Clearly, a person in a large town has many more advantages than a person in a sparsely populated rural area where the cost of living is considerably higher. Our prediction on budget day that the rate of inflation would not be 2.5 per cent is [1937] now borne out by the ESRI who say it will be 2.7 per cent or 2.8 per cent. Today's evening newspapers carry headlines predicting that bank interest rates will increase in the next few weeks. The rate of inflation this year will be closer to 3 per cent. Social welfare recipients, as a result of this budget, will suffer a real loss. As the Minister for Finance said, the budget reflects choices and affirms values. On the social welfare side, Fianna Fáil rejects the choices made and does not subscribe to the values as indicated in the social solidarity section of the Budget Statement.

Last year the Government provided £4 million for housing aid for the elderly.This ensured that the severe backlog would be tackled. It is a worthwhile scheme much appreciated by those who would not be eligible under the disabled person's scheme operated by local authorities.A sum of £4 million was provided in 1994 but this year it was reduced by 100 per cent. The £4 million in 1994 was made up of the usual £2 million allocation topped up with £2 million from the proceeds of the tax amnesty. It would not have been asking much for the same provision this year.

This year's provision represents a 100 per cent reduction for a scheme primarily directed towards the elderly to carry out necessary repairs where they are deemed by the health board not to be able to afford it themselves. Accordingly, we will be faced with an increasing backlog of cases and the elderly will have to wait for substantial periods for the carrying out of necessary housing repairs because the health boards who administer the scheme will not be in a position to accede to the many requests. They can only accede to the most urgent requests. It is easy to say that last year was an exception, that £2 million of the £4 million was tax amnesty money — I accept that that position cannot be replicated this year — but efforts should be made to ensure that the scheme is operated at last year's level. Last year substantial work was carried out under the FÁS element of the scheme. It is those people without a voice, the silent [1938] Ireland, who will suffer if action is not taken in this area.

The phasing out of the bank levy over three years and the reduction in the rate of corporation profits tax to 38 per cent seems perverse when compared to the social welfare increases. The Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte, stated that the removal of the bank levy was Exchequer neutral. However, I do not accept that assertion, an effort to fool the public, and the true cost will be £22 million. The removal of this levy will improve the cashflow of the banks and leave them with money in their hands for a much longer period. If the Government is in the business of removing levies and does not think it can give anything more than the 2.5 per cent increase given in the budget, it should consider making a gesture in the Finance Bill to the 14 per cent of people over 65 years and remove the 2 per cent levy paid by them in the form of a hidden tax on house insurance, car insurance etc. I tabled a parliamentary question to the Minister for Finance asking the total income generated by this levy across all sectors. The cost of removing this levy for people over 65 years of age who take out house and car insurance would be very little and would indicate that this is a caring Government.

The justice office of the Conference of Religious in Ireland has pointed out that following the budget a single unemployed person will be £1.50 a week or 21.5 pence a day better off, a single employed person earning £13,000 will be £6.60 a week better off, a person on unemployment assistance with an adult dependant will get an increase of £2.40 per week or less than 13p per day and employed people will get an increase of 2.5 per cent in earnings due under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work, under which the unemployed will not gain anything. To put this into perspective, the £40 million given to the banks through the removal of the levy and the reduction in the corporation [1939] profits tax could have financed a substantial additional increase in social welfare allowances. The choices made, the values affirmed and the priorities established by the Government do not take into account the old, the widowed and the majority of the unemployed without children. Those dependent on social welfare will be left further behind as the sophisticated lobby groups make further progress in their demands.

As is normal, the Minister was invited to speak on a radio programme on the Thursday after the Budget Statement. I listened very intently to that programme in my car while driving from Dublin to the west. I cannot recall the name of the programme but I remember that all the people who phoned in, including the first person who came from an offshore island, gave the Minister a very hard time.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Fianna Fáil had its cumanns well organised that day.

Mr. Hughes:  The first caller came from either Inishturk or one of the Aran Islands, neither of which is in my constituency.I suspect that some of the callers came from the Minister's constituency as they seemed to know him quite well. Despite his best efforts, excellent radio techniques——

Proinsias De Rossa:  Thank you very much.

Mr. Hughes:  ——and experience of public life, he could not defend the indefensible.Even though he interrupted them——

Mr. O'Donoghue:  He is good at that.

Mr. Hughes:  ——they demanded that they be given the right to make their point. They told him in no uncertain terms how bitterly disappointed they were in him. Given the policies and points of view which members of Democratic Left so skillfully articulated in Opposition, they thought they would [1940] have a voice in Government which would at least ensure that they were looked after.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): They did not have a friend in the previous Government.

Mr. Hughes:  Having regard to the priorities established by the Government, it is clear that these people do not have a friend in Government. If one looks at Fianna Fáil's record in Government one will see that the increase last year was 3 per cent——

Proinsias De Rossa:  I have all the figures with me.

Mr. Hughes:  ——while the previous year it was 4 per cent, and 5 per cent the year before that.

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy should go back another year.

Mr. Hughes:  One can always look back, and I wonder how many people are looking forward. If the Government stays in office it will have had 120 weeks to set its priorities, affirm its values and indicates its choices.

Proinsias De Rossa:  We will have another five years after that.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  I doubt it.

Mr. Hughes:  A considerable number of people are disappointed with the budget. I extend to the Minister an open invitation to visit rural Ireland and talk to the people. They will tell him whether it was a good budget and whether his negotiations with his Cabinet colleagues were successful on this occasion. I will give the Minister the benefit of the doubt as this is his first time to sit at the Cabinet table.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Deputy is very kind.

Mr. Hughes:  If he remains in office for another year, hopefully I will not be [1941] in the same position this time next year supporting a similar motion. I wish him the best in ensuring that the terrible mistake made in this budget will not be repeated. The Government has shown a total lack of concern for those people who have made this country what it is today by dividing the fruits of their labour among the sophisticated lobby groups such as the banks and middle classes who successfully ensured that the residential property tax was rolled back. Hopefully those voiceless people whom we represent and who cannot afford to come to Dublin to lobby the Minister will be given a better hearing next year. I support this motion.

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  I move amendment No. 1:

To delete all words after “That” and substitute the following:

“Dáil Éireann endorses the radical approach taken by the Government in the 1995 budget in

— introducing wide ranging reforms in the tax and social welfare systems to stimulate employment and thereby make significant inroads into our unacceptable levels of unemployment;

— providing the largest ever shift of resources to the social welfare area, amounting to £212 million in a full year, for all those who need assistance, from youth to old age, at work or in education;

— targeting poverty directly by providing for an unprecedented increase of £7 per month in child benefit, at a cost of over £100 million in a full year;

— allocating £60 million as a first step, to pay the legally determined entitlements of married women to equality payment

and commends the Government, in particular, for bringing forward the general inflation-linked increase in [1942] the basic rates of social welfare payments by six weeks from the end of July as in previous years to early June and mid June.”

I ask the Fianna Fáil Deputies who have referred to “miserly increases and the worst increases for 30 years” to look at their party's record in 1987——

Miss M. Wallace:  Those are the points the Minister made when he was on this side of the House.

Proinsias De Rossa:  ——when the increases given in social welfare amounted to £33 million. This year the increases amount to £90 million. There are other statistics I could give. In 1989 when Fianna Fáil went into Government with the Progressive Democrats they gave a princely increase of 3 per cent in general rates, but inflation that year was 4 per cent.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  What about the 11 per cent for the long term unemployed?

Proinsias De Rossa:  It is all there in black and white. I ask Fianna Fáil spokespersons to at least check their sources before coming in here to mislead the House and the public.

Mr. O'Donoghue:  So should the Government.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The motion in the name of Deputies Joe Walsh and Mary Wallace is a measure of the political dishonesty and bankruptcy of Fianna Fáil. If it wants to create difficulties for the Government or embarrass Democratic Left it will have to do a lot better than this.

This Government brought in, with less than six weeks to prepare it, an innovative and reforming budget which struck the right balance between social and economic objectives. I am particularly pleased with the social welfare provisions which have delivered an additional £90 million for social welfare and related improvements in 1995 and [1943] some £212 million in a full year. More importantly, the range of improvements and increases which we are implementing have been achieved without any of the social welfare cutbacks which were the hallmarks of virtually every budget when Fianna Fáil held office.

The note of dishonesty was struck by Fianna Fáil long before budget day. When the Estimates were published the Fianna Fáil spokesperson on Finance, Deputy McCreevy of the famous “Dirty Dozen” cuts in social welfare, attacked them on the basis that no provision was made for the payment of the social welfare Christmas bonus. As a former Minister, Deputy McCreevy knew quite well that provision has never been included in the Estimates for the Christmas bonus and that the money is always provided during the year, as it will be this year. This did not deter Deputy McCreevy who was quite prepared to bend the truth and frighten people on social welfare simply to score a cheap political point.

Fianna Fáil is equally dishonest in its criticism of the 2.5 per cent increase in the general rates. This comes from the party which took eight years to move social welfare payments to the priority rates recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare and give an increase of less than the inflation rate in 1989.

The Fianna Fáil Leader, Deputy Ahern, is on record as saying that he believed the increase should have been 3 per cent, but what he failed to say is that the difference between the increase given and the increase Fianna Fáil says should have been given is a princely one half penny in the pound.

I have already said that the 1995 budget represents a fundamentally new — long overdue — approach. I do not expect Fianna Fáil to support this approach because it could have introduced it but refused to do so. This fresh approach is not simply because this is the first budget in which Democratic Left has had an input or because it has [1944] been introduced by a multi-party Coalition, but it reflects a balance of priorities of each of the parties in Government.

There are three characteristics of this year's budget which are essential to achieving that balance of priorities among the Coalition parties. It is a balanced budget, a reforming budget and a budget which provides a sound base from which we can move forward to achieve the social and economic objectives enshrined in the Government's programme for renewal. Again, I do not expect Fianna Fáil to support those objectives; they are the objectives of this Government, not of Fianna Fáil or the previous Government.

It is balanced both financially and politically. Most of all, it strikes the right balance in terms of social and economic objectives, between social welfare increases and reforms aimed at alleviating those at greatest risk of poverty and tax and PRSI reforms aimed at making inroads into our unacceptable levels of unemployment.

There is a fundamental new approach and new thinking in this budget. The days of “what did we do last year” are at an end. Fresh thinking and new approaches are essential if we are to address the major problems facing us.

It was that fresh approach which convinced me that a thin spread of available resources across all social welfare recipients was not the way to go, it would not solve any problems and I will defend against all comers my decision to make a direct assault on child poverty by allocating more than £100 million — more than half the extra resources available to me — to a significant increase in child benefit.

Fianna Fáil should note that the unemployed of this country, including smallholders, are caring for 233,000 children, lone parents are caring for 60,000 children, widows and widowers are caring for 19,000 children, old age pensioners are caring for 6,000 children and recipients of family income supplement are caring for 32,000 children, all of whom received increases beyond the [1945] wildest dreams of what Fianna Fáil thought could be achieved in the budget.

The fundamental tax and PRSI reforms, for the first time in a number of years, will primarily benefit low paid workers. In recent years low paid workers have been all but ignored in favour of applying tax concessions to relatively high earners.

Mr. M. Ahern:  That is factually incorrect.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats are at one in giving tax breaks to the most wealthy and claiming that the benefits would trickle down to the poor. We are introducing reform from the bottom up.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  The Minister has taken over.

Proinsias De Rossa:  This budget redresses the bias that Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats introduced in terms of what they called radical tax reform.

Mr. M. Ahern:  We started it.

Proinsias De Rossa:  High earners will, of course, also gain from the positive knock-on effects of the tax and PRSI changes which will be implemented from the bottom up.

The reductions in employers' PRSI and corporation tax address the concerns of the business sector who have long maintained that the burden of taxation acts as a disincentive to employment.The budget tackles these issues and I look forward to the delivery of the jobs which that sector has promised would flow from such reforms.

Tax reform is, however, only one part of the overall strategy to be undertaken in the lifetime of this Government. The social welfare system has a fundamental part to play in the shift of income and resources in our society. The social welfare measures taken in this budget represent a major and radical step towards [1946] stimulating enterprise and job creation and towards rewarding work and ensuring social solidarity between those who are better off and those who are less so.

This budget recognises that the social welfare system must be proactive in facilitating employment and experiments with employment so that citizens can react positively to the new forms of work emerging. The labour market has undergone significant shifts in terms of increased flexibility and volatility with many changes in both the hours people work and the type of work that is needed. These changes must be paralleled by changes in how we deliver social welfare. We must aim to ensure greater flexibility in income support and social services so that no man or woman in our society is reluctant or afraid to take up any form of work — however atypical or unorthodox — because of fear of ending up worse off for their efforts.

In the 1995 budget, I adopted a twofold approach in addressing these issues, firstly, to increase social welfare payments in a focused way and, secondly, to tackle the traps in our system which prevent people from taking up work and other opportunities.

The resources available to me to undertake these changes are very significant.The cost of the social welfare improvements announced on budget day will amount to £212 million in a full year. This is the largest single allocation of resources on an annual basis to the social welfare area since the foundation of the State. That is an incontrovertible fact. It is, for example, 35 per cent higher than was allocated in 1994. What is of real significance, however — and what distinguishes this from all previous budgets — is the way we seek to tackle the fundamental problem of child poverty.

My decision to commit more than half of these resources to providing a significant increase in child benefit indicates my firm and unwavering commitment to those who are at greatest risk of poverty in our society — children. The £7 per child per month across the board [1947] increase in child benefit represents a very significant increase in the State's contribution to rearing children. For some odd and peculiar reason Fianna Fáil seem to think that this increase is miserly. It boggles the mind. Child benefit is widely recognised as the most effective means of targeting poverty because those at most risk tend to be large families. In the vast majority of cases the payment is made to women and in many cases is the woman's only independent source of income. Research on Income Distribution within Irish Households, published recently by the Combat Poverty Agency, showed that women tended to spend more of their income on children and on household expenses than did men, so this payment is particularly well directed. Specifically in relation to child benefit, the survey found that 90 per cent of the payment was spent either directly on the children, or on general housekeeping expenses.

The substantial increase in child benefit also serves to address the second fundamental objective of this year's improvements in social welfare — that of facilitating employment. Child-related additions to existing social welfare payments have long been recognised as contributing to the financial obstacles to taking up employment. Directing income support for children through child benefit will relieve one of the worst poverty and unemployment traps in the existing system, arising from the loss of child support when a person takes up employment. Child benefit is not lost when a person takes up employment and it is not taxed, while only 7 per cent of child benefit goes to people with an income in excess of £25,000.

The child benefit improvement is just the first step in meeting this Government's commitment to creating a form of basic income for children. Having established a good basic child benefit payment, the basis is laid for the development of the child benefit supplement.This will be payable in addition to child benefit to all families [1948] whose income is below a certain level irrespective of whether that income is derived from social welfare or employment or a combination of the two. The new supplement will incorporate both the child dependant allowances which are paid to people on social welfare and the family income supplement which is payable to people on low income from employment.

To listen to Fianna Fáil one would think that social welfare had been cut. Of course, they were silent in this House when Deputy McCreevy, as Minister for Social Welfare, severely cut social welfare payments and entitlements. People without children also benefit from the social welfare budget improvements. The 2.5 per cent increase in weekly personal and adult dependant payments guarantees that everyone getting a social welfare payment will keep pace with the predicted rate of inflation this year. In this way, their real income position is being maintained while many in this category will also benefit from other improvements.

This increase is also in line with the 2-2.5 per cent increase which most employed workers will receive this year under the Programme for Competitiveness and Work negotiated by ICTU. To separate out the 2.5 per cent increase from other improvements gives an unbalanced and distorted picture of the impact of the general rate increase. Let us look at the impact of the budget improvements as a whole in a number of typical examples. A couple with four children in receipt of long term unemployment assistance will receive a new weekly payment of £180.03, including the child benefit increase. This amounts to a weekly increase of £8.86 or 5.2 per cent, i.e. more than double the general increase of 2.5 per cent. If one of their children is 21 years of age and still in full-time education, the family could benefit from a further £13.20 a week by way of the continuation of the child [1949] dependant allowance up to age 22. Similarly, if one of the children is 18 years of age, child benefit of either £27 or £32 a month will be payable for them from September until they reach 19 years of age.

A couple with three children on either disability benefit or unemployment benefit will get an additional £7.25 a week, i.e. an increase of 4.8 per cent, bringing their weekly payment to £159.45 when account is taken of the child benefit increase. As set out in the example, the family could also benefit from the continuation of child dependent allowances and additional child benefit depending on the ages of their children.

A social welfare pensioner getting a contributory old age or retirement pension with a spouse under 66 years of age and additional income of £8.00 a week will get an increase of £9.70 a week or 8.3 per cent bringing their new weekly payment to £125.90. This increase includes the fuel allowance of £5.00 a week payable where additional income in these circumstances does not exceed £10.00 a week. They will also get the benefit of a free colour television licence.

An important point which appears to be missed by virtually all commentators, including Fianna Fáil Members of this House, is that bringing forward by six weeks the date on which the increases are paid, in fact, will give social welfare recipients more money in 1995 than they would have received if 3 per cent had been paid in late July. Therefore, while the debate has focused on 2.5 per cent versus 3 per cent, the people on the street will have more money in their pockets in 1995 with a 2.5 per cent increase paid from early or mid-June 1995 than a 3 per cent increase delayed until the end of July.

Next year, I hope to give the benefit of the increases at an even earlier stage in the year so that social welfare recipients will be on a par with taxpayers as [1950] far as annual budget changes are concerned.If Fianna Fáil ever get back into power I am quite certain they will push it back again to the end of July, or even later, because that is what they have done in every budget. It was nearly the end of the summer before people got their budgetary increases. I am now bringing them back.

Miss M. Wallace:  And inflation has passed it out.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Fianna Fáil has totally misjudged the public reaction to the budget and to the social welfare provisions and what is more totally misread the reaction of its own supporters. The only reliable information so far on public reaction to the budget was contained in The Irish Times/MRBI poll published on 18 February, 10 days after the budget. This poll revealed a far more favourable reaction to this budget than those produced by Deputy Ahern in 1993 and 1994. Of those polled 85 per cent believed that their standard of living would rise or remain the same, as against just 13 per cent who feared that their standard of living would decline.

The increase in child benefit — the cornerstone of the social welfare provisions — was identified as by far the most positive element in the budget, being listed by 25 per cent of those polled as the most beneficial element. Twice as many people regarded the general increase in social welfare as a beneficial element as against those who believed that the increases were not enough.

It is clear also from the poll that Fianna Fáil voters are taking no notice of the nonsense they have been hearing from their party spokespersons and are making up their own minds on the budget. Of Fianna Fáil voters 87 per cent believed that their standard of living would rise or remain the same — 2 per cent higher than among all voters. Again the increase in child benefit was identified by Fianna Fáil voters as the most positive element in the budget and [1951] the attitude to the social welfare increases among Fianna Fáil voters broadly matched those of all voters. It is very clear that this motion does not represent the views of Fianna Fáil voters on the budget in general or on the social welfare provisions in particular.

Miss M. Wallace:  The Minister should read The Irish Times.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The other social and economic objectives this Government wants to achieve in its period in office are also reflected in other improvements in the social welfare area announced as part of the budget. They are all important developments and warrant full discussion in their own right.

On the issue of children, I have given recognition to the fact that children are remaining in full-time education for longer. I have extended the age at which child benefit is paid to include 18 year-olds, including those attending FÁS courses for which no weekly course allowance is payable. Under present arrangements child benefit ceases to be payable once a child turns 18 irrespective of whether or not full-time education is being pursued. This represents between £324 and £384 per annum for each child for whom child benefit continues to be paid.

Having children in full-time education is particularly expensive for families dependent on social welfare and to help alleviate this I have extended the age at which child dependant allowances are payable with long term social welfare payments to include 21 years olds in full time education. Will the Deputies oppose this as well?

In terms of families with older children who are not in education but who live at home, the minimum weekly payment for those who qualify for unemployment assistance will increase from £10 to £25, a whopping 150 per cent increase. I have not heard the Deputies complain about this. This measure is in [1952] response to the concern expressed generally about young people being forced to leave home to qualify for an unemployment payment. In addition, the assessment of the benefit of board and lodgings while at home in future will apply only to those living at home with their parents. This means that men and women living with relatives, brothers and sisters, will not be obliged to produce evidence of their relatives income but will be assessed in their own right.

The carer's allowance contributes to caring for the incapacitated in our society. I will introduce significant improvements to the scheme aimed at increasing its availability. The relaxation of the means test applied to the individual dedicated to caring will mean that the spouse of the carer can have income of up to £150 a week from any source and the carer can still qualify for a payment.

The new arrangements to be introduced for deserted wives and lone parents will be a significant step forward in providing income support for people raising children on their own. The new scheme will be non-discriminatory, will abolish the need to prove desertion, will cover both men and women and will be non-judgmental. Payment will not depend on the reasons for their sole parenthood but simply on the fact of their sole parenthood and on their earnings and the number of children being cared for. No one will lose out as a result of the change.

Mr. N. Ahern:  We should not encourage it.

Mr. M. Ahern:  Only society.

Proinsias De Rossa:  What did Deputy Noel Ahern say? Would he please speak up?

(Interruptions.)

Proinsias De Rossa:  Is the Deputy opposed to abolishing the concept of desertion and in favour of insisting that [1953] women must go through the humiliating process of having to prove they were deserted by their spouses?

Mr. N. Ahern:  I am against encouraging it.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Members already know my views on the issue of married women's social welfare equality payments.The Deputies' colleague, the former Minister for Social Welfare, does. This issue stems from 1984 when the equal treatment directive 79/7 should have been implemented. Successive Governments had six years to implement that directive properly but failed to do so. This failure has resulted in a long series of court proceedings, which I was one of the few Members of the Dáil to predict, almost a decade ago. The official text of the judgment of the High Court in what amounted to two test cases on this issue was made available on 10 February last. That decision of the High Court is being examined by my Department in consultation with the office of the Attorney General.

The programme for A Government of Renewal outlines this Government's commitment——

Mr. N. Ahern:  Is the Minister backtracking?

Proinsias De Rossa:  Does the Deputy want to hear it?

Miss M. Wallace:  The Minister is not addressing the motion.

Proinsias De Rossa:  This is sore for the Deputies because they insisted on dragging women through the courts instead of paying them what they were entitled to.

Mr. M. Ahern:  It will be sore for the taxpayer.

Mr. N. Ahern:  Would the Minister have ignored legal advice?

Proinsias De Rossa:  The programme [1954] for A Government of Renewal outlines the Government's commitment to pay the legally determined entitlements of married women to social welfare equality payments.

Miss M. Wallace:  Pensioners and widows have been ignored.

Proinsias De Rossa:  In keeping with this commitment I will submit proposals for consideration by the Government to deal with the implications of the court's decision. In the meantime the Government has already provided £60 million as a first step in meeting its obligations. Even when we tot up the figures of £212 million, £60 million and £5 million——

Miss M. Wallace:  How much will pensioners and widows receive?

Proinsias De Rossa:  ——the Deputies opposite still tell us that this is the most miserly social welfare budget in 30 years. They know that is nonsense and ought to be ashamed of themselves.

(Interruptions.)

Mr. B O'Keeffe:  The Minister is continuing to dig a hole for himself.

Mr. Rabbitte:  The Minister is inviting interruptions.

Miss M. Wallace:  Where is the increase for widows and pensioners?

Proinsias De Rossa:  We are also providing over £5 million extra this year for improvements in various employment support services as well as community and voluntary services. In addition, extra funding is being provided to the Combat Poverty Agency while my Department is to take over responsibility for the National Social Service Board. A special allocation is being provided for this board to develop an integrated computerised information system.

As usual on this and other issues, Fianna Fáil is talking out of both sides [1955] of its mouth. On the one hand Deputy Walsh is criticising the Government for not spending enough while on the other Deputy McCreevy has been telling Fianna Fáil's corporate backers that the Government has spent too much and is being reckless with the national finances.

Mr. Rabbitte:  He almost shut down the Department of Social Welfare.

Miss M. Wallace:  It has been given to the banks.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I reject the hypocrisy of Fianna Fáil and the Progressive Democrats who have not featured here tonight. The newly discovered interest of the Progressive Democrats in those on social welfare will fool no one, least of all the poor. In addition, few people attach any credence to the criticism from Fianna Fáil about the alleged inadequacies of the social welfare increases given its own miserable record in office——

Miss M. Wallace:  That is what the Minister said when he was on this side of the House.

Proinsias De Rossa:  ——and particularly the damage inflicted on the social welfare system by Deputy McCreevy during his short term of office. He was only nine months in office and did more damage to the social welfare system than anyone else in the past 30 years. Fianna Fáil could have provided for an increase of one third in child benefit but failed to do so.

Miss M. Wallace:  We looked after pensioners and widows.

Proinsias De Rossa:  It could have given married women their rights under the equal treatment directive but failed to do so. It could have begun the process of harmonising the tax and social welfare systems but failed to do so. It [1956] could have tried to eliminate the poverty traps in which people on social welfare find themseves but failed to do so. The Government has made a good start and will continue the process.

Mr. J. Walsh:  It has provided for an increase of only 2.5 per cent.

Miss M. Wallace:  Nothing for the old.

Mr. B O'Keeffe:  I wish to share my time with Deputies Michael Ahern and Noel Ahern.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  That is acceptable.

Mr. B O'Keeffe:  I compliment the members of the Labour Party who are in a confident mood and so much at ease with the Minister for Social Welfare, a man to whom they would not speak and would not contemplate going into Government with two and a half years ago.

Mr. Durkan:  That is typical of Fianna Fáil.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Members of Fianna Fáil do not speak to each other.

Mr. B O'Keeffe:  The Minister for Social Welfare, Deputy De Rossa, broke the budget record for the Socialist Left with a contented smile that comes with a Ministerial car. He had the opportunity to ensure respectability for his party——

Proinsias De Rossa:  My natural inclination is to smile.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  ——and his smile signalled the end of an era of bickering, fighting for the less well off and the marginalised in our society. At last he could leave behind him the failed doctrine of socialism and Marxism, the hallmarks of The Workers' Party and which both he, his colleagues were trying to ditch. He had found a comfortable home for his colleagues in Government.

[1957]Proinsias De Rossa:  Did Marty Whelan write this script?

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  With the promise of a post of chairperson or convenor for the two remaining Deputies, on one of the four new committees to be set up, everyone was happy in the Democratic Left. They had all been looked after.

Mr. Durkan:  We will have to have a different director of elections on the next occasion.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  No one was more at peace with himself and the authorities than the Minister of State, Deputy Rabbitte.Was it not enlightening to see him sitting happily wedged between the constrasting colours of the rainbow which had delivered him the three-quarters full crock of gold. It was easy to forget or to be immune to the harsh realities from which they had come.

Mr. Durkan:  I think we have heard this before.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Democratic Left dictated to the electorate from whom it had drawn support and who eventually ensured it reached the lofty heights.

Proinsias De Rossa:  This sounds like an editorial in The Irish Socialist.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  Let us hear the Deputy without interruption.

Mr. Durkan:  It is very hard to listen to it.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Am I hurting the Deputy?

Mr. Durkan:  It sounds like bad poetry.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  It was only natural that the public would have great expectations of the present Minister for Social Welfare. They saw him as their friend, [1958] the Minister from whom they hoped for succour——

Proinsias De Rossa:  They still do.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  ——but it was not to be. The crock of gold they had anticipated was not delivered. Instead, like the banana, Democratic Left went in green, turned yellow and came out shop soiled.

I will give credit to the Minister for Social Welfare for harbouring the aspiration to deliver to the less well off in our society but I really mean it when I say Democratic Left went into Government “green”. It had no experience and did not realise what it was facing. It certainly had not bargained for Ruairí or Dick. “Not an inch” was the Labour maxim. Labour had Democratic Left where it wanted it. It remembered the jibes and taunts from Democrat Left when it was in Opposition.

Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): Remember the Attorney General? The Deputy's party thought it had him where it wanted him.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Labour thought it had Democratic Left sucked in because it had nowhere to go. What could Democratic Left expect from a Labour Tánaiste and a Labour Minister for Finance?

Mr. Durkan:  That is Fianna Fáil thinking.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle:  The Deputy, without interruption.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Now Labour had an opportunity to teach Democratic Left some home truths and be assured that while Deputy Spring was Tánaiste and Deputy De Rossa was Minister for Social Welfare, every effort would be made to weaken the strength of Democratic Left within the Left constituency. Faced with such an onslaught, Democratic Left wilted.

[1959]Mr. Browne:  (Carlow-Kilkenny): The Cork by-election was not bad for Democratic Left.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Is it any wonder that Deputy De Rossa, as Minister for Social Welfare, agreed to an abysmal 2.5 per cent increase for social welfare recipients.

Mr. Durkan:  A 6 per cent average.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  It is extraordinary that he would do that to widows and senior citizens. Is it any wonder, therefore, that Vincent Browne headed one of his newspaper articles “The Poor and the Oppressed Take a Real Battering in this Budget”. With regard to the bank levy, for instance, Democratic Left was party to writing off £36 million but Minister Rabbitte said that that really was not any great loss to the Exchequer because only £14 million was written off and that the cost to the Exchequer was only £22 million. Those are the comments of a man who expressed his dissatisfaction with the role of the banks over a protracted period. Minister Rabbitte forgot to mention that a reduction in corporation tax from 40 per cent to 38 per cent would mean a saving of £2 million in every £100 million which would effectively give approximately £7 million overall back to the banks. He forgot to mention also that if the bank levy remained as it was, there was an opportunity for this Minister for Social Welfare, who I believe feels deeply for the less well off and oppressed, to give an increase of 5 per cent——

Proinsias De Rossa:  It is 5 per cent now. The Deputy is trying to trump his Leader who said 3 per cent. Deputy Ahern referred only to 3 per cent.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  ——across the board and not to deprive widows and our senior citizens who have played a major role in our society.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Deputy wants to given them an extra 60p per week, is that it?

[1960]Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Interest rates are rising, inflation is likely to be 3 per cent and yet standard bearers of the poor saw fit to give an increase of only 2.5 per cent.

Mr. Durkan:  The Deputy is trying to talk up the interest rates.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  That is dishonest and ill-befits Democratic Left——

Proinsias De Rossa:  It is dishonest to have this rubbish coming out of the mouth of a Fianna Fáil TD.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  ——who, for years, have espoused in this House the under-privileged in our society. The Minister has enthused about the £7 per child increase.

Mr. Durkan:  Is the Deputy opposing it?

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  It would not pay the Socialist salmon and wine bill for one year as it amounts to approximately £1,400.

Mr. Durkan:  Is the Deputy saying he would do better?

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Let us consider the facts. A single unemployed person will be £1.50 better off; a person on a living alone allowance will get an extra 10p per week; a married couple will get an extra £2.40 per week but a single employed person earning £13,000 per year will get an additional £6 per week. A married couple earning £24,000 per year will get an extra £8.87 per week. Is this the real humiliation of Democratic Left?

The Minister is quite right to question the amount of money being paid in education fees. I know that in his heart he would not wish to abolish fees for a person earning £30,000, £50,000 or £200,000 per year. Yet, as a Socialist Minister, he has agreed that a person earning £200,000 per year can send children to college on reduced fees but he has given [1961] nothing to people on PLC courses who come from the less well off sectors of society. He has not done anything to alleviate their position.

Proinsias De Rossa:  That is not true.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  The Taoiseach said that Democratic Left will look after the constituency of the impoverished. I say to the Minister in all sincerity that he has let those people down badly.

The Minister has miscalculated figures from recent polls. The Minister's party is at 2 per cent in the most recent poll; Fianna Fáil is at 52 per cent.

Proinsias De Rossa:  A stable 2 per cent.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Has the budget been accepted by his electorate, the less well off in our society?

Mr. Durkan:  The Cork by-election was the last real poll.

Miss M. Wallace:  That was before the budget.

Mr. N. Ahern:  I am delighted to see the Minister here in the House. I miss him in the constituency these days.

Proinsias De Rossa:  The Deputy obviously was not there when I was.

Mr. N. Ahern:  I do not know whether the Minister has brought about any changes in his Department since taking up office but we cannot even get a reply from him now with his name on it. One can get the name of any public servant on replies but not the Minister's name.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I refuse to follow the nonsense of pretending that I sign every letter that goes out from the Department of Social Welfare.

Mr. N. Ahern:  I would be happy to have a stamp with the Minister's name on it but I notice that replies to Fianna [1962] Fáil Members do not have the Minister's signature.

Proinsias De Rossa:  It is a cod.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  If we ring the Minister's office we are told not to ring again.

Proinsias De Rossa:  That is not true.

Mr. N. Ahern:  The budget has some good points but the spending is being done in an unfair way. I refer in particular to the 2.5 per cent increase in social welfare payments. As the country is doing so well economically we should all share in those improvements. The miserable increase to old age pensioners and widows is a disgrace and represents an uncaring and callous decision. The elderly laid the ground work for all of us and surely it is only fair that those who have struggled for many years should be the first to be looked after when times are good as everyone acknowledges they are. The elderly were treated shabbily. The miserly increase of 2.5 per cent will erode their living standards because all the experts agree that inflation will be higher than that.

How in God's name did the Minister so quickly forget the long term unemployed now he is on the other side of the House, when in many respects he was their spokesperson in recent years? The Minister used the word “honesty” earlier but this is really very dishonest.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Look at the figures.

Mr. N. Ahern:  I know the Minister is not using the State car that much but with half the trappings of power he has forgotten where he came from. Even apart from social welfare payments the Minister seems to have set aside the long term unemployed with cutbacks in community employment schemes. The previous Government targeted 100,000 people in the life of the programme but suddenly——

[1963]Proinsias De Rossa:  We are giving them real jobs.

Mr. N. Ahern:  ——things are settling down nice and cosy at last year's level. It is tough luck for those who are not among the 40,000.

My main objection is to the 2.5 per cent increase to the elderly. The Minister said that old age pensioners are claiming for 5,000 children but the vast majority have no children and their treatment is savage.

Mr. Durkan:  How much would you have given them?

Mr. N. Ahern:  It is good that increases will be paid six weeks earlier than last year. That is something I have been preaching to my party for a long time. I hope this trend continues and that future increases will be paid on 6 April, but that does not amount to an increase of 3 per cent. Next year's increase will be based on this year's increase of 2.5 per cent, the extra .5 per cent is not cumulative so over a period they will lose out.

Proinsias De Rossa:  No. The Deputy underestimates my negotiating tactics.

Mr. N. Ahern:  I congratulate the Minister on the massive £215 million he got at the Cabinet table.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Plus almost £60 million, £272 million in total.

Mr. N. Ahern:  I thought the figure of £215 million included the £60 million. The Minister got a colossal amount of money but he made un unholy mess of its distribution. How did he make so many enemies distributing such an amount of money? A Minister could spread £30 million or £40 million in such a way that everyone would think he was great. The Minister made more enemies distributing £215 million than many another would make distributing £20 million. I do not know if this is because [1964] it is his first year in office, that he is “green” or if he is downright uncaring.

I was prepared to give the Minister the benefit of the doubt but then one looks at other aspects of the budget which affect the elderly. DIRT on special savings accounts increased to 15 per cent. People with those accounts are not high rollers, they may have cashed an insurance policy or received a lump sum payment. There seems to be a deliberate policy to screw the elderly. That is very rough, as the elderly are disorganised and do not have a lobby shouting for them. They paddle their own canoes. Perhaps the reason for being so hard on the elderly is that few of them vote for Democratic Left.

In the past money from the scheme of grants for voluntary organisations went to elderly groups for various purposes. I hope the Minister will be generous to them this year. It is most unusual for a Minister to hand over the giving of grants to a colleague and I am sure the Minister for Health, will be delighted. The Minister appears to be saying he is not interested in grant-aiding voluntary groups for the elderly, as this is not his area.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Respite care is a matter for the Department of Health.

Mr. N. Ahern:  This is most extraordinary and perhaps it is a generous gesture. The Minister appears to be making a public statement that he does not give a damn about the elderly, that he is stuck with them and, if he could, would pass this area over to Deputy Noonan. Many constituents are disappointed with the Minister to whom they looked with hope. When Deputy De Rossa got that ministry they thought all their Christmases had come together.

Proinsias De Rossa:  When they got rid of Fianna Fáil they thought all their Christmases had come together.

Mr. N. Ahern:  The Minister made his [1965] name in the last 12 or 13 years by capitalising on the plight of the disadvantaged and the poor, but now he seems to have forgotten them. I hope he will redress this and put the elderly on top of his list.

Proinsias De Rossa:  I will bear that in mind.

Mr. M. Ahern:  I am glad Deputy Eric Byrne has come back to hear the truth. We must give credit where credit is due. The Minister stated he was solely responsible for the tremendous increase in child benefit. Such a manner of assisting families is a proper way to alleviate poverty. This did not happen ten to 15 years ago but the change was made by a Fianna Fáil Government and has been continued by this Government. In 1993 there was a substantial increase in child benefit up to £20 and a high rate of £23 for the fourth and subsequent children which in 1994 went up to £25. I am glad the Minister has continued this trend.

At this juncture, the Minister will be remembered for the miserly increase of 2.5 per cent, the lowest in 30 years.

Mr. Durkan:  That is not true.

Mr. M. Ahern:  This is a disgrace, something which was not expected from a Democratic Left Minister for Social Welfare in a Government dominated by the Labour Party. Government members are living in a fool's paradise if they believe people are happy with this budget. It is clear to anyone willing to listen to the public that they are most upset by Democratic Left.

Proinsias De Rossa:  We can see the Deputy is bruised by his experience with the Labour Party.

Mr. B. O'Keeffe:  Not half as bruised as the Deputy.

Mr. M. Ahern:  They expected that [1966] party to look after the less well off in society. I am disappointed with the performance of Democratic Left. We have not seen Senator Sherlock in the constituency since the budget was introduced.It appears he is hiding, seeking people to work in concert with him, and is being counselled.

Proinsias De Rossa:  Can we use the Deputy's counsellors?

Mr. E. Byrne:  During the past few years Ireland has, often painfully, been forced to grow up and rip apart the veil of secrecy which, for decades, smothered our society. We have been forced to throw the squinting windows wide open and admit that society is not immune from violence in the home, child neglect, crime and questionable financial dealings in high places.

As the State attains social and political maturity it is under a particular obligation to recognise and respect the maturity of its citizens. The policy document A Government of Renewal, is strongly committed to ensuring citizens have maximum access to information. The three Government parties are committed to ensuring that, in future, power will not be exercised behind the closed doors of smoke filled rooms. We are determined to ensure that power deriving from the people will be exercised in the full view of the people.

Freedom of information goes further than amending the Officials Secrets Act and reviewing the Cabinet confidentiality rule, important as these are. The time has come to recognise that Irish citizens are capable of handling information, distinguishing the good from the bad and the mediocre and making clear choices. Yet, sad to reflect in 1995 our citizens are denied access to the works of authors ranging from Bertrand [1967] Russell to Upton Sinclair because their works were deemed to be indecent, obscene or because they advocate “the unnatural prevention of conception”— we all know how unnatural it is to plan one's family — according to section 16 (5) of the Censorship of Publications Act, 1946.

Freedom of information, Irish style, means that Old Moore's Almanac, 1951 and 1964 are deemed unfit for adult consumption. Freedom of information, Irish style, means that Irish citizens are not considered mature enough to read H. G. Wells's work entitled The Work, Wealth and Happiness of Mankind. It means that while we can watch Taggart or Hillstreet Blues on television we cannot read anodyne detective stories published in the 1950s because they are banned. Freedom of information, Irish style, means that some of Simone de Beauvoir's books are taboo as we near the end of the 20th century. These books, with many others, are listed in part 2 of the Register of Prohibited Publications and will remain prohibited until the appeal board revokes the prohibition order. A quick glance at the register takes one back to an earlier and infinitely nastier time when Archbishop McQuaid was in his palace, de Valera was in the Park and individual freedom was sacrificed to social conformity.

There are books on the list which have been prohibited for over 60 years. Many of them can be bought in any reputable book store and I am sure Members probably have some of them on their shelves at home. Yet, technically and legally, they remain banned until the author, publishers or five Members of the Oireachtas make representations to the appeal board seeking a review. Many of the authors are dead, many of the publishers have gone out of business and it would be a painstaking exercise for five Members of the Oireachtas to trawl through 40 close-typed pages seeking books on which to appeal.

The greater good will always demand that some forms of information are [1968] restricted. No society in these days of multi-media and new technologies can allow an information free for all. I have no problem with legislation which restricts the availability of video nasties for children or with the prohibition on incitement to hatred legislation. I wish its provisions were invoked more often.

While innocuous books by Bertrand Russell or Upton Sinclair remain banned, not one prosecution has been taken so far under our anti-hate laws. I urge the Minister to undertake a thorough review, in the short term, of the Register of Prohibited Publications and, in the long term, of our censorship legislation.

Minister of State at the Department of Education (Mr. Currie):  I thank the Deputy for raising the matter of the need to review and update the Register of Prohibited Publications and for giving me the opportunity to clarify what is happening in this regard.

I am aware, from numerous reports in the press, of the Deputy's keen interest in this matter and I fully appreciate his concern that the register, which has not been updated since 1985, may still contain works by certain authors which, with the passage of time — and if they were being considered afresh — might not be prohibited.

I will explain a little the background to the compilation of this register to clarify the position for the Deputy.

The publication of a Register of Prohibited Publications by the Censorship of Publications Board, which we are discussing, is provided for by section 16 of the Censorship of Publications Act, 1946. The register contains alphabetical listings of both prohibited books and periodicals. The register of prohibited books is published in two distinct parts.

Part 1 contains particulars of books prohibited on the grounds that they are indecent or obscene. In this regard, the prohibition order made in respect of any book named in Part 1 ceases to have effect on 31 December following the 12th anniversary of the date it was published in Iris Oifigiúil, if it has not [1969] already been revoked by the appeal board.

Where two or more prohibition orders refer to the same book, they all cease to have effect when the one first made ceases. Having re-examined the book the Censorship Board may, make a further prohibition order.

Part 2 contains details of books prohibited on the grounds that they are indecent or obscene and/or that, inter alia, they advocate the unnatural prevention of conception or the procurement of abortion. The position with regard to publications listed in this part of the register is that they remain prohibited unless and until the appeal board revokes the prohibition order.

As the Deputy may be aware, section 8 of the Censorship of Publications Act, 1946, provides several avenues of appeal for the revocation of the prohibition order.

An appeal can be made by the author of the book, by the editor of a periodical, or by the publisher of the book or periodical.

As the Deputy is aware, it is open to him and any other four Members of Dáil Éireann or Seanad Éireann to appeal any prohibition order. Any such appeals are made to the Censorship of Publications Appeal Board, which may, as it thinks proper, affirm or revoke the prohibition order. The board may also vary the order so as to exclude from the application any particular edition of the prohibited book published before, on or after the date of the prohibition order.

At this stage I should like to clarify the function of the Minister for Justice in regard to the review, updating and publication of the register. In accordance with section 16 (3) and (5) of the 1946 Act it is a matter for the Censorship Board to review, update and publish the register. The Minister for Justice's sole function in this regard is to ensure that this is carried out regularly.

I assure the Deputy that the Minister is aware of his concern in regard to this matter and is arranging for the Censorship Board to review and update the [1970] register and have the updated register published in due course.

Mr. Molloy:  The matter I raise this evening is one of enormous importance to our agricultural industry, the export of livestock. I suspect the Minister is already well aware of the serious difficulties being experienced by Irish livestock transport companies arising out of the decision by P & O shipping line and Sealink to cease transporting livestock from Ireland.

I call on the Minister to enter into serious discussions with those companies with a view to resolving the difficulties and restoring the essential shipping service, particularly the direct service to the Continent. As I understand the position, the only shipping company now offering a service to livestock transport companies out of Ireland is the B & I shipping company which operates two sailings daily, seven days per week, but only from Rosslare to Pembroke. The ongoing journey to the Continent is from Dover to Zeebrugge.

Irish transport companies which have traditionally carried young breeding stock to the Continent are being denied a direct sea line from Ireland to France by P & O. This is having very serious consequences for the livestock industry. P & O operates a freight service three days weekly from Rosslare to Cherbourg, which route was used extensively by Irish transport companies; I understand that ten to 12 containers of livestock would travel on each of those sailings.P & O is now refusing to carry livestock containers on this route. Ironically, it appears it is prepared to transport cattle, mostly pedigree, from Cherbourg back to Ireland. Furthermore, I understand that P & O accepts livestock from Northern Ireland to Great Britain and from England on to Belgium. Therefore, it appears that Irish exporters are being severely victimised by P & O.

[1971] The loss of a direct sea route between Ireland and France is causing severe financial problems for people in the industry and is adding enormously to the animals' stress, the only route available being the B & I one between Rosslare and Pembroke, which means the animals have a very long journey before reaching their continental destination. Advantage of this position has been taken by the company that transports them from the English port of Dover to Zeebrugge, which happens to be P & O. I understand that company has increased its charges so that the rate for the overall route has increased to £900 per livestock container from a previous overall cost of £560.

Sealink, which operates a service from Rosslare to Fishguard and from Dún Laoghaire to Holyhead, also refuses to carry livestock containers on these routes. There is the added threat that Sealink may be about to receive a £40 million European grant to develop their port at Holyhead, turning it into the number one Euro route to the Continent.It is possible that they foresee livestock becoming a hindrance to this development because of recent protests against livestock transport, with the inherent danger they may use their influence to stop Irish Ferries carrying livestock on this route. Dublin to Holyhead has been a vital route over several decades for livestock en route to Europe.

The livestock trade is a vital part of our agricultural industry and a certain level of livestock exports is essential to maintain the viablity of that industry. I call on the Minister to take immediate action to resolve this problem at the earliest possible date. I hope he will be able to inform the House this evening of the steps he is taking to resolve this difficulty. It is difficult to understand why P & O should victimise Irish livestock exporters to continental Europe. I appeal to the Minister to do everything possible to reinstate the direct route from Rosslare to Cherbourg.

[1972]Minister of State at the Deprtment of Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Deenihan):  I thank Deputy Molloy for having raised this matter.

As I said in the House on 16 February and on many other occasions, I would be very concerned at any prospect of disruption of our exports of live cattle to other parts of the European Union, particularly in view of the importance of this trade and our island status on the periphery of Europe. This is legitimate trade in the context of the Single Market, one which must be allowed to continue.Of course, I fully accept that the trade should take place in a way which fully safeguards the welfare of the animals in transit. Heretofore we have operated stringent welfare-related controls under the supervision of my Department's veterinary inspectorate.

The question of further strengthening and enforcing the welfare rules governing the transportation of animals throughout the European Union has been under consideration at Council level for some time. I fully supported the reinforced measures and control arrangements tabled by the French presidency during the Council of Ministers last week. It is regrettable that the Council was unable to reach a final agreement on all measures given the degree of consensus that had been reached on virtually all of the main elements. I am hopeful the Council will be able to adopt all the measures when it meets in March.

The live trade from Ireland to the Continent comprises mainly calves, weanlings for fattening and sheep for fattening and slaughter. In all, some 65,000 calves and 46,000 other cattle were exported to continental member states in 1994. Virtually all the calves go direct to the Continent while some of the other cattle exports go through the United Kingdom and onward to the Continent. While some ferry companies have ceased carrying animals from Ireland, there has not been any undue disruption of the market. Irish Ferries continues to carry cattle out of Ireland [1973] and its continued involvement is very much appreciated.

If the live trade is to continue, it can do so only if we have in place arrangements that are defensible from a welfare point of view. Equally, I have insisted all along that the rules must not discriminate against Irish operators. I believe that the proposals on the table meet both these criteria. The new rules, which would be strictly enforced, have been carefully defined to take full account of the varying needs of the different species and ages of animals and are in line with expert advice on welfare concerns. The journey time provisions ensure that animals are suitably rested after transport by sea between two geographical points within the Community. This ensures that welfare concerns are adequately met, while at the same time avoiding discrimination in respect of transport onwards against traders operating out of peripheral areas.

Pending the adoption of final Union-wide provisions, I have asked my officials to arrange to apply the proposed criteria as far as possible by means of national measures to further enhance the protection of animals in transit. This will be done as soon as possible. This will, I hope, provide sufficient guarantees to the ferry companies to continue or, where appropriate, resume transporting live animals.

Mr. M. Ahern:  I wish to raise a matter which is causing grave concern to many employers in the domestic abattoir business.The extension of the Fresh Meat Directive 64/433/EEC is intended to ensure that the hygiene standards in all abattoirs, irrespective of throughput, are directly comparable and of a high level. That is an entitlement of the consumer throughout the Community and is to be applauded. It goes further by including suitable measures to protect the environment.

Ireland has a long tradition of local [1974] abattoirs meeting the fresh meat needs of both rural and urban communities. Many of those abattoirs have closed since the introduction of the Abattoirs Act, 1988 and many more may be forced to close if they do not upgrade their premises by 31 December 1995. If that were to happen the losers would be the consumers because those businesses are a source of employment. Abattoirs, in both urban and rural communities, tend to recruit their operatives from within the local community. In some cases not only has an abattoir been owned by the same family for a number of generations but the staff have a family tradition also.

Abattoirs provide continuity of slaughter. The pattern of beef and sheep production in Ireland is based on the availability of grass as the major source of nutrients. Consequently, the slaughter pattern in a large industrial abattoir reflects that seasonality pattern. A large number of animals is slaughtered within a short period of time, placeing a strain on slaughter facilities and storage capacity. It is also reflected in the employment patterns in such plants where staff can be unemployed for long periods and dependent on social welfare payments. In the domestic abattoir trade employment is continuous throughout the year. This continuity of employment arises directly from the fact that all the product is sold either directly or indirectly to consumers.

The domestic meat trade at all levels has been developed by private funding without any official support or assistance.The provisions of the Abattoirs Act have led to a significant increase in investment by the individual butcher. Inability to source the funding necessary to meet the standards of the Abattoirs Act is one of the principal reasons cited for the closure of local abattoirs.

Abattoirs are a local outlet for the livestock producer. Rural communities are dependent on individual livestock producers, who tend to purchase their needs directly in the local area. The presence of a private locally-based abattoir or cutting plant provides the livestock producer with a ready outlet for [1975] his product, the live animal. Also, it provides business for haulage contractors, local tradesmen, fuel suppliers, etc. Concentrating animal slaughter in a limited number of large industrial abattoirs will result in the creation of a virtual monopoly on slaughter and cutting, detrimental to the interests of both the consumer and the livestock producer. It could also be construed as contradicting the spirit, if not the letter, of the Treaty of Rome.

