I can tell the Parliamentary Secretary it was not by way of Parliamentary Question because, had I tabled one, I would have got the same answer as I usually get. Deputy Crowley should be more honest when he makes such a statement. He may be able to suggest with figures that it is possible for a farmer to receive abatement in his rates up to £1,000 a year; but if the agricultural land of this country were paying 100 per cent rates, how many people could be paid for staying on the land? We would have a chaotic situation. This is the only country in Western Europe which has rates on agricultural land. Deputy Crowley might explain to the people of Bandon and mid-Cork, when he makes such an outrageous statement, that unless this abatement were given to the farmers, our main industry would collapse. I certainly give no credit to the Minister for Finance for his supposed benefit to the agricultural community in derating up to £20 valuation.
Unless my information is incorrect, I understand the position to be that a small farmer who owns four or five small holdings with a total valuation of £21 does not get the benefit of derating. It is not all holdings under £20 valuation but all holdings of the one rated occupier which come under £20 valuation. No one knows better than the Leas-Cheann Comhairle what this means for Donegal. In Donegal you can have many smallholders under £20 valuation, but very few of them live out of their own holdings. The holding is usually to supplement a business, a handicraft or a profession. Indeed, the reverse can be the case, that the small holding is being supplemented by the owner earning a living in some other occupation. Here is the situation from now on: if a holder has £25 valuation, he will get no benefit from the derating of agricultural land, although that £25 valuation could be made up of two, three or four small holdings, although his entire income could be coming from those holdings. On the other hand, a publican, a hotelier, a butcher, a grocer or any other businessman can buy a holding of £19 valuation and, because that is the only agricultural land he owns, benefit fully from the Budget, not to any great extent but to the tune of about £15 per year.
I submit that the thinking of the Government has been wrong in this respect. I forecast, and I accept the advice of the Taoiseach when he says we shall enter the European Economic Community in 1970 or in the early seventies, if and when we do, then all agricultural land must be derated. There is no time like the present. A new system of taxation must be found: new economies must be effected, and savings must be obtained to provide for the derating of all agricultural land. When stupid statements are made in this Parliament like that made by Deputy Crowley yesterday evening, that the agricultural holder could receive £1,000 by way of rates abatement, they tend to mislead and confuse the urban voter, when anything but that is the truth. It is my belief that many smallholdings will now be bought by businessmen and by other people who are not earning their living out of agriculture. All such land below £20 valuation will be free of rates, whereas the man who has an agricultural holding of £60 valuation benefits to no extent whatsoever; in fact he will be paying more this year than in any previous year.
I should like the Minister to introduce some amending regulations to make the agricultural employment allowance more equitable in the various counties. For example, the £17 employment grant has the equivalent value of £12 PLV abatement in County Meath, and it has the equivalent value of a £10 PLV abatement in County Dublin, but because of the high rate in County Donegal, it has the equivalent value of only £6; in other words, the £17 employment allowance in Donegal is half the value it is in County Meath. If the agricultural allowance is to be of any benefit to the agricultural community in Donegal, a new system should be devised in relation to the qualifying age limit, the details of which are somewhat involved, but they have been explained to the House times out of number. I have raised this point on a number of occasions, and I think it would be the unanimous view of all Deputies, Fine Gael, Fianna Fáil and Labour, that a more equitable solution should be found in relation to the £17 agricultural allowance.
The Minister for Transport and Power spoke last week about inflation and how this great enemy of inflation attacked the First Programme for Economic Expansion and how it rocked the foundations of the Second Programme for Economic Expansion, and he told the House why these things took place. He astutely explained that these things were completely beyond the control of the Government, that international forces, the economic situation in Western Europe, the Presidential election in the USA, the upheaval within the Conservative Party in Great Britain, all tended to have an effect on the economic situation in this country.
I sat listening to the Minister for Transport and Power, for, I am sure, two hours, and but for the tone of his voice, had I closed my eyes, I could have thought it was Deputy Dillon speaking about four years earlier than the Minister. If one reached for the Dáil Debates of last Wednesday evening and refrained from looking at the name of the Deputy appearing on the top left-hand corner of each page, I venture to say that the speech made by the Minister for Transport and Power in this House condemning the evils of inflation, and describing the acid effect it had on the policies programmed by the Government in their First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion, then it could be closely associated and identified with the speeches made by Leaders of the Fine Gael Party, and certainly by the late Deputy Norton. I wonder—here I echo what Deputy Dillon said a month or so ago—what was the frame of mind of the Minister for Transport and Power, when he listened to and read the speeches of the prominent speakers of the Opposition Parties two or three years ago. I wonder is that one of the reasons Deputy Smith resigned as Minister for Agriculture. I wonder is it one of the reasons Deputy MacEntee indicated to the Supreme Soviet that he also was retiring. I wonder had the former Deputy James Ryan similar ideas when he refused to serve in this 18th Dáil. If those gentlemen were really honest with themselves and with the people who elected them, should they not have said at the time that the policies programmed by the Lemass administration were shortsighted and destined to lead us to the depths of financial disaster?
I do not claim for one moment that I have any more ability than the average elected representative but, with the limited amount of intelligence I have, and with the limited amount of commonsence, it was, I think, comparatively easy to evaluate the worth of the First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion initiated by the former Taoiseach. In the past 12 months we have heard very little about either the First or the Second Programme for Economic Expansion. When I first entered public life six years ago, Fianna Fáil speakers were spouting from every soapbox they could find. explaining to the people this new device which Deputy Seán Lemass had discovered to provide 100,000 new jobs, more homes for the homeless and more social welfare benefits for those who needed them. That was called the Five Year Plan. That was later rechristened the First Programme for Economic Expansion.
As Deputy Seán Dunne explained last week, the language used by Ministers in after-dinner speeches, at cumainn meetings and at every function to which Ministers of State were invited, particularly prior to by-elections or general elections, was really high-class English to explain in detail what it was hoped the effects would be of the First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion, language five or six degrees above the level of the common vocabulary of the man-in-the-street. It sounded fine. However, whenever a warning was given to the workers, the lowly-paid, as Deputy Seán Dunne said, common bog English was used to get the message across. Let there be no mistake about that; the average man was told in blunt English what was expected from him.
The Minister for Transport and Power shared no doubt many of the dinners provided and accepted many of the invitations extended to him, subsequently using up many a valuable inch of public print to explain in excellent English the implications and the advantages of these Programmes for Economic Expansion. How many times has the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government explained outside this House the system by which the former Taoiseach would provide 100,000 new jobs? How many times has he availed of the opportunity to explain the details of the Five Year Plan and the First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion? How many times has he prevented himself from being led into uncharted waters? How many times has he avoided being taken to task by people who disagreed with the policy of the Government and who asked awkward questions? I do not know how many times he availed of opportunities or accepted invitations, but, in the past 12 months, not alone has Deputy Paudge Brennan declined to mention either the First or the Second Programme for Economic Expansion but so has every other Minister and Parliamentary Secretary.
I wonder why? Were these programmes all flights of fantasy? Were they introduced, like this Budget, for the sake of political expediency rather than in the interests of the common good and of the nation as a whole? Is there any significance in the fact that, prior to resuming this debate on the Budget, we were debating the Auctioneers Bill? Are the Government now bidding for votes in the local elections? Is there any significance in the fact that the Government have promised to pay the old age pensioners and certain social welfare classes a 5/increase in August and other sections a 5/- increase from 1st January next? Is there any significance in the fact that this is a first bid and a second bid? When the local elections day dawns, I hope the people will remember what happened in Greater London and the answer the people there gave to the Labour administration, which made similar promises, made the same mistakes, and met with the same failures as this Government.
Lest some Deputies may forget, as I would were it not for the fact that I stumble now and again on the propaganda disseminated by the Fianna Fáil Party in 1957 prior to the general election, I would like to remind the House that this was one of the main points of policy which brought Seán Lemass back into power as Tánaiste of this House, in the full knowledge that within two years the then Leader would be retiring to another part in Irish politics and he knew too well that unless he could match up to the then leader, the Fianna Fáil Party were doomed to failure. He knew it was a one-man show and that without that great leader, the Party would collapse. My humble opinion, for what it is worth, is that nobody realised more clearly than Deputy Seán Lemass that he could not match up and the only way he could overcome it was to start talking in fast terms, making as many promises as he could, get the votes and then try to fulfil the promises.
One of the ways in which he could supersede this mythical figure and replace the magic which he apparently possessed was to talk in terms of five-year plans, of 100,000 new jobs, of "Get your husbands out to work; bring your sons and daughters back from England". These were the phrases which caught the imagination of the electorate, phrases which influenced public opinion and phrases, no doubt, which, due to circumstances prevailing then, were popular. Had I not been a member of the Fine Gael Party then and had I been an open-minded individual, I possibly might have voted for Seán Lemass. I know that many people in my constituency have admitted to me that because they were not associated with any political Party they were free to vote and they believed in giving Seán Lemass the chance he asked for. He got that chance.
I also believe that the First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion were based on the same wavelength of political thought, to establish Seán Lemass as Taoiseach of this country in the hope that when the mythical figure would retire completely from public life, he might be in the position of the founder and saviour, the great industrial miracle worker of Irish economics, to be rewarded with the highest honour the Irish people could afford. However, this was not to be, simply because his policies were more short-lived than even he thought they were. The bubble burst about 12 months before he could be paid the reward he was aiming at.
As Deputy Dillon says, it was a gambler's Government, a Government who took calculated risks, a Government who held on to power for the sake of power. It was a minority Government in 1961 which stayed in power by virtue of influence which controlled two individuals in this House. Nevertheless, that Government stayed in power to try to fulfil these policies. If we take the speech of the Minister for Transport and Power last week, the action of Deputy Smith when he resigned as Minister for Agriculture, the actions of Deputy MacEntee and the former Deputy James Ryan—of these four senior members of the Government, one resigned, two refused to serve in this 18th Dáil and the one who stayed on now speaks with his tongue in his cheek condemning outside forces for their reacting on the economic structure of the First and Second Programmes for Economic Expansion— we must conclude that they at that time knew that their policies were shortsighted but that if they were honest with themselves, their Party and the public, the whole structure of the Fianna Fáil administration must collapse and their positions in public life would collapse. Therefore, I feel that this was a gambler's Government led by a gambler. There is nothing wrong, a Cheann Comhairle, in a gambler placing a bet. There is nothing wrong with anybody gambling on certain odds, provided that the money he wagers is his own. However, when the ratepayer and taxpayer are called on to foot the bill, I believe that stricter standards should be adopted when one comes to assess and judge the present administration.
The local authority elections are on the horizon. I sincerely hope the people will take into consideration the deeds, the successes, the failures, the entire works of this administration when judgment day arrives at the end of June and will tell this Government in no uncertain terms that it is time to quit, that new thinking must be put into government, that new approaches must be made, that a new field of thought must be developed, opened and expanded to provide better housing for the people who need it, better social benefits for the less well off, better health services for people who must live with possibly an incurable disease because they know that it means financial ruin if they seek help in some of our hospitals.
My concept of social benefits in any democracy or any society is basically that society wants, desires and aims at providing better social services for the less well off in our society. It is to me very sound and fundamental reasoning. I believe it is a fundamental thought in man that he should provide for the generation of his father and the generation of his grandfather. I believe that it is a fundamental thought in man that he should provide for the person who cannot provide a living for himself.
I believe that whenever a person votes for a Party or a Government, he expects that Party is aiming at furthering the ideas he has in mind. To prove this point, allow me to submit that most of the social welfare benefits and most of the social welfare services provided at the moment were started by voluntary organisations. We had the National Foresters and the AOH; we had different clubs in large industrial centres. Even certain businesses undertook such work for their staff. The Freemasons and the Orangemen all played their part. While they differed fundamentally politically, while they were poles apart in thought, the natural instinct in them was to provide better social services and protection for the classes that needed them. They banded themselves into their own organisations and subscribed so much a week to provide those services. If the weekly subscription was not enough to provide benefits for the people in need of them, then the subscription was increased. After some time, Governments sat back and took notice that these voluntary associations had spotlighted a new service which was in fact the responsibility of government, which was, in fact, something that required a levy not alone on the people who were prepared to pay but on every ratepayer and taxpayer.
In spite of all the increases in taxation and rates. I am convinced that nobody would object to giving an old age pension, irrespective of means, to all people attaining the age of 70 and, maybe later on, 65. I believe that human nature rebels against the idea of an inspector or an investigation officer being sent by any Department of State —directly or indirectly being sent by the Government of the people, duly elected, indeