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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 20 May 1965

Vol. 215 No. 13

Committee on Finance. - Resolution No. 20—General (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following motion:
That it is expedient to amend the law relating to customs and inland revenue (including excise) and to make further provision in connection with finance.
—(Minister for Finance).

When the House adjourned last night, I was speaking about the house building programme under the Fianna Fáil Government. I said that the number of houses built each year had dropped substantially. That was denied by Deputy P. Lenihan but I have figures here today to prove it. Ten years ago the local authority in County Westmeath built as many as 255 houses in the one year. That number dropped to five in 1961, to 15 in 1962 and to 11 last year. It is no wonder there is a housing shortage in that county, when house building dropped from a record figure of 255 ten years ago to 11 last year.

We have heard much about the city of Dublin, so let us look at the figures. We all know that during the past year houses have been falling down on the people, many of whom have been killed. Those people lost their lives because they were not provided with proper houses to live in. Away back in 1956, as many as 1,311 houses were built in the one year. In 1957, 1,564 houses were completed. Then the number started to drop, drop, drop. In 1959 the number was 460; in 1960 it was 505; in 1961, 277; and in 1962, 392. In 1963 there was a slight improvement and the figure went up to 643, but it is still only a little more than one-third of the number being built in what we are told were the disastrous years of the inter-Party Government.

We were told here—I have heard various Fianna Fáil Minister repeating it and also Fianna Fáil Deputies— that there were 1,500 or 1,600 houses vacant in Dublin when the inter-Party Government were in office. If any of those Ministers or Deputies will look up Housing: Progress and Prospects, laid before each House of the Oireachtas in November, 1964, by the Minister for Local Government, they will see that information is completely wrong, completely misleading. Let us take the years of the inter-Party Government. In 1955 there were 639 vacant houses in Dublin. In 1956 there were 794 vacant houses. Now let us take the glorious years when Fianna Fáil were in power. In 1958 there were 1,294 vacant houses in the city of Dublin.

Quote all the figures. The decline started in 1954 when there were 384 vacant houses.

I shall quote all the figures and you will see when the decline started. It started in 1958 with 1,294 vacant houses under your Government. In 1959, the figure had risen to 1,393. In 1960 it was still increasing until it reached the figure you attributed to us.

The Deputy should not address Deputies across the floor of the House.

The figure for vacant houses had reached that which Fianna Fáil Deputies attributed to the inter-Party Government by 1960 when there were 1,605 vacant houses in the city of Dublin and when Fianna Fáil were three years back in office. That is a figure they have been attributing to us. The figures they have been quoting here in the House time after time are the figures attributable to the period when they themselves were in power.

The rot started in 1954.

Will the Deputy cease interrupting? He has made his own contribution.

The rot started with the change of Government in 1957.

It started in 1954.

I have asked the Deputy to cease interrupting and I shall not repeat it.

By 1960, there were 1,605 vacant houses in the city of Dublin, double the number for 1957.

If we wish to deal with the building of houses throughout the country, we can look at page 38 of the same document and there we find that in 1954 13,527 houses were built by local authorities. In 1955 there were 12,590 and in 1956, there were 12,260. Now the rot set in with the change of Government and the figures dropped, but the plans, let us remember, had been laid by the previous Government, the contracts had been made and therefore they could not drop very substantially. In 1957, 10,814 houses were built; in 1958, the Fianna Fáil Government were in office and the figures dropped to 7,069. The decline continued to 5,961 in 1959 and in 1960, the figure was 6,031. The figure has increased in the last year and has gone up to 9,900, but it is still 3,000 less than it was in 1955 and 1956, the disastrous years about which we hear so much from the Fianna Fáil benches. It is plainly because of the Government's inaction that we have this housing shortage in Dublin and throughout the country.

I should like to say a few words now about the increase of threepence a gallon on petrol. This is an increase of approximately five per cent and this tax is bound to cause hardship to certain sections of our community. It will affect the small shopkeeper in his deliveries, as it will affect the cost of deliveries of milk and other foodstuffs. It will also increase the cost of our exports at a time when it is vital that costs be kept as low as possible, because if our costs continue to increase as they are increasing, there is a danger that we may price many of our commodities out of the export market. The Minister should keep an eye on this aspect of things. What is needed is a period of stability and stable prices so that we can get a foothold in as many markets as possible and hold our position in those markets. If we do price ourselves out of those markets it will be a bad day for the country and for each and every one of us.

We should also remember that many workers have to travel long distances to their work and they, too, are going to be affected by this increase in petrol prices. A car is essential for those people as it is essential for farmers, for other business people, for manufacturers and for industrialists. They are all going to be affected by this increased tax on petrol and on diesel oil.

As far as the farmers are concerned, this Budget is a betrayal. The National Farmers Association called it a great betrayal. The farmers' reaction to this Budget is one of disappointment. The farmers are not against the well justified increase which was given to old age pensioners, nor can it be claimed that the farmers are unwilling to share with other consumers the burden of indirect taxation. I think their disappointment comes from a failure to use the Budget this year to help level out the burdens on rural incomes. The Minister for Agriculture this year promised to do that but there is nothing in the Budget to do it. The farmers, especially the small farmers, and their labourers, are the hardest working and the worst paid section of the community. The small farmer works for seven days a week for 12 to 14 hours a day and in many cases his wife and children are working and slaving along with him, trying to make ends meet.

As we know, both in terms of output and prices, 1964 was a fairly good year for those engaged in agriculture. The average income of those working on the land increased from £6 per week to £7 a week. Yet in the same year industrial incomes increased from an average of £9 5s. to £10 8s. I think it is agreed that the same degree of price increases for the farmer cannot be expected in the present year. The majority of farmers are agreed that such things as wool and potatoes are likely to be down while costs will show a considerable rise. For these reasons many people thought that the farmers' claims would be met in this Budget. These expectations were encouraged by official statements by the Minister for Agriculture in this House when he said that urban and rural incomes should be brought into line. The greatest disappointment of all was caused by failure to provide compensation for this year's 16 per cent increase in rates. Judged by any standards the rates are an inequitable form of direct taxation and they are particularly so when one considers the level of farmers' incomes.

The farmers have been in the forefront in many of our difficulties, national, social and economic, and they are entitled to a fair crack of the whip which they are not getting in this Budget. The Minister received a deputation from the NFA before the Budget and they put certain proposals before him in regard to how incomes should be brought into line with those of other sections of the community. They proposed an increase of twopence on the basic price of milk and suggested that this year's increase of £1.1 million in rates on agricultural land and farm buildings be absorbed by the Exchequer. They asked for an increase of 6/- in the price of wheat and an extra 2/6 on barley. They did not get any of these things; yet we can remember the outcry in this House over ten years ago when the price of wheat was reduced. The cost of production has increased over 60 per cent since then; wages have also increased and the farmers are still not getting for their wheat the price they were getting in 1954.

The NFA pointed out to the Minister for Agriculture that if the increases they recommended were given they would raise the weekly income by 9/-. They pointed out that the balance required of £1 a week could be made up by increased production stimulated by increased grants as put forward in the recent review of agriculture. The deputation also asked that machinery be found to assist horticultural production and intensive labour crops where costs had recently shown a dramatic increase. None of these things has been done in the Budget and, therefore, it is very disappointing to farmers. The fantastic rise of £3.85 million in costs this year would leave the farmers £2 million worse off than in 1964 unless the Government intervened in the Budget. They did not do so. The big factor contributing to increased costs in 1965 is the wage increase, which will set the farmers back £1.25 million for hired labour, and a jump of £1.1 million in the rates on agricultural lands and farm building.

No farmer in Ireland would begrudge that increase to farm labourers who, in fact, are worth much more. Farmers should be put in the position that they themselves can earn a decent return for their labour and pay their labourers decent wages. They are entitled to it and unless they get it nobody can expect them to stay on the land and rear families, working long hours on inadequate wages. It is no wonder they leave the land and take up any other employment they can get.

The Budget does nothing to improve the conditions of farmers; in fact, it worsens their conditions. It does nothing to help them to further increase production which is so necessary at present. The best way of showing the necessity to tackle agricultural problems vigorously is in terms of pounds, shillings and pence. Last year we exported £217.5 million worth of goods and agriculture accounted for £131.5 million. Of that, £101 million was purchased by Britain and Northern Ireland. Cattle, which were so much decried in the past, yielded £66 million, while meat preparations and other items brought £34.5 million.

It is necessary to do something now to increase agricultural production. There are some dark signs on the horizon this year for agriculture. The wheat acreage fell by 31,000 acres or 9 per cent, oats by 21,000 or 6 per cent; potatoes by 4,000 acres and beet by 8 per cent compared with 1963, despite the fact that we had an order for 10,000 tons of sugar from America. If this trend continues it will be very bad for the country and it would look very bad if we had to start importing potatoes and increase wheat imports. It is very doubtful if the cattle exports of last year can be maintained. It is generally agreed they cannot be maintained this year. The signs now are not very encouraging. We find that there is a drop of 76,000 in the number of cattle exported between 1st January and April 20th this year compared with last year. Turning that into £ s. d., there is a drop of £6.5 million. If that trend continues for the whole year it will mean exports may be down anything from £15 million to £20 million or £25 million which would certainly be bad for us.

I should like to see more money devoted in the Budget to marketing. It is agreed that our marketing system is antediluvian. Certain boards have been set up by the Government and they are doing very good work at present. We give the Government and the managers full credit for that but I believe that all reforms and developments in future will depend very largely on agriculture. Our main source of national income is the land and the people who live on it. We have 12 million acres of fertile, arable land and, as we have very little underground wealth such as coal, steel or ores, the prosperity of every man, woman and child in towns and cities depends in the last analysis on what the farmers and their labourers can get from the land and export profitably. Nobody can deny that.

Because of that position, back in the past Deputy Dillon, as Minister for Agriculture, and Deputy Morrissey, as Minister for Industry and Commerce, went to England to negotiate the Cattle Trade Agreement of 1948. I think that nobody can deny that it is because of that Agreement that the farmers here are getting, and have got for the past 16 or 17 years, good prices for their cattle because, after the negotiation of that Agreement, the price we got for our cattle was the price the British farmer got for his cattle and every time the British farmers organisation negotiated an increase in the price of their stock we automatically got a similar increase. Many Fianna Fáil supporters say that is not true but we all know that from 1939 to 1945 Britain was involved in a world war: her ships were being sunk, and food was rationed.

The Deputy is going very far back.

Not as far back as he went last night.

The British people at that time——

It is scarcely relevant to expansion of production now.

In any case, it is due to that Agreement that the farmers are getting the increased price that they are getting for their cattle today. It will be a disaster for this country if the Government allow themselves to be persuaded that the fundamental importance of the agricultural industry is no longer an economic fact. If they are not prepared to do anything, as they are not in the Budget, many people will be led to believe that that is what the Government think.

The expansion of industrial exports is a matter of great satisfaction to everybody in this country but it is folly to ignore the fact that as industrial exports expand so do imports of raw material, whereas, in the case of agricultural exports almost the whole value represents net gain in our balance of payments position. There is approximately £1,000 million of our national wealth invested in our land and the stock and buildings upon it, not to speak of the 350,000 families who get their living in the agricultural industry. The most urgent task confronting our country is the restoration of the profit-earning capacity of this industry which employs more capital and people, directly and indirectly, than all the rest of our economic activity taken as a whole.

Despite that, there is nothing in the Budget to do anything for the farmers to help them to attain the increased production which is so necessary and so vital at the present time. In order to achieve increased production it is urgently necessary to bring within the reach of the farmers of Ireland the most up-to-date technical advice which we can provide and which in our opinion should be made available without delay by way of adequate agricultural advisory services which should be designed to provide at least one agricultural adviser for every 1,000 farmers.

In order to develop new markets we must first expand production. Without that we cannot secure markets. In order to get production we must demonstrate to the farmers from whom we seek the increased production that they will be given a fair return for their labours. Unfortunately, it is not promised to them in this Budget. Despite the fact that their costs are increasing due to increased rates, increased labour costs, they are not promised a fair return for the extra work that we want them all to do and would like to see them all doing.

We all realise that there is in the world today a shortage of protein foodstuffs, notably meat, and there is no country better fitted to produce it than Ireland. We have the rainfall, the land, the grass—no matter what may have been said about it in the past— and our farmers should be helped by better technical and marketing services to produce it.

The campaign for the eradication of bovine tuberculosis, which we initiated, should be and must be pressed forward to its conclusion and at the same time progeny testing of our livestock to improve its quality must be continued along the lines being pursued at present but in respect of which relatively little progress seems to have been made in the recent past.

The Agricultural Institute, which we inaugurated, constitutes the indispensable foundation on which an adequate national agricultural advisory service must be built. We have the farmers, the land, the climate and the technical skill to be able to double the agricultural output of this country. All that is now required is to bring these things together by effective co-operation and by proper marketing methods to ensure that the full exploitation of our land will earn a profit not only for the farmers who must undertake the work but for the nation of which the farmers constitute so large and so important a part. I am sorry, as I have said, that there is not more in the Budget to help those people to obtain the increased production which is so necessary at the present time.

We have heard a great deal in this debate in regard to employment. I should like to give a quotation from the Taoiseach in which he expressed his view as to what the functions of a Government should be. He was speaking in Dáil Éireann, as reported at column 1144, volume 161 of the Official Report for 14th May, 1957. He was then Minister for Industry and Commerce. I quote:

I and my colleagues have no doubt in our minds that we became the Government because the people expected us to work determinedly and intelligently to bring about a situation in which employment would expand, in which the twin problems of unemployment and emigration would be vigorously tackled.

We are entitled to ask how have they worked determinedly and intelligently since then? Despite what we may hear on the radio or see in the press, despite the rosy pictures that are being painted by Fianna Fáil propaganda, there are fewer persons in productive employment now than there were in 1956 and in 1957. There are still over 58,000 persons unemployed and emigration is continuing to increase. Last year it was reckoned to be running at a figure between 27,000 and 28,000.

I should like to know is that how Fianna Fáil kept their promise? Instead of bringing about a situation in which employment would expand, they are such magicians that they have reduced the number of persons employed. Since that statement was made over 300,000 of the cream of our youth, boys and girls, have left the land of their birth. So, instead of the 100,000 new jobs that were promised in the past, there are fewer persons employed in Ireland today. The Government should remember that if we had not got the safety valve of emigration to England there would be over 350,000 persons unemployed in this country today. I do not think any Government should be proud of that. We remember the slogans, "Wives put your husbands to work" but, unfortunately, when these slogans were being used at the church gates and from the platforms the wives did not think they were going to put their husbands to work in Birmingham, Coventry, London and other cities abroad. That is what has happened. The proper yardstick by which to judge any Government is the number of Irish boys and girls, men and women, families, living at home and earning a decent living in their own country.

Statistics as such, I suppose, represent deadly dull reading matter but when they are related to persons driven from the land of Ireland they spring to life as vital elements in human existence. There are now 300,000 fewer persons on the land of Ireland today than there were 30 years ago. We all agree that it is to the land of Ireland we must look for the revival necessary for the survival of Ireland as an independent economic entity. The situation revealed by the latest figures of manpower on the land is so disastrous that one is left wondering if there will be any economic survival at all in the future.

We are entitled to ask what is in the Budget to help to keep the people on the land. It is pointless to argue that young people born into the atmosphere of Irish farming and succeeding generations of farmers on their native soil suddenly develop a wanderlust and, overnight, as it were, turn their backs on their homes, on their kinsfolk and on their way of life. There must be some reason for their leaving. Unfortunately, there are good economic reasons why they cannot stay. These people have been lost to Ireland because they could see little prospect of a decent standard of living and a future on the land from which they sprang, despite all we have been told has been done over the years.

The flight from the land of 300,000 in 30 years is an indictment of the policy that has masqueraded as land settlement in this country. The tragedy of the great exodus is to be found not so much in the stunning total but, perhaps, in the permanent loss of the basic agricultural knowledge and training which emigrants had gained. Through the lack of progressive economic planning policy our primary exports from the land have not been the products of the land but the people who were destined to live and work on the land of Ireland and to develop that land.

The statistics show the Government to be guilty of inaction. Time was when maladministration, natural to the foreign occupation of this country, could be blamed for a national illness in which wealth accumulated and men decayed. That is not the case today for we have had native Government for 40 years. Today the decay represented in the flight from the land is chronic and the blame must rest squarely on the shoulders of this Government. When he was Minister for Agriculture, Deputy Paddy Smith, a colleague of the Minister for Finance and a member of the Cabinet, realised this situation and having the inside information and knowing that he could not change the Government and that he could not get justice for the small farmer—and said that—he resigned from the Government in protest.

The Deputy should not distort things.

He stated that.

The Deputy never worked a farm in his life. He sold it to an Egyptian Jew.

I have given good employment all my life.

The Deputy will deal with the matter that is before the House.

I am entitled to reply——

I will not allow cross-fire.

I have farmed all my life and I have given good employment. I am farming yet. I have a better farm now than I ever had.

Deputy L'Estrange will listen to me.

What about Deputy Fanning?

The Deputy will continue with what is before the House, and nothing else may be introduced. I will allow no cross-fire.

If a wrong charge is being made, I am entitled to say I am farming as good land as I ever farmed.

The Deputy will deal with the matter that is before the House and nothing else.

These character assassins——

The Deputy is endeavouring to by-pass my ruling and I will not allow it.

The people on the land, and I happen to be one of them——

The Deputy will deal with the matter before the House.

I am dealing with the matter before the House. The people on the land represent about 35 per cent of the people in Ireland today. I think I am entitled to say I am one of that 35 per cent of farmers. I am farming today as I have always farmed.

The Deputy is endeavouring to by-pass my ruling. I will ask him to discontinue his contribution if he persists in that attitude.

In 1953 the farmers, who represent 35 per cent of the people of this country, received 29.4 per cent of the national income; in 1958 they received 25 per cent of the national income; in 1959 they received 24 per cent; and in 1961 they received 21.3 per cent. They are receiving only something around the same figure to-day, 21 per cent of the national income. It is very unfair that 35 per cent of the people are receiving roughly only one-fifth of the national income despite the fact that they are responsible for over 70 per cent of our exports. They are entitled to more than they are getting in this Budget.

We often hear the Constitution and the 1916 Proclamation quoted in this House. The 1916 Proclamation guarantees equal rights and equal opportunity to all citizens and declares its resolve to pursue the happiness and prosperity of the whole nation, to cherish all the people of the nation equally. The 1916 Proclamation does not apply as far as the farmers and the agricultural labourers are concerned, especially those living in the west of Ireland. For a long number of years the policy of this Government has been to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. There is no denying the fact that the people of the west are clearing off the land because they cannot live on it due to the policy of this Government who are certainly not cherishing all the children of our country equally. The people of the west cannot afford the kind of progress that Fianna Fáil propose for the next decade. The small farmers cannot live on promises alone.

Let it be remembered that alone among the nations of the world we have a decreasing population. If there is a more distressing fact in Irish life today than the flight from the land it is Fianna Fáil's acceptance of it as a normal, natural, necessary solution for many of their problems. Does anyone who sees the thousands of our people leaving the land every year—and I am not leaving it; I am still on it—have to be an expert before he realises there is something wrong somewhere? Does anyone who sees abandoned farmsteads all over the country not have to agree that the Government's land policy is wrong? Even under British rule and in the bad old days we were told about, those people and their fathers before them lived on those farms.

I should like to quote very briefly from the Irish Independent of the 15th February, 1965. At a meeting in Foxford, Most Rev. Dr. Fergus, Bishop of Achonry, said that “the issue at stake is the survival—or, if you wish, the extinction—of the small farm community of the west”. His Lordship spoke at length, but I do not propose to quote extensively. We are, I think, quite entitled to ask what is there in this Budget to keep the small farmers in the west on the land?

I am sorry the Minister did not make some reference to something we all know is happening throughout the length and breadth of the country. I refer to the credit squeeze and the failure of building societies to advance loans to those who want to build their own houses. The Minister could have dealt with that and I hope that, when he comes to conclude the debate, he will make some reference to it.

If I ever get to concluding the debate.

After 44 years of native government, many people now are inclined to ask themselves was it worth it all. Have the dreams and the aspirations of those who sacrificed everything come true? I fear the answer must be "No". If the answer is "No", then the blame must rest squarely on the present Government. They have been in power for over 37 years. They claim they have set many records. We know they have. They have set some of which they cannot be proud. They have set others for which they are not to blame. To-day we have a record Budget before us, despite the fact that when Fianna Fáil were in Opposition in 1951, they promised to reduce taxation if they were returned to office. They got into office first in 1932 by promising to reduce taxation by £2 million. They said we could not afford to live like a mighty empire and, if they were returned to power, they would reduce taxation by £2 million.

This year, record rates of almost £30 million are being collected, despite the fact that Fianna Fáil got into power on one occasion—they must remember it—by promising complete derating of agricultural land. When they made that promise the average rate was 6/- in the pound. Today it is in the region of £3 in the pound. We have a record national debt of over £600 million. I am not quarrelling with that. The money is well spent and there is nothing wrong in it but, when another Government in 1951 borrowed to build houses and hospitals, Fianna Fáil went up and down the length and breadth of the country saying the country was bankrupt and telling the people to put the Government out. They alleged the Government had borrowed too much money. Now there is nothing wrong when the debt is double what it was in 1951.

We have a record adverse trade balance. There seems to be nothing wrong with that when it happens under Fianna Fáil. When there was an adverse trade balance under the inter-Party Government, we had nothing but wailing and screeching from Fianna Fáil on this side of the House.

We have a record low population. We have a record number of people who emigrated from the country in the past six or seven years. We have a record high cost of living despite the promises made by Fianna Fáil.

We have heard a good deal about constructive opposition. That is always the cry when Fine Gael are in Opposition. Since the foundation of this State, we, as a Party, have always been constructive. We have never stood for obstructive methods at any time. We have always stood for constructive work, fair play, co-operation and justice for all our people. I do not think there are many Fianna Fáil Ministers who are married to any or all of these; certainly they need no dispensation for they are far removed from all.

I remember in 1961 when the Government were planning to enter the Common Market. I remember the instructions we got not to obstruct the Government in any way in their efforts at that time. We did that. I remember afterwards the thanks we got. The then Leader of the Opposition, Deputy Dillon, was ridiculed and told that we were not an effective Opposition. Fianna Fáil should show by action and not by words that they stand for fair play, justice and constructive government.

In this Budget they are not spending their own money. They are spending the taxpayers' money. Talking about constructive criticism and constructive work, last year the Department of External Affairs published a booklet, Facts about Ireland. There was nothing constructive about that because men like O'Higgins, Collins and Griffith, the architects of this State, were never mentioned.

That does not seem to be relevant on the Budget debate.

The money to print that was put up by the taxpayers.

That is expenditure. It is not relevant to the debate.

If, as a result of all the money that is being spent, we were getting justice, then I think we would not have many complaints. If, as a result of the vast outlay of public money and the growing burden of taxation, we were in a position to say that emigration had ceased, as we would all like to see it cease, that unemployment had been substantially reduced and the number of people working greatly increased, we would have grounds for satisfaction. Unfortunately that is far from being true.

If public representatives all work together and give of their best in the field of public life and private endeavour, we will never be able to make this country rich and powerful in the popularly accepted sense, as rich and powerful as America and England, but we can reasonably hope to make it one of the best countries in which to live and rear a Christian family. That is the fundamental objective of the Fine Gael Party, a Party to which I am proud to belong. I have faith in the future of our country and of our people and hope that, if we do our part by hard work and constant endeavour, our objectives can be realised and charity will enable us to challenge falsehoods and champion truth, with out permitting hatred or encouraging acrimony; these are the guiding principles of our Party——

Would the Deputy give the quotation? Is the Deputy quoting?

He appeared to be.

Is the Deputy reading?

I am not reading. If the Deputy wants my notes to make a speech, he can come down here and get them. I will give them to him and we will see what he will get out of them.

We have resolved to play our part in helping to build a better Ireland. That is the aim and object of each and every one of us. We welcome what is in the Budget, and we are grateful, but we believe the Government have not gone far enough. The most important sections of our community have been left out of this Budget.

The Minister has indicated in no uncertain fashion that he is becoming uneasy at the length of this debate. I can assure him I am well aware that all aspects of this Budget have been fairly well covered in the debate and that, naturally, he may be feeling tired. It is a good thing for Deputies to discuss the Budget proposals in the detailed manner they are doing so this year. It is to be welcomed that Deputies from all sides, whether on the Front Bench or on the back bench, are expressing their views on these vital questions. I have no doubt that the Minister, even though he has expressed himself rather tired listening to the debate, welcomes that situation as much as I do.

Indeed I do, but I do not like listening to two and a half hours of quotations.

Quotations are different. I do not like them myself. I shall not go over the ground already adequately covered by previous speakers. The first reason I decided to speak in this debate was to get more information about status increases. For some months past we have been reading a good deal about them. We are told that the average status increase has been in the neighbourhood of 18 per cent and that in the case of some higher executive officers and other professional people, it has varied from 16 to 20 per cent.

I am not a believer in promoting the type of class-conscious society we apparently have been promoting, particularly within the past 12 months. Everybody has a status. It is not just because you happen to be enjoying a big salary that you qualify for a status increase. The man out in the wind and weather, working on the land, on the roads or building houses is playing just as much a part in the development of our country. This matter of status increases has created a good deal of uneasiness among ordinary workers. I would not be voicing the opinion of the Labour Party if I did not say we have always believed that people with special professional qualifications should be adequately remunerated for their work. By reason of these special qualifications, they are playing a big part in the development of the nation and in advancing the incomes of its people.

At the same time, we must be uniform in the application of any regulations relating to salaries and other matters concerning the public purse. If one section secured a 12 per cent increase in salary and are able to get on average a further 18 per cent as a status increase, I believe other sections are just as much entitled to look for that increase. The ordinary worker has, say, £8. 2. 6. per week to maintain himself and his family. That is the figure a road worker has in Cork county, which is above the ordinary wage earned by an agricultural worker. If a person in the £2,000, £3,000 or over income group needs an increase of 18 per cent to maintain his status in society, I maintain much more so does the man earning from £350 to £450 per annum. If the man with an income of £8 a week got a status increase, I maintain he should get more than 25/- a week.

I do not see why we should confine status increases to special people. I would ask the Minister to address himself to that question. The people I have mentioned have got no relief in the Budget. They are satisfied to make the contribution required for increased social welfare benefits, but it means they must pay more for cigarettes, tobacco and drink. It is impossible for these people in the lower income group to live on present wage standards. There is no justification whatever in our present affluent society, as it is described by the Government, for asking a married man with a family to exist on £8 a week. Even though farm workers' rates are higher in Dublin and Cork, it is extremely difficult for such workers to make ends meet because of the steady decline in the value of money.

We are reaching the stage now where one shilling will be equivalent to what a penny was worth in 1933. So far as the provision of furniture or building a house is concerned, we have already reached that stage. Thirty years ago you could get a good five-roomed house built for £200. Today, that house would cost almost £3,000. That gives some idea of the decline in the value of money in that field. If there is additional money in the public purse to be distributed to our people, it should be distributed to the sections who need it most. The section who need it most are the ordinary workers. Small farmers working within the limitations of their holdings and the infertility of their land, particularly along the western and southern seaboard, find it difficult to live in a reasonable way. The small shopkeepers are being pushed out of business by the supermarkets. Some people may say supermarkets are a desirable asset to our country, but one thing is certain: they are crushing the small shopkeeper out of existence.

We are told our economy expanded by £80 million last year. If we have this money, the greater part of it should be channelled into the pockets of these people in the lower income group. The agricultural worker or small farmer is playing a very important role at present. Were it not for agricultural production and agricultural exports, the picture here would not be as bright as it is today. We are tremendously fortunate that the prices for our agricultural exports, particularly cattle, are reasonably high on the export market. If you had a situation obtaining in Britain, which is our main buyer of farm produce, particularly cattle, where the prices were much lower than they are at the present time, you could appreciate the reaction that would have on the economy of the country. Therefore, the state of the economy is a highly significant factor. The standard of wages of many of those who go out in the morning down the country to milk the cows, bring the milk to the creamery and look after the crops, according to statistics produced by farming organisations, is well below £10 weekly. It is between £8 and £9 weekly.

I know how very difficult it is for the Government to devise legislation, enactments and regulations that will meet such a problem. At the same time, as I mentioned at the outset, when there was so much money available, instead of starting at the top we should have commenced at the bottom and helped the lower paid workers. I think I have made my position clear on that and I am hopeful the new Minister for Finance, in the course of his deliberations within the Government, will bear in mind the position of our rural workers, farm workers and others in the lower income group. If our economy advances further, as we all hope it will, and if there are funds available for distribution by way of salary and wage increases, we should think of that section of the community more than some other sections. While referring to that section of the community I am not reflecting on the other sections but it was surprising to note that the status increase granted to several people in this country is higher than the total annual income of those workers. The status increase alone, in most cases, exceeded more than £400, which is a sum greater than that earned by many sections of our people.

The second point I have to make deals with the question of social welfare benefits. We all welcome, as the Labour Party clearly indicated by its vote in this House, the increased benefits for the old people, the disabled and those of our population who cannot obtain employment. I stress here again, what I stressed on a number of occasions previously, the desirability of some co-ordination between different Departments in the State, particularly Departments which give a good deal of employment, such as the Minister's own Department, particularly the Special Employments Schemes Office, the Board of Works, the Department of Local Government, the Department of Lands and other Departments. There should be some interDepartmental committee which would devise means of providing employment for people in rural Ireland, particularly people who are occasionally unemployed. You may have a scheme promoted by a county council or by a Department and their work is closed down for several months. The workers go on the unemployment benefit list, whereas some other Department may have useful employment for them. They could be asked to do some useful chores such as special drainage work, afforestation work, road repairs or give some other service instead of getting unemployment benefit.

I believe that the majority of our workers, although I am only conversant with rural workers and do not know about the cities and towns, do not want to go near the labour exchange if they can avoid it. They would prefer to work with the council, a private employer or a Department of State at the same remuneration they would get from unemployment benefit. In some cases the social welfare benefits are now higher than the local rates obtaining in councils and even in State Departments. It is a very pleasing thing to find that a great number of our workers do not want to see the labour exchange. They do not like having to go to the Garda Síochána station on Tuesday or Wednesday to sign for unemployment assistance. Instead, they want employment.

We should establish some type of inter-Departmental committee to work in conjunction with the local authorities to try to find employment for such people when the particular scheme on which they are employed closes down. I must say the number would be very small. Any person who is physically capable and able to work, and where work is available, should be able to get it. There is an obligation on every person to look for work and not be on the unemployed list.

I firmly believe that people have to work for survival. On the other hand, there is an obligation on our workers and people to give reasonable service for the remuneration they receive. There is an obligation on them to find employment if for some cause or other they are thrown out of employment on a temporary basis. That position must obtain if the State is to survive.

I do not want to put one class against another in my remarks in this debate but I have in times gone by agitated for and advocated a reduction in the qualifying age for old age pensions from 70 to 65 years. It will be appreciated that it is some 57 years since old age pensions were introduced in this country. I think it was in the year 1908. The then British Government felt that the appropriate qualifying age for such pensions was 70 years. The pension at that time had, in its own way, as good a purchasing power as the pension obtaining today. The pension at that time was introduced for people within a certain income level. The income level for qualifying for the maximum pension was somewhat similar to the income level which obtains today.

We have made many advances in the past 57 years and we should all be thankful to world efforts for that. I know we have gone through trying periods but I consider a case can be made for uniformity in regard to the retirement age for all pensions in this country. There is no justification for asking our people to continue working up to the age of 70 years. This reduction, in my opinion, should take place forthwith. The British Government, who introduced the pension here, the Six Counties and other countries in Europe and throughout the world have reduced the qualifying age for pensions.

What would be the disadvantages if we were to reduce the qualifying age in respect of the old age pension? The Minister for Social Welfare told me in this House that it is all very fine to suggest giving the pension to people at 65 and to put ordinary men in this country, workers, farmers, road workers and many others in the same category as the other members of the population who qualify for pensions at the age of 65 but the question was where was the money to come from and how could we bring about a situation whereby we could pay pensions at the age of 65 years. At that time, when the pension rate was, I think, 35/- weekly, the Minister said it would take £12 million to implement this proposal. Where would the Deputy suggest the £12 million was to come from? I assume that the Minister's figure is correct and that it would take £12 million to implement this proposal and, having regard to recent increases in pensions, we will say that it may now take £14 million to implement it. We should go about finding it. I think the net cost would be not more than 50 per cent of that figure because, once this money is paid out to the pensioners, taking into account every commodity they buy—their drink, cigarettes, tobacco, clothes, food, every commodity pensioners buy—their purchases are taxable and a good deal of that money is bound to find its way back to the Exchequer through taxation channels. It would not be out of place to say that the actual paying of the pension would represent not more than 50 per cent of the gross cost. If we assume that it would take £14 million to pay this pension at 65 years, it is reasonable to say that the net cost to the Exchequer would be half that sum, £7 million.

I am mindful also of the many advantages that would accrue from such a position. First of all, it would give justice and fair play to those people who work in the wind and the rain and all kinds of weather in the fields and on the roads and even to the shop assistant and the smaller shopkeeper, and so on. They are as much entitled to retire at 65 and to get their allowance from the State as are all the other classes of people who are getting it without difficulty at present. We must have uniformity in our laws and legislation. We feel very strongly that it is unfair that certain people should get pensions at 65—more luck to them: we agree that they are entitled to them at that age—while others do not qualify.

Unfortunately, we have had an unemployment and emigration problem in this country down through the years and it is still with us. If pensions were paid at 65 instead of 70, it would mean that workers would retire five years earlier and their jobs would be available for other men and women, thus offsetting a good deal of the emigration and unemployment problem. That would be a very big advantage.

Secondly, farmers, particularly our farmers on the western and southern seaboards and, indeed, in all parts of the country, would assign their holding to members of their families five years earlier than at present. The emphasis is now on youth and youth, if I may so use that term, would take over five years earlier than at present. That would be a very good thing. It would help to solve the problem to which the Taoiseach referred yesterday and to which I have referred on a number of occasions and of which everybody is quite conscious. I refer to the problem of late marriages in rural Ireland and in particular to the problem of the large percentage of our people in rural Ireland who are not married at all. In years gone by, I think that position to some extent could be traced to the fact that the old people held on to their farms and holdings until they had reached an advanced age and therefore did not give the young people an opportunity of taking over.

If we implement this proposal to reduce the qualifying age for old age pensions, then, farmers in particular, would be encouraged to assign their farms or holdings earlier to a member of the family and in that way I believe the problem to which the Taoiseach referred yesterday would solve itself to a great extent. The early marriage rate would increase and the percentage of our people who marry in rural Ireland would substantially improve. We all feel that that is a situation that should be brought about. It is desirable from every point of view. It is a problem that is pressing us very hard at the present time and I was very pleased, indeed, that the Taoiseach addressed himself specifically to it yesterday.

Another advantage, of course, is that, despite what has happened in the past, there is not any great change in the expectancy of life so far as people who have reached middle age are concerned. I must be careful now about what I say in the presence of Deputy Hogan of Tipperary who is an expert on this question but the expectancy of life here for a person at the age of 40 is probably not more than 75 or 76. Then what have we? When people reach 70, they move into the winter of their life. After years of toil, they are not able to enjoy the pension to any extent. With physical difficulties arising in many cases or ailments of one kind or another—pains, arthritis, and so on—they are not in a position to enjoy their rest. That state of affairs would alter very much if the situation obtained in which pensions were paid at 65. The people in question would then have an opportunity of enjoying a well-earned rest just as some others do at present.

I am asking the Minister for Finance to press home this question of a reduction in the qualifying age for pension. He can rest assured that if proposals are brought into this House for such legislation—and such proposals would naturally require money to pay for them —he can depend on the support of the Labour Party. We dislike imposing taxation on the drinker, the smoker, and so on, because we feel he is at present carrying an unfair share of our national burden, but, despite that belief, we voted for the implementation of the taxes because we felt that the other sections of the community were entitled to the increases they got. I think I can speak on behalf of my colleagues in this Party when I say that the Minister may rest assured that if reasonable taxation proposals are brought before this House to find money to reduce the qualifying pension age from 70 to 65, he will find the Labour Party sympathetic. He will have the full support of this Party and I have no doubt that the Fine Gael members also believe in the justice of this claim, and I believe that if these proposals were brought before the House, they would find unanimous approval.

With these few remarks, I wish to conclude and apologise to the Minister if I have kept him waiting too long. He has a responsible task, and I wish him every success and good luck in his new post. Undoubtedly a Minister for Finance does not get much rest. He has to keep in mind all the time the many problems of State and is the controller of the public purse and holds a very responsible position. I would put his position second to that of the Taoiseach and it is only right that, in so far as we can, we should be constructive and helpful in our remarks on public matters in this House. I do wish the Minister for Finance a successful term of office.

Deputy Murphy's speech is in marked contrast to that of Deputy L'Estrange. One can admire and give credit to Deputy Murphy in so far as what he said here, whether we can agree with what he said or not, was constructive.

We heard from Deputy L'Estrange this morning and last night an endless tirade of deprecations. He deprecated the efforts of the Government back over the years and he indicated the burning desire that was inherent in the heart of the Fine Gael Party to be known as the "do-gooders" of this country. It seems strange to me that Fine Gael did not succeed in increasing their majority in the recent election. If what Deputy L'Estrange said is true of the Party and what they stood for, then it would be only fair to expect that the electorate would give a chance to the Party in order to see what Fine Gael could do with the country.

Therefore, if one considers the approach of those two Deputies, one can see at a glance that Deputy Murphy is prepared to back up his sentiments by action, that is, the action of going into the lobby with the Fianna Fáil Party to levy the taxation necessary to meet the increases granted towards social welfare. It is always very easy to stand up in the Opposition benches and decry the efforts of the Government, more especially in view of the fact that the Opposition always have the scope for escaping the responsibility of going through the gates into the lobby to vote extra taxation in aid of any given service.

Before I make a few comments on the Budget, I should like to point out that Deputy L'Estrange this morning cast himself in the role of the defender of the farming community. He said the farmers' condition was depressed, the farmers were leaving the land, and so on. We submit and assert that, for our part, we are as a Government doing as much to help the farming community as our resources will permit in any given year. We, by what we are doing, are making the moneys we are voting in this House available by way of aids and encouragement, so as to lead the farmer on to increased production, so as to ensure that he will have a higher standard of living and that he will have, for instance, better roads, better approach roads, better farm buildings, and a cleaner national herd. We can claim credit for the great tuberculosis drive to wipe that disease out of our national herd and claim credit for pursuing that aim. We can claim full credit as a Government for the increase in our cattle exports and for the upward trend in the price of cattle.

We must relate these things to what we have done down the years. It may be said of the Fianna Fáil Government that they were never backward in coming to the aid of the farmer, in so far as making an effort towards ridding the livestock of the nation of disease was concerned. I should also like the Deputy to know, though he deprecated the efforts in regard to the production of wheat, beet and barley. I do not first time Fine Gael spokesmen have deprecated efforts in regard to the price of wheat, beet and barley. I do not want to go back to the past but I should like to say at this point that I remember being present in this House and hearing the erstwhile Leader of the Fine Gael Party, Deputy Dillon, say that we were fools here to talk about producing wheat, hoping that wheat and beet would, as he said at that time, go up the spout. So, we on this side of the House do not mind very much when we hear the false sentiments expressed on the far side as to what Fine Gael will do for the farmers regarding the production of wheat, beet or barley.

I should like to draw the attention of Deputies on the Fine Gael benches to the fact that if we examine Table II of the Budget Statement, we shall see where current expenditure on economic services, for instance, has increased by 10.6 per cent over 1964-65. That is the forecast of the Budget. In the case of agriculture, a further £400,000 must be provided for higher quality milk. I am merely going over part of the Minister's statement to reaffirm the point I am trying to establish, that the remarks of Deputy L'Estrange were completely out of accord with the facts. He must know that the price of milk was increased and that also an extra bonus was provided for the production of higher grade milk. He must also have some advertence to the fact that the price of barley and wheat were also increased, and that current estimated expenditure on agriculture this year is roughly £33.7 million, or £3.6 million more than was actually expended last year. It can, therefore, be said that we are making headway in the field of farming. Not merely are we making headway, but we are holding our own in competition with some leading European countries in a very difficult market. For that reason we welcome any aid which can be provided towards helping members of the farming community to help themselves.

This Budget has been described as a Budget designed to help those in receipt of social welfare benefits. That is a proper description of it. The Minister indicated in his Budget Statement that all social advances must, of necessity, spring from economic advances. I think it can be submitted that herein lies the success of the Fianna Fáil Party: whatever success Fianna Fáil have had in the recent election, and in previous elections, was due to the fact that the people recognised that we would face up to the position in a realistic fashion, that we did not go parading around the platforms of the country promising enormous benefits and saying that, at the same time, we would be in a position to reduce taxation.

I listened to some of the speeches made by Fine Gael speakers especially during the recent election campaign. I was nearly driven back to my childhood, to the time when I used to hang up my sock and expect that in the morning Santa Claus would have put something in it.

He always did.

I heard Deputy Ryan and others on the opposite benches promising greater benefits, better housing, lower rates, less taxation and increased social benefits. A few months ago we witnessed the spectacle of Deputy Sweetman and Deputy Dillon, who were traditionally of the right, coming to open loggerheads with Deputy Costello, Deputy Ryan, and others who were supposed to be going to the left. We witnessed a sort of collision. Fine Gael were taken short by the election and inside a period of three weeks, we saw literally flung at the head of the electorate what was said to be an advanced social programme, but which I believe to be an ill-thought-out programme in our circumstances which could not be achieved without increased taxation. I think it can be said that was the fundamental weakness in that programme. The people were not misled. They did not believe the Fine Gael Party that those things could be accomplished in our circumstances and with our income.

Politics has been described as one of the great sciences and at the same time, the dirtiest of games. In that context we can level at the head of the Fine Gael Party the charge that on one side they were aiming at pursuing a great science and on the other side, were stooping to the dirtiest of games. Fortunately we came back to power, and we came back in the knowledge that we had outlived those promises and secured the votes of the electorate by stating the facts. We did not come back under any cloud. Therefore, there is no need for Deputy L'Estrange or Deputy O'Higgins who tried to refight the election in this debate on the floor of the House, to suffer from any inferiority complex because they came back in Opposition, where they should be, in my opinion.

I was very glad to note in the Minister's first Budget Statement his intention to make provision for the Department of Finance to play a more important role. We all know the Department of Finance is one of the most important Departments in the State. That being so, it is only natural that the activities of that Department should play a part in the activities of every Department. We also welcome the fact that the Minister said that in the future his Department should not be regarded as an enemy by other Departments, but should be regarded in the role of an adviser. The Minister indicated in his Budget Statement that the service and advice of his Department should always be readily available if sought by any other Department of State.

We all welcome that fact, and in welcoming it, we should recognise that we are making advances on both the economic and the social fronts. The economists would have us believe that life begins and ends on the economic front. The philosophers, on the other hand, would say that is not so. Our philosophy is that we should have a little of both, and when we make some advance on the economic front, we should always be in a position, and willing, to share that advance on the social side. For that reason, even if sometimes we find it hard to get the money—we are always faced with the naked need to levy the taxes necessary to meet whatever charges we impose on the community—I do not think it can be said we failed in our duties in that respect this time.

To come back to the point I was trying to make regarding the Department of Finance, as I said, we were all glad the Minister made the announcement he did make. Some of us who have been here for a while should like to see a review. At any rate, one could advocate the proposition that a review should be carried out, via the Department of Finance, ranging over the whole of roughly 49 Votes which we administer, to see if some improvements could be made in the services and at the same time some economies effected.

We all know that in the modern make-up of the State we are all inclined to accumulate what is known as a big paper build-up and we can foresee an exercise of that sort arising in the future. One could therefore advocate that now and in the future this Department should examine all aspects of the workings of the various Departments with a view to avoiding the big paper build-up at a loss of real work. That examination would entail a good deal of work. It would entail a lot of time but, at the same time, I think it would be worthwhile. That is why I welcome the fact that the Minister indicated his Department would be prepared in the future to do that.

I should like to make a few other points. Health was mentioned in this debate and the Leader of the Fine Gael Party made some reference to the Select Committee on Health Services and urged the Minister for Health to make some improvements in the health services. I should like to say that despite the fact that the efforts of the Select Committee were, shall we say, under a cloud, or that the Select Committee were under a cloud, that Committee worked hard and if we did not find agreement in the end, I do not think it can be said that fault can be found with the efforts of the former Minister for Health or indeed his Department.

We held upwards of 50 meetings and heard evidence from a number of witnesses, all people who were interested and highly competent in health matters. If we did not find agreement in the end, no fault can be found with the manner in which the members of the Select Committee worked. Possibly, because it was a Select Committee, composed of members of the various Parties, it could be said they were a highly political Committee. It was rather a pity that Deputy T. F. O'Higgins, who was acting in the role of spokesman for the Fine Gael Party, withdrew from that body because, looking back on the lot of valuable evidence that was assembled, which I assume will be published in the form of a report later on, one could say that the withdrawal of Deputy O'Higgins and the Labour Party was a shortsighted move. It would have been much better had Deputy O'Higgins and the members of the Labour Party, who felt strongly about health matters, written a minority report if they disagreed with the opinions of the majority of the members of the Select Committee.

Did they not tolerate the stalling device long enough?

The Deputy was not a member of the Select Committee and I do not think he knows much about it.

I know too much about it.

I do not wish to deprecate the Deputy's efforts but it could be said with fairness that if Deputy T.F. O'Higgins had wanted to do something constructive to amend whatever weaknesses he thought were present in the health services, he could have done it in a different way. A more dignified way would have been to have given his opinions in a minority report. Of course he was in too big a hurry at the time because he wanted to get out to the hustings in order to misrepresent the work of the Select Committee and there is not any doubt that he and his colleagues did their best to misrepresent the aims and objects of the members of the Committee. I shall conclude by saying that, taking all in all, having regard to the farming year, having regard to the advance we made in industrial exports, having regard to the advance we were able to make on the social side—that covers the three big Departments of Education, Health, Social Welfare—the present situation indicates very strikingly the desire of the Government to press ahead with their aim to improve educational standards, to go on with the idea of better health services and coupled with it the desire to come more and more to the aid of those in receipt of social welfare benefits.

Whether we all subscribe to that view or not, I shall wind up by saying what I said at the start. We all appreciate the approach of the Labour Party in this regard. Whatever criticism the various Deputies from the Labour benches may have to offer, they were prepared, at any rate, to walk into the lobbies and vote the moneys necessary to support the social welfare sections and that indicates that they are prepared to say: "We do not agree fully with the Government or with the aims of Fianna Fáil but we shall go part of the way to support that Party in providing the moneys necessary to carry out the good work embodied in this Budget."

Deputy Carter has again endeavoured to propagate the fiction that there was a serious difference of opinion or controversy in the Fine Gael Party on matters of policy. This of course is an entire fiction. I defy Fianna Fáil to point to any occasion on which there was the least amount of acrimony in public or in private in the Fine Gael Party when we were discussing, for 18 months and not just for the purposes of an election campaign, the programme we were proposing for a just society. Of course, they cannot do it but they and others in the country who are not concerned with the truth have always tried to develop this fiction. They will find, as the years follow this year, that the Fine Gael programme which is already acceptable to the people will be implemented by a Fine Gael Government. The fact that within three weeks we were not able to convince the people that we had both the means to implement our programme as well as the right programme is no reflection on the worth of the policy we would like to see adopted. Time alone will justify us.

We have heard from Deputy Carter, and throughout this debate, a number of interesting instances of a definite difference of opinion in the Fianna Fáil ranks. We had the Minister for Finance advocating a tax on petrol and we had several members of Fianna Fáil supporting that tax. Deputy Carter praised the Labour Party because they too support the tax but yesterday Deputy de Valera said he was differing between taxes on non-essentials, such as drink, tobacco and cigarettes, and a tax on petrol. He said petrol was a different thing : it was material to industry and it would contribute to costs in industry depending upon whether it went up, and must, therefore, contribute to the cost of articles produced by such an industry. Here we have the Fianna Fáil Party in disagreement; yet Deputy de Valera and others like him voted for the tax although there were several other items which could have been taxed and which would have yielded a greater revenue than the tax on petrol. Of course it is no difficulty to Fianna Fáil to do that and of course they will get away with it, but it is interesting that that Party in the relatively short debate on the Budget can show disagreement on this vital matter and yet when the whip cracks they go into the Lobby and vote for it.

It might seem rather trite for me to remark that most of the people in this city who support families, most men who work for their living to support themselves, their wives and families, are unable to absent themselves from their employment because their employers will not give them permission to do so. Or, if they are self-employed, they are unable to absent themselves during the working day without causing loss or inconvenience to customers and serious loss and inconvenience to themselves. It may seem strange that this should need to be said but it needs to be said to answer criticism that has twice been voiced in this House within the last month, criticism of members of the Dublin Corporation who represent the majority of workers in this city who are unable to get away in the middle of the working day and who are unable to attend meetings because a certain group of politicians insist upon having them in the middle of the day. The Dublin County Council can meet at six o'clock in the evening to facilitate people who are unable to get away during the middle of the day but a group in Dublin Corporation refused to allow this.

It might seem probable that in a democracy the majority of the people should be heard and therefore it seems proper that meetings should be held at a time when the people who represent the majority of the working people can be heard. A number of professional politicians are engaged by employers who permit them to absent themselves from work without loss. Some of them are trade union officials and as such, are encouraged to attend meetings in the middle of the working day, but as I have said, I suppose 95 per cent of the people of this city who earn their living are unable to absent themselves without the permission of their employers, or even if they get permission, without serious pecuniary loss.

This is why several committee meetings held in private by the Dublin Corporation have not got a full attendance and I do not think they are ever going to have a full attendance as long as a number of unscrupulous people serve their own interests and refuse to give audience to the vast majority of the people of this city who work for their living and who have a moral duty before God and man to support their wives and families. If they seek to take petty advantage of that in public debate, I will be only too glad to have this scandal in the Dublin Corporation brought into the open so that when there is a local election, the people will see that a sufficient number of people are elected to ensure that these committee meetings are held at a time of day when the spokesmen for the ordinary people who earn their living honestly can be heard.

Having said that in regard to the allegation about attendances at the committee, may I point out that Deputy Dowling earlier referred to a recent meeting of the Housing Committee of the Dublin Corporation which he said was called to deal with the rents and the fuel costs in the proposed new housing development at Ballymun. The fact is that the meeting in question was called to consider only the installation of the heating system in Ballymun and the subsequent costs that would then fall on the tenant. It was not called to consider the rents. No information as to the rents has been given by the Minister and we would not have had any costings in regard to heating, were it not for the fact that Fine Gael members had been pressing for months past for this information. When some information was supplied at a committee meeting, the committee was adjourned because the members expressed dissatisfaction with the information that had been given.

What some people want the ordinary working people to do is neglect their wives and families and responsibilities and run the risk as one member of the Corporation did, because of his neglect of his professional duties, of becoming a bankrupt and a convict. That is the kind of thing some people want the public of this city to believe is the way in which the affairs of the city should be run. However, we believe that there is a serious need to reform the whole committee arrangements of the Dublin Corporation and also that there is no need to have years and years of talk, comment and argument in order to get essential things done.

If there is a problem to be tackled, there are two ways of tackling it. One is to do what is necessary and the other is to refer it to a committee, let a committee talk about it and talk it out, let a good idea die in committee. If committee meetings and talk could build houses, there would be no housing crisis in Dublin at present but we are led to believe here that if some people attended committee meetings, all would be well. We are watching what is happening.

The Deputy referred to a meeting of the whole house.

When the Housing Committee was meeting over the past seven years, it just met and talked. There was never a shortage of talk or meetings and during all those years what happened ? When we were building houses, we were not interested in talking and committees: we were interested in building and we built, in our last year of office, for Dublin Corporation 1,564 houses. But the committees kept on meeting twice a month and the talk continued and the Government changed and 1,021 houses were built in the following year. The committees kept on meeting and the talk went on and we dropped to 460 houses in the next year. The committees still kept on meeting and the talking continued and there was a great rise in the following year to 505 houses, still only one-third of the number built when the work was being done. Yet there was great talk about the increase that year which was really a reduction to 505. In 1961, the figure went down to 277 and the committees still continued to meet and the talk went on. In 1962 the figure was 392 and there was a great celebration when in 1963 it went to 643. The committees went on meeting and the talk went on and we got 786 houses built in 1964, still less than half what was being achieved in the year 1956-57, our last year of office, and the year in which we were abused and criticised because a sufficient number of houses were not being built.

We might have reason to wonder if some people should attend committee meetings so that they would know all the facts and we might argue that if they attended meetings they would not be reckless in what they said and would be more accurate in their information. Yet we find in the course of this debate it was stated that the reason for the drop in the number of houses built was that 1,600 houses became vacant in the last year of the inter-Party Government, 1956-57. One would imagine that somebody who boasted so much about attending committee meetings would recite the facts but that was not done because in the year 1956-57 the number of vacancies was 794. In the following year it was 986; in 1958, 1,294; in 1959, 1,393 and it was not until the year of grace 1960, when Fianna Fáil were back in office, that the figure of 1,600 to which Deputy Dowling referred was reached. It took them three years to multiply the vacancy rate to more than double what it was when we left office.

This is all very interesting and shows us what some people learn at some of these so-called committee meetings. We had Deputy Moore talking about the drop in the number of houses built when Fine Gael were in power and, as I say, instead of a drop, the number of houses built increased because in the year ended 31st March, 1956, only 1,311 houses were built by Dublin Corporation and in the following year we built 1,654, an increased because in the year ended houses in our last year of office. Deputy Moore described that as a drop in the number of houses being built. He then admitted, and one must applaud a man when he confessed something to the disadvantage of his Party, that there was a drop over the following two years until the great revival came about.

We find, of course, Deputy Moore is quite wrong, that the drop, while it continued to 1960, became worse in 1961 and still worse in the next year and that we are still building fewer houses so that instead of a drop for a period of two years to which Deputy Moore confessed it was not a venial sin of neglect but a mortal sin of neglect that now leaves 10,000 families representing 40,000 people without a home to call their own and most of them with no prospect of having a home of their own within the next two years. These are the realities. We are blamed by the cloister commentators and by the refined people in our community because we blame Fianna Fáil for this. I cannot understand the functioning of democracy if in its operation one side only may take credit and the other side is not allowed to apply or apportion the blame. That is a negation of democracy but even if it were to be accepted that this was an inevitable course of events over which Fianna Fáil had no control it could be said, perhaps, it would be unfair to blame them.

What do we find? We find in their programme of so-called expansion, their First Programme published in 1958 an assertion on the very front page that there was going to be a falling-off in social investment such as housing and schools because the demand for them had been met. That is what they said and one credits them with believing what they said and with trying to achieve what they set out to achieve. One has only to produce their own White Paper, Housing Programme and Prospects, to prove the figures I have given to this House rather than the casually, inaccurately or irresponsibly produced figures which are wrong. There is an endeavour to give a certain authority to these wrong figures by suggesting that the spokesman who is giving them is a member of a particularly important and useful committee. The actual results are there for the 10,000 families to endure and that is what matters.

What is done in the midst of all this absolutely unnecessary housing crisis? We have spent, within the past year, £20,000 on maintaining a disused army barracks at South Circular Road, Dublin to house some 30 to 40 homeless families. But what do we find some members of this great housing committee doing to justify this? We find them engaging in propaganda suggesting that these families are problem families and are there through their own maladministration, because they are impossible families for whom one cannot do anything, because they are difficult families. What is the truth? The truth is that most of the fathers of the families in Griffith Barracks are in good employment and the only reason they cannot get any accommodation is that the private renters of property or rooms will not have children in flats. Again and again evictions take place in this city for no reason other than that young married couples have a child born to them and where such young couples are unable to get accommodation in their parents' houses they have no alternative, unless they have four children, but to take the road to Griffith Barracks and stay there until such time as the Corporation reach a position where they begin to house families of mother and father and three children, a situation which is shortly about to be reached.

We have them already.

This is the type of propaganda that is being made. Deputy Moore and others are giving the impression that these 800 are going to be housed this month when they know very well they are not going to be housed for several months to come. Many of these families will find little comfort in 1965 when they have still not got the accommodation that was going to be given to them "shortly" for several months past. This is what happens when you butcher the housing programme. This is what happens when you abandon your social obligation to provide houses.

One accepts that this society of ours has long since acknowledged its duty to feed and clothe people. The sad thing is that while we in Fine Gael thought we had convinced the people of the need to pay the price of housing our people, as a result of which we were spending one-third of our annual national resources on housing, the Fianna Fáil Party succeeded in convincing the people that housing could wait, that housing was not essential. They convinced the people in 1958 and since then that the housing needs of the country had been met. The result is that the housing output in Dublin dropped from 1,600 local authority houses to 270 and throughout the length and breadth of the country a similar situation developed where there was a drop from 4,700 local authority houses to 1,600 local authority houses per annum.

One of the dangers of attending committees and of not thinking, not doing your own homework, is that you do not realise what is happening outside your own parish. To this day there are many devoted and dedicated members of the Dublin Corporation Housing Committee and other bodies in Dublin who are not aware that their own experience has been repeated throughout the length and breadth of the country and who think that the situation in Dublin is one that is peculiar to Dublin and because of Dublin circumstances. These people are not even aware that the Government, in the 1958 programme of so-called expansion, cut down on housing in a way that local authorities were discouraged to build houses. These people do not appreciate that there are a hundred and one ways of killing a dog besides choking him with butter and that oftentimes the policy is dictated, not by direct representations by a Minister through county councils or vice versa but rather by the faceless officials in the Department of Finance and the Department of Local Government and others who slow down the machine in a thousand and one ways or who offer advice in as many ways to convince the local representatives that they ought to be cutting down on various forms of expenditure.

It gives us absolutely no joy or pleasure whatsoever to be reciting these sad facts but they are there and they have to be faced. One wonders what exactly the Government are doing to face them. Compared with seven years ago the cost of building today is about twice what it was then but we have not doubled the amount of money which we are spending on housing. The second programme of so-called expansion last year set a target for building and yet the figure was underspent to the tune of £1¼ million, and in this coming year the figure which is allocated for housing takes into account that £1¼ million which was not spent last year and, if you take that into account, you find that the amount of additional money to be provided this year to meet the crushing housing situation is only, in fact, about £3 million and this, with the increased cost of building, is barely adequate to maintain the present inadequate pace and certainly a long way off the figure which the Government in their own estimate say is necessary, that is, a figure of 12,000 to 13,000 houses per year. We are certain they are not going to reach it if we do not provide a lot more money than that.

The Minister, in his Budget Statement, mentioned that talks were to take place between the Central Bank and the other banks with a view to seeing if better credit arrangements and facilities could be made available for productive purposes. One hopes that these talks have already taken place with good effect or that they will in the near future but it seems to us equally important that there should be sufficient credit available for housing purposes. We are convinced that food, clothing and housing are absolutely essentials for human beings and we do not think that there is any financial consideration which can justify the restriction of credit for housing purposes. We are sorry that the Minister has not used the Budget to divert money from other forms of spending and investment into essential needs such as housing.

Yesterday, the Minister in reply to a question of mine said that the hire purchase debt was over £41 million. That is a tremendous figure. I do not know whether the Minister has any breakdown of that £41 million, how much of it is spent on luxury items and so on, how much is spent on industrial machinery. Perhaps I will endeavour to see if this information is available on another occasion. It is perhaps reasonable to expect that most of that is in respect of non-essentials and it might be desirable in a situation such as we have at the present time to require larger deposits to be paid on hire purchase goods. It would be a form of stimulating saving and even if this were done to only a small degree, even requiring only a very small deposit, it might make available for more productive and more useful purposes and to answer social needs some of the money that is at present being spent on unnecessary consumer goods.

Our criticism in Fine Gael of this Budget is that the Minister has not used the various techniques available to him to channel whatever money is available into more desirable forms of expenditure. I do not know whether the Minister has any information on this point but, if he has, I should like him to inform the House whether there have been substantial withdrawals from building societies in recent times. My information is that a considerable amount of money has been withdrawn from the funds of some of our building societies for reinvestment in Britain where some local authorities at present are offering as much as eight to ten per cent. If that trend is one of the reasons for the present terrible restrictions in our building societies, I think it is desirable that the Minister should take immediate and effective steps to curtail that flow of money from the housing needs of our own people to answer what may be important housing needs elsewhere. We ought to attend to our own needs at home first.

It is true that most hire purchase firms and most finance houses who are engaging in the enticement of money for consumer purposes offer a higher rate of interest than building societies and, again, a great deal of money which could be going in to answer the very important social need of housing may be driven towards those unnecessary places and we would like to see the Minister taking steps to ensure that building societies are no longer restricted in the way in which they are. The present indications are that there is not going to be any relaxation of credit for building societies for several months to come. If that happens, apart from the fact that several thousand of our own people will not be able to set up home, our builders and persons employed in the building trade may run into a great deal of trouble. All this ought to be avoided and any steps the Minister and the Government may take to meet the financial needs of the building industry here in producing houses will receive every encouragement and sympathy from this side of the House.

The Minister for Education intervened in this debate to speak about the great effort which he and his Government were making towards educational expansion. I might be prepared to accept a great deal of what he said if the Minister would answer a very simple question I addressed to his predecessor in February last and which I addressed to him last week. I asked the Minister if he would state the number of national school classes in Dublin city and county with more than 50 children on the roll. It seems to be a perfectly simple question, a perfectly innocent question, an information-seeking question, and one might expect a Minister, if he had nothing to hide, would answer it and would answer it openly.

The Minister, instead of answering my question this week, referred me to a reply given on 17th February last to a similar question which I addressed to his predecessor. On that occasion the Minister's predecessor told me there was a number of such classes but he was not prepared to give the information. Why is the Minister not prepared to give the information? I believe it is because there is a large number of these classes, notwithstanding the specific undertaking given by the Minister last year that there would be no classes in national schools in Dublin with more than 50 pupils on the rolls at the beginning of the school year in September, 1964.

Here we find twice in the following academic year a Minister refusing to tell us whether there are classes with more than 50 pupils and, if so, how many. The reason is that there are several classes in Dublin national schools with more than 50 on the rolls. Last year the Minister and his Government sought credit for the decision that there was to be a reduction to 50. They clapped themselves on the back and got a certain amount of applause for it from parents and school authorities, but the fact is that they have not fulfilled their promise and they will not tell Dáil Éireann and the country how many classes are still over the figure of 50.

I also asked the Minister to state this week what steps will be taken this year to ensure that there will be no classes with more than 50 children on the rolls of Dublin city schools after the summer vacation. The Minister combined the two questions and referred me to the answer which he gave on 17th February last.

One can appreciate that there might be pockets of difficulty in particular suburbs where a bulge, as it is called, in the population may have occurred. In modern housing estates which are built at one time the likelihood is that out of 300 houses, there may be young married couples going into 275 of them. It is inevitable, therefore, that there will be a population bulge in that locality for the following ten or 20 years. However, if Deputies ask the Minister for Education how many classes are over the figure of 50, he ought to be manly enough to tell Dáil Éireann and he also ought to be manly enough to tell Dáil Éireann what steps will be taken to meet the problem in 1965. It may well be the Minister does not intend to provide any more accommodation for schools in Dublin in 1965. If that is so, the people of Dublin are entitled to know it. It is not the last time I will mention this matter. I shall certainly be provoked to mention it every time the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Education talk about increasing educational facilities, if at the same time they refuse to disclose any information about the size of national school classes in this city.

Whatever credit may be given or taken for an improvement in educational facilities, the fact is that we are providing scholarships for post-primary education for only about one in every 24 of our boys and girls leaving the national school. That is certainly an inadequate figure and we cannot hope to provide the necessary skilled and trained operatives for an expanding economy if we do not provide better educational opportunities for our children. One in 24 compares very badly indeed with the figures for other even reasonably advanced economies. We must go a great deal further in this regard and we must hope there will be a substantial improvement in years to come.

I thought there would be an end to talk about the Select Committee on Health Services. As one may have suspected from my opening remarks, I have no great faith in committees of any kind, and when the proposal of the then Minister for Health was before this House to establish that Select Committee, I spoke against it. I said it was only a fraud and intended only to deceive the people into believing something was being done about health. I also said that members of the House who were unfortunate enough to accept appointment to it would become the stooges of the Minister for Health. I do not mind mentioning that when I was twice asked to represent my Party on that Committee, at the beginning and later on when another member resigned, I declined on both occasions because I was convinced from the very outset that the Committee was meant only to deceive and that it would never achieve anything. It gives me little satisfaction to say now: "I told you so", although I am entitled to say it.

It is disgraceful that the social needs of our people should become the plaything of politics. Instead of the Government leading the people as they ought to do, they set up committees to postpone necessary social reform. That is precisely what the purpose of that Select Committee was. It achieved its purpose magnificently. The Minister for Health deserves credit for achieving what he set out to achieve, that is to prevent any health reform in this country. Not only did he succeed in keeping his dead hand on health reform while he was there but he has also apparently obliged the Minister for Finance and his colleagues in the Cabinet not to provide any improvement in health services this year. To do so would have been to throw out Deputy MacEntee with the dishwater and that would have been an unpleasant experience for him and the Party. Rather than let him down entirely, they decided that the people who are looking for improved health services can wait until such time as it is no longer politically embarrassing for Fianna Fáil to do so.

There is an opportunity in every Finance Bill for the Minister for Finance to do something to assist one sector of the community, and I am very disappointed that this year the Minister has not chosen to do it. For the past few years, we on this side of the House have tabled an amendment to the Finance Bill asking that income tax allowances be given to people who expend more than a certain minimum figure every year on medical expenses. We have provided in our amendment, which we shall table again this year, that the allowance will be paid only to people who are unable to insure with the Voluntary Health Insurance Board in respect of a particular illness or infirmity from which they suffer. This is something which would not cost a great deal but which would be of immense relief to people who are suffering from chronic diseases and ailments of one kind or another. Any person who is suffering from a chronic disease will not be accepted by the Voluntary Health Insurance Board because he is an obviously bad risk. Such a person has no free command over a portion of his income.

Is the Deputy anticipating the legislation?

No, Sir. I am simply censuring the Minister for not bringing in a reform which I think he ought to have brought in. My point is that if income tax is based on any principle, it is on the principle that it it is a tax on income that a person is free to expend perhaps on things which might not be entirely necessary.

The preservation of human life and the relief of human suffering are essential. A person who has to spend five, ten, 15 or 20 per cent of income on the maintenance of life, or to relieve pain, should not be taxed in respect of that portion of the income. There are other countries, including Australia, where income tax allowances are available for certifiable expenses in the case of ill-health and we would like to see the Minister bring that system into operation here. It might also provide the Minister with an income from another source. I do not know whether this has occurred to him, but it might result in disclosing the incomes of other people if the Revenue Commissioners were to have certified to them the medical expenses of people who are ill.

The question of prices is one which cannot be divorced from taxes, as we have so clearly seen in the past, and as we have seen over the past week. I tabled a question last Monday to the Minister for Industry and Commerce about the price of drink. This was followed on Tuesday by an announcement from the Minister that he was going to hold an inquiry into the recent increase. This is just another instance of Fine Gael Government from the Opposition Benches.

Do not take too much credit. We have a little bit of initiative left.

What is interesting is that the Minister's inquiry is related only to the retail trade. We wonder why he has stopped short of investigating the profits of the brewers and distillers. The first people to take advantage of the increases in tax on these commodities in order to increase their own prices were the brewers and distillers. They having tempted the retail trade, the retailers promptly followed suit. It is undesirable that where important and essential taxes are imposed these should be used by manufacturers or distributors to increase their own profits. One understands the various stresses and strains everyone has to face today in meeting rising costs but it is undesirable, we think, that every time a tax is imposed for social purposes certain people should use that occasion to siphon off an increase of personal gain to themselves.

This is, of course, a common pattern in society, not alone here but throughout the world. It helps to emphasise that increases in Government expenditure inevitably lead to increases in other costs, not merely because the Government are drawing more money out of the economy but because they tempt people to increase their own profit margins. One can only hope the proposed inquiry will not be prolonged. What has happened in recent years is that inquiries have laboured so long over their particular task that, by the time a report is furnished, events justify the increase anyway. The result is that people are becoming frightened of the general trend in prices and we do not think that is something that should be allowed to continue indefinitely.

We are disappointed that the Minister is still adopting a laissez faire attitude in relation to prices. We do not think the answer is the severe type of emergency control which might be justified in war time, but, in times of economic and financial forecasting, we think it is important to forecast the field within which prices might be expected or allowed to rise. Where we find fault with the Minister and the Government is that they have not made any forecasts of the field, or the scope, or even prophesied which prices might be expected to rise. Neither have they sought to ensure that reduced costings will reduce the prices of goods. NIEC emphasised this in their comments upon the Second Programme for Economic Expansion: they said that it is:

" using some part of the annual increase in productivity to reduce prices and thus to make possible an expansion in sales and open up new employment opportunities. If the full benefits of rising productivity accrue directly to the factors of production rather than indirectly by way of lower prices, there is not likely to be a sufficiently large improvement in competitiveness."

The Government, by running away from the price factor in the economy, are in fact impairing our economy, the efficiency of the economy and the employment opportunities of the economy. We think this attitude—doing nothing about price increases until they occur—is not sufficiently advanced for the second half of the twentieth century and it will ultimately negative all efforts made for a planned advance in our economy. Unless the Minister tackles this matter, we shall continue to have a succession of economic slumps and booms, with a perpetual trend towards inflation.

We are surprised, too, that the Minister has not used this Budget to bring back the nation on to the targets set for 1970. We do not accept that the targets set in the Second Programme are sufficient. We think they are both inadequate and defeatist and, even if they are achieved, we shall still be well behind, and going further behind all the time, other countries in Europe with whom we hope to be associated economically and socially by 1970. We frequently forget, I think, that if we become a member of the European Economic Community, we will be obliged to maintain social services of a standard similar to those operated by these countries and, if we have not boosted our own economy and resources to the point necessary to pay for these social services, we shall be in dire trouble by 1970. Our excuse to date for not having better social services is that the country cannot afford them. By 1970, we will be on the horns of a dilemma because we will be obliged to maintain social standards with an economy, which, according to our own theories, will not be in a position to support them. What the outcome will be I dread to think.

We find in the first year of the Second Programme capital expenditure on industry is short by at least £2½ million. The anticipated expenditure last year was to be £9,160,000 and we are short of that figure by £2½ million. That is a very big figure in one year. Now we are being driven into a period of increasing restriction in credit and one is frightened to think what the next year will hold unless there is a substantial improvement in credit.

We find also that in the provision of hospitals the target of £2,900,000 was not reached; we spent only £1,800,000; we were off course in our hospital programme for last year. Notwithstanding that, we are going to provide only an additional £1,700,000 this year and, of that sum, £1,100,000 represents the deficit on last year. This year, therefore, we are providing only a little over £500,000 for improvement in our hospitals and that at a time when all building costs have multiplied.

Our housing expenditure last year was also short of the target by £1¼ million. If that figure is applied to this year, when one deducts that, one finds that we are again well off target.

Again, in industrial employment, we are below the figure which the conservative Second Programme for Economic Expansion asked as the minimum necessary. In emigration we are more than double what the Second Programme thought the country would be in a position to suffer. There were a number of techniques available to the Minister in this Budget, but he has not availed of them to put the country back on the right course. The result of that may well be that we will be well off the economic and financial boom the Second Programme promises in 1970.

Some people praise the Minister because the Budget gave relief to the less fortunate sections of the community and did not do anything else. We in Fine Gael do not think the Budget deserves credit for anything except for providing a certain amount of improvement for a limited number of social welfare beneficiaries. We are certainly not the ones to praise the Minister for doing nothing else.

One of the saddest things in our economic life is our undeveloped labour force. The Taoiseach in his address, the Minister in his Budget Statement and other Government spokesmen spoke about their new manpower policy and their proposals to train people who may become redundant by reason of rationalisation, modernisation and the impact of free trade. We do not think that is going far enough. A chronic seven per cent of our people are unemployed. There is something wrong if our society does not provide the necessary training for as many of those people as possible. We do not think we should have to wait for people to become redundant. We ought to be providing training immediately for as many of the current 50,000 employed as can benefit by it. There are a number of industries which require highly skilled operatives. In a labour force as large as 50,000, there are certainly some people who could acquire the necessary skills now. Such people, while acquiring those skills, should be given the same form of redundancy and stand-down pay as the Government are at present contemplating for people who may become redundant through the rationalisation of industry.

If we do not do this, we are neglecting one of our most substantial resources. One thing we are not short of in this country is manpower, but it is sad that our manpower has not been properly used in the past. There is no prospect of its being properly utilised until such time as the employment exchanges are taken from the control of the Department of Social Welfare and given to some more dynamic agency, such as the Department of Industry and Commerce. The Department of Social Welfare is geared to provide assistance for people in need, to try to relieve human suffering and make good inadequate incomes. A Department always concerned with such activity is not the kind of Department to instil the kind of training, hope and skill which ought to be given to our unemployed people to enable them to become qualified for employment in the more sophisticated industries we are likely to have in the future. During the course of the debate on Industry and Commerce, the transfer of employment exchanges to any other Department was not envisaged. I cannot see how the Minister for Finance and the Government can hope to achieve any worthwhile manpower retraining programme unless they shift the employment exchanges into the hands of some new agency.

In this country we cannot divorce our comments on economic matters from industrial relations. We are concerned about the fact that this Christian country of ours has as yet been unable to develop a really proper Christian approach to the problem of industrial relations. This is a vital matter. How people work will control how they live. Whether people are happy in their employment will govern their output. Whether people receive adequate remuneration or not, will govern the claims made on the public purse for the redistribution of the national income.

This whole problem of industrial relations will have to be tackled in a realistic way if we are to achieve the target set for ourselves. Central European countries, particularly Germany, have an average annual loss of working hours because of industrial disputes of about .4 of one per cent for every one thousand days. We here have a figure at the best of times of from 40 to 50 days per 1,000 days, and in some cases of 150 to 200 days. The figure for Germany is repeated in Sweden and a number of other northern countries. We will have to tackle the problem of industrial relations more courageously and in a more Christian way than we have done in the past.

We do not minimise the difficulties facing the Government and all others involved in this. We can only hope that the coming together of management and employees in the various councils established for the purpose of considering our position in the future may convince these people it is just as important to have good industrial relations as it is to rationalise and modernise industry. We have been successful to a degree in bringing a number of foreign investors and industrialists here. I can see Government propaganda leaflets mentioning that we have a good labour force and good labour relations here. It is not entirely true when you make a comparison with the position in Germany and Sweden. Industrialists coming to this country must be very saddened to find the situation is far from what they were led to believe it to be. Let us hope there will be an improvement in that field.

The last point I want to make is one relating to the proposal in the Budget to apply income tax to income from property other than rents. At the time the financial proposals were before the House I asked the Minister for some more information on that aspect of it. It is a rather technical point and I can appreciate the Minister was not able to give me any explanatory information at the time. However, I would be grateful if he would do it as soon as possible. One of the aspects he did refer to can certainly be understood, that is, where, instead of charging a rent on a property, an effort is made to capitalise the rent figure and charge that as a premium at the commencement of a lease.

I do not know whether it is intended that this should go any further, nor am I aware of how the Revenue Commissioners propose to assess the difference between what you might call a legitimate fine and a fine which is put on in substitution for a rent. Are we to understand that every time a person receives a fine for any of his property, that fine is to be treated as income in respect of that year? If that be so, it opens up the most appalling consequences. The financial proposals as set out, and from what the Minister gave us to believe, would indicate that if a person sold an ordinary house in any year, the price received by that person for the house would be subject to income tax. I do not know whether the person would be given a remission of the tax in the event of purchasing another private dwelling. But it certainly gives us cause for considerable alarm that this particular tax should be under consideration. We will want to know a great deal more about it before we can give it general approval.

There is a need to put a tax on some forms of speculative capital gains which have been made here on house property. It is undesirable that one should impose any form of capital gains tax on private dwellings where, because of depreciation in the value of money or an increase in the cost of building or for other causes, the price of houses may increase, but where speculators enter into the property market and seek to make gains and profit out of municipal developments and where they seek to make profit out of the increasing complexity of modern traffic conditions, it is open to the Minister to collect tax. He would have been justified in doing so because many of the gains which have been made in property in this city for a long time have arisen out of social matters and also development by local authorities for the public service.

It seems extraordinary that a person can in one year purchase a large tract of virgin land, far removed from any service, and, therefore, next to worthless for housing or development purposes, and within a decade sell that property at immense profit because social and economic demands in a nearby city or town will have reached out to that property. The local authority of that city or town will, in the meantime, have provided various services adjacent to that property. The result of that type of development has been that many people have made tremendous profits although they have done nothing to earn the profit for themselves. I wonder whether this particular section in the Finance Bill is intended to have the effect of getting at some of the profits which are earned under such circumstances?

We consider that a tax of that kind would be justified and would not be any real hardship on the people who have to pay it. If the tax is related to profits which have been made available without any effort, would it be considered any real hardship to collect it? I know of one property—I have mentioned this before—which consisted of seven or eight houses. The first house was sold for about £2,500 and the last one was sold for something like £17,000 in a matter of two or three years. The site is now available for sale again and the price sought is in the region of £250,000, although nothing has been done with the property in the meantime. There has been nothing done to demolish it. I suppose somebody will pay that price for it. It seems extraordinary that a person could make that profit while we do not try to get some of the profit for the public generally.

Such profits are only made by people who have immense resources themselves. These profits are not available to the ordinary man. They are profits which can be made by large combines and very few of them are of Irish origin. I should like to see the Minister taking steps to acquire some of this money for the benefit of the public purse. This would also, to some extent, assist the State to acquire money for municipal and social developments.

The usual reply from the Minister for Finance regarding proposals made by the Opposition for spending money is to ask where the money is to come from. I have indicated two ways where tax can be collected. I am disappointed the Minister has not done anything about this. We are also disappointed that the Budget has done nothing to get the national economic rocket back on the target for 1970. We do not think the Micawber-like attitude they have adopted of hoping that something is bound to turn up is any good. Our economy is such that under the stresses and strains of modern times that is not likely to happen. We hope the Government will not have any reason to regret not taking steps in the 1965 Budget to do these necessary things.

Now that the Budget debate has entered well into its second week and that most of the points arising out of it have already been debated at length by previous speakers, and points of view have been expressed by all Parties in this House, there is very little one can add at this stage. Therefore, I shall not take the Minister to task for any failures in regard to the Budget.

My first reaction, on hearing the Minister's proposals for increases in benefits to social welfare recipients, was that a very genuine effort was being made to narrow the gap between the financial means of these unfortunate people and the means which they needed to meet the high cost of living today. The Minister for Social Welfare, during the course of his contribution to this debate, used percentages largely. According to what he told us, while the cost of living had increased by only 7.2 per cent, they would still be living in February, 1965, the recipients of social welfare payments were now about to receive increases varying from 13.5 per cent to over 20 per cent.

I do not believe we should deal in percentages at all when speaking about these unfortunate people. Indeed, if their means were increased by 100 per cent, they would still only be living in very frugal comfort. In fact, I personally feel there is over-emphasis on percentages in our society today. I know this is something which I cannot lay at the Minister's feet but I fail to see the justice in assuming that £1 a week extra is ample compensation for a man with £8 or less a week. Those who receive larger remuneration get progressively larger increases. As I say, this is something for which the Minister is not responsible and I cannot lay it at his feet. I feel, however, it is not just that big discrepancies should exist in these increases. A man with £8 a week is in a relatively worse position with all the adjustments that have been made. The only consolation he has is that things could be worse.

Despite the lip service paid over very many years to the concept of equal pay for equal work, nothing constructive has been done to bring about this situation. I know this is a matter more for arbitration than for the Minister for Finance. Looking through the Estimates for the various Departments, one can see very ample evidence of the fact that there is one rate of pay for a man and a lesser rate of pay for a woman doing the same work. This applies only to single men and women. I know married men are entitled to bigger pay because of the responsibilities they carry.

I now want to return to the Budget proposals. We in the Labour Party agree with the Minister in his effort to increase taxation in order to give increased benefits to the unfortunate recipients of social welfare allowances. We did not anticipate that the amount demanded from the public would in one case be at least 100 per cent more than that demanded by the Minister by way of taxation. I am very glad the Minister is to investigate this colossal increase, I hope, with a view to eliminating it from the point of view of the public.

We feel, also, that no case can be made for the introduction of a new means test of £26 per annum in respect of some recipients of old age non-contributory pensions. I think only 40,000 need to be catered for, should this means test not be applied. If the Minister had looked around for other sources from which taxation could be obtained without causing any undue hardship on the community, he could very easily have found them. I have in mind a particular field of entertainment which could well have afforded increased taxation to pay increased benefits to those people.

The fact that the increases mentioned will not come into operation immediately and have no retrospective effect has been laboured at length in this debate. Apart from the injustice involved, there is the vital point that the cost of living will have increased further before those people get their benefits. I think it has a psychological effect on them, that, year after year, they have to wait for three to nine months for whatever increases may be awarded to them while other better-off sections of the community are paid increases retrospective to the date of their claim. The only excuse the Minister gave for this course of action was that it is in accordance with custom. We all know that many customs have had to be abandoned from time to time in the interests of progress and justice. This is one custom which should come under the hammer of the Minister for Finance—and I hope it will come under the hammer of the present Minister.

It has been the custom all down the years to carry out exhaustive inquiries into means and matters relating to people who apply for non-contributory pensions and other social welfare benefits and allowances. If the same exhaustive inquiries were made into the bona fides of those people who are applying for huge State grants to set up industries here, one feels that there would be less misdirection of public funds than there has been to date. I am not saying that very many non-national companies have not been a real asset to our community but there are some who object completely to trade union organisation among their employees. They seem to be obsessed with the idea of obtaining cheap labour in this country.

It is all very well to give grants to people to set up industry here with a view to increasing our exports but unless such industries provide employment for our people with decent wages and conditions, they will not help to solve our greatest national problem which is emigration. It seems to be particularly difficult for small Irish concerns to acquire small sums to start little industries. I have in mind in particular voluntary organisations which seek help to carry on their work. There is an organisation in Cork of which I am sure the Minister is well aware which is doing its best to rehabilitate long-term mental hospital patients and to fit them to take their place in industry. That organisation is operating solely with the assistance of voluntary funds. In an attempt to expand the little industry they have established, in which they have woodwork classes, hand-knitting and other little handicrafts, they applied to various Departments of State for assistance: I cannot say whether they would come under the heading of Health, Education or Industry. However, they have failed to get assistance from the State. Without such assistance, these people cannot hope to expand their field of activity or to break the back of the huge problem they have so gallantly tackled.

The Minister for Finance told us of increased automation within the Civil Service and said it will result in increased efficiency and progress. We are all interested in increased efficiency and progress but we should like to be sure that these machines which replace labour in the Civil Service will not prove more expensive to maintain than the labour they replace. We should also like to feel that our boys and girls leaving school who will not now obtain employment in the Civil Service because the work they would otherwise be engaged upon will now be done by machines, which I am sure will be imported, will be able to find other avenues of employment at home before we over-indulge in automation in the Civil Service.

The Minister for Education had some heartening news for us during the course of his speech in this debate. He told us that from 1966 onwards we shall have an increase of 50 per cent in the output of national teachers from St. Patrick's College, Drumcondra, Dublin. This, we presume, is aimed at reducing the number of pupils per class. Due to the shortsighted policy up to now of erecting national schools throughout the country based on the number of teachers already teaching in the area rather than on any prospect of reducing the size of classes, the Minister will now have to begin right away to build extra rooms to many of our national schools before he can hope to provide employment for the extra number of teachers he envisages during the coming years.

There is little else I have to say except to tell the Minister that, with all its defects, we feel the Budget has been an attempt to give a fairer share of the national income to the weaker sections of our community. So long as he continues along this road, he will have the fullest support of the people sitting on these benches.

I intend to be brief. This Budget cannot be described as good or bad but when ever did we see people in this country pleased with any Budget? I should like to know if we are to have supplementary Budgets before this year is out and if we shall have the position that increases will be sought by various Departments, as has happened in the past when, for instance, in the case of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, money was filched from the people.

The Minister is very interested in the price of drink. That is all right, but first things first. It is not by drink alone that we live. You can live it up, possibly, but there are thousands of people in this country and many old age pensioners whose staple diet is bread, butter and tea. It is a wonder to me that the Minister, any time he saw an increase in the price of food, did not step in, as he has done in this case of drink.

Indeed I did.

We did not see any result and you did not step in as fast as you did in this case.

Indeed I did, on several occasions in the past few years.

The results were not so good: we have seen it over the years. Recently, we saw the result of the price of bread going up and every other day we see that the price of something or other goes up. It is a case of something to be put on, one way or another, and the public pay through the nose.

Many thousands of our old age pensioners will be disappointed. They were led to believe by banner headlines in the Irish Press that there would be 10/- for all old age pensioners—but there was a snag. Nobody would get the 10/- unless he or she was down on his or her uppers. We shall now have a horde of inspectors roaming the countryside and there will be many who will find that their pension will be lessened by much more than they will get.

I do not see much in this Budget to help a very important aspect of our life—house building. The Budget does not hold much encouragement towards off-setting the increases that have been put on the ordinary house builder, especially where young couples are concerned. These are people who would build their own houses, take responsibility on themselves, have a stake in the country and stay put. I should like to see the Minister directing some of that money towards encouraging these people.

I said I would be brief so I should just like to wish the Minister well in his new post. He was always very approachable and he has my sympathy in the gigantic task he has before him. Any decent person will wish him well because he is working in the interests of the country. Finance is the kernel of all and I wish the Minister every success.

May I start off by picking out the last remark and thanking Deputy Coogan and the other Deputies on his side of the House who have wished me well in my new office? Limited though their wishes were, I nevertheless very much appreciate them.

I think, in general, the Budget has been accepted throughout the country as a good one, and, indeed, in the House amongst all Parties. Any dissension there was has I think been generated mainly by the rival claims of Fine Gael and Labour as to which of those two Parties was responsible for the increased social welfare benefits. I do not know whether these claims have since been resolved as I have not heard anything in the last two days about it except in the concluding statement of Deputy T. F. O'Higgins.

The increase provided this year was, I suggest, perfectly consistent with Fianna Fáil social welfare policy since they first came into Government, as is evidenced by the fact that Fianna Fáil have been responsible for every single aspect of social welfare legislation that has been passed in this country. It is significant in this respect that when in the first inter-Party Government efforts were made to introduce a comprehensive social welfare scheme, and there was then a Labour Minister for Social Welfare as indeed there was in the second Coalition Government, that scheme was thwarted within the ranks of the inter-Party Government itself, as a result of a certain reactionary element within the Fine Gael Party.

I have said the increases given in social welfare benefits this year are consistent with Fianna Fáil policy, not only with Fianna Fáil policy but with Fianna Fáil actions down through the years and more particularly since 1959 since when each year the Fianna Fáil Budget included an increase for social welfare benefit recipients. There were a number of years when 2/6 was given by way of increase to old age pensioners. It is remarkable, in these circumstances, that both Fine Gael and Labour should claim that it was their activities that stimulated the Fianna Fáil Government to give what are regarded as more satisfactory increases in this year. What I find most difficult of all to comprehend is the allegation that the increases were introduced in the shadow of a general election. That would be understandable if the general election were to take place after the introduction of a Budget in which increases were given. But, when a Budget succeeds a general election, and is produced within a month of a general election, it is difficult to understand the suggestion that it was in the shadow of that general election the social welfare increases were introduced.

It would be far more politically advantageous for a Government to delay whatever increases it could afford to pay until near or succeeding an election, whereas, in fact, we have done it the other way round. That, I think, is another earnest of the regard Fianna Fáil have for the needs of social welfare recipients, and their regard also for the capacity of our people to pay for any increases that were given.

However, social welfare benefits are not the be-all and the end-all of social welfare policy. As I mentioned in my Budget speech, there are other aspects of social legislation and social policy we must take into account. These include housing, health services, education, training, and so on. These are being examined by various teams and groups. Reports have been received on some of them and when these reports have been properly studied and action on them co-ordinated and priorities given, then we will have a proper scheme for social legislation and we shall be in a position to see what our capacity is, what our needs are and how we can give effect to these needs in their proper order of priority.

Some questions were addressed to me about the social welfare benefits in particular. I do not wish to go into them in any great detail because there will be a better opportunity subsequently for discussing these details. I think I was asked in particular for a breakdown of the amounts involved in the increased expenditure this year. I do not even want to go into details on all that because it would delay the House too long. Repetition of the figures a number of times would not serve any useful purpose. Of the increases, the old age non-contributory pensions will cost £1.586 million extra this year. If we add to that the other non-contributory classes—unemployment assistance recipients, small-holders under the amendment of the unemployment assistance scheme and widows in receipt of non-contributory pensions—these four together amount to £2.376 million. If we add to that the contributory classes—old age pensions, widows' pensions, unemployment and disability benefit—we add a further £1.324 million. In the full year the non-contributory old age pension increases will cost £2.4 million and the total assistance classes increases will be £3.094 million. As I have said in the Budget speech, the total this year for the increases will be £3.22 million and in a full year will amount to £5.768 million.

Another particular question was addressed to me in this respect by I think, Deputy Lindsay. He asked whether rights of maintenance, whether covenanted or otherwise, would affect the payment of the maximum pensions to old age pensioners living with their relatives on farms and other places. I am told that these rights of residence are taken into account. Generally only a nominal figure of 1/- or 2/- is assessed in respect of these rights of maintenance and support. Therefore, I think we can take it that people who enjoy these rights of residence, maintenance and support will not be affected, unless of course they have some other source of income. Therefore, they should enjoy the full benefit of the 10/- a week increase.

Naturally it was suggested that this 10/- a week increase should be applied all round without any means test. First of all, it is just as well to remember that I did say at the outset and in the course of my Budget speech—and I made no attempt to hide the fact—that only those whose incomes are £26 a year or less will qualify for the full 10/- a week increase. That represents about 70,000 of the total recipients of old age pensions, which exceeds about 100,000 or 110,000, I think. Therefore, the vast majority of them will get the full increase.

Some Deputies asked what it would cost if the £26 means test were abolished. I believe in a full year it would cost about £¾ million which is a sizeable sum, and which it would require considerable extra taxation to meet. I think we have gone a long distance in providing this 10/- increase, and bringing the old age pension up to 47/6 for a person who has no other means, or limited means, and to 5/- per week for all others, which is double the highest increase ever given.

Before I proceed to any general remarks, I should like to refer in particular to the allegation, by Deputy Sweetman, repeated by Deputy Dillon, to the effect that Ministers had come in here and given false information in their Estimates, and Estimate speeches, as to the amount of capital money required for the running of their Departments. The Deputy referred in particular to the Minister for Lands, the Minister for Agriculture, and the Minister for Industry and Commerce. The suggestion was that this was a shocking breach of parliamentary privilege, and a shocking blow to parliamentary debate and democracy generally. The fact is that this is usual in any year in which estimates are made early on, and if closer estimates are possible as a result of delayed publication of certain statutory or Government documents, those closer estimates are given.

To prove that there was no attempt at non-disclosure of any reductions, the figures to which I refer were published in the "Capital Budget" which accompanied the pre-budgetary documents generally issued. At page 4, paragraph 7, I stated clearly:

Since the Estimates Volume was published, the actual detailed figures for last year's capital expenditure became available and it was possible, in the light of these figures and other up-to-date information, to arrive at closer estimates of the amounts needed to carry out this year's programme. The relevant amendments of the figures published in the Volume are indicated in Table 6 which sets out the Voted Capital Services in detail.

There is a detailed statement of the reductions provided for in Table 6. It is obvious that in framing the capital Budget the best available figures must be used, and it has always been the practice to modify, if necessary, in the Budget statement, the provisions previously suggested in the Estimates Volume. This is, in fact, the first time a budgetary revision has been made in capital items, and I made these revisions because I was convinced of the need for the greatest possible accuracy in assessing our financial requirements.

It was possible in this instance too, because the Budget was introduced later than it would normally have been introduced, by reason of the intervention of the general election. In any event, the total cost of the programme has now reached a record level, and it may prove to be in excess of domestic resources. It is necessary for national planning and financing that our overall programme should have a realistic figure. I do not like to remind Deputy Sweetman and Deputy Dillon of past attempts at not revealing the true picture, but I would ask them to remember the time of Doctor Browne's departure from the Cabinet when he told us he was deliberately asked to depress his estimates for the sake of their presentation. There was no attempt at non-disclosure by me. It was all fully set out in the "Capital Budget"—not only that but it was fully itemised as well.

It was suggested by a number of speakers that this Budget had nothing for this or that, that it had nothing for housing or education. I know well that I did not spell out in my Budget speech the details of each component part of the programme we have set ourselves to achieve. The Budget must be expected to be a general review of our economic progress, and to be critical of any aspect of our economy, and of any sphere of activity or policy which is not measuring up to what we projected for it, or not producing the desired results. It also makes suggestions as to how these activities and other activities which appear to be going well might be even better.

I was very careful in my Budget statement to advert in particular to all of these aspects of our economy. The Budget itself must, of necessity, include provision for every item of revenue and capital expenditure. Obviously it would be impossible to cover every one of those items even in a general way in the course of the Budget statement. However, as a result of the repetition of these allegations it is necessary for me, I think, to indicate how the Budget deals not only with social welfare increases but also with other aspects of our economy, such as the necessity for increased output in agriculture and industry, and every sphere of economic activity.

Let me take agriculture first. In the 1964 Budget, specific provision was made for the expenditure of £4.5 million for extra aids to agriculture, including additional relief on rates, the provision of an extra 2d per gallon of milk and also a minimum price for pigs. Since the 1964 Budget, a number of increases were decided on by the Government for agricultural produce, or by way of direct aids to farmers. I did not spell them out in this Budget because they were already announced, but I had to provide for them in the overall moneys I had to get through the Budget.

There is an increase of 3/- per barrel of wheat, and the estimated total value to the farmers of that increase is £300,000 this year. There was also an increase of £5 per barrel in the price of feeding barley, an estimated total value to farmers of £1,200,000. The premium of 1d per gallon on quality milk is estimated to total £400,000 this year in value to farmers. An increase of 5/3 a ton for sugar beet is estimated to bring in a further £200,000 in the current year.

I am not suggesting that all these increases were things that must be provided for in the Budget but some of them were. Apart from and in addition to them, an increase must be given to pig producers to compensate them for the increase in the price of feeding barley and this increase will come into effect next autumn. This will involve the Exchequer in an extra liability for export subsidy and in a full year this additional liability will amount to about £450,000.

Therefore, all these items alone go to show that it is not in any way true to allege there is nothing in this Budget for agriculture. There is plenty in it for agriculture, especially when added to what was provided last year. I shall deal in slightly more detail with milk. Apart from 1d. per gallon for quality milk, the Exchequer is already paying 4d. a gallon subsidy on all creamery milk, in addition to meeting two-thirds of the losses on exports of dairy produce. The value to farmers of creamery milk production is expected to increase by £3.5 million, or ten per cent, in 1965 to a total figure of £40 million. The Exchequer is directly providing more than £10 million this year as against approximately £8 million last year.

Again, I ask Deputies who complain about the lack of Budget provision for agriculture to examine these figures. I ask the NFA also to examine them to find to what extent their allegation of the "great betrayal" is true. Deputy Clinton suggested that I angered the farmers by suggesting that the total aids to farmers amounted to £52 million approximately. I should like to refer him to my Budget Statement in this respect. I did not use the words "total aids".

I did not say the Minister used it in his Budget Statement. I was referring to his broadcast.

The television broadcast was largely off the cuff and it could be that I used the word "aid" instead of "expenditure" or listeners may have been confused. The fact is that total expenditure, both current and capital, relating to agriculture in 1965-66 is estimated at £52 million as against actual expenditure of £49.6 million last year. This £49.6 million was £6 million in excess of what was provided last year in the Budget. In other words, the outturn for 1964-65 exceeded the Budget provisions by more than £6 million and a further £2½ million is being provided this year.

Apart altogether from what is being provided by way of aids, capital and otherwise, we must have a look at what the projections are for increased farmers' income in the current year. The projections made by the Department of Finance in this connection indicate an increase of at least £12 million in farmers' incomes in 1965, after meeting increased costs and expenses. This projection is based on an increase of three per cent in the volume of agricultural output and five per cent in prices.

This increase of £12 million, or 8½ per cent, is in line with the expected increase in total national income—the ratio of increases for farmers compared with people in other occupations. But then, when account is taken of the continued decline which, unfortunately, is with us, in the numbers engaged in agriculture, the present estimated increase will be even higher per capita. So much for the assistance to the ordinary productive activities of farmers.

We come to another complaint aired by Deputies. We heard on many occasions, not only here during the debate but outside, that nothing was done by way of relief of farmers' rates. Some Deputies said the rates on land keep mounting and also that the amount of money to be met by local authorities keeps mounting. Let us examine these two allegations in relation to what is provided in the Budget but again not spelled out in the Budget Statement, though covered in the overall expenditure. The additional reliefs last year and in 1962 will keep the net rates of agricultural land during 1965-66 at less than the level, or at least at approximately the same level as in 1958-59.

I am not suggesting that gross rates on agricultural land have not increased. They have in fact increased by £7 million since 1958-59 but this increase has been borne entirely by the Exchequer and this year a considerable increase in Exchequer expenditure had to be provided as well. In fact the Exchequer will bear about 63 per cent of increases in rates on agricultural land this year. The Agricultural Grant will be £12.5 million in 1965-66 which is £1.3 million higher than last year. Again, where is the truth in the allegation that nothing was being done for the relief of farmers' rates? The allegation again was made because I did not spell it out in my Budget Statement.

Farmers' rates are just one aspect of the whole problem of local taxation. I mentioned at the start the suggestion that the sums to be met by local authorities keep mounting. The position is that more than half the current expenditure of local authorities is financed by the Central Government as compared with a contribution of one-third from the rates. Rates, in proportion to gross national product, have declined from 3.4 per cent in 1938-39 to 2.8 per cent in 1964-65, Since 1939, rates have increased fourfold. Nobody will deny that, but over the same period State grants to local authorities have increased eightfold.

While there is truth in the suggestion that rates are mounting, that they are costing more to local authorities and more to the Exchequer, net rates payable by farmers are not mounting. More money is provided this year than last year for rates relief to farmers and the Exchequer is bearing a considerably bigger proportion now than in 1938-39 in relief of local authorities generally.

Another complaint, which was made in the course of the debate and repeated so often that I am sure Deputies have become tired of it, was that made by some Dublin Deputies concerning the number of houses built or vacated or vacant since 1957. In the current year the sum of £19.58 million is being provided for housing. This is £4¼ millions more than last year's expenditure. This compares very favourably with the increases given to other items in the capital programme. This provision, of course, does not take into account expenditure on related activities such as sanitary and other services for which, in addition to the £4¼ million, there will be another £4.24 million. As well as that, there is another £4 million provided for in the current supply services for housing and related facilities. I deny, as completely unfounded, the suggestion that housing is being neglected and that no proper future provision is being made for housing. It was estimated that last year over 9,000 dwellings were constructed and that over 13,000 were reconstructed or modernised despite the prolonged strike in the Dublin area.

In the present year it is hoped to increase this figure significantly and about 10,000 new dwellings will be completed and about 16,000 will be reconstructed or modernised. This is in line with the kind of targets we have set ourselves. On the other hand, it is important—important though housing is—that we should not place an undue stress or strain on the physical resources of the building industry. The tentative target of seven per cent per year in the average growth rate set for the building industry in the Second Programme for Economic Expansion was discussed in detail with all the interests concerned, that is the trade unions and the proprietary interests in the building industry, and the conclusion was that while this target was attainable it would nevertheless place a great strain on the industry not only in terms of capital but in terms of manpower requirements. Therefore, no matter how much we desire to expand our housing in any particular year there are physical limiting factors that money cannot get over, the manpower requirements being particularly important in this respect.

A number of Deputies referred to the alleged restriction of capital for private building and asked me whether the Government propose to take any action in relation to the building societies. The Minister for Local Government was asked in the Dáil last week about this and in reply to a Parliamentary Question he indicated that he was arranging for a discussion with the building societies in the very near future. I understand that the meeting will take place in a matter of days and at that he will endeavour to find out what the position really is and see what remedy can be applied. I think it would be better to leave further discussions on the attitude of the building societies in relation to the output of houses to the result of that meeting.

I was going to deal very briefly with schools—and I hope I will do so reasonably objectively—but Deputy Ryan stimulated me into dealing with the matter at greater length than otherwise I might have done. While he was speaking he probably forgot that I spent two years in the Department of Education and I know a little about school building and a little about the record of school building that I inherited from the second inter-Party Government. There are a lot of aspects in connection with school building and with the size of classes in schools about which I saw little or nothing being done when I came into this Department. There seemed to be no proper provision for increasing training facilities. The school building rate was just ticking over and not even keeping pace with the incoming tide, so to speak, and the rate of old school buildings falling into disuse was far in excess of the number of new schools being provided. I immediately took steps on these three fronts. First of all I started an expanded training college. I enabled disqualified teachers to be recognised as qualified and I doubled in that two years the rate of school building. This progress has been kept up under my successor, who is my successor in two Ministries. These figures will give some indication of the position. The target at that time was about 50 schools a year; last year the target was 100 new schools and 50 major enlargements. In fact, this target was exceeded with 108 new schools, and 93 major extensions were completed. We know that even this is not sufficient in order to meet the demands for new schools and in particular to meet the demand for reducing the number of pupils in classes in Dublin schools and in some of the other big centres.

Deputies who will have read the Capital Budget will note that in paragraph three it is stated that experiments are being made in the erection of national schools by more advanced building methods and these are intended not only to increase output but reduce costs. If these are successful they should contribute very significantly towards the overtaking of arrears in the national school building programme. The total capital provided this year is increased by £1.26 millions, from £3.7 millions in 1964/65 to £4.98 millions in the current year. This represents an increase of over one-third of the provision for last year and is a substantial increase in relation to the public capital programme as a whole.

Again, another allegation was made that this Budget did nothing for industry, nothing about increasing employment and that no new incentives were created. Of course this is completely false and again attributable, perhaps, to my not dealing with the matter sufficiently in my Budget Statement. The Budget not only provided for a continuance of the existing far-reaching and costly industrial incentives but extends them in very important respects. The export reliefs, which provide the maximum assistance possible by offering 100 per cent exemption from tax on profits deriving from exports, are to be extended for a further period and so also are the mining reliefs—these are certain reliefs on profits earned by mining—and also the period during which the double initial allowance may be claimed for plant, machinery and industrial buildings. In addition to the extensions of current reliefs, the provisions for industry generally include two new incentive reliefs—which will be provided for in the Finance Bill—the writing off of capital expenditure by traders on scientific research in one year instead of over five years as at present and relief from stamp duties in the case of the amalgamation of companies. As the House is aware the Government have been encouraging firms in industry, particularly those engaged in the same type of business, to amalgamate and where in order to do so it has been found necessary for one company to buy out another. Without this relief considerable stamp duties would have to be paid. This relief is now going to be afforded to the considerable advantage of our rationalisation and adaptation endeavours in the industrial field. I should remind Deputies too, that I have had to provide on the capital side £1.5 million for the development grants which were directly attributable to the necessity to help our industrial exports to the British market to overcome the effects of the levy of 15 per cent.

Progress reported; Committee to sit again.