Abattoirs provide viable employment.The large domestic abattoirs and cutting plants employ approximately 1,200 to 1,300 people. Since the premises involved are spread throughout the State, the closure of one or more plants can be lost within national statistics, but the impact of such a closure at local level can be very significant. While it may make sound economic sense to concentrate production in a small number of large industrial plants, the closure of domestic abattoirs will generate a ripple effect throughout local communities in which they are located. The closure of small and medium-sized family businesses is a major factor in the depopulation of rural areas. The establishment of a rural wasteland cannot be one of the aspirations of the Government.

The consumers of Europe are entitled to the highest quality fresh meat. That can be assured only at Community level by hygiene standards which are applied throughout the Community. The Commission and the Council of Agriculture Ministers recognise that such standards can be maintained while providing for structural derogations under the directive.Where abattoirs wish to continue to supply traditional outlets and customers on the national territory, they should be in a position to do so, subject to the constraint that by applying simplified structures to their premises they are excluded from the larger Community market. The argument of Community access to those premises which meet the standards of the directive is offered as a carrot towards compliance. In a market which is already over-supplied by both [1976] EU and third country products, access other than for niche products is not realistic. What is realistic, however, is the maintenance of family-owned and operated businesses which form part of the local community and provide real employment in rural society.

The food subprogramme of the Operational Programme for Industrial Development approved by the EU contains a provision for assisting the upgrading of slaughtering and processing facilities to the standard prescribed by the relevant EU directive. However, the estimated cost of providing the additional facilities required by the directive to bridge the gap between the two standards is £300,000. From the information I have received I do not consider this figure is realistic. The maximum grant will be in the region of £90,000 to £100,000, £3 million countrywide.The former Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, Deputy O'Shea, announced a total investment of £13.3 million for large factories which was expected to lead to the creation of 119 jobs. The £3 million grant will secure those 119 jobs and if additional money were invested more jobs could be provided.

Are the domestic abattoirs being treated fairly given that they are being grant-aided only to the tune of £3 million, which may lead to the loss of hundreds of jobs? I ask the Minister to review this policy to ensure the survival of wholesale and domestic butchers from the perspective of their place in local communities, their role in offering alternative outlets for livestock producers and their contribution to the maintenance of employment in rural areas.

Mr. Deenihan:  Under the Abattoirs Act, 1988 all abattoirs supplying the domestic market were required to upgrade their premises to the standards laid down in the Abattoirs Act, 1988 and (Abattoirs) Regulations, 1989. The [1977] licensing provisions of the Act commenced on 1 September 1989 and operators had five years in which to bring their premises to licensing standard under a permit system. Therefore, premises should have been at full licence standard under the Act by 1 September 1994.

Council Directive 91/497/EEC adopted in 1991 came into operation on 1 January 1993. The directive required that all abattoirs operating on the domestic market should meet the same standard of operational hygiene laid down in the directive.

The directive contained modified structural requirements for abattoirs handling under 1,000 livestock units per year which were more or less equivalent to the standards required under the Abattoirs Act, 1988 and (Abattoirs) Regulations 1989.

Those abattoir operators handling over 1,000 livestock units were required to bring their premises up to the full standards of the directive, that is previously export standard only. Those operators unable to comply fully with the directive by 1 January 1993 were given temporary derogations from some of the structural requirements of the directive up to 1 January 1996 provided suitable plans and a work programme for completion were submitted by 1 April 1992.

The grant aid scheme announced in December 1994 was introduced to help those operators who had to go from Abattoirs Act standard previously applicable to them to the full standards required under the directive.

The level of grant aid was based on the level of expenditure required to bring a premises from licensing standard under the Abattoirs Act to the full standards required under the directive and was not meant to cover total expenditure required to completely upgrade a premises. The estimated expenditure involved based on examination of plans for upgrading submitted to this Department was £300,000. Accordingly, an upper limit of £300,000 was placed on eligible expenditure for grant-aid.

[1978] Allowing for 5 per cent national aid and 25 per cent EU aid, this would mean a maximum grant of £90,000. Establishments in disadvantaged areas would qualify for 35 per cent of EU aid which would mean a maximum grant of £120,000. Due to limited funding for the food programme under the Operational Programme for Industrial Development approved by the EU, it is not possible to increase the level of grant-aid.

The important contribution of the domestic meat sector to both employment and as an alternative outlet for livestock producers is appreciated.

In relation to livestock slaughtering, we have excess slaughtering capacity which severely curtails our ability to grant-aid investments in slaughtering facilities. The recently introduced scheme of grant-aid for larger domestic abattoirs recognises within these constraints the important role of this sector. The financial package available should make a meaningful contribution to the preservation of jobs in this area. Regarding the smaller abattoirs not eligible for grant-aid, it is regretted that financial assistance, cannot be provided while maintaining the traditional structure of this sector.

As these operators have to comply fully with the Abattoirs Act, 1988 without financial assistance, a financial package to larger operators covering more than bridging the gap between domestic and export plant standard would render the small enterprises unviable. On balance, it is considered that the present scheme best maintains the existing structure.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the objective of the Abattoirs Act, 1988 and the EU regulations relating to meat production is the protection of public health, achieved by ensuring that meat is produced in accordance with appropriate hygiene requirements. To reach and maintain these criteria requires a minimum standard of premises which cannot be subject to compromise. We must not forget that consumers are now increasingly aware of production [1979] methods for foodstuffs. Any suggestion that public health may be compromised by accepting lower standards would have devastating consequences in relation to consumer confidence in the wholesomeness of meat.

Mr. S. Brennan:  I wish to share my time with Deputy O'Rourke. Team Aer Lingus workers were shocked to hear the announcement by the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications, Deputy Lowry, last week that the company was a cause of concern to him. They were angry to hear the news in this way and not through the unions, a company structure, as would be normal.I regard it as a reckless statement by the Minister in that its timing and manner undermines the company at a sensitive time. This company, with its high skill and high value employment, needs the Minister's practical support and encouragement and not undermining.

The Minister has asked the Chairman of Aer Lingus for updated proposals to address the problem. We should hold our heads in the current competitive situation and take a longer term view. The new proposals must take into account the fact that some similar companies, close to Ireland, are engaged, deliberately perhaps, in what amounts to a price war. I know of one company, not far away, which is offering 12 months' credit to customers in the same business, unheard of heretofore.

These proposals must be published by the Minister after he has furnished them to the staff — I ask him to furnish them to the staff. He must also meet with staff and management to discuss the new proposals. Above all, these new proposals must remove the uncertainty surrounding this company tonight. The Minister must not continue to hide behind the EU on this issue.

As the Minister will be aware, the previous Government committed £175 [1980] million for restructuring the group. Some of this was for Team Aer Lingus. The Government must not welch on honouring this commitment. Some £50 million is still outstanding from this promise to Aer Lingus. This money should not be withheld but rather used now to invest in capital equipment, staff restructuring and replacing the debt with equity, the only strategy for survival.I call on the Minister to proceed in a practical way along these lines.

I wish to pose some questions. Is it true that some £12 million was provided through management to secure 300 voluntary redundancies but that it actually cost £22 million, an average of £80,000 per person? Is it true that a lucrative Saudi Arabian contract was lost recently due to the price war? Is it true that the Minister's remarks last week, in effect, influenced Virgin Airlines to postpone discussions late last week with the company?Is it true that the company is in such a need for capital investment that it is still using ordinary scaffolding poles instead of the high-tech equipment required for such an operation? I ask the Minister to clarify these issues for the benefit of the staff and the public.

Mrs. O'Rourke:  I thank my colleague whose brief is Opposition spokesperson on these companies; my brief is Enterprise and Employment. My contribution to the debate is in the cause of employment in a company which is a very valuable source of employment. I had occasion last week to speak on Irish Steel but that was directly in the context of being spokesperson on Enterprise and Employment.

In the commercial semi-State companies it seems that the news comes as a shock when there are changes of fortune.This was the case with the Minister's precipitated announcement last week in the course of Question Time. I understand it was news to those who work in the company that it had again hit rocky waters.

Is it not better, whatever the news, palatable or otherwise, that the Minister come clean with it and make plain the [1981] company report which will be furnished to him? He owes it to those employed in TEAM to explain the precise position rather than store up trouble which, when it comes, cannot be borne and rash decisions have to be made. The first rash decision is to cut employment. Why is it a badge of honour for a firm to, first, cut employment and then decide on the next step? More often than not that employment is from a very valuable sector, in this case the craft unions.

The debate is clear. We, the public and those who work in the firm want to know what is happening and what stage of operation has been reached. What has led to the plunge in the financial fortunes of the company? Does the Minister intend to be transparent, accountable and open with those who work in this valued firm?

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry):  Deputy Brennan, who asked a number of pertinent questions, facilitated the creation of the problem. He presided over the decline of TEAM and failed to confront the problem. Eventually my predecessor made a belated attempt to resolve the problem but failed.

Last week I informed the House that, before being appointed to my present post, I was under the impression that the restructuring programme at Aer Lingus was being implemented successfully. I also indicated my belief that I shared this impression with most Deputies.

Having had the opportunity to assess the position following my appointment, I was able to give the House a measured assessment of the progress made by the Aer Lingus group in general.

I stated that substantial progress had been made at the airline under the restructuring programme. I pointed out that, while the airline had undoubtedly benefited from the general uplift in world aviation, it was at the same time continuing to make the sort of progress envisaged in the restructuring programme.

[1982] I had to inform the House, however, that I was seriously concerned about TEAM Aer Lingus, that there were still major problems to be overcome there if TEAM's operating results were to ensure the long-term viability of the company. This was information which I discovered for myself.

One of the first requests I made on taking up office was for a comprehensive update on the situation in the Aer Lingus Group. It was only when the 1995 budget for TEAM was submitted to my Department and the figures brought to my attention that I realised the full seriousness of the problems at TEAM and the potential repercussions for the airline. Having sought the figures and assessed the situation I took a deliberate and calculated decision to bring the matter to a head. I find it deeply ironic that by taking decisive action in ensuring that those who must address the problems of TEAM Aer Lingus do precisely that I am somehow perceived to be returning to the days of interference in State companies. Since when has a demand that a State board act decisively to solve its problem become a case of interfering with that board?

However difficult and unpleasant it is for me to be the bearer of the news which gives rise to general concern, I have a duty to the taxpayer. I make no apology for demanding that Aer Lingus acts decisively to solve this problem — that is its job and that is what I expect of it. It was clear to me that the targets set for TEAM Aer Lingus under the restructuring programme were not being achieved, with all the implications this could have for European Commission clearance of the necessary final tranche of equity for the airline. I called in the executive chairman of Aer Lingus and directed him to submit to me, as a matter of urgency, updated proposals to address the problems at TEAM Aer Lingus. Those proposals are in the process of being formulated and I expect to have them by this week.

I also made it clear in the House last week — and I have not changed my view — that I would not be publishing [1983] the report from the executive chairman. I am sure Members will appreciate that the report will contain commercially sensitive information. It is a confidential report made to me, as Minister, it would not be in the interests of the company to reveal. The report will receive careful and detailed consideration and I intend to have it examined in a measured and thorough manner, in consultation with the company and others, if necessary. This process will take some time. I will not rush it, nor will I allow myself to be rushed. I do not propose to make any further statements on the matter of the report in the meantime.

The question of my briefing the staff at TEAM Aer Lingus on the current situation has been raised by the Deputy who knows full well that it is the responsibility of the board and management of TEAM Aer Lingus to brief the [1984] employees and, in particular, to take whatever steps are necessary to inform staff of the nature of the difficulties which face the company. I do not propose to interfere in management's responsibility in that regard. However, I am prepared to meet representatives of the Irish Congress of Trade Unions on this issue, as I have done in the recent past on other issues in relation to the Aer Lingus Group generally.

Again I wish to put unequivocally on the record that the resolution of the difficulties at TEAM Aer Lingus is a matter for the board and management of the company. However, not only should these problems be addressed, they must be addressed to avoid jeopardising the viability of the airline.

  28.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    if a secretariat will be put in place in the Border areas to ensure that INTERREG funding is utilised in those areas in accordance with the views of the various community groups active there in view of the fact that this secretariat could be regarded as a joint body between North and South; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1138/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Approval of the joint Ireland/Northern Ireland programme under the second INTERREG structural funds Community initiative was announced by the EU Commission yesterday. Based on the successful pattern achieved under the first INTERREG programme, it offers a multisectoral range of measures covering infrastructure, environmental protection, economic development, tourism, community development, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and human resources.

Overall responsibility for the management of the programme rests with the Department of Finance and the Department of Finance and Personnel in Northern Ireland. The new programme makes provision for an INTERREG development office. Its functions will include giving practical assistance to groups, organisations or individuals in [1740] preparing proposals for consideration under the programme. The office will ensure that information and issues raised by local groups are fed into the policy and decision-making process.

While the final details of the arrangement remain to be worked out it is expected that this approach will prove to be of considerable benefit in publicising the INTERREG programme and in assisting community development and other local voluntary groups to take maximum advantage of the funding offered. Similar functions are being introduced in the INTERREG programmes to be operated between other member states.

  29.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Finance    the Government's policy with regard to the Maastricht proposal to move to a single currency by 1999 in view of the recent statement by the Governor of the Netherlands' Central Bank to the effect that Economic and Monetary Union need not involve an immediate move to a single currency; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4380/95]

  41.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for Finance    the preparations, if any, he plans for a single currency in 1997; and the adjustments, if any, he considers will be required. [3001/95]

  71.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will indicate to the British Prime Minister Ireland's support for the Single European Currency initiative; and if he will seek to persuade the British authorities of the merits of the initiative for these islands. [4273/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 29, 41 and 71 together.

The Treaty on European Union sets out the timetable for movement to the third stage of economic and monetary union (EMU) and a single currency. Briefly, if a majority of member states [1741] meet the conditions, the third stage can begin in 1997, if a date for the start of the third stage has not been set by end-1997, the third stage will begin in 1999. At the starting date of the third stage, the Treaty says that the Council will adopt the conversion rates at which the currencies of participating member states will be irrevocably fixed and at which the ECU will be substituted for those currencies; the ECU will become a currency in its own right; and the council will take the other measures necessary for the rapid introduction of the ECU as the single currency of participating member states. It will be seen from this that the Treaty does not envisage an immediate move to a single currency, but rather a rapid one.

Ireland supports the creation of Economic and Monetary Union and the introduction of a single currency in accordance with the Treaty timetable. Clearly the length of the period between the start of the third stage and the introduction of a single currency will depend to some extent on technical factors such as the lead-in time for the production of currency notes and coins.

The introduction of a single currency will be the culmination of the process of Economic and Monetary Union. The main preparation required at this stage is to ensure that Ireland continues to meet the Treaty conditions for movement to Economic and Monetary Union. In this context, Deputies will be aware that Ireland and Luxembourg were judged not to have an excessive deficit as defined in the Treaty when the excessive deficit procedure was implemented in 1994 for the first time. A Programme of Renewal makes clear the Government's commitment to ensuring that Ireland continues to meet the fiscal conditions for participation in Economic and Monetary Union. My recent budget was in line with this commitment.Ireland through its membership of the Economic and Monetary Institute and the Economic and Monetary Committee has been involved in discussions at European level on the technical preparations for European [1742] Monetary Union and a single currency. At a later stage the results of this work will be considered at ECOFIN by EU Ministers for Finance and Economic Affairs.

Ireland's support for Economic and Monetary Union and the single currency were made clear to other member states, including the United Kingdom, at the time the Treaty on European Union was negotiated. At the ECOFIN Council on 20 February, I again made clear Ireland's support for European Monetary Union in the presence of ministerial colleagues from other member states, including the UK Chancellor.

  30.  Mr. P. Gallager (Donegal South West)    asked the Minister for Finance    when private, public and voluntary groups can apply for funding under the INTERREG II Cross-Border Initiative; to whom the applications are to be sent; when the deadline dates to secure funding under this initiative are due to expire; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3834/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Commission approval of the joint Ireland/Northern Ireland programme under the second INTERREG structural funds Community initiative was announced yesterday. The programme includes a wide range of measures covering infrastructure, environmental protection, economic development, tourism, community development, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and human resources.

Project promoters will be invited shortly to submit their proposals under the programme. The details of this call for proposals have yet to be finalised but it will be widely publicised.

The Department of Finance in Dublin and the Department of Finance and Personnel in Belfast will have overall responsibility for the management of the programme. Details of where project applications should be sent will be [1743] included in the call for project proposals.

The programme will run until the end of 1999. Projects can be submitted at any time throughout the programme so there will be no deadline for applications as such. However, the total resources available under the programme, while substantial, are limited so early applications will be encouraged.

  32.  Mr. McGahon    asked the Minister for Finance    the price of the Dáil debates booklet to the public for each of the years 1973, 1980 and 1995; and the increase in the rate of inflation over the same period. [2851/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  The prices of the Dáil debates booklet to the public in those three years were; 1973, 2½p; 1980, 15p; 1995, £2.

According to information supplied by the Central Statistics Office, Irish inflation rates for the periods in question are as follows:

Period Inflation Rate
1973 to 1980 +173%
1973 to 1994 +533%
1980 to 1994 +132%

  33.  Mr. Hughes    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has satisfied himself with the delays encountered in the production of bilingual versions of all Acts and Statutory Instruments by the Government Publications Office; and the additional resources, if any, he will commit to improve the present position. [2942/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  The Government Supplies Agency is responsible for the printing and publication of [1744] the bi-lingual versions of all Acts and Statutory Instruments, which it does, as in the case of all other Government publications, on receipt of “copy” from the appropriate source.

  34.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for Finance    if an interdepartmental committee has been established to review the strategic objectives and procedures for the distribution and allocation of resources generated by the national lottery; if so, the names of the members of the committee; the Departments represented; and the name of the independent chairperson to be appointed. [1910/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The question of the establishment of the committee referred to in the Programme for Renewal is at present under consideration. A report on the administration of national lottery grants was produced by the Committee of Public Accounts in 1994 which made a number of recommendations including the establishment of a monitoring group. In the light of the report, revised guidelines on the allocation of lottery grants were issued by my Department. I am arranging to have a copy of the relevant circular 16/94 presented to the Oireachtas Library.

  35.  Mr. B. Smith    asked the Minister for Finance    the total funding available under INTERREG II as it pertains to the North/South Border area; the breakdown of such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4391/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Approval of the joint Ireland/Northern Ireland programme under the second INTERREG Structural Funds Community initiative was announced by the European Commission yesterday. The Commission has approved an EU aid [1745] allocation to the programme or 157 mECU of which 89.5 mECU or about IR£72 million will be available in the six border counties on the southern side.

As I informed the Deputy on 25 January last the programme will offer a multisectoral range of measures covering infrastructure, environmental protection, economic development, tourism, community development, agriculture, forestry, fisheries and human resources. I have set out the breakdown of the total funding allocation in the form of a tabular statement which I will convey to the Deputy.

Statement setting out the breakdown across the various measures of the total expected expenditure under the Ireland/Northern Ireland INTERREG Community initiative 1994-1999.

Sub-Programme mECU £m
Infrastructure 87 70
Environmental Protection 46 37
Economic Development 79 63
Human Resources 21 17
Agriculture/Fisheries/ Forestry 29 23
Total 262 210

  36.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for Finance    the steps, if any, he has taken to improve physical access to information and rights for all citizens, including those with a disability; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1911/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  As the Deputy is aware, the Government is committed to implementing a range of reform measures, as set out in its policy document, A Government of Renewal, which will among other things address the issues raised in the Deputy's question.Specifically, it is our clear intention to undertake wide innovation to improve physical access to information and rights for both able-bodied citizens and those with a disability, including: the improvement of the environment in [1746] public buidlings; better sign-posting of services; staggered or extended opening hours; common location of field offices or one stop shops and reciprocal case handling arrangements.

The implementation of these measures is largely a matter for individual Ministers together with their Departments and Offices, who are required, in the context of the Strategic Management Initiative which is currently under way in the Civil Service, to develop proposals for the improvement of service quality/delivery as a key element in their strategy statements. My Department is currently examining the question of service quality/delivery with a view to determining what additional action, if any, might be required in connection with the types of improvements which I have specifically mentioned. This action is being taken in the context of the Strategic Managment Initiative, the Government's policy agreement and the recent report of the National Economic and Social Forum, Quality Delivery of Social Services.

With specific regard to the disabled, my Department issued a code of practice last year for the employment of people with disabilities in the Civil Service, covering issues such as recruitment, career development, accommodation and equipment and safety and evacuation procedures. In addition, my Department is currently represented on the monitoring committee for the employment of people with disabilities established under the Programme for Competiveness and Work.

  37.  Mr. Nolan    asked the Minister for Finance    the proposals, if any, he has to regulate the transactions of financial intermediaries. [4394/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  My Department, with the assistance of the Central Bank of Ireland and the Department of Enterprise and Employment, has produced a scheme of a Bill [1747] for the regulation of investment intermediaries.This has been approved by Government for transmission to the Office of the Attorney General for drafting. Taken together with the Stock Exchange Bill, 1994, the proposed Bill will provide for a system of regulation which will meet the requirements of the EU Investment Services and Capital Adequacy Directives. In view of the importance of ensuring proper regulation of investment intermediaries and in view of the 1 July 1995 deadline for transposition of the Investment Services Directive, the Bill will be introduced in the House during the next session with a view to its enactment before the end of June.

  38.  Kathleen Lynch    asked the Minister for Finance    the total amount of money raised by the national lottery during 1994; the total amount paid out in prize money during that period; the total amount allocated to various Government Departments; the use to which the balance has been put; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4381/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  As indicated in the 1994 annual report and accounts of the National Lottery Company which are being published today, sales amounted to £291.4 million and the amount paid out in prize money was £148.8 million. After deduction of operating costs of £46.6 million the surplus produced for the national lottery fund was £95.9 million. The provisional outturn for lottery-funded spending in 1994 is £91.6 million, details of which were published in the Abridged Estimates Volume recently. Any unspent moneys remaining in the fund at the end of a year are available for allocation in subsequent years. Copies of the Abridged Estimates Volume and of the 1994 annual report and accounts are available from the Oireachtas Library.

[1748]

  39.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has examined the circumstances surrounding the transfer of ordnance survey staff from Galway to Tuam; if so, his views on whether the decision should be reversed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4399/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The decision to open six regional offices of the Ordnance Survey, including the office in Tuam, was announced in November 1990 by the then Minister for Finance, Deputy Albert Reynolds. With the opening of the Tuam office in December 1994, all six offices have now been opened.

I have had this matter carefully examined.The decision to open regional offices arose out of developments in mapping technology, whereby it was no longer necessary to have Ordnance Survey field staff dispersed throughout the country. The original plan was that all the field staff would have been required to take up duty at the Headquarters of the Ordnance Survey in Dublin. However, in order to facilitate the field staff and minimise the disruption in their lives that a move to Dublin would have entailed, it was decided to establish regional offices. The selection of the locations for the regional offices took into account: (i) the advice of the Office of Public Works as to the availability of office accommodation; (ii) the existing distribution of field staff; (iii) the Ordnance Survey's work programme; (iv) the Government's decentralisation plan.

Furthermore, Galway had been a significant beneficiary of the decentralisation programme to date, while Tuam, a depressed town since the closure of the sugar factory, had no decentralised offices. The temporary Ordnance Survey accommodation in Galway was only intended for use while the Tuam office was being fitted out. Quite a considerable amount of money has been spent on the Tuam office. In this context, it would not be appropriate to reverse the [1749] decision to locate a regional office in Tuam.

  40.  Mr. M. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the cost of security at Office of Public Works sites countrywide. [4426/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  I understand that the Deputy's question relates specifically to the three visitor centre sites at the Boyne Valley, County Meath, Luggala, County Wicklow and the Burren, County Clare. The cost of site security at each of these sites is as follows: Boyne Valley, £5,000 per month; Luggala, £1,320 per month; Burren, £4,400 per month.

  43.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    when the practice commenced whereby the Tánaiste was paid an allowance over and above the ministerial/TD salary; the number of times this has been increased since; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[1148/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The Tánaiste and other Ministers are paid the same remuneration as TDs and, in addition, a salary in their capacity as an office-holder. Up until 1974 the salary was the same for both. In 1974, the Tánaiste was first paid a higher salary than a Minister as a result of a recommendation made by the Review Body on Higher Remuneration in the Public Sector in 1972. The review body had recommended this change because of the special responsibilities of the Tánaiste. The difference was about 10 per cent.

All general increases in pay which have been applied in the Civil Service since 1974 have also been applied to the office-holder salaries. In addition, they have been increased on two further occasions during this period as a result [1750] of recommendations made by the review body — reports No. 20 (1979) and No. 30 (1987) of the review body. The salary difference increased to 12 per cent and 14 per cent under these reports, respectively

Further increases in office-holders' salaries were recommended by the review body in report No. 35 which was published in 1992. The increases would not have involved a change in the percentage difference between the office-holder salary of the Tánaiste and that of a Minister. As the Deputy will be aware, however, the members of the present Government have voluntarily foregone the increases recommended in that report.

  44.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Finance    if he intends operating an open tendering system for all Government works contracts. [2552/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Government contracts, whether they are works, supplies or services fall into two categories; those subject to the procedures prescribed in the various EU Directives covering Public Procurement, generally those above certain threshold values, and those which are not. The procedures for dealing with Government contracts are set out in the publication ‘Public Procurement’ which is available from the Government Publications Office. This booklet also contains a brief summary of the EU Directives and explains the thresholds which apply in those Directives.

Where contracts are above the thresholds they must be processed and awarded in accordance with the procedures laid down in the Directives. The Directives set down obligatory procedures to be followed by contracting authorities, including requirements for advertising in the Official Journal and on the appoaches that must be used in considering tenders. It would not be possible to set out all of the complex obligations in the Directives, but the [1751] Directives generally allow for use of three award methods by contracting authorities: open procedures, restricted procedures and negotiated procedures. The circumstances for use of each of the procedures are set out in the Directives.

Open procedures are strongly recommended by the EU Commission and this is the procedure also recommended by the Department of Finance as offering the most transparent process, which is also likely to give value for money, but it is acknowledged that there are times when the use of open procedures may not be the most suitable for the award of an individual contract. The procedures for the award of contracts by restricted or negotiated procedures are also outlined in the Directives. Contracts must be allocated by the contracting authority on the basis of either the lowest price or by assessment of the most economically advantageous tender using specified criteria.

For the general smaller scale contracts which fall outside the scope of the Directives, two procedures may be used, either open procedures or restricted procedures. It is a basic priniciple of Government procurement that a procedure based on competitive tendering should always be used and open procedures are strongly preferred. The objective is to secure at least three competitive bids, where possible.

It is acknowledged however, that in some instances open procedures are not always feasible and that is why provisions are made for the award of contracts through a restricted tendering procedure.

In the area of public works there is extremely keen interest in construction and engineering contracts, which are on offer, with typically a large number of firms seeking each contract. The EU Directives also provide for mechanisms whereby disaffected tenderers may process grievances about the handling of contracts which are subject to the Directives.

[1752]

  45.  Mr. T. Kitt    asked the Minister for Finance    the implications, if any, of recent reports questioning the validity of Ireland's official statistics, particularly those relating to GNP and GDP, for Ireland's position in relation to European Monetary Union. [3785/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Official figures for gross domestic product and gross national product are compiled by the Central Statistics Office in accordance with international standards as set out in the European System of National Accounts (ESA) and, in common with other EU member states, are subject to the scrutiny of the European Statistical Office. The Maastricht criteria for the general Government deficit and general Government debt are expressed as a percentage of GDP measured in accordance with these ESA standards. Ireland is one of only two countries in the EU that currently fulfills both of these criteria. I therefore consider that recent controversies concerning the measurement of GNP and GDP have no implications for our eligibility for membership of Economic and-Monetary Union.

  46.  Mr. T. Kitt    asked the Minister for Finance    the present position regarding the Leinster House development works in the Fisheries Yard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4198/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  The necessity to provide additional accommodation to cater for Dáil reform, Members and staff requirements has been acknowledged and various options to deal with the matter, including development on the Fisheries Yard site, and College of Art are being considered.Consultations with Members and staff will of course take place before a final decision is taken.

[1753]

  48.  Mr. McGahon    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the cost to the public of the reports of the evidence of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security in dealing with the events of 11 to 16 November 1994. [2850/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  The reports of the Select Committee on Legislation and Security covering the inquiry into events of 11 to 15 November 1994 are priced in accordance with a schedule of prices which applies to all committee reports. There have been no comments from members of the public or otherwise on the costs of these reports.

  50.  Mr. Andrews    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of pre-owned motor vehicles imported into Ireland and registered in 1994; and the revenue generated by the vehicle registration tax on all such vehicles. [2260/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The number of pre-owned (used) vehicles imported and registered in Ireland in 1994 was 58,110 and the vehicle registration tax collected in respect of such vehicles was £42.6 million.

  52.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will make a statement on the report in the Irish Independent on 2 February 1995, quoting a senior French Government source as stating that only seven countries including Germany, France, Holland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Austria and Finland would meet the criteria for a single European currency.[2852/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I [1754] have seen the newspaper report referred to by the Deputy. I note that the source quoted in it was suggesting that only seven member states meeting the criteria would be needed to form the majority required for economic and monetary union (EMU) to proceed in 1997, since the United Kingdom and Denmark could be excluded from the 15 member states for this purpose as they have secured opt-outs from the Economic and Monetary Union provisions of the Treaty on European Union. I also note that a later newspaper report stated that this interpretation was speedily rejected by the President of France.

As the Deputy will be aware, the procedure for deciding on movement in 1997 to Economic and Monetary Union and a single currency is laid down in the Treaty. This provides that the decision will be made by the European Council before 31 December 1996 after it has consulted the European Parliament. The European Council will be acting on the findings of the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers (ECOFIN), which itself will be acting on a recommendation from the European Commission.The Treaty requires the Commission to assess for each member state whether it fulfils the Treaty conditions for the adoption of a single currency and whether a majority of member states meet these conditions. It is therefore these institutions, and not an anonymous source, which will make the decision on movement to Economic and Monetary Union and a single currency.I would add that in view of the number of institutions involved in making the decision and the time which must elapse before it is made, it is obviously impossible at this stage to predict the outcome of the deliberations of these institutions.

As regards the member states which currently meet the criteria, I would recall for the Deputy that when the excessive deficit procedure was operated last year for the first time, only two member states, Ireland and Luxembourg, were judged to have satisfied the [1755] budgetary performance criteria. Under the Programme for Renewal, the Government is committed to ensuring that Ireland will continue to meet the budgetary performance criteria in the Treaty. My recent budget was in line with this commitment.

  53.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the success of the national lottery has had a serious effect on the fundraising capacity of other charities; the proposals, if any, he has made to or received from the Department of Justice in relation to raising the weekly limit on charitable lotteries from £10,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4417/95]

  61.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that the success of the national lottery has had a serious effect on the fund-raising capacity of other charities; the proposals, if any, he has made to or received from the Department of Justice in relation to raising the weekly limit on charitable lotteries from £10,000; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4418/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 53 and 61 together.

Independent market research has shown that public contributions to charitable fundraising have continued to grow since the introduction of the national lottery. This research has also shown that most people clearly differentiate between the money they spend on the national lottery and the money they give to charity. People who play the national lottery do so on the basis of a potentially large win for a small stake: when they give to charities it is on the basis that their contributions will go to [1756] a cause which is of particular concern to them. There is considerable evidence that charities themselves are successfully adopting innovative fund-raising methods.

I would remind the House that very many social and charitable bodies have received grants of national lottery funds since the lottery was introduced. Spending under the health/welfare category of the national lottery beneficiary fund, for example, from which many charitable organisations will have benefited directly or indirectly amounted to £180 million in the period 1987-1994.

Questions in relation to the prize limits applicable to charitable lotteries are a matter for the Minister for Justice.

  55.  Mr. Cullen    asked the Minister for Finance    the funding he expects to be available in 1995 under each of the departmental operational programmes; the source of such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4386/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Each of the operational programmes under the Community Support Framework for Ireland includes a financial plan which sets out the commitments by the EU from the Structural Funds in respect of the years 1994 to 1999. These commitments are matched by spending from national resources — from the Exchequer, other public bodies and the private sector. The commitments of EU aid in respect of 1995, together with cofinancing expenditure from public and private sources are set out in the tabular statement which I am making available.

These commitments are in line with the amounts included in the Community Support Framework 1994-99 which was agreed with the European Commission in July 1994.

[1757][1758] Community Support Framework 1994-99.

Breakdown of 1995 Commitments by Operational Programme

£m (1995 prices)

EU contribution Public co-financed Private co-financed Total
Agriculture, rural development and forestry 129.57 57.80 0.24 187.61
Fisheries 10.14 3.02 5.34 18.50
Local Urban and Rural Development 31.49 12.40 43.89
Industrial Development 125.88 40.75 26.05 192.68
Tourism 43.23 12.32 18.44 73.99
Economic Infrastructure 13.23 9.69 10.35 33.27
Environmental Services 5.10 2.57 0.93 8.60
Human Resources 218.63 79.89 298.52
Transport 95.52 54.69 150.21
Total 672.79 273.13 61.35 1007.27

  57.  Mr. Dempsey    asked the Minister for Finance    the changes, if any, the new Government is proposing to the National Development Plan, 1994 to 1999, either in substance or emphasis; the contacts, if any, he has had with Brussels regarding this plan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1454/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The Community Support Framework constitutes an agreement between the Commission and the Government of Ireland, based on the proposals in the national development plan, on the strategy and priorities for the use of the 5.62 billion ecu or £4.544 billion (in 1994 prices) to be provided by the Structural Funds in the period 1994-1999. The Government is firmly committed to the implementation of the Community Support Framework and the operational programmes which underpin it, on the basis agreed with the European Commission.

As part of this agreement with the Commission, the Irish authorities are required to monitor and evaluate the Community Support Framework throughout its period of operation. It is also intended to have a mid-term review of the Community Support Framework and all operational programmes. This may result in modifications or fine-tuning of programmes in order to ensure that resources are being deployed in a manner which gives the best return in terms of achieving the strategic objectives of the Community Support Framework.

The Government's priority is to implement the Community Support Framework with due regard to the need to maximise sustainable and long term employment as a result of projects undertaken. We will place particular emphasis on projects that enhance the quality of life of our citizens.

I had a meeting with Commissioner Flynn last month at which, amongst other things, we reviewed the present stage of implementation of the Community Support Framework. At official level, continuous contact will be maintained with the Commission on implementation of the Community Support Framework.

[1759]

  58.  Mr. Dempsey    asked the Minister for Finance    when the Arterial Drainage Act will be amended. [3571/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  Proposals for the amendment of the Arterial Drainage Act, 1945 are currently under consideration. I am not as yet in a position to say what changes will be made.

  59.  Mr. N. Treacy    asked the Minister for Finance    the action, if any, which the Government proposes to take and the measures, if any, which are to be implemented in order to alleviate the crisis which has been imposed on the people of the county and city of Galway and the west of Ireland as a result of the recent flooding and storms. [2517/95]

  63.  Mr. B. Ahern    asked the Minister for Finance    the steps, if any, he intends to take to alleviate the effects of flooding in the west of Ireland. [2628/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  As I informed the House in response to a recent parliamentary question, the Government has established an interdepartmental committee to co-ordinate its response to the effects of the recent bad weather. The committee will consider what, if any, funds can be secured to assist those who have suffered loss from non insurable risks as a result of the recent flooding.

The provision of £2 million was made in the budget for compensation for flood damage in the agricultural sector, and an additional provision of £4 million was made for repair to county roads. These provisions will be a matter for the Departments of Agriculture and Environment respectively.

Other exceptional or urgent needs arising from the recent flooding could be considered for assistance under the supplementary welfare allowance [1760] scheme which is administered by the health boards on behalf of the Department of Social Welfare.

In so far as the County Galway area is concerned, I have decided to commission a detailed study of the south Galway area which would enable us to identify the specific causes of the prolonged flooding which has occurred there in recent years and the measures required to alleviate the problem. I would hope to have this study undertaken in the near future when conditions permit.

  60.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Finance    the total proportion of people with disabilities currently employed in the Civil Service; the proportion employed at different grades; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4383/95]

  79.  Mr. Dempsey    asked the Minister for Finance    if the 3 per cent quota guideline for disabled persons in the Civil Service has been reached; if so, when it was reached; and if not, if any target date has been set for its full implementation.[4665/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 60 and 79 together.

As of October 1994, the most recent date for which data is available, the proportion of people with disabilities employed in the Civil Service was 3 per cent. Information regarding the grades in which people with disabilities are serving is not held centrally. Even if it were, I would be reluctant to publish details by grade in view of the extreme sensitivity of the data, particularly as, in the case of grades with a small number of staff, the information could result in the personal identification of staff with a disability.

[1761] The proportion of people with disabilities employed in the Civil Service reached 3 per cent in October 1993.

  65.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Finance    the total funding available in 1995 under the Community Initiative programmes; the source of such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4385/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The EU Commission has given indicative allocations to Ireland under the Structural Funds Community initiatives 1994-99 of 383.7 mECU. I have set out the breakdown across the initiatives of the EU funding allocation in the form of a tabular statement which I will convey to the Deputy. An additional amount may be expected out of the nearly £900 million retained by the Commission as a reserve for allocation later during the period to 1999. Three of the programmes, EMPLOYMENT, PESCA and the Ireland/Northern Ireland INTERREG, have already been approved by the Commission; the others are in the final stages of negotiation and are expected to be approved shortly.

A global provision of £45.85 million has been included in the Estimates for the Department of Finance in respect of Exchequer expenditure under Community initiatives for 1995. The Department of Finance is in consultation with the various Departments involved in managing the initiatives and will transfer appropriate amounts to the relevant Votes when the programmes are finalised. Amounts of £13.7 million, £4 million and £150,000 have already been included on the Votes of the Departments of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, the Environment and the Marine respectively for Community initiatives for 1995.

[1762] Statement setting out the breakdown across the Community initiatives of EU funding allocated to Ireland.

Initiative mECU £m
Ireland/Northern Ireland
INTERREG
Programme
89.5 72.0
Ireland/Wales
INTERREG
Programme
70.0 56.0
ADAPT 21.2 17.0
EMPLOYMENT 76.1 60.9
LEADER II 67.0 53.6
PESCA 6.7 5.4
RETEX 9.3 7.4
SME 28.4 22.7
URBAN 15.5 12.4
383.7 307.4

  66.  Mr. Browne (Wexford)    asked the Minister for Finance    the total funding available under INTERREG II as it pertains to the Ireland East/Wales area; the breakdown of such funding; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4390/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The European Commission has given an indicative allocation to the Ireland/ Wales INTERREG programme of 83.5 mECU (approximately £66.8 million). Of this 70 mECU (approximately £56 million) is expected to go to the eligible regions in Ireland. These are the south-east, mid-east and Dublin regions. The draft programme is almost complete and it is expected that the Commission will be in a position to approve it in the near future.

  68.  Mr. Power    asked the Minister for Finance    the specific statutory basis for the application by the Revenue Commissioners of the Civil Service rate of mileage expenses to company directors and all other taxpayers. [4389/95]

[1763]Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that there is no specific statutory basis for the use of the Civil Service mileage rates as a measure of actual motor expenses incurred.

It is, however, the practice in determining a mileage rate scale, which no more than reimburses the employee for the actual expenditure incurred, that the inspector of taxes approves scale rates which do not exceed what are kown as the “Civil Service Mileage Rates”. Many employers and employees are quite happy with this arrangement as, for example, in many cases it reduces administration costs.

However, where an employee or employer does not accept or comply with the inspector's terms of this practice, he/she may, of course, revert to the strict statutory position, viz: the employer treats the expenses payments as pay and applies tax to them in the normal way, and the employee makes a written application (together with receipts etc.) to his/her inspector of taxes for a deduction in respect of the expenses incurred.

  69.  Mr. Sargent    asked the Minister for Finance    the plans, if any, he has to provide a financial incentive towards the production of biofuel which, if put in place during the course of 1995, would promote increased production in 1996. [2497/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I presume the Deputy has taxation incentives in mind.

At present, substitute fuels, including biofuels, are not liable here to hydrocarbon oil excise duty. However, additives or extenders, which could include substitute fuels, that are added to hydrocarbon oils are liable to duty at the rate applying to the oil in question.

Under EU Directive 92/81/EEC, as amended, products which are added to, or substituted for, hydrocarbon oils and used as motor fuel are taxable as motor [1764] fuel. However, member states may apply total or partial exemptions or reductions in the rate of excise duty to mineral oils used in the field of pilot projects for the technological development of more environmentally-friendly products and in particular in relation to fuels from renewable resoures.

No agreement has been reached at EU level in regard to a Commission proposal specifically relating to the taxation of biofuels. The domestic position regarding the taxation of biofuels is under review.

  70.  Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn    asked the Minister for Finance    the role, functions, powers and job descriptions of all programme managers appointed to his Department; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4190/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The Deputies are no doubt aware that programme manager posts were introduced by the previous Government, (of which they were members), to assist Ministers in managing and co-ordinating the achievement of the objectives of the Government's programme. The Deputies are also no doubt aware that this Government's programme for renewal sets out an agenda to be implemented by the partners in Government.

One programme manager, a male, has been appointed in my Department.

The function of my programme manager, along with the other programme managers, is to facilitate the effective implementation of the Government's agenda within Departments and inter-departmentally during the life of the Government and to provide administrative support to Ministers in progressing the programme for renewal. He is required to perform any duties assigned to him from time to time as appropriate to his position.

[1765]

  72.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for Finance    if a committee has been established to conduct a review of ministerial transport; if not, when it will be established; the aims of the committee; and when it will report. [4511/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  In accordance with the commitment in paragraph 59 of A Government of Renewal a committee has been established to conduct a full review of all ministerial transport. The terms of reference for the committee are — (i) to conduct a full review of all ministerial transport, having regard to issues of cost and cost effectiveness, efficiency, security and flexibility, and (ii) to propose guidelines for ministerial transport on foot of this review. The committee, which held its first meeting on 8 February 1995, is required to submit its report within six months of the date of its establishment.

  73.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Taoiseach    the number of persons registered as unemployed in each employment exchange office in Kerry on the latest date for which figures are available; and the numbers unemployed on the same date in 1994. [4246/95]

The Taoiseach:  The information requested by the Deputy is set out in the following table:—

Number of persons on the live register in each employment office in Kerry on 27 January 1995 and 28 January 1994:

27 Jan 1995 28 Jan 1994
Cahirciveen 520 563
Dingle 191 233
Killarney 1,866 1,760
Killorglin 815 841
Listowel 1,677 1,938
Tralee 4,437 4,527
Total County Kerry 9,506 9,907

[1766]

  74.  Mr. Bree    asked the Taoiseach    if the interdepartmental policy committee on local development recommended that the Borough of Sligo be included as a designated area under the urban and rural development programme.[4339/95]

The Taoiseach:  The interdepartmental policy committee on local development did recommend that the full county of Sligo, including the Borough of Sligo, be a designated area under the local urban and rural development programme, as announced on 10 February, 1995, by the Minister of State for European affairs and local development.Copies of the statement have been laid before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

  75.  Mr. Woods    asked the     asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the number of programme managers who have been appointed to his Department; and the number of these appointees who are women. [

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  I have appointed one programme manager, Mr. Greg Sparks.

  76.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the     asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the impending execution in Pakistan of 14 year old Salamat Masih who was sentenced to death for blasphemy; and if he will make representations to the Government of Pakistan in view of Salamat Masih's young age. [

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring):  I was aware that on 9 February 14 year old Salamat Masih, who was 11 years of age at the time of the alleged offence, was sentenced to death under Pakistan's blasphemy law. I am glad to [1767] say that on 23 February the Lahore High Court overturned both his conviction and his sentence and ordered his release.

The Irish Government urged action by the European Union on the case of Salamat Masih from the time the news of his death sentence became available. The European Union made representations in Islamabad to the Government of Pakistan, expressing its grave concern at the sentence and appealing for it not to be carried out. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Ms. Benazir Bhutto, publicly expressed her deep shock and unhappiness with the verdict.

The Deputy will recall that Prime Minister Bhutto paid an official visit to Ireland from 29 June to 1 July 1994. It was clear on that occasion that the current Pakistani Government is committed to reforming the blasphemy law, which was introduced during the military dictatorship of General Zia.

  77.  Mr. Killeen    asked the Minister for Finance    his views on a reported claim that the Irish coastline is vulnerable to drug baron activities in view of the fact that this country's communications system does not stretch far enough into the Atlantic. [4084/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that, in view of the greater responsibility placed on Customs for protecting not only Ireland, but the EU as a whole, against drug smuggling with the abolition of systematic checks at internal Community frontiers since 1 January 1993, a Customs National Drugs Team (CNDT) was established. The CNDT, comprising over 70 staff, consists of intelligence units, operational units, maritime units and sniffer dog units, which are strategically based at locations throughout the country. All units are mobile and employ the most modern means of communication and [1768] have access to aerial and sea surveillance.These specialist officials supplement the general cadre of Customs and Excise staff who are also responsible for the detection and prevention of drug smuggling as part of their normal duties.

The CNDT maintains contacts with customs administrations throughout the world by means of international conventions to which Ireland is a contracting party. In addition, a highly developed computer system (Customs Information system) which links the customs services of EU member states has been established to facilitate quick and effective exchanges of information regarding suspect movements of people and goods. Arrangements are also in place for the transfer of information on the movement of suspect containers, ships and yachts.

On the national front, the CNDT has negotiated memoranda of understanding with trade associations and companies involved in the transport of goods and/or persons as part of the continuing drive against drug smuggling. Additionally, they recently launched the coastal and airfield reporting pack under the drug watch programme. The pack has had wide distribution and enlists the assistance of coastal communities, maritime personnel, people residing in close proximity to airfields and other members of the public and encourages the reporting of unusual occurrences in their areas to Customs by freefone or freepost.

There is close co-operation between all Government agencies in the battle against drug smuggling. The Naval Service and Air Corps provide vital assistance on request with regard to the monitoring of suspect ships and yachts operating outside the range of the CNDT maritime units. This assistance provides essential cover and communications far out to sea.

A report is currently being prepared by the Department of Justice, in consultation with all concerned, with a view to further improving co-ordination, sharing of information and intelligence and [1769] ensuring that there is the utmost level of co-operation by all the agencies involved in the fight against drug smuggling.

In the circumstances, I am satisfied that the co-operation that exists between the appropriate Government services provides adequate offshore surveillance and communications.

[1770]

  78.  Kathleen Lynch    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will give information on tax expenditure in the years 1993 and 1994 relating to payments made under section 439 (1) (II) of the Income Tax Act, 1967 to universities or colleges; the amount of expenditure relating to third level colleges; the number of funds set up to receive covenanted payments from this section; the number of funds set up to receive covenanted payments that relate to third level colleges and universities; the number of funds set up to receive covenanted payments that relate to second level schools; the number of funds set up to receive covenanted payments that relate to the primary sector; the payments made under section 439 to persons other than the direct descendants of the disponer; the payments made under section 439 to children and others subject to the 5 per cent limit of disponer's income; and the payments made under section 439 to organisations for human rights as amended by section 15 of the Finance Act, 1975. [4476/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that statistics are not available which would enable the precise information requested by the Deputy to be given. Such information either could not be obtained, or could not be obtained without undertaking inquiries which could be carried out only at a disproportionate cost.

The relevant information available on the cost to the Exchequer of the tax relief for covenanted dispositions of income by individuals and companies, excluding maintenance arrangements between separated spouses, and the numbers of claimants in respect of the income tax years 1993-94 and 1994-95 is estimated as follows:

Individuals Companies Total
Cost Numbers Cost Numbers Cost Numbers
£m £m £m
1939-94 33.7 36,000 1.2 60 34.9 36,060
1994-95 36.8 37,000 1.1 60 37.9 37,070

The cost figures attributed to companies are in respect of covenants in favour of universities and colleges for the purpose of research and the teaching of the natural sciences. Any costs attributable to individuals for the same purpose are included in the overall totals given for that category and cannot be distinguished.

The other data sought by the Deputy, in so far as it is available, is based on the results of a special survey carried out by the Revenue Commissioners in 1994. The main purpose of the survey was to provide an estimate of the number and cost to the Exchequer of covenants in favour of persons in third level education.It was based on a 1 per cent random sample of all cases on file.

Information on covenants other than those in favour or persons in third level education also became available as a result of the survey. However, since the information in respect of covenants retained on the Revenue files is, in general, confined to that which is necessary [1771] to administer the relief, the precise data requested by the Deputy is not available.

Following is the relevant information available on covenants by individuals based on the results of the survey: covenants from parents and grand-parents to children, which are limited to a maximum of 5 per cent of the covenator's income, make up to 60 per cent of the total of 37,000 covenants and nearly 53 per cent of the total cost of £37 million for covenants in 1994-95; covenants from other relatives make up 22 per cent of the total number of covenants and 34 per cent of the total cost; other covenants make up to 18 per cent of the total number of covenants and 13 per cent of the total cost; covenants to persons in third level education (whether from parents or from other covenantors) make up to 69 per cent of the total number of covenants and 64 per cent of the total cost.

In overall figures of costs and numbers supplied, it is not possible to identify the amounts related to the tax relief provided under section 15 of the Finance Act, 1973, for covenants in favour of certain human rights organisations recognised by the UN.

  80.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Finance    the action, if any, he proposes to take regarding flooding being caused in the Lough Reane area of County Leitrim in view of the Ballinamore/ Ballyconnell canal works. [4262/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  Lough Reane lies approximately 500 metres south west of St. John's Lough Middle, which is the nearest location to it on the newly restored Shannon-Erne Waterway (Ballinamore and Ballyconnell Navigation).

No work was carried out on Lough Reane during the restoration project [1772] and it has no surface outlet to the waterway.It is a turlough and appears to depend entirely on a number of swallow holes for drainage.

My office was first notified of flooding in the vicinity of Lough Reane in March 1994. Since then the relevant lake levels have been surveyed and the position is being continuously monitored in order to establish the flow regime and to determine whether there is a link between the two lakes. This work is ongoing and no conclusion can be reached until relevant data is available and analysed.

  81.  Mr. Broughan    asked the Minister for Finance    the amount of revenue the Exchequer has received from the commercial banks from the introduction of the bank levy in 1989 to 1994; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4269/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The relevant available data are the bank levy and the estimated amounts of Irish corporation tax paid by the commercial banks. The following table sets out the information requested in so far as it is available:

Calendar Year Estimated corporation tax and bank levy paid by banks
£m
1989 66.4
1990 63.4
1991 73.7
1992 75.5
1993 87.1
1994 138.2

These figures do not include receipts from the “section 84” levy in respect of which the banks act as collection agents only.

The bank levy was increased in 1988 from £25 million to £36 million and remained at that level from that time up to and including 1994.

[1773] It should be remembered that the banks pay significant amounts of overseas tax as well as Irish corporation tax.

  82.  Mr. E. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Finance    the number of people who were included in the tax net on 8 February 1995, or on any other date around that time; the comparative number on a similar date in 1994; and his views on comments made by Minister Rabbitte that the 1995 budget will remove 10,000 people from the tax net. [4282/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I assume what the Deputy is interested in is the impact of the recent budget. It is estimated that there were some 915,000 taxpayers in the 1994-95 tax year. The number of taxpayers would have increased to around 926,000 in the 1995-96 tax year if there had been no income tax changes in the budget. However, as I indicated in my Budget Statement the increases in personal allowances and exemption limits announced in the budget will remove an estimated 10,000 taxpayers, who would otherwise have been liable for tax, from the tax net.

[1774]

  83.  Mr. E. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Finance    the total cost per annum of collecting property tax, taking account of human resources costs, including pension and other benefits, travelling and communication costs, computer time costs including depreciation and interest, valuers' fees and professional services, part-time and temporary workers, contractors, costs in the Land Registry and valuation offices, costs in dealing with queries regarding the property tax, advertising, printing and publishing costs, all related equipment costs, including depreciation and interest, all other costs directly or indirectly related to collection including capital and rental costs of accommodation, fitting out, furnishings, cleaning, heating, lighting and security costs and any other costs. [4283/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the total cost per annum of collecting residential property tax is estimated at £550,000.

  84.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Finance    the estimated number of persons living in the south who work in Northern Ireland and are affected by the double taxation arrangements; and the plans, if any, he has to alleviate the hardship caused. [4297/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the information requested by the Deputy is not readily available. Information from tax returns is not recorded in such a way that it would be possible to identify this category of taxpayer by computer programme.To obtain the information it would be necessary to identify the cases and extract the information manually. Such an exercise could be carried out only at a disproportionate cost.

Following recent representations made to me from a number of cross-Border workers I have decided to establish a joint committee of officials from my Department and the Revenue Commissioners to look at the various issues involved in the taxation of cross-Border workers. However, as has been stated many times before, this is a very complex area, involving two jurisdictions, and it may be impossible to come up with any changes which would alter the treatment of cross-Border workers.

  85.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Finance    if a person (details supplied) is entitled to a refund of income tax. [4338/95]

[1775]Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I have been advised by the Revenue Commissioners that the taxpayer ceased employment on 10 June, 1989. Refunds in the amounts of £99.59 and £75.47 were issued in July and September, 1989. This represents all tax paid in the tax year 1989/90. The Inspector has no record of her having recommenced employment since.

  86.  Mr. Clohessy    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will widen the remit of the Ombudsman to include military affairs; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [3984/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Under the Ombudsman Act 1980, the Ombudsman may not investigate any action if it relates to or affects national security or military activity. The Schedule to that Act excludes the defence forces, by name, from the remit of the Ombudsman. In addition, the Act precludes, in general terms, any investigation of recruitment, appointment or terms and conditions of employment insofar as the bodies within the remit of the Ombudsman are concerned.

I refer the Deputy to a response given by my colleague, the Minister for Defence on 31 January, to a question by Deputy Penrose, when he stated that the issue of an Ombudsman for military affairs could be considered if the reformed procedures for redressing wrongs and grievances — a draft scheme of which has been issued to the PDF representative associations — do not meet requirements.

I would also refer to the Government's programme of work entitled A Government of Renewal where we undertook to introduce legislation to extend the remit of the Ombudsman. This will involve a review of the exemptions to the Ombudsman's jurisdiction in existing law in the context of a major extension of the Office's powers. In that connection, developments in the [1776] defence forces will be taken into account.

  88.  Mr. Davern    asked the Minister for Finance    the discussions, if any, he has had with the French Presidency regarding the single currency for the EU; and the results of such discussions. [2854/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Near the start of the French Presidency in January, I met my French counterpart Minister Alphandery to discuss the Presidency's plans for the period to the end of June in the area of work covered by the Council of Economic and Finance Ministers. In the course of that meeting we had a brief discussion of the general position regarding the establishment of the third stage of economic and monetary union. We did not specifically discuss the single currency.

  89.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the estimated yield in 1995 from residential property tax; the geographic locations which have paid the greater share of the total residential property tax to date; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4454/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  Residential property tax is estimated to yield £10 million in 1995. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that the greater share of residential property tax comes from householders in the Dublin region. An analysis of returns filed for the 1994 valuation date (when the value exemption threshold was £75,000) indicated that residential property tax taxpayers with addresses in County Dublin constituted 65 per cent of the total number of taxpayers and paid 75 per cent of the total tax. This simply reflects the reality that the majority of houses valued in excess of the exemption threshold are located in Dublin.

[1777]

  90.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the present situation on the development of a single EU currency and Economic and Monetary Union; the position of other member states, in particular the United Kingdom; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4455/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The Treaty on European Union sets out a timetable for movement to the third stage of Economic and Monetary Union and a single currency. Briefly, if a majority of member states meets the conditions, the third stage can begin in 1997; if a date for the start of the third stage has not been set by the end of 1997, the third stage will begin in 1999.

The focus of activity among member states at present is on meeting the treaty conditions — which relate to Government deficit, debt, inflation etc. — for moving to Economic and Monetary Union. The excessive deficit procedure set out in the treaty, which is designed to increase economic convergence among the member states, was implemented in 1994 for the first time: only two member states, Ireland and Luxembourg, were found not to have an excessive deficit.

As regards the position of member states, the United Kingdom and Denmark secured opt-outs from the Economic and Monetary Union provisions when the treaty was being negotiated.The UK Government has made clear it does not expect Economic and Monetary Union to be formed in 1997 and has said the UK will not join in 1997 even if it is. It has also said a decision on whether the UK should join in 1999 will be made closer to that date. The other ten states which were members when the treaty was negotiated accepted its Economic and Monetary Union provisions. The three new member states also made clear they accepted the Economic and Monetary Union provisions when they joined the European Union at the beginning of this year.

[1778]

  91.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    the estimated costs associated with the holding of referenda in 1995; and if having referenda on a Sunday would have an impact on the cost. [4456/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  A provision of £3 million has been included for election expenses and related payments to An Post under Central Fund services for 1995. The costs of referenda would be met under this heading but precise estimates of cost could only be made when the dates for referenda have been settled.

Holding referenda on a Sunday would be a novelty and costings would have to be discussed with the interests concerned.It would be too early at this stage to make any reliable estimate of how the costs might compare with the normal practice of holding referenda and elections in midweek.

  92.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for Finance    if he has satisfied himself with the existing structure and jackpots of the national lottery; when the next allocation of lottery funding will be made available to desirable community projects; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4457/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I assume the Deputy's question refers to the game and prize structures operated by the National Lottery Company. I am satisfied with existing arrangements. These are, of course, reviewed on an ongoing basis by the company and any proposed changes have to be submitted to me for any approval.

I am not precisely clear what particular activities the Deputy has in mind in “community projects”. Details of the 1995 national lottery funded allocations are contained in Appendix 1 of the Abridged Estimates Volume which is available in the Oireachtas Library. [1779] Applications for grants under the relevant categories would be primarily a matter for the spending Departments concerned.

  93.  Mr. T. Kitt    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will give further details of the work of the Irish Print Museum in Beggars Bush, Dublin 4, which was allocated £100,000 in 1995; the reason for this particular allocation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4459/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  The Irish Print Museum is located in the former garrison chapel in Beggars Bush Barracks. It houses printing machinery and other artefacts, some dating back to the eighteenth century, outlining the rich heritage associated with printing in Ireland. The £100,000 which was allocated in the budget will enable the committee of the Irish Print Museum to further progress this very innovative and stimulating project.

  94.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Minister for Finance    if he will accept the offer of £5,000 from the Barraduff Community Development Association for the purchase of the old derelict primary school in Barraduff, in the parish of Glenflesk, County Kerry; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4462/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Finance (Mr. J. Higgins):  The offer made by the Barraduff Community Development Association for this property was significantly below its estimated open market valuation. Consequently, and as the association did not wish to negotiate a lease of the premises which would ensure its continuing use for community purposes, the Commissioners of Public Works have no option but to offer the property for sale on the open market. That has been [1780] arranged and the relevant press notices will appear next weekend.

  95.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Finance    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that PRSI and levies are charged twice on income which is passed between separated spouses by way of maintenance payments; the proposals, if any, he has to introduce more equitable arrangements; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4466/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  I refer the Deputy to a reply to a similar question on 25 January 1995 (Volume 448, columns 144-146). On that occasion I distinguished between the social insurance element of PRSI contributions on the one hand and the health contribution and employment and training levy on the other.

The position in relation to the social insurance element remains as set out in my reply of 25 January 1995. With regard to the health contribution and the employment and training levy the Government is considering, in the context of the Social Welfare Bill to be circulated shortly by my colleague, the Minister for Social Welfare, amendments to the relevant legislation aimed at the introduction of more equitable arrangements in respect of maintenance payments.

[1781]

  96.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Finance,    in view of the increasing public concern surrounding new movements, commonly referred to as cults, and in view of the tragic events at Waco in the United States of America and Solar Temple in Switzerland and in Canada, if he will make a statement on the application by the Church of Scientology/Dianetics, Middle Abbey Street, Dublin 1 for charitable status; and the outcome of that application. [4522/95]

Minister for Finance (Mr. Quinn):  There is at present no statutory body responsible for regulating the activities of charities or with which charities should be registered. The Revenue Commissioners consider applications for tax exemption from organisations established for charitable purposes but do not confer charitable status as such. In the policy agreement between the Government parties. A Government of Renewal, there is a commitment to reforming the law relating to administration and regulations of charities along the lines of the Costello report which is primarily a matter for the Minister for Justice. I am informed by the Revenue Commissioners that their obligation to observe confidentiality in relation to the taxation affairs of taxpayers precludes them from giving information about individual applications for tax exemption made to them.

  99.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Health    if he will confirm retention of medical card for a family (details supplied) in County Westmeath whose case came up for review recently. [4274/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The determination of eligibility for a medical card is a matter for the chief executive officer of the appropriate health board. Persons are granted medical cards where the chief executive officer considers that they are unable to meet their medical expenses without undue hardship. A uniform set of income guidelines are used by the health boards to assist in deciding on a person's eligibility. Each application is assessed on its own merits with the individual circumstances, including particular illnesses or disabilities, being taken into account. In the interests of effective management of the system, health boards periodically review [1782] the eligibility status of medical card holders.

I have had inquiries made of the Midland Health Board in this case and I understood that, following a recent review, the couple in question had their medical card withdrawn on the grounds that their income was considerably above the guidelines. However, the board has decided to grant a card on medical grounds to one of the family members mentioned in the Deputy's question.

  100.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for Health    when he expects to publish the report resulting from the investigations into the blood bank. [4292/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I received the report of the expert group on the Blood Transfusion Service Board on 27 January 1995. I am considering the report in detail and arrangements will be made in due course for its publication.

  101.  Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn    asked the Minister for Health    the numbers of multiple sclerosis sufferers in each health board area; the services provided in each health board area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4310/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The number of multiple sclerosis (MS) sufferers known to each health board is set out in the following table:

Health Board Number of MS sufferers
Eastern 483
Midland 67
Mid-Western 210
North-Eastern 124
North-Western 250
South-Eastern 156
Southern 300
Western 121
Total 1,711

[1783] MS sufferers avail of the full range of medical, nursing and support services as appropriate, and in accordance with eligibility and need. In addition, health boards provide funding by way of section 65 grants to the MS Society of Ireland for the provision of the society's direct services to MS sufferers.

  102.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Health    if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there is a nine months' waiting list for sight testing under the Western Health Board sight testing scheme for pensioners; and his views on whether this is satisfactory in view of the commitment to provide sight testing services to pensioners. [4330/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The provision of optical services for eligible persons in the Western Health Board area is the statutory responsibility of the Western Health Board.

The Western Health Board currently has a system in operation which gives priority to applicants with special needs such as persons with certain medical conditions, and every effort is made to ensure that urgent cases are processed without delay. There is no waiting list for children requiring glasses.

My Department is aware of the Western Health Board's concern regarding the sight testing scheme at present. As part of the determination of the Western Health Board's 1995 expenditure level I have included £13,000 to allow the board provide additional services under the sight testing scheme in 1995.

[1784]

  103.  Mr. Bree    asked the Minister for Health    the number of persons on out-patient waiting lists in the North-Western Health Board area; the number of these who have been waiting for over 12 months; the number of these who have been waiting for over two years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4331/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): As at 31 January 1995, the total number of persons in the North-Western Health Board area on out-patient waiting lists was 9,397. Information relating to approximately waiting times is not routinely collected by my Department.

In the context of the waiting list initiative for 1995, the Government has made £8 million available in order to allow health boards and hospitals to reduce waiting times and this will have an impact on the length of time people spend on out-patient waiting lists. Discussion will shortly take place between my Department and the North-Western Board on the board's priorities in this area.

  104.  Mr. E. Walsh    asked the Minister for Health    if he will have arrangements made for a person (details supplied) in Dublin 24 to have urgent eye surgery carried out following the cancellation of this person's operation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4332/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I understand from the Royal Victoria Eye and Ear Hospital that the person in question was operated upon on 22 February 1995.

  105.  Mr. J. Fox    asked the Minister for Health    if he will introduce legislation which will provide, without exception, for the recognition by the State of adoptions which have been effected in other countries in accordance with the law applying in those countries; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4438/95]

[1785]

  106.  Mr. J. Fox    asked the Minister for Health    the specific grounds on which it is considered that an adoption effected under Guatemalan law does not have essentially the same legal effect as respects the termination and creation of parental rights and duties with respect to the child as an adoption effected by an adoption order in this State; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4039/95]

  107.  Mr. J. Fox    asked the Minister for Health    if he will provide for the recognition of adoptions which have been conducted in other countries in accordance with the law applying in those countries but which are not currently recognised by the State in the context of forthcoming legislation to enable ratification of the Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption; if not, the reason therefor; his views on whether such adoptions involve the creation of a new parent-child relationship within the meaning of the Hague Convention; and if he will make a statement on the matter.[4440/95]

Minister of State at the Department of Health (Mr. Currie):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 105, 106 and 107 together.

The current statutory provisions relating to the recognition of foreign adoptions are set out in the Adoption Act, 1991. A central requirement for recognition is that an adoption effected abroad must comply with the terms of the definition of a foreign adoption contained in the Act. Broadly speaking, adoptions effected in countries which operate systems of legal adoption similar to our own system qualify for recognition under the legislation.

The Adoption Board has primary responsibility for the administration of the 1991 Act, including considering whether individual adoptions effected outside the State are entitled to recognition here in accordance with the provisions of the legislation. I understand that the board has taken the view that adoptions effected in Guatemala do not qualify for recognition because certain aspects of Guatemalan adoption law are [1786] incompatible with one of the elements of the definition of a foreign adoption contained in the legislation. The element in question requires that an adoption effected abroad must have essentially the same legal effect as respects the termination and creation of parental rights and duties with respect to the child as an Irish adoption order. The Adoption Board considers that certain provisions of Guatemalan adoption law, including those relating to succession rights and the circumstances in which an adoption may cease or be annulled, are essentially different from Irish law in these areas.

I might mention that under section 7 of the 1991 Act a person who has been refused recognition by the Adoption Board may apply to the High Court for an order directing the board to grant such recognition. This provision was specifically included in the legislation in order to provide an appeal mechanism in cases where a dispute arises between adopters and the Adoption Board as to whether a particular adoption is entitled to recognition.

I should also mention that where an adoption effected abroad does not qualify for recognition under the 1991 Act, it is open to the adopters to apply for an Irish adoption order for the child.

The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, which was completed in 1993, provides among other matters for the recognition by countries which are parties to it of intercountry adoptions that take place under and in accordance with the requirements of the convention.More than 60 countries, including Ireland, participated in the preparation of the convention. My Department is committed to amending current adoption legislation so as to enable the convention to be ratified here. I should explain, however, that the convention does not provide for the recognition on a retrospective basis of intercountry adoptions already completed.

I have no plans to amend the existing law to provide for the recognition, without exception, of adoptions effected in foreign countries in accordance with the [1787] internal law of those countries. The whole basis of the approach set out in the Adoption Act, 1991, is that each foreign adoption must be examined on its merits in order to determine whether it is entitled to recognition here. A provision for automatically recognising all adoptions effected in other countries would cut across his approach and would in some instances be in contravention of international agreements to which the State is a party.

  108.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Minister for Health    the present position regarding the proposed diabetic clinic and a multi-risk factor clinic for Tralee General Hospital, County Kerry, which is ongoing since June 1991; if he will make necessary finance available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4458/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The provision and organisation services at Tralee General Hospital is a matter for the Southern Health Board in the first instance. I understand that the establishment of a multi-risk factor clinic for diabetics at Tralee General Hospital is one of the Southern Health Board's objectives for service development at the hospital. The Deputy will wish to know that my Department has not received any proposal from the Southern Health Board in this regard.

  109.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Health    the per capita expenditure of each health board in the year 1994. [4471/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The information requested by the Deputy is not yet available in my Department. I will send the information to him as soon as it [1788] becomes available, which I expect will be soon.

  110.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Health    if the procedure known as purification rundown as practised by a Church (details supplied) at an individual cost of £1,200 and the psychotherapy offered there has been investigated by his Department; and, if not, if he will have arrangements made for an appropriate investigation and monitoring in view of its medical and psychological implications. [4523/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): I, as Minister for Health, have no role or function in the investigation and monitoring of the Church of Scientology.

The psychotherapy and purification rundown services offered by practitioners of alternative therapies are not regulated by statute and there are no proposals, at present, to so regulate them. Those engaged in the provision of these services are, of course, subject to general common law provisions. Practitioners of alternative therapies are free to engage in practice provided they do not represent themselves as being registered practitioners.

It is the responsibility of individuals to satisfy themselves that they are availing of the services of reputable therapists at all times.

  111.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Health    if orthodontic treatment will be provided in the case of a person (details supplied) in Galway; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4565/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The provision of orthodontic treatment to persons in County Galway is the responsibility of the Western Health Board in the first instance and I have referred this case to the chief [1789] executive officer of the Western Health Board for his immediate attention and direct reply to you.

  112.  Mr. Foley    asked the Minister for Health    the number of people waiting for orthodontic treatment in the Southern Health Board area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4593/95]

Minister for Health (Mr. Noonan,:  Limerick East): The provision of orthodontic treatment to eligible persons in the Southern Health Board area is the responsibility of the Southern Health Board in the first instance and I have referred this matter to the chief executive officer of the Southern Health Board for his immediate attention and direct reply to you.

  113.  Dr. Woods    asked the Minister for Equality and Law Reform    the number of programme managers who have been appointed to his Department; and the number of these appointees who are women. [4312/95]

Minister for Equality and Law Reform (Mr. Taylor):  One programme manager has been appointed to the Department of Equality and Law Reform. The appointee is a woman.

  114.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht    in view of remarks made by his Department on the failure of the architects' profession to endow the work of the Arts Council, if he will give details of all endowments of the Arts Council made over the last three years, categorising the endowments by reference to the individual arts; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4467/95]

Minister for Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht (Mr. M. Higgins):  The most recent endowments of the work of the [1790] Arts Council are the Michael Byrne Trust (£8,800 in 1994 for the visual arts) and the Doris Keogh Award (£7,000 in 1992 for classical music). In previous years endowments, both modest and generous, were made by film, musical, literary and visual interests. The most notable was £51,370 by the Popular Music Association.

No remarks were made by my Department about the failure of the architects' profession to make such endowments; an invitation to the RIAI to follow the example of those such as the Popular Music Association was issued in the context of funding for the Arts Council in the next three years.

  115.  Mr. Callely    asked the Minister for the Environment    the likely day of the week that referenda will be held in 1995; and the consideration, if any, he has given to the holding of referenda on Sunday. [4456/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Under the Referendum Act, 1994, the polling day at a constitutional referendum is apointed by order made by the Minister for the Environment in accordance with and subject to the constraints set out in the Act. The order cannot be made until the Constitution Amendment Bill has been passed or is deemed to have been passed by both Houses of the Oireachtas.

It is a matter for decision on each occasion which day of the week should be appointed for taking the poll. While it has been the practice to hold elections and referenda on a Thursday, current proposals for referenda have not yet developed to the stage where it would be appropriate for me to consider which day of the week should be appointed for taking the polls concerned.

[1791]

  116.  Mr. Killeen    asked the Minister for the Environment    the funding his Department will make available in 1995 to Ennis Urban District Council for the provision of playing pitches. [4751/95]

  119.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will make national lottery funding available towards the reconstruction of a community hall (details supplied) in County Offaly; when the next allocation from national lottery funds will be made available; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4279/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 116 and 119 together.

There is no provision in my Department's Vote, nor any current scheme, under which national lottery or any other funds could be allocated by me to projects such as these.

  117.  Mr. Crowley    asked the Minister for the Environment    when he expects to release tenders for the north west regional water scheme, Ketragh Development, in north Cork. [4266/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Contract documents for this scheme are under consideration in my Department. Given the high level of demands under the water services programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve them.

  118.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will make extra funding available for a group water scheme (details supplied) in County Offaly; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4278/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Design data for this proposed scheme was recently received in my Department and is being examined. The [1792] question of funding does not arise at this stage.

  120.  Mr. Penrose    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of local authority housing starts which have been approved for each of the years 1987 to 1995; the number of local authority housing starts which were allocated to Westmeath County Council and Athlone Urban District Council for each of the years 1987 to 1995; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4284/95]

Minister for State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  The details requested are set out in the following tabular statement:

House Starts 1987-1995

Year Total Westmeath Co. Council Athlone UDC
1987 974 7
1988 731 12
1989 708 19
1990 1,300 18 6
1991 1,500 20 4
1992 1,000 11 4
1993 3,500 45 5
1994 3,500 45 10
1995 3,900 40 30

The figures from 1987 to 1989 refer to the number of houses commenced, while those from 1990 to 1995 relate to the numbers approved to start.

  121.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for the Environment    the average figures for homeless adults in each of the years 1992 to 1994. [4291/95]

Minister for State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  The latest assessment of housing needs was carried out by local authorities at 31 March 1993 and disclosed that the number of homeless persons was 2,667. [1793] Details are set out in Part IX of my Department's Annual Housing Statistics Bulletin 1993, copies of which are in the Oireachtas Library.

  122.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for the Environment    the number of effluent discharge licences issued in 1994 in respect of discharges to sewers and discharges to waters; the number of holders of such licences paying a direct contribution towards the provision of effluent treatment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4299/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Details of the numbers of licences in force unde the Water Pollution Acts, 1977 and 1990 are published on an annual basis in my Department's Environment Bulletin, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library. There were 688 licences for discharges to waters and 1,086 licences for discharges to sewers in force at 31 December 1993. Details are given in Environment Bulletin No. 25.

Contributions may be required by sanitary authorities (by way of conditions attached to licences) towards the costs of monitoring, treating and disposing of discharges to sewers, but details of such contributions are not available in my Department.

In December 1994, the Economic and Social Research Institute published a study, commissioned by my Department, which examines private industry's use of, and payment for, public waste water treatment facilities from which it directly benefits. The study recommends, inter alia, a more formalised charging system to replace the ad hoc capital contribution arrangements which have evolved over time. The study proposals and their implications are currently under consideration in my Department and will form the basis of a wider consultative process with a view to informing future policy in this area.

[1794]

  123.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for the Environment    when he will announce the group water schemes that will be sanctioned to commence this year. [4333/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Group water schemes are approved on an ongoing basis subject to available resources and the level of existing commitments under the programme.I expect to be in a position to approve a number of further schemes shortly.

  124.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for the Environment    when sanction will be given for the commencement of the Lisheenkyle group water scheme, County Galway. [4334/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Normal group scheme grants and contributions would not be sufficient to finance this scheme, for which a special contribution of over £100,000 has been sought from the water services programme. A decision regarding the scheme will be made as soon as possible.

  125.  Dr. McDaid    asked the Minister for the Environment    the current situation in relation to a main town sewerage scheme (details supplied) in County Donegal. [4340/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  A preliminary report for this scheme was approved in June 1990 subject to conditions. Donegal County Council has recently submitted modifications to the report and these are being considered in my Department.

  126.  Dr. McDaid    asked the Minister for the Environment    the current position on the sewerage scheme in Carndonagh, County Donegal. [4341/95]

[1795]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  My Department has recently asked Donegal County Council to reexamine some aspects of the revised preliminary report for this scheme.

  127.  Dr. McDaid    asked the Minister for the Environment    the current position on the Cardonagh/Malin, County Donegal water scheme exension to Glengad. [4342/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  My Department has not had contact with Donegal County Council regarding this proposal since approval was given to the preparation of a preliminary report in May 1992.

  128.  Mr. Hughes    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will provide funding in 1995 for the provision of toilets at Dooega, Achill, County Mayo. [4358/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  There is no proposal before my Department to fund a public convenience at the location mentioned.

  129.  Mr. Hughes    asked the Minister for the Environment    the allocation by his Department to Mayo County Council for county roads, regional, national primary and secondary routes in each of the past ten years. [4363/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Grant payments for non-national roads are not subdivided into the categories mentioned. Subject to this, the information requested is included in the replies to Question No. 72 of 24 May 1994; Questions Nos. 169, 170, 171 and 172 of 15 November 1994; [1796] Question No. 12 of 17 November 1994; and Question No. 101 of 31 January 1995.

The allocation of grants for national roads in 1994 was a matter for the National Roads Authority.

  130.  Mr. Bradford    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will provide a grant to ensure that the water supply in the village of Watergrasshill, County Cork, will be improved, particularly in view of the fact that this village is due to be by-passed and in the aftermath of this by-pass, extra housing will be required in the area if the village is to survive and prosper. [4372/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  My Department will shortly seek proposals from county councils generally for small water and sewerage schemes to be financed in 1995. It will be open to Cork County Council in this context to consider the priority of the proposal referred to in the question.

  131.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will review the operation of local authority rent schemes. [4441/95]

Minister of State at the Department of the Environment (Ms McManus):  The operation and review of their rent schemes is the responsibility of local authorities as an integral part of their housing management functions.

  132.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for the Environment    the amount of funding provided for each new and reconstructed library building during the last five years; and the local authorities concerned. [4472/95]

[1797]

  133.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for the Environment    the amount of funding provided for each new and reconstructed library building during the last five years; and the local authorities concerned. [4474/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 132 and 133 together. The information requested is set out in the following table.

Funding of Public Libraries 1990-1994

Library Authority Library Project Total
Carlow Co. Cl. Muinebheag 177,134
Cavan Co. Cl. Bailieborough 99,044
Clare Co. Cl. Ennis 264,401
Killaloe 156,582
Cork Co. Cl. Rathluirc 168,177
Bandon 10,905
Skibbereen 250,000
Donegal Co. Cl. Letterkenny 215,342
Ramelton 20,000
Dún Laoghaire Corporation Dalkey 20,000
Galway Co. Cl. Tuam 479,283
Kerry Co. Cl. Listowel 100,000
Ballybunion 50,000
Kenmare 55,000
Kildare Co. Cl. Athy 110,000
Naas 66,000
Laois Co. Cl. Portlaoise 335,000
Leitrim Co. Cl. Mohill 41,029
Limerick Co. Cl. Adare 295,781
Longford Co. Cl. Longford 100,000
Louth Co. Cl. Dundalk 1,150,617
Mayo Co. Cl. Belmullet 92,272
Castlebar 190,250
Roscommon Co. Cl. Roscommon 220,950
Castlerea 16,240
Tipperary J.L.C. Nenagh 329,631
[1798]Waterford Co. Cl. Lismore 199,743
Westmeath Co. Cl. Mullingar 60,000
Wexford Co. Cl. Enniscorthy 342,326
Wicklow Co. Cl. Greystones 115,000
Overall Total 5,730,711

  134.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for the Environment    when he will announce the allocations under the non-national road specific grants for 1995 in view of the fact that this is the money for special road development on non-national roads which is part funded from EU Structural Funds. [4477/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  I intend to announce details of the 1995 grant allocations for non-national roads to local authorities as soon as possible, including details of allocations for selected projects under the EU co-financed scheme of specific improvement grants.

  135.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for the Environment    if his attention has been drawn to the fact that An Bord Pleanála which was established under the Local Government (Planning and Development) Act, 1976, overturns the decisions of local authorities in relation to planning applications; if he has satisfied himself that adequate mechanisms for local democracy and accountability are in place to facilitate the board in making decisions; the further plans, if any, he has for reform in this regard; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4482/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Planning law requires An Bord Pleanála to determine an appeal [1799] against a planning authority's decision by reference to the proper planning and development of the area concerned and to have regard to the provisions of the relevant development plan. It is open to any person or body to make submissions to the board about an appeal, in accordance with legally prescribed procedures. The board may, following consideration of relevant issues, decide to grant planning permission, with or without conditions, or to refuse it. The board itself is made up of people nominated by a representative cross-section of organisations involved in developmental, environmental and professional activities.I am generally satisfied with the manner in which the arrangements are working and I have no proposals at present to change the legal framework within which appeals are determined.

  136.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for the Environment    in relation to the Skibbereen/Schull water supply scheme, when this scheme was advertised for public tender; if a contractor was appointed following the tendering process; and the name of the successful contractor.[

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Cork County Council invited tenders for the civil works contract for this proposed scheme on 27 November 1991. My Department's approval to the subsequent tender recommendation has not yet issued for the reason set out in the reply to Question No. 123 of 7 February 1995.

  137.  Mr. J. Walsh    asked the Minister for the Environment    if he will sanction the commencement of work on the new sewerage scheme for Castletownbere, County Cork; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4547/95]

[1800]Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  Contract documents for this scheme are under consideration in my Department. Given the high level of demands under the water services programme, I cannot say when it may be possible to approve them.

  138.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for the Environment    the various steps, procedures and obligations to be followed by Sligo Corporation, Sligo County Council, his Department and others leading up to a final decision on the route for the Sligo city relief road connecting the new Collooney/Sligo by-pass road to the new bridge across the Garavogue River; when these procedures will be completed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4589/95]

Minister for the Environment (Mr. Howlin):  In April 1993, following an environmental impact statement on the proposed Sligo inner relief road submitted by Sligo Corporation, the corporation were requested in co-operation with Sligo County Council, to arrange to have a new traffic study of the borough and its environs carried out. I understand that a final report on this study will be presented to the Borough Council in the near future.

Depending on the findings of this study and any proposals of the local authority, it may be necessary for a new environmental impact study to be prepared and processed in accordance with sections 50 and 51 of the Roads Act, 1993. A compulsory purchase order for the acquisition of lands necessary for the scheme may also be required. Any such order would fall to be made by the local authority and would have to be submitted for confirmation by the Minister for the Environment; a public local inquiry might also be required. It is not possible to indicate at this stage when these procedures may be completed.

[1801]

  139.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for Education    the number of recommendations of the Hamilton Report on Crowd Control, 1990, she is accepting; the number of recommendations, which have been implemented; the other recommendations, if any, she intends to implement; and the timescale for implementation.[4287/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Arising from the Hamilton Report on Public Safety and Crowd Control, a working party was established to draw up a code of practice for safety in sportsgrounds and a code of practice for safety at pop concerts and other outdoor musical events. The codes of practice, which are now being finalised, will provide guidelines on all aspects of spectator safety for event promoters and organisers, stadium management as well at the relevant statutory and voluntary organisations.

  140.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer if full-time mature students currently in third level courses over the age of 25 were assessed on their own means and not on their parents means in the context of applying for grant assistance under the higher education grants scheme. [4525/95]

  141.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer if full-time mature students currently in third level courses over the age of 25 and over the age of 23 who were already married were assessed on their own means and not on their parents' means in the context of applying for grant assistance under the higher education grants scheme. [4527/95]

[1802]

  142.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer if the income eligibility threshold for minimum grant assistance under the higher education grants scheme were raised by £1,000. [4528/95]

  143.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer if the income eligibility threshold for minimum grant assistance under the higher education grants scheme were raised to £30,000. [4529/95]

  144.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer on an annual basis of bringing part-time students within the higher education grant scheme on the basis that they would qualify on a proportionate basis for means-tested grants. [4532/95]

  145.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer if the maximum maintenance allowance for students residing at home were increased from its present level to £1,092 under the higher education grants scheme. [4533/95]

  146.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer if the maximum maintenance allowance for students residing away from home were increased from its present level to £2,486 under the higher education grants scheme. [4534/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 140, 141, 142, 143, 144, 145 and 146 together.

Data are not readily available in my Department to enable an estimate to be prepared of the costs sought by the Deputy in relation to mature and part-time students and the increases in maintenance grants. In the absence of complete data it is very tentatively estimated that on the basis of existing expenditure the extra cost at the end of a degree cycle of increasing the reckonable income limits by £1,000 and up to £30,000 would be about £6 million and £60 million per annum respectively.

[1803]

  147.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer of providing a £500 maintenance grant for each post leaving certificate student in the country. [4537/95]

  148.  Mr. Martin    asked the Minister for Education    the cost to the Exchequer of bringing 17,500 post-leaving certificate students within the remit of the higher education scheme. [4538/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 147 and 148 together.

Post leaving certificate courses are delivered in schools and colleges which are outside the third level sector and PLC students are not, therefore, eligible for grants under the higher education grants schemes. To provide a grant of £500 for each post leaving certificate student would cost £8.98 million per annum. This cost would have to be borne by the Exchequer in full, as the maximum amount of aid available for the programme from the European Social Fund is already being drawn down on existing expenditure.

To provide maintenance grants on a means-tested basis along the lines of the third level grants schemes would cost approximately £10.8 million per annum. The House will be aware that I have already made available an additional £2 million this year to facilitate the abolition of fees on PLC courses starting in 1995-96.

  149.  Dr. Upton    asked the Minister for Education    the number of educational psychologists employed in her Department; the number of psychologists who work in the primary school area; and the number of psychologists who work in primary schools in the south inner city of Dublin. [4656/95]

[1804]

  178.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Education    the number of education psychologists currently employed by her Department; the number who work in the primary school area; the plans, if any, she has to assign any of the education psychologists to schools in the south inner city of Dublin; the reason there is no education psychologist operating in the schools of the south inner city; the further plans, if any, she has to recruit additional education psychologists; and when the schools of the south inner city of Dublin will be supplied with education psychologists. [4500/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  There are currently 38 educational psychologists employed in my Department. Of this number, eight commenced employment on 20 February 1995. There are seven psychologists working in the primary school area. In addition, the eight newly appointed psychologists will be assigned to the primary school sector on completion of their training programme shortly before Easter.

The needs of schools in the south inner city of Dublin will be taken into account when assignments are being made. Priority will be given to schools serving disadvantaged areas. The provision of a psychological service in the south inner city of Dublin, and elsewhere, has had to await completion of the recruitment process for the eight psychologists mentioned above. However, it is hoped that it will be possible to begin to develop a service in the south inner city of Dublin immediately after Easter.

With regard to plans for the expansion of the psychological service, it is expected that a further two psychologists will be in a position to take up appointment in the very near future. In addition, my Department expects to recruit a further ten psychologists in 1995.

[1805]

  150.  Miss Coughlan    asked the Minister for Education    if moneys will be made available to commence the proposed extension to Glenties Comprehensive School, County Donegal in 1995; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4248/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  There are no proposals with my Department to provide an extension to Glenties Comprehensive School. However, the provision of a link corridor to ease circulation difficulties at the school has been approved by my Department. Its construction will depend on the availability of resources in the context of the Department's ongoing priorities and commitments.

  151.  Mr. H. Byrne    asked the Minister for Education    the present position regarding fees and Higher Education Authority grants for the Mater Dei Institute, Dublin; if Higher Education Authority grants will continue to be made available for eligible students; the other private educational colleges which are eligible for Higher Education Authority grants; and, in each case, since when and the reason they are eligible; the plans, if any, she has to include Mater Dei or any other private institutions currently eligible for Higher Education Grants in the free fee scheme; in relation to the abolition of fees, if the Higher Education Authority grant schemes, or fee element of it are to be abolished; the effect, if any, this will have on Higher Education Authority grant assisted students at Mater Dei and like institutions; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4249/95]

[1806]

  165.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Education    if she will make a statement on the fact that approximately 160 students, who receive their third-level education at the Mater Dei Institute do not qualify for third-level grants; and if such students will be included in the new overall free fees scheme. [4320/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 151 and 165 together.

Students pursuing the full-time Bachelor of Religious Science course at Mater Dei Institute are at present eligible and will continue to be eligible for higher education grants for both fees and maintenance.

Certain courses have been recognised for student support purposes in the following colleges which are not publicly funded. The academic year in which they received recognition is indicated in brackets. Royal College of surgeons in Ireland (1968); Montessori College (A.M.I.), Mount St. Mary's, Milltown, Dublin 14, (1988-89); Milltown Institute of Theology and Philosophy (1992-93); All Hallows, Drumcondra, Dublin (1992-93); Pontifical University, Maynooth (1986-87); Mater Dei Institute of Education, Dublin (1986-87); Incorporated Law Society of Ireland, Blackhall Place (1977-78); The Honourable Society of Kings Inn, Dublin (1977-78).

The courses in these institutions were approved having regard to the criteria and standards necessary under the student support schemes. The approval process also had regard to the fact that the institutions were providing the courses primarily for educational and/or professional training purposes.

The decision to abolish fees for full time undergraduate courses in publicly funded institutions will not affect the provision of maintenance grants under the schemes of third level student support.The schemes will also provide tuition fee grants for those courses eligible at present which do not come within the ambit of the proposals to abolish fees.

Representations have been made to me about the position of Mater Dei and certain other institutions which would not be eligible on the basis of providing for the abolition of fees in publicly funded institutions. I am considering [1807] these representations at present and will convey my decision in due course.

Questions regarding covenants are a matter for the Minister for Finance. He has announced his intention to allow tax relief on fees paid to private colleges in respect of approved courses. This relief will be introduced for the academic year 1996-97.

  152.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Education    the plans, if any, she has to increase funding for the adult literacy programme as operated by the vocational education committees. [4261/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I am increasing the funding for the Adult Literacy and Community Education Scheme, the programme in question, from £1.788 million in 1994 to £1.918 million in 1995. This is an increase of almost 7.3 per cent. Funding for the scheme of special initiatives for disadvantaged adults, the Vocational Training Opportunity Scheme and Youthreach is also being substantially increased for 1995. These schemes which are operated by the vocational education committees also have significant literacy components.

  153.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Education    if she will instruct Bus Éireann to collect a school child (details supplied) in County Carlow outside the home of this child in view of his medical condition. [4267/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The child in question lives in a closed school area and, under the terms of the primary school transport scheme, is eligible for free transport to the school of amalgamation. The bus serving this school passes the child's house.

[1808] However, my Department would be prepared to allow him concessionary fare-paying transport to the school he attends, provided that the board of management of the school of amalgamation gives its written agreement to his transportation. This concession would be subject to no extra State cost being incurred either by way of extending or altering the route of the existing service.

Extensions on medical grounds are generally allowed only in cases where children are severely handicapped and attending their appropriate school. In these circumstances, the extension could not be justified.

  154.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Education    if she will instruct Bus Éireann to re-route the school bus to facilitate two young children (details supplied) in County Carlow. [4268/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The pupils in question have been granted concessionary fare-paying transport in respect of attendance at a school other than their nearest.Under the terms of the school transport scheme, this concession is granted subject to there being room available on the bus after all eligible pupils have been accommodated and subject to no extra cost being incurred either by way of extending or altering the route of the existing service. Therefore, it is not open to my Department to sanction the rerouting of the school bus, as suggested by the Deputy.

  155.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Minister for Education    if she will grant a school bus ticket to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry as a fare-paying student to Kilgarvan national school; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4272/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  In order to be eligible for transport, primary school children under ten years of age must live at least two miles from their nearest school, [1809] while older children must live at least three miles away.

The child to whom the Deputy refers lives within two miles of Kilgarvan national school, and is, therefore, ineligible for free school transport. In the circumstances, the child may only be allowed fare paying transport after all eligible children have been accommodated.

As the service to Kilgarvan national school is currently operating to capacity, it is not possible to grant the pupil a school bus ticket as requested. However, the matter will be kept under review and, should accommodation become available, the family will be contacted by Bus Éireann which is responsible for the day-to-day operation of the service.

  156.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Education    the groups of schools in County Cavan awaiting remedial teachers. [4295/95]

  157.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Education    the groups of schools in County Monaghan awaiting remedial teachers. [4296/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 156 and 157 together.

The groups of national schools in Counties Cavan and Monaghan which have applied to my Department for remedial teachers are set out in the following lists. As I recently announced, I intend to allocate an additional 55 remedial teacher posts to the primary school sector in 1995. These posts will be allocated on the basis of priority of need following the collection and analysis of data from primary schools by my Department's primary inspectorate. The needs of all schools, including the schools in Counties Cavan and Monaghan, will be considered in the context of this allocation.

[1810] Groups of national schools in County Cavan who have applied for remedial posts

Roll No. School
13811 Corcreagh national school
14336 Shercock national school
15120 Killyconnon national school
18355 Aughadreena national school
15930 Clifferna national school
18833 Laragh national school
16499 Tierlahood national school
19708 St. Michael's national school, Cootehill
18346 Greaghrahan national school
15452 Kildallan national school
08948 Miltown national school
16093 Ballyconnell national school
16057 Belturbet Convent national school
18127 Belturbet Bnational school
13271 Fairgreen national school
01409 Ballyconnell COI, national school
19285 Kill national school
16520 Drung national school
08340 Lisboduff national school
14399 Killygarry national school
14211 Laragh national school
15120 Killyconnan national school
18355 Aughadreena national school
16390 Scoil náisiúnta Bhríde
08948 Scoil náisiúnta Baile an Mhuilin
11205 Killeshandra national school
10146 Scoil náisiúnta Corrlios
18346 Greaghrahan national school
13271 Fairgreen national school
18127 Boys' national school, Belturbet
16057 Convent of Mercy national school, Belturbet
17531 Ballinamoney national school
18393 Cross national school
19608 Mullagh national school
17630 Scoil náisiúnta Naomh Mhaodhog
14336 Shercock national school
17240 Tunnyduff national school
19871 Scoil náisiúnta Padraig, Killinag
16959 Scoil náisiúnta Corrabha
16093 Ballyconnell national school
15452 Scoil náisiúnta Cill Dallain
11409 Ballyconnell Central national school

Groups of national schools in County Monaghan who have applied for remedial posts

Roll No. School
13632 Annalitten national school
18432 Oram national school
19737 Castleblayney Central national school
18023 Aghnafarcon national school
19469 St. Oliver Plunkett
19736 Corduff national school
19251 Inniskeen national school
[1811]18820 Blackstaff national school
13339 Tyholland national school
15654 Knockconan national school
18256 Scoil náisiúnta Bhríde, Tír-Mhic-Adamh, Muineachán
19036 Scoil náisiúnta Phádraig, Tyholland
19362 St. Patrick's national school, Clara
00373 Deravoy national school
00359 Scoil náisiúnta Clochar Naomh Lughaidh, Muineachán
18579 Knocknagrave national school
19936 Gaelscoil Ultain, Muineachán
10282 Drumcruttin national school
10718 Billis national school
16954 Scoil náisiúnta Micheál, Rath Mhic Mhalais
10429 Scoil Mhuire Buidheachair, Muineachán
00602 Rockcorry COI, national school
17126 St. Enda's national school
16129 Corcaghan national school
16769 Latnamard national school

  158.  Mr. Haughey    asked the Minister for Education    whether her proposals in relation to free school for publicly funded third-level colleges include private colleges which are designated by the NCEA; if so, if she will extend the proposal to include students taking the four year BA degree course at All Hallows College, Drumcondra, Dublin 9; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4301/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My recent decision on the abolition of fees relates to fees paid by full-time undergraduate students attending publicly funded third level institutions in the Republic of Ireland. I have no plans at present to extend the abolition of fees for other categories of students.

Students enrolled on the Bachelor of Arts in Theology and Philosophy in All Hallows College, which is not publicly funded, will however continue to be eligible as heretofore to apply for grant-aid towards fees and maintenance under the higher education grants scheme.

[1812]

  159.  Mr. Flanagan    asked the Minister for Education    if, on the basis of assessment, there is a need to provide the services of an educational psychologist for primary school children in County Laois; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4311/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  There is a commitment to provide a school psychological service to all primary schools. This service has operated on a pilot basis in two areas and is being extended to other areas on a gradual basis. In extending the service, priority is being given to providing a service to schools serving disadvantaged areas.

The process of appointing ten additional psychologists is in hand at present. Eight of these psychologists have just taken up their appointments. The 1995 budget provides for a further ten appointments at primary level later this year. On the basis of the priority set, there are no plans to appoint a psychologist for schools in County Laois, in the immediate future. As further resources become available the needs of different areas will be borne in mind when assigning psychologists.

  160.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the amount drawn down by Westmeath Vocational Educational Committee in respect of payments made to students under the third level support scheme in 1993 and 1994; if these claims have been found to correspond with expenditure under this heading by the Vocational Educational Committee for these periods; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4313/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The third level support scheme includes the vocational education committee scholarship scheme and European Social Fund grants. The vocational education committee did not [1813] receive any payments in respect of the ESF grants in 1993 and 1994. Since Athlone Regional Technical College became independent of County Westmeath vocational education committee on 1 January 1993, the ESF grants are paid directly to Athlone regional technical college. The vocational education committee still retain responsibility for the vocational education committee scholarship scheme.

The amount paid to County Westmeath Vocational Education Committee in respect of the vocational education committee scholarship scheme was £247,482 in 1993 and £24,400 in 1994. The vocational education committee made a return to the Department in November 1993, estimating its expenditure under the scheme for 1993 at £235,494. Vocational education committee scholarship grants were paid by the Department on that basis.

The annual financial statement for 1993, received in April 1994 showed that the expenditure on the vocational education committee scholarship scheme in 1993 amounted to £132,572. The claim made by the vocational education committee exceeded actual expenditure by £102,922. £95,795 of this overpayment was recovered by reducing payments under the scheme to the vocational education committee in 1994, leaving £7,126 to be recovered in 1995.

According to the scholarship returns for 1994 from the vocational education committee, received in January 1995, the payments in respect of the scholarship scheme amounted to £120,195 during 1994. As the annual financial statement for 1994 has not yet been received, this figure cannot be confirmed.

Claims made by vocational education committees under the scheme involve some degree of estimation and it would therefore be difficult for claims made to accord exactly with expenditure. Vocational education committees are not allowed to retain any excess payments.The Department provides for any difference between the amount claimed and the actual expenditure in [1814] any particular year by adjusting the scholarship payments made to the vocational education committee in the following year.

  161.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the way in which Westmeath Vocational Educational Committee drew down a sum of £200,000 in excess of the amount expended on claims relating to VTOS projects for 1993, the persons who authorised such claims in Westmeath Vocational Educational Committee. [4315/95]

  162.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the systems and procedures in place whereby vocational educational committees reclaim expenditure incurred in operating the vocational training opportunities scheme; and the persons by whom these claims are submitted on behalf of each vocational educational committee. [4316/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 161 and 162 together.

In the case of pay, both for the scheme as a whole and the VTOS, vocational education committees provide monthly statements to my Department showing actual monthly payments made to date and projected monthly payments for the remainder of the year. The submission of these statements is the responsibility of the chief executive officer. Funding is provided to the vocational education committees on a regular basis throughout the year having regard, inter alia, to the information supplied in the monthly statements. Information on the total actual expenditure incurred by a vocational education committee in the financial year is submitted by the vocational education committee in its annual end-of-year financial statement, V15, and this information is taken into account in providing funding the following year.

[1815] Non-pay VTOS funding is provided to vocational education committees by my Department in three moieties. This year the first is being paid in February, and the aim is to pay the others in June and November. Previously they tended to be paid in March, July and December. Up to and including 1993, the first two moieties were based on estimates in the Department, having regard to the number of places approved for vocational education committees.Experience showed this to be unsatisfactory and in 1994 these payments were based on information on the actual number of places filled.

Up to and including 1994, the third and final moiety to vocational education committees was based on a statement due in the Department in October from vocational education committees of the estimated cost for the year. The final payments each year include a provision to enable the vocational education committees to carry on in the following year until they receive their first payment. Adjustments are due to be made the following year for the actual outturn on expenditure each year. For 1995 the vocational education committees have been asked to submit monthly statements of expenditure to date with an estimate for the rest of the year, the first statement being due in March.

Records for County Westmeath vocational education committee show that the vocational education committee received a cumulative surplus of funding by the end 1993 of almost £253,000. The surplus occurred mainly in 1992 and 1993 when payments were made on the basis of the number of sanctioned places and on estimates supplied by the vocational education committee of the likely expenditure for those years. Following an examination of further returns from the vocational education [1816] committee the payments were found to be in excess of the actual expenditure.

Taking account of the payments already made in 1992 and 1993, as against actual expenditure, no non-pay funding was provided to the vocational education committee in 1994, whereas the vocational education committee indicates expenditure of £237,390. The amount available to the vocational education committee therefore at the start of 1995 was less than £15,500. The submission of statements by all vocational education committees relating to non-pay payments is the responsibility of the chief executive officers as in the case of pay.

  163.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    the vocational educational committees to whom special finance allocations were made by her Department in each of the last ten years; the reason for such payments; and the present financial situation of each of the vocational educational committees. [4317/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The information requested by the Deputy is outlined in the following table for the years 1987-94.Records prior to 1987 are not readily available in my Department. Figures quoted in relation to the present financial situation of vocational education committees are as submitted by the relevant vocational education committees in their financial statements, V15s, for the year ended 31 December 1994 and are provisional pending examination by my Department and audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General. Some vocational education committees have not yet submitted financial statements for 31 December 1994.

[1817][1818] Special Allocations to vocational education committees and end-1994 financial position

VEC Year Amount Allocated Purpose Financial Situation at 31/12/94
£ £
City of Dublin 198719881994 160,000100,00050,000 to reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficit 74,647 cr
Co. Carlow 1988 140,000 to reduce deficit resulting from transfer of superannuation receipts from second-level to regional technical college (reversal of accounting adjustment) 8,747 dr
Co. Donegal 19871988198919931994 80,000200,00074,00010,000150,000 to reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficit NA
Co. Galway 1989199219931994 130,00010,00040,000150,000*155,000 to reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficit NA
Co. Kerry 1994 50,000*20,478 to reduce deficit 2,055 cr
Co. Kildare 1994 *94,217 to reduce deficit 8,961 cr
Co. Kilkenny 19871988199219931994 80,000180,00010,00040,000*74,774 to reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficit 36,825 cr
Co. Mayo 1987 90,000 to reduce deficit NA
Co. Offaly 19881993 20,00040,000 to reduce deficitto reduce deficit 134,303 dr
Co. Sligo 19931994 20,00075,000 to reduce deficitto reduce deficit 11,186 dr
Co. Tipperary NR 1994 30,000 to reduce deficit 2,048 dr
Co. Tipperary SR 1994 44,000 to reduce deficit 37,507 dr
Co. Westmeath 198919931994 180,000200,000425,000 general purposes and to clear deficitto reduce deficitto reduce deficit NA
Co. Wexford 19871988 66,00042,000 to reduce deficitto reduce deficit 72,546 cr

Note: The financial position for 31/12/94, where shown, is as submitted by the relevant vocationa education committees in the 31/12/94 financial statements (V15s) and is provisional pending examination by the Department and audit by the Comptroller and Auditor General

*capital funds

NA: end 1994 position not available (V15 financial statements for 31/12/94 have not yet been received in the Department or were received incomplete).

[1819]

  164.  Mr. McGrath    asked the Minister for Education    if the audited figures for Westmeath Vocational Educational Committee for 1993 are available; if not the reason for the delay; the way in which the monthly returns for 1993 were within limits and the annual return showed a considerable overrun; the persons responsible for such returns; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4319/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The audited figures for County Westmeath Vocational Education Committee for 1993 are not yet available. The Local Government auditors visited County Westmeath Vocational Education Committee late in 1994 to carry out the 1993 audit. The audit report has not yet been completed.The Local Government auditor is responsible for the scheduling of each vocational education committee for audit.

The monthly financial returns for 1993 showed that County Westmeath Vocational Education Committee would remain within budget on the main financial scheme. However, the 1993 statutory annual financial return, V15, which was received in April 1994 showed that the vocational education committee had exceeded the main financial scheme budget by £79,000. The total deficit at the end of 1993 amounted to £450,000. However, this figure may change following the completion of the audit. Under the Vocational Education (Accounts, Audit and Procedure) Regulations, 1931 it is the responsibility of the chief executive officer to prepare and send to the Minister the monthly financial statement and the annual return.

As stated in the House previously, I was greatly concerned at these developments in the County Westmeath Vocational Education Committee and at their implications for the effectiveness of the County Westmeath [1820] Vocational Education Committee financial management and control procedures generally.

My Department brought these matters to the attention of the Local Government Auditor who is responsible for the audit of accounts of vocational education committees until the end of 1993.

In June 1994, I appointed an inspector to carry out an investigation into the operation of its financial scheme by County Westmeath Vocational Education Committee. Before reaching any conclusions on the findings of the inspector's report, it was decided to apprise both the vocational education committee and the acting chief executive officer of the findings of the inspector and seek their views. Their responses have now been received and are being considered in my Department. To allay fears concerning the future financial management in the vocational education committee, my Department recently sanctioned the engagement of a firm of accountants by the vocational education committee with the brief to review and install appropriate systems for financial control in the vocational education committee.

  166.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Education    if she will instruct Bus Éireann to extend the school bus route to collect a person (details supplied) in County Kilkenny at his home. [4321/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I am pleased to inform the Deputy that Bus Éireann has been instructed to extend the bus route for the child in question.

  167.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Education    if she will instruct Bus Éireann to collect children (details supplied) in County Kilkenny at their home in view of the fact that the present pick up point involves them crossing a main road and two level crossings which is dangerous. [4322/95]

[1821]Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The children in question are ineligible for school transport as they live 1.8 miles from their nearest national school. They are currently availing of concessionary fare-paying transport to the school.

It is understood from Bus Éireann that these children live close to the route of service. Previously, they had to cross a main road and two level crossings to reach the pick-up point. While it is still necessary to cross the level crossings, it is now possible, due to a rearrangement of the service, for the children to be picked up and set down on their own side of the main road.

As these children are ineligible, and as extra State cost would be incurred in altering the pick-up point as requested, I regret that the present arrangement is the most that can be offered to them.

  168.  Mr. Aylward    asked the Minister for Education    if she will have arrangements made with Bus Éireann to re-route the school bus so that children (details supplied) attending a community school in County Kilkenny can be collected. [4323/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department has no details of the case referred to by the Deputy. The matter is being investigated and I will advise the Deputy of the outcome of these investigations as soon as they have been completed.

  169.  D'fhiafraigh Éamon Ó Cuív    den Aire Oideachais    an bhfuil sí sásta múinteoir tacaíochta a cheapadh do Scoil Bhriocáin, Gort Mór, Rosmuc, Contae na Gaillimhe, ó tharla go bhfuil naonúr déag dalta ann agus nach bhfuil ann ach oide amháin ó 1994 agus ocht rang le múineadh ag an oide sin. [4324/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Tá an méid muinteoirí atá ceadaithe ar fhoireann teagaisc do [1822] bhliain áirithe bunaithe ar chlarú na scoile ar an 30 Meán Fomhair roimh ré. Tá sé sin i gcomhréireacht socrú a dheineadh idir an Rialtas agus Cumann Muinteoirí na h-Éireann.

Bhí 21 ar rollaí na scoile ar an 30 Méan Fomhair 1993 agus 'sé an méid atá ceadaithe ar fhoireann teagaisc Scoil Náisiúnta Briocáin, An Ghoirt Mhóir de réir na huimhreacha seo ná Príomhoide amháin don scoilbhliain 1994-95.

  170.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education    the origin by county of student intake to Waterford Regional Technical College for each of the school years 1993/1994 and 1994/1995. [4347/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I am arranging to have the information requested by the Deputy collated in my Department. It will be sent to him as soon as possible.

  171.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education    the proportion of part-time lecturing hours taken in all regional colleges by temporary staff. [4348/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Part-time lecturing hours in the regional technical colleges in the 1993-94 academic year accounted for approximately 25 per cent of total lecturing time.

Information is not available in my Department about the distribution of part-time lecturing hours among temporary whole-time and part-time staff.

  172.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education    the number of full-time staff in each of the regional colleges and Dublin Institutes of Technology. [4349/95]

[1823]Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The information available in my Department indicates that the number of full-time staff, academic and other, in each of the regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology during the 1993-94 academic year was as follows:

RTC, Athlone 177
RTC, Carlow 161
RTC, Cork 402
RTC, Dundalk 187
RTC, Galway 272
RTC, Letterkenny 146
RTC, Limerick 190
RTC, Sligo 164
RTC, Tallaght 120
RTC, Tralee 152
RTC, Waterford 240
Dublin Institute of Technology 1,094

  173.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education    the number of temporary whole-time teacher appointments available in all regional colleges and Dublin Institutes of Technology. [4350/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The number of teaching posts filled in a temporary whole-time capacity in the regional technical colleges and the Dublin Institute of Technology during the 1993-94 academic session was approximately 95.

The number of temporary whole-time teacher appointments in any academic year is a matter for determination by college management in the context of programmes and budget sanctioned by my Department.

  174.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education    the origin of all students from all regional colleges and Dublin Institutes of Technology in this country. [4351/95]

[1824]Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I am arranging to have the information requested by the Deputy collated in my Department. It will be sent to him as soon as possible.

  175.  Miss Harney    asked the Minister for Education    when it is intended to begin work on the construction of the promised purpose-built teachers' centre at the Regional Technical College in Tallaght, Dublin 24. [4443/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  There is agreement, in principle, for the provision of a teachers' centre in West Dublin. It is intended to appoint a design team for the project shortly and architectural planning will follow. It is not possible at this stage to indicate a timescale for the construction of the centre.

  176.  Mr. O'Leary    asked the Minister for Education    the reason for the delay in paying the final instalment of money due to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry; when payment will be made; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4448/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  The final account for this project is at present being examined by my Department's professional advisers. This process will be completed as soon as possible and the appropriate final payment made to the contractor. The delay in dealing with this matter is due in great part to the failure of the contractor to provide a final account for the completed project, despite numerous requests to do so.

[1825]

  177.  Mr. S. Brennan    asked the Minister for Education    the reason a student (details supplied) in Dublin 16 who is in a junior certificate class at a school (details supplied) in County Dublin has been suspended from attending class since 26 January; why he was not allowed to make a personal statement to the board of management on 21 February 1995, as requested by his parents in which he would have given an undertaking to be of good behaviour; her views on whether this lengthy suspension ratified by the board of management on 21 February 1995, is acceptable in the junior certificate year; if she will instruct the board of management to reinstate the student on the basis of the undertaking given orally to the principal; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4470/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I understand that this pupil has a record of disruptive behaviour since he commenced attending this school in October 1993. Following the latest incident the pupil was suspended indefinitely from school by the principal on 30 January 1995.

In accordance with established practice and procedure, the pupil's parents were informed of the suspension on 30 January and also of their right to lodge an appeal with the board of management.The case was discussed by the board at its meeting on 21 February. The parents attended and made representations on behalf of their son. Following full consideration of the case including the representations made by the parents, the suspension was upheld. The board did not consider it appropriate to depart from normal procedure to accept personal representations from the pupil concerned. It was agreed that the pupil would be allowed sit his junior certificate examinations in the school if he wished.

I have asked the inspectorate in my Department to examine the case to see what options for alternative placement may be available and to assist the parents with this aspect if required.

[1826]

  179.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education,    in view of increasing public concern surrounding new movements commonly referred to as cults and in view of the tragic events at Waco, in the United States of America, Solar Temple in Switzerland and in Canada, if preventative programmes will be considered by her Department; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4536/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  By way of Constitutional background, Article 42 of the Constitution acknowledges that the primary and natural educator of the child is the family and also states that parents shall be free to provide this education in their homes or in private schools or in schools recognised and established by the State. The same Article also indicates that the State shall not oblige parents, in violation of their conscience and lawful preference, to send their children to schools established by the State or to any particular type of school designated by the State. Article 44 allows for freedom of practice of religion and the freedom of conscience. However, these rights are subject to public order and morality. The State further guarantees not to endow any particular religion.

The education system has as one of its objectives the production of well balanced and rounded individuals capable of playing their full part in society. This objective permeates the curriculum in our schools and provides a level of safeguard against more extreme influences.

I propose to consider whether the treatment of issues such as new cult movements can be dealt with in the new civic, social and political education programme which is being introduced as part of the core curriculum at junior cycle from 1996 or as part of civil, social and economic education in the new applied leaving certificate programme being introduced in 1995.

I should add that schools offering the transition year programme are given [1827] flexibility under that programme to put in place intervention preventative programmes in areas of particular concern to them.

  180.  Mr. Gregory    asked the Minister for Education    if she has received a request from the dialogue centre, whose patrons are the leaders of the four main churches in the Dublin area, for discussions with her Department regarding the expansion in this country of new movements, commonly known as cults, if she will have arrangements made for such discussions at a senior level; and if she will meet with a delegation from the dialogue centre following those discussions.[4521/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department has received a request from the dialogue centre for discussions with officials regarding the expansion of new movements (known as cults) in this country. Arrangements are being made at present to facilitate a meeting of officials with the dialogue centre.

  181.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Education    if her attention has been drawn to the fact that there are 20 children in need of psychological assessment at a school (details supplied) in County Louth and some of these children are waiting for five years; when this was first brought to the attention of her Department by the school management or board of management; the steps, if any, she proposes to take to rectify this matter; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4542/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  My Department has no record of a request for psychological assessment from the school in question.

The responsibility for psychological assessment of any such children is a [1828] matter for the health authorities through the director of community care.

My Department is currently in the process of developing a school psychological service at primary level on a phased basis. To this end, ten additional psychologists have been recruited recently and a further ten will be recruited later this year. However, it will be some time before this new service will be in a position to take on the responsibilities for educational assessments from the health authorities.

  182.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Education    when sanction will be given for the provision of an ex quota remedial teacher and a home liaison person for Saint Joseph's Christian Brothers School, Drogheda, County Louth; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4543/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  I refer the Deputy to my reply to Question No. 85 of 22 February 1995.

Provision has been made for the allocation of, inter alia, additional remedial, guidance and home school links posts to post-primary schools with effect from the beginning of the 1995-96 school year. The position of all post-primary schools, including this school, will be considered when these posts are being allocated.

  183.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Education    the requirement, obligation or expectation, if any, that schools provide basic first-aid facilities for pupils who suffer illness or accident at school; and if her Department runs any courses to encourage the provision of trained personnel. [4548/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  There is an onus on school authorities to exercise a duty of care to all those entering on school [1829] premises. Schools act in loco parentis and are expected to take such reasonable precautions and follow such reasonable procedures as would be taken by a prudent parent for any illnesses or accidents occurring at school.

In the recognition of schools, in the provision of facilities and equipment, in the approval of courses and learning activities such as fieldwork, tours, experimental and practical work, the health and safety aspects are always a primary consideration in my Department's dealings with schools. Schools are advised of their responsibilities in this regard.

In the equipping of new schools and the refurbishing of existing schools my Department ensures that basic safety features and first aid facilities appropriate to the specialist areas are provided. The consolidation of advice in the form of guidelines and procedures for the conduct of safety audits is under active consideration at present.

My Department encourages the provision of training courses for teachers in basic first-aid skills.

  184.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Education    if she has considered the request from the schools in Finglas West for a co-ordinated full-time security project which is necessary due to ongoing vandalism which is having a negative and demoralising effect on pupils and teachers. [4549/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  For the 1993-94 school year, a security project was introduced, on a pilot basis, in ten schools in the Finglas area to help alleviate the serious vandalism problem in the area. It was subsequently extended to the 1994-95 school year.

An ongoing evaluation of the project is being carried out involving the Department, the schools, the Garda and an insurance company. On the basis of [1830] this evaluation the question of the continuation of the project beyond the end of the current school year will be considered.

  185.  Mr. B. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Education    if Scoil Mhuire, Ballincollig, County Cork, will be allowed to retain the 21st assistant on their books for the school year 1994-1995. [4598/95]

Minister for Education (Ms Bhreathnach):  Scoil Mhuire, Ballincollig, County Cork will be allowed to retain its 21st assistant for the school year 1994-95. However, the 21st assistant's post will be suppressed at the end of the current school year. This is because the staffing of national schools for a particular year is determined by the enrolment of the school on 30 September of the previous year. This is in accordance with an agreement on staffing which has been entered into between the Government and the INTO.

The enrolment of Scoil Mhuire, Ballincollig, on 30 September 1994 was 645 pupils. This enrolment warrants a staffing of a principal and 20 assistants for the 1995-96 school year.

The teacher in question has been given the option of having her name placed on the diocesan panel for redeployment.Redeployment will not, however, take place before the end of the current school year.

The school has the services of a remedial teacher on a full time basis, and a shared remedial teacher.

  186.  Ms O'Donnell    asked the Minister for Justice    if the divisional headquarters for the Louth/Meath Division of the Garda Síochána will remain in Dundalk, County Louth; if there are plans for relocating of same elsewhere in the division; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4669/95]

[1831]

  197.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for Justice    the plans, if any, she has to change the Garda divisional headquarters for Louth and Meath from Dundalk; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4450/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 186 and 197 together.

I recently approved a proposal from the Commissioner to transfer the Garda divisional headquarters for the Louth/Meath division from Dundalk to Drogheda. A new Garda station is being built in Drogehda at present as a divisional headquarters. The transfer will take place when the work at Drogheda Garda station is completed. It is envisaged that this work will be completed in the latter half of this year.

  187.  Mr. Costello    asked the Minister for Justice    the present situation existing in the representative structures of the Garda Síochána to indicate the recognition, if any, that has been given to the newly formed Garda Federation; when the Mulvey report will be implemented; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4243/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Questions Nos. 122 and 135 on 21 February 1995.

I met with the representatives of the Garda Representative Association, Garda Federation and representatives of four other divisions on Wednesday, 22 February 1995. The representatives outlined to me their assessment of their own difficulties in relation to the situation.

I propose to reflect on what the representatives have told me and I propose to meet them again shortly for further discussion with a view to resolving the difficulties.

[1832]

  188.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Justice    when registration of title of a person (details supplied) in County Offaly will be completed in view of the fact that he is awaiting installation aid grant payment, pending registration. [4280/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that Dealing No. T7326/94 was lodged in the Land Registry on 27 September 1994.

Queries were raised with the solicitor for the applicant on 6 January 1995. The documents were amended and relodged on 17 January 1995. The dealing is currently being processed.

I am further informed that should no further queries arise, registration should be completed in the near future.

  189.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for Justice    when she will introduce legislation to amend the Incest Act, 1908. [4288/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  In recent court rulings it was held that section 5 of the Punishment of Incest Act, 1908 requires that proceedings relating to incest must be held in total secrecy and that it precludes the disclosure of whether or not a person has been convicted and sentenced.

I am extremely concerned at the implications of these rulings and I will be introducing legislation to address this problem as a matter of urgency.

[1833]

  190.  Mr. O'Dea    asked the Minister for Justice    if she has satisfied herself that the Garda riot squad is adequately trained to deal with disturbances of the kind that occurred at Lansdowne Road, Dublin 4, on Wednesday, 15 February 1995; if her attention has been drawn to developments in other jurisdictions in this matter; and her views on whether it would be useful for the Garda to consult their counterparts in other jurisdictions in order to appraise themselves on recent developments in riot control in those jurisdictions. [4290/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I would refer the Deputy to my reply to Parliamentary Question No. 64 on 23 February 1995 which relates to the violent incidents which took place at Lansdowne Road on 15 February 1995. As I said in that reply, I have asked the former Chief Justice, Thomas Finlay, to report to me on this matter. I am satisfied that the right course now is to await the judge's findings on this matter.

With regard to the general question of training I can inform the Deputy that all members of the force undergo intensive public order training as part of the course syllabus for student gardaí at the Garda College in Templemore. This course is based on the techniques used by the police forces in other jurisdictions and new developments are incorporated from time to time.

In 1989, a Public Order Unit was established in the Dublin Metropolitan Area to ensure the availability of a skilled unit to deal with incidents of public disorder. A training programme was devised for this unit and put in place in January 1990. There have been numerous refresher courses conducted for the unit since then to ensure that their skills in this area are maintained.

I am informed by the Garda authorities that they keep abreast of developments in all aspects of training, including public order training, through regular contact with police forces in other jurisdictions and through firsthand contact at conferences and training programmes abroad.

  191.  Mr. S. Kenny    asked the Minister for Justice    when the Garda clinic at Donaghmede shopping centre, Dublin will be reopened; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4300/95]

[1834]Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  The Garda Clinic at Donaghmede shopping centre was closed on 6 October 1994 due to construction work being carried out in and around the clinic.

Following refurbishment work at Donaghmede shopping centre a new location, within the shopping complex, has been identified for the Garda clinic. I understand that the Office of Public Works are in discussion with the landlord's agents in this regard.

  192.  Dr. Woods    asked the Minister for Justice    the judicial appointments that have been made since the formation of the rainbow coalition Government; the extent to which each of these appointees complies with the criteria as laid down in the recently published Courts Bill; and if any such appointee is in receipt of any other pensions or payments from public funds. [4337/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  Since the Government took office on 15 December 1994 an ordinary judge of the High Court was appointed President of that Court, and one ordinary judge of the High Court and two judges of the District Court were appointed. The normal criteria for the making of judicial appointments were applied in these cases, pending the enactment of statutory criteria. One of the appointees to the District Court is in receipt of public service pensions totalling £28,024 per annum.

  193.  Mr. Dempsey    asked the Minister for Justice    the number of prosecutions for white collar fraud each year from 1974. [4352/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that information in relation to fraud and similar offences such as embezzlement is published in the 20 Garda Commissioner's Annual Reports on Crime, [1835] 1974-1993, copies of which are available in the Oireachtas Library. The crimes are listed under the heading, “Larcenies”.

  194.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Justice    when sanction will be given to the building of a proper court facility in Drogheda, County Louth; if her attention has been drawn to the conditions under which judges, legal practitioners and the general public have to operate in the largest borough in the country; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4353/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  This matter is the subject of ongoing High Court proceedings. I do not propose to comment further until such time as the High Court proceedings are finalised.

  195.  Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice    whether the examiner of titles has finalised consideration of a file (details supplied) in County Galway. [4355/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that this is an application for first registration which was lodged in the Land Registry on 25 April 1994. Queries were issued on 11 January 1995 by the Examiner of Titles and a full reply is awaiting to same.

In order to deal with these queries the applicant's solicitor has requested the return of the Valuation Office certificate and map. These documents were returned on 7 February 1995.

Because of the complicated nature of the type of dealing involved it would not be possible at this stage to predict the date of completion. However, on receipt of a full reply to the queries the application will be processed as quickly as possible.

[1836]

  196.  Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn    asked the Minister for Justice    when a decision will be made on a file (details supplied) in County Galway. [4357/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that Dealing Nos. 94GY04214, 94GY05778 and 94GY05780 are those associated applications for first registration which were lodged in the Land Registry on 6 July 1994. I am further informed that, on 20 February 1995, queries regarding the applications were issued by the Examiner of Titles to the applicant's solicitor. On receipt of a full reply to the queries, the applications will be processed as quickly as possible.

  198.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Justice    if she will make a statement on the access by members of the Garda Síochána to computer databases holding details of current driving licences and their holders; if existing obligations on licence holders to notify their licensing authority when they change address are enforced by the Garda Síochána; and the proposals, if any, she has for changes in these matters.[4463/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the Road Traffic (Licensing of Drivers) Regulations 1989 (S.I. No. 285 of 1989) made by the Minister for the Environment provide for, inter alia, the keeping of records by licensing authorities and the furnishing of information to, and the inspection of records by, the Garda Síochána.

There is no legal obligation on licence holders to notify their licensing authority when they change address.

All road traffic law, including driving licence legislation and regulations, are matters for the Minister for the Environment.

[1837]

  199.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Justice    if her attention has been drawn to plans to close Irishtown Garda station during the night-time; the proposals, if any, she has for consultation with local residents about possible changes in the hours of operation of Irishtown Garda station; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4464/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that they have no plans to either close Irishtown Garda Station during the nighttime or change its hours of operation.

  200.  Mr. M. McDowell    asked the Minister for Justice    the number of indictable crimes of violence, such as murder, manslaughter, assault, robbery, rape and sexual assault in respect of each of the years 1990 to 1993; the number of larcenies and burglaries and interference with mechanically propelled vehicles for districts observed by the Garda stations at Rathmines, Donnybrook, Irishtown, Harcourt Terrace, Pearse Street and Kevin Street in each of these years; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [4465/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that the information sought is not readily available and would have to be specially compiled. I will convey it to the Deputy once it is to hand.

  201.  Mr. O'Malley    asked the Minister for Justice    the proposals, if any, she has to introduce legislation on the lines of the Refugee Bill in order that the position of refugees in Ireland or wishing to enter Ireland will be strengthened and so that Ireland can fulfil its international obligations. [4469/95]

[1838]Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  The Refugee Bill, 1994 is currently before the Select Committee on Security and Legislation.

The Deputy will be aware that a very significant number of amendments have been put forward to the Bill. I am urgently considering how the Bill should be dealt with and I expect to be in a position to announce my proposals in that regard in the near future.

  202.  Éamon Ó Cuív    asked the Minister for Justice    if it is intended to refurbish the Garda Barracks in Roundstone with a view to making it suitable for occupancy by a married member of the Garda Síochána. [4478/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Garda authorities that it is proposed to carry out a detailed inspection of Roundstone Garda station in the near future in order to assess Garda accommodation requirements. The options for meeting these will be considered following this inspection.

  203.  Mr. Creed    asked the Minister for Justice    if she will have arrangements made to expedite a registration in the Land Registry offices on behalf of a person (details supplied) in County Cork. [4480/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  I am informed by the Registrar of Titles that dealing No.95CK00472B is an application for a transfer of part which was lodged in the Land Registry on 21 January 1995.

I am further informed that this dealing is being dealt with and that registration should be completed shortly.

[1839]

  204.  Mr. E. Byrne    asked the Minister for Justice    the degree of public accountability in the running and procedures of the Office of the Taxing Master; if public access to proceedings is permissible; if records of procedures and decisions are publicly available; if there is an annual report produced and placed before the Houses of the Oireachtas; and if the Office is subject to the scrutiny of the Public Accounts Committee. [4502/95]

Minister for Justice (Mrs. Owen):  Taxing masters are appointed by the Government and the statutory officers of the High Court. The business of the High Court is a matter for the President of that Court.

The practice and procedure of the office is governed by statute, by judicial decision and by the Rules of the Superior Courts.

The list of cases for hearing before the taxing masters is published daily in the legal diary and proceedings are open to the public. In accordance with practice throughout the courts, records of the proceedings are not made open to the general public.

Having regard to the tripartite separation of powers the courts are independent of the executive and the legislature and as such the office of the taxing master does not make an annual report to the Houses of the Oireachtas. As an office of the High Court it is outside the remit of the Comptroller and Auditor General and consequently outside the remit of the Public Accounts Committee.It should be noted that the office of the taxing master has no moneys under its control.

  205.  Dr. O'Hanlon    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the number of people in receipt of lone parent's allowance; the number who receive the full allowance; and the number who will benefit from the changes announced in the means test. [4294/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  At 31 January 1995 there [1840] were 41,185 people in receipt of lone parent's allowance, of which 35,010 received the full rate.

As announced in the recent budget, it is intended to integrate the existing lone parent's allowance and deserted wife's benefit schemes into a uniform scheme for parents, men and women, caring for children on their own, and to abolish the requirement to prove desertion.

The number who will benefit from the changes cannot be estimated until the details of the new scheme are finalised.

I have indicated that I will be meeting with interested groups to seek their views before finalising the new scheme. The new scheme will not be means-tested but will be related to the number of children being cared for and the household income. It will also seek to ensure that there is no disincentive to return to work.

  206.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Social Welfare    the estimated number and approximate cost per annum if free television licences, ESB allowance and telephone rental introduced for retired civil servants and semi-State employees who pay the reduced PRSI rate and do not qualify at present. [4550/95]

Minister for Social Welfare (Proinsias De Rossa):  The free schemes referred to by the Deputy are available only to the recipients of social welfare type pensions who are either living alone or only with certain exempted persons. It is estimated that there are about 6,500 public service pensioners in that category and that the cost of extending the schemes in question to them would be about £2.5 million per annum.

[1841]

  207.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if his attention has been drawn to the action of a company (details supplied) in selling milk at below the average retail price; and the action, if any, he proposes to take in the matter. [4505/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I am not aware of any specific problem in relation to the matter raised by the Deputy.

Price control generally was abolished in 1986 with the disbanding of the National Prices Commission. Currently there are no statutory price controls in operation. The emphasis of successive Governments since 1986 has been to promote competition and encourage greater consumer awareness of prices. In this regard the Competition Act, 1991 sets down the legal framework necessary to protect the market and to promote the principles of free and fair competition. Consumers have an important role to play and should be sensitive to the range of prices on offer and make their purchases accordingly.

The Government is pledged to strengthen further the operation of competition policy by giving the Competition Authority enforcement powers, and imposing strict penalties for proven anti-competitive behaviour.

The Restrictive Practices (Groceries) Order, 1987 prohibits below cost selling of many grocery products including milk. Below cost selling is defined in the order as “below net invoice price”. The Director of Consumer Affairs is responsible for enforcing the order and has the power to investigate complaints of alleged breaches of the order.

I have recently decided to maintain the groceries order for another two years.

This will allow the order to continue in place until the amendments to the Competition Act have been in operation for some time.

  208.  Mr. Dempsey    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will hold an inquiry into the International Investments Limited affair. [4247/95]

[1842]Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  This matter was the subject of a debate on the Adjournment of this House on 1 February 1995. In my reply to the issues raised in that debate, I indicated that I had ordered a review of the case in my Department. That review is still ongoing. I hope to be in a position to give further consideration to this matter at the soonest available opportunity.

  209.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    if he will give an assurance that Meath County Enterprise Board will not be financially neglected in 1995 and in the coming years; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4259/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I can assure the Deputy that the Meath County Enterprise Board will not be financially neglected in 1995 and in the coming years having regard to the overall level of Exchequer resources available.

  210.  Mr. E. O'Keeffe    asked the Minister for Enterprise and Employment    the total amount of funds from his Department for research and development on science and technology for the years 1995 and 1996 from EU funds, national grant and other sources; the names of the centres that will be grant aided; the type of projects to be grant aided; and if similar information is available for the years 1994 and 1995. [4270/95]

Minister for Enterprise and Employment (Mr. R. Bruton):  I presume that this question relates to the R & D subprogramme of the Operational Programme for Industrial Development, 1994-99, which was formally launched on 23 January 1995.

[1843] Under this programme, the funding for science and technology for the years [1844] 1994, 1995 and 1996 is shown in the table below, along with the major sources of this funding:

R & D sub-programme by Measure 1994£m (provisional) 1995£m (projected) 1996£m (projected) Sources of Funding
1. Industry R & D Initiative 26.914 30.295 30.060 ERDF/Private
2. Higher Education/Industry Co-operation 30.867 31.962 31.962 ERDF/National Government
3. Human Resources in R & D 1.295 2.826 2.826 ESF/Private/ National Government
4. Research 2.750 3.090 3.140 ERDF/National Government
Totals: 61.826 68.173 67.988

The types of activities which these measures support are outlined in general terms in the operational programme.

As regards the individual projects, activities or centres to be funded in 1995 and 1996, these will vary considerably within the measures outlined above and will depend on the response to calls for proposals made under specific schemes and the levels of funding available. For example, the R & D projects to be supported under measure 1, the Industry R & D Initiative, will depend on the applications received from companies. In measure 2, projects will be supported in areas such as technology transfer, graduate skills (Techstart and Techman schemes), technology audits, technology service centres and the programmes in advanced technology. The allocation of funding under all of these schemes, as in the scientific research grant schemes and the higher education/industry co-operation schemes under measure 4, will depend on the draft projects put forward for consideration by applicants.

In all cases, individual projects are critically assessed and evaluated and only those which are of the highest quality and which meet all the relevant criteria under a particular scheme, will be successful.

  211.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    her views on base areas for each grain producer and the removal of the eligibility clause; and if there is a register of grain producers under the area aid scheme or a register of suitable eligible land. [4254/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  My objective is to maximise efficient production of cereals so that the market price for grain here is not unduly influenced by the price of imported cereals. I regard the eligible land rule as a major difficulty in that regard and my immediate priority is to have a modification which will at least allow it to be applied more flexibly. I am actively pursuing this matter with the EU Commission.

I am also seeking a number of changes to the existing provisions on individual base areas, so that if it is necessary to operate such a system we can do so in a practicable and equitable manner. The changes involved, which would inter alia provide for the setting up of a national reserve in order to cater for hardship cases and new entrants, would require the agreement of the Council of Agriculture Ministers. I will [1845] also need to be satisfied that any revised individual base area rules can be implemented in a way that will ensure that the objective of maximising efficient production can be realised. With regard to a register of grain producers the position is that my Department has records of farmers who applied for arable aid in 1993 and 1994.

There is no register of eligible land at present. It will not be possible to set up such a register until a national field identification system is in place.

  212.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he supports the tender from the producers to purchase the A1 Station at Enfield, County Meath and its sub-stations; and if he will give an up-to-date report on the situation. [4255/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The ancillary business of the former Dublin and Cork District Milk Boards is at present up for sale by public tender. The sale is being carried out on behalf of the interim board to whom the business and assets of the former milk boards have been transferred under the Milk (Regulation of Supply) Act, 1994. The closing date for receipt of tenders is 9 March next and all tenders received will be considered in accordance with usual procedures relating to the disposal of State assets.

  213.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he will petition the EU to have ostriches taken out of the poultry classification; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4256/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The legal position is set out in Council Directive 92/65/EEC of 13 July 1992. Article 7 of that directive provides for the inclusion [1846] of ostriches (ratites) in the definition of poultry.

Given our high avian health status it is important to maintain ostriches within the poultry definition.

  214.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    his views on the present system of export refund cutbacks; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4257/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  Responsibility for managing the export refunds system rests with the EU Commission in consultation with the relevant management committees.

The Department monitors developments in this area, which is a critical one for Irish processors and producers, very carefully, in order to have as important an input as possible into the decision making process. My view on the policy in this regard is that, in the light of price levels on third country and EU markets, refunds should be set at levels which allow Union exporters to trade viably. This implies, inter alia, that refunds can increase if third country prices fall and decrease if those prices increase. In general, recent adjustments in refund levels were in line with that principle. I have, however, two concerns, one specific and one general. The specific one relates to the reduction to zero in the refund on boneless pigmeat exports in the context of the new aids to private storage scheme. In the context of the current state of the EU market this decision was in my view unjustified or at least premature and I will continue to press this view on the Commission. My general concern is to ensure that recent changes in refunds arising from the strength of third country markets and from heavy pre-fixation levels in the EU will be reversed if and when prices on those markets disimprove. I raised this point strongly at the last meeting of the Council of Agriculture Ministers [1847] and got a sympathetic response from the Commission.

  215.  Mr. Hilliard    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he will make a statement on the difficulties facing livestock exporters resulting from the protests by the animal welfare activists.[4258/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  As I have previously indicated, I am most concerned by any prospect of disruption to our livestock exports to EU member states, particularly in view of the national importance of this trade and of Ireland's peripherality and island status. This is a legitimate trade in the context of the Single Market and it should be allowed to continue under stringent conditions. While some ferry companies have ceased carrying animals from Ireland because of pressure from animal welfare interests, there has not been any undue disruption of the market. However, officials of my Department have, at my request, been in regular contact with representatives of those companies and these contacts will be maintained.

It is regrettable that final agreement on the proposed supplementary rules to further protect animals in transit was not possible at the recent Council of Agriculture Ministers, given that there is broad consensus among member states on most of the main issues. I hope that a breakthrough can be achieved when the Council again discusses the transport dossier at the end of March.

In the meantime, I am arranging for the implementation of those aspects of the proposals which can be applied nationally.

[1848]

  218.  Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his attention has been drawn to the large scale of cruelty to animals by a person (details supplied) in County Galway resulting in the death of 15 animals per week. [4307/95]

  219.  Mrs. Geoghegan-Quinn    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    whether his Department monitors farmers who have been found guilty in the courts of cruelty to farm animals; the form such monitoring takes; the sanctions imposed by his Department against such farmers; the steps, if any, his Department takes when there is persistent offending of this kind; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4308/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 218 and 219 together.

While my Department ensures in the course of its general operations that the welfare standards set out in the Protection of Animals Kept for Farming Purposes Act, 1984 are observed, questions of cruelty under the Protection of Animals Acts, 1911 and 1965, including any necessary monitoring of those involved, are matters for the Garda Síochána. The Department works with the Garda both in regard to investigating cases and in bringing information to their attention.

I am aware of the specific case referred to by the Deputy which is currently being dealt with by the Circuit Court. The Department fully co-operated with the gardaí in dealing with this case.

  220.  Mr. Bree    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if research or studies have been carried out on the movement of caesium 137 deposited from Chernobyl into water systems such as ground water, lakes and rivers; and if any movement of this nuclide has been detected in the water ecology systems in the Ox Mountains. [4359/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  This is a matter [1849] relating to the day-to-day functions of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland.

  221.  Mr. Leonard    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the percentage of bovine animal hides exported unprocessed in the last accounting year for which records are available. [4449/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The most recent figures on exports published by the CSO are in respect of the year 1992 as follows: fresh or wet-salted or otherwise preserved hides and skins of bovines, 60,997 metric tonnes; and whole bovine skin leather, 5,676 metric tonnes.

This suggests that approximately 90 per cent of bovine hides and skins are exported before tanning.

  222.  Mr. H. Byrne    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    further to Parliamentary Question No. 168 of 21 February 1995, from Deputy Mr. H. Byrne, if he will outline the process involved by his Department in making the strongest case to the Taxing Master of the High Court in ensuring that fees paid by his Department arising from the Beef Tribunal are kept to a minimum; in relation to a case being made to the Taxing Master, if the fees incurred by persons now serving as Ministers or Ministers of State at the Beef Tribunal will be included; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4484/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  As I indicated in reply to Question No. 168 of 21 February 1995 all legal fees which are the subject of costs orders will be subject to a decision of a Taxing Master of the High Court. This will include any fees falling [1850] to be paid in respect of legal representation of members of the Government. The Chief State Solicitor's Office will represent the State's case to the Taxing Master and will be instructed to ensure that costs are kept to the minimum.

I do not consider it appropriate for me to ask any person who was the subject of costs order to agree in advance of the Taxing Master's decision to reduce or forego costs.

  223.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his Department will pay a building grant to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [4487/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  As the applicant was recently advised it is expected that the grant will be paid within the next two weeks.

  224.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the number of cases in each county of sheep scab reported in each of the years 1991 to 1994 and to date in 1995; and the policy he proposes to adopt to control sheep scab. [4490/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The detailed information sought by the Deputy is set out in tabular form. Compulsory dipping of all sheep in the State was terminated from 1994 as provided for in the Programme for Competitiveness and Work. Sheep scab continues to be a notifiable disease, however, and it is a matter for the local authorities to deal with outbreaks when they occur by restricting movement and requiring flock owners to treat their sheep until the disease is cleared up.

I am currently reviewing the arrangements for controlling sheep scab.

[1851] Confirmed Sheep Scab Outbreaks 1991-1995

County 1991 1992 1993 1994 1995 to date
Carlow 1 2 6 0 0
Cavan 0 1 3 1 0
Clare 4 4 1 3 0
Cork 20 9 16 3 0
Donegal 5 4 3 0 0
Dublin 0 1 1 1 0
Galway 12 24 20 5 0
Kerry 1 0 34 0 0
Kildare 1 2 9 3 2
Kilkenny 0 0 0 0 0
Laois 1 1 0 0 0
Leitrim 0 1 0 0 0
Limerick 15 11 9 0 0
Longford 0 6 1 0 0
Louth 0 0 1 0 0
Mayo 9 6 1 4 0
Meath 0 0 0 0 0
Monaghan 0 0 0 0 0
Offaly 14 33 26 4 1
Roscommon 6 8 4 1 0
Sligo 2 1 0 0 0
Tipperary 9 5 5 6 0
Waterford 4 3 3 2 0
Westmeath 26 33 22 4 0
Wexford 0 6 19 14 2
Wicklow 3 1 4 5 0

  225.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he will make compensation payments available to persons (details supplied) in County Galway who have suffered loss due to flood damage in the south Galway area; the steps, if any, he will take to alleviate the hardship caused by the annual flooding of farmland in that area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4503/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  My Department has recently introduced a scheme of compensation payments to farmers throughout the country who have lost livestock or fodder in the floods. Forms are available from local Farm Development Service offices and the closing date is 10 March.

Moreover, a special interdepartmental committee has been established [1852] by the Government to co-ordinate a response to the effects of bad weather. The committee is being chaired by Deputy J. Higgins, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, who recently stated that he was commissioning a major study of the problems of south Galway.

  226.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the amount of the super-levy fine facing farmers; whether he intends lobbying for changes to secure quota averaging; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4506/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  Estimated milk deliveries during the period April 1994 to January 1995 were approximately 1.44 per cent over quota. If this situation remains at the end of the quota year, Ireland will face a super-levy bill of the order of some £19 million.

The fat content of milk deliveries is also a factor in establishing levy liability. Present indications are that the fat content of deliveries to date in 1994-95 is very close to the national butterfat reference level. Any excess over this would add to the overall levy liability.

The averaging of milk production over a number of years was considered in the context of the fundamental review of the milk quota system which took place at EU level in 1992.

Member states were not willing however to adopt such a measure. A national review of the operation of the quota system is presently under way and all views expressed by the interested parties will be considered in this context.

At this stage of the milk quota year, I would urge that producers heed all the practical advice for dealing with their individual supply situations.

[1853]

  227.  Mr. Molloy    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the names of local authorities which have not yet complied with the requirements to appoint a veterinary inspector under the Abattoirs Act to carry out ante and post mortem examinations to establish the fitness of meat for human consumption and to apply the health mark to meat found fit for human consumption. [4507/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The local authorities in question are the County Councils for Cavan, Kilkenny, Laois, Leitrim, Longford, Louth, Monaghan, Roscommon, Sligo, and Tipperary North Riding.The operation of the Abattoirs Act is under review in my Department.

  228.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    the total number of livestock exported for the year ending 31 December 1994; the total number exported to non-EU destinations; the total number exported to EU destinations; the total number exported to the United Kingdom; the total number exported via the United Kingdom to continental Europe for supply to the veal trade; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4546/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  The number of live cattle and calves exported in 1994 was as follows:

Total numbers exported Numbers of calves exported
Total exports 402,700 64,977
Exports to Non-EU destinations 272,924 0
Exports to EU (including UK) destinations 129,776 64,977
[1854]Exports to the UK
(including Northern Ireland) 18,530 0

The available statistics do not distinguish between calves intended for veal production and those intended for other purposes but it can be assumed that the majority of calf exports were for veal production. Prior to September 1994 up to 70 per cent of calves went to the Continent via the UK but since then virtually all calves are being sent directly to the Continent.

  229.  Mr. Nealon    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if his attention has been drawn to the unsatisfactory layout of the reception areas of his Department offices in Government Buildings in Cranmore, Sligo; if his attention has further been drawn to the fact that this layout makes it necessary for farmers and others visiting the offices on business to negotiate several flights of stairs which appears contrary to the planning of office layout; and the steps, if any, he will take to have the necessary changes, improvements and alterations made in line with his announced policy to improve the facilities and services of his Department throughout the country. [4590/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  I am aware of the difficulties associated with my Department's accommodation and discussions are ongoing between officials of my Department and the Office of Public Works with a view to resolving access difficulties at that office.

[1855]

  231.  Mr. Foley    asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry    if he will have arrangements made to have a grant paid to a person (details supplied) in County Kerry. [4595/95]

Minister for Agriculture, Food and Forestry (Mr. Yates):  This grant was paid on 17 February 1995.

  232.  Mr. Cowen    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    when an application for a farm electrification grant by persons (details supplied) in County Offaly will be approved; and when payment of the grant can be expected. [4277/95]

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry):  I understand that this application was made under the farm electrification grants scheme and was approved in my Department on 15 December 1994. ESB quoted subsidised terms under the scheme on 12 January 1995. As soon as the applicant indicates an acceptance of these terms and pays their contribution towards the capital cost of providing supply, the work may be progressed.

  233.  Mr. Bree    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    if research or studies have been carried out on the movement of caesium 137 deposited from Chernobyl into water systems such as ground water, lakes and rivers; and if any movement of this nuclide has been detected in the water ecology systems in the Ox Mountains. [4360/95]

  234.  Mr. Bree    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    if a report has been published by the Irish authorities responsible for radiation monitoring giving a comprehensive analysis of the effects of Chernobyl since 1986 similar to the report (details supplied) published by the Swedish Radiation Protection Institute entitled the Chernobyl Fallout in Sweden. [4361/95]

[1856]Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry):  I propose to take Questions Nos. 233 and 234 together.

The Deputy's questions are matters relating to the day-to-day functions of the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland, the national body given responsibility by the Government for detecting and monitoring ionising radiation in water, land and air.

  235.  Mr. Ellis    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    if his Department will sanction an ESB installation grant to a person (details supplied) in County Leitrim. [4491/95]

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry):  The information provided by the applicant was insufficient to enable a decision to be taken on his eligibility for grant-aid and additional information has been requested. On receipt of this information, further consideration will be given to the application.

  236.  Mr. N. Ahern    asked the Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications    if his attention has been drawn to the complaints from aircraft mechanics and electricians in TEAM Aer Lingus that early retirement provisions have not been made available to their grades in any reasonable numbers; the overall number who have taken early retirement; the grades from which they came; and an overall breakdown of staff numbers by similar grades. [4551/95]

Minister for Transport, Energy and Communications (Mr. Lowry):  The implementation of early retirement provisions in TEAM Aer Lingus is a matter for the board and management of the company. I do not have a function in the matter.

[1857]

  237.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Defence,    in view of the commitment made in reply to Parliamentary Question No. 5 on 19 June 1991, with regard to vessels for the Slua Muirí, the progress, if any, to date regarding this commitment; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4584/95]

Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney):  In 1993 a motor launch was purchased for An Slua Muirí in Waterford to replace a vessel which had become unserviceable. Towards the end of 1994 a contract was placed for the supply of a Weymouth 32 class vessel for use by An Slua Muirí in Limerick. This vessel is due for delivery shortly.

  238.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Defence,    in respect of the second line reserve, the number of new centres and sub-unit headquarters opened from October 1992, to date in 1995; their location and the sub-units occupying these centres; whether sub-unit headquarters are located at Shannon town, Ballymun, Skerries, Balbriggan, Portmarnock, Leixlip and Lucan; the number and location of sub-unit headquarters closed in the period December 1992, to date in 1995; and if he will make a statement on the policy initiatives adopted by him in this area having regard to availability of funding for demographic changes. [4585/95]

Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney):  The information sought is as set out hereunder.

One new centre was opened since October 1992. It is located at Tymon Bawn, County Dublin, and the sub-unit involved is C Company 20th Battalion. No new sub-unit headquarters was opened in the period mentioned. There are no sub-unit headquarters at the seven locations mentioned. One sub-unit headquarters was relocated from Castlecomer to Stephen's Barracks, [1858] Kilkenny, during the period in question. Policy in relation to the second line reserve is kept under constant review having regard to availability of resources and demographic changes.

  239.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Defence    the number of fatalities in the Defence Forces since 1991; the investigation procedures involved; the changes which have resulted from such investigations; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4586/95]

Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney):  Since 1991 a total of 70 members of the Permanent Defence Force have died in service. Most of the deaths were due to natural causes or to accidental circumstances.Two members of the Defence Forces were killed on duty in Lebanon during this period. Military Courts of Inquiry investigated the circumstances of the two deaths on duty in accordance with regulations.

  240.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Defence,    in respect of PDF and Reserve Units, the number of bank accounts maintained; the number of associated and other banks used for the purposes of these accounts; and if he will make a statement indicating the necessity for the use of so many banks. [4587/95]

Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney):  Thirty-five bank accounts are operated by the Department in respect of the Defence Forces. These accounts are required to facilitate the remuneration of military personnel and the local purchase of stores.

In addition, 129 bank accounts are maintained by units of the Reserve Defence Force. These accounts are availed of for the administration of units' funds, which in the main comprise annual grants to meet ongoing expenditure in accordance with Defence Force regulations. One hundred and fifty-six [1859] of the banks accounts are held with the associated banks, five accounts are held with non-associated banks and three accounts with overseas banks.

  241.  Mr. Bell    asked the Minister for Defence,    in respect of Parliamentary Question No. 270 on 17 December 1991, regarding barrack damages, the amount collected in respect of FCA and Slua Muirí units in each year 1989 to 1994; the subhead under which such moneys are placed in the Estimates; the number and amounts for which AF 18s were issued in Eastern Command in each of the years 1992 to 1994 in respect of FCA and Slua Muirí personnel; and the units so deducted. [4588/95]

Minister for Defence (Mr. Coveney):  Pursuant to a recommendation in the report of the Commission on Remuneration and Conditions of Service in the Defence Forces (Gleeson report) it was decided in 1993 to waive recovery of amounts in respect of barrack damages to a maximum of £5 per individual concerned.Accordingly no deductions were made from members of the FCA and Slua Muirí in respect of barrack damages in 1993 and 1994.

The amounts deducted in respect of barrack damages/barracks services for the period 1989 to 1992 were as follows: 1989, £5,837; 1990, £5,119; 1991, £5,941; 1992, £4,290.

Separate information on amounts deducted for barrack damages by Command is not readily available. Receipts in respect of barrack damages were accounted for in Subhead Z — appropriations-in-aid of the Defence Vote.

[1860]

  242.  Mr. Bree    asked the Minister for the Marine    if research on studies have been carried out on the movement of caesium 137 deposited from Chernobyl into water systems, such as ground water, lakes and rivers; and if any movement of this nuclide has been detected in the water ecology systems in the Ox Mountains. [4362/95]

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Coveney):  Since 1988 the Fisheries Research Centre of the Department has co-ordinated, in co-operation with the Radiological Protection Institute, a programme to monitor the fate of Chernobyl-derived radiocaesium in freshwater upland lakes. Radiocaesium has been determined in fish and sediments sampled from upland lakes in those counties most affected by deposition from Chernobyl fallout, notably counties Donegal, Sligo and Mayo.

Both Lough Easkey and Lough Tatt in County Sligo have been monitored. Overall, the levels of radiocaesium detected in trout have declined since 1989. Monitoring is being continued in selected lakes including Lough Easkey. Dose estimates have indicated that there is no significant risk to health from the consumption of freshwater fish caught in Irish lakes.

  243.  Mr. D. Ahern    asked the Minister for the Marine    the present position regarding carrying out improvements on the Clogherhead Pier, County Louth; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4446/95]

Minister for the Marine (Mr. Coveney):  The funding available to the Department of the Marine for fishery harbour development works, some £2.38 million, is fully accounted for with the priority projects currently underway. There is no additional funding available for any development works at Clogherhead Pier during 1995.

As the Deputy will be aware, approximately £8.3 million has been allocated under the National Development Plan for development works at fishery harbours for the period through to 1999. Given this level of funding it is difficult to see how it will be possible to carry [1861] out any works at Clogherhead in the short term. However, I will be making rigorous efforts to secure additional funding for such development works at fishery harbours and I will give consideration to Clogherhead Pier in the light of available funding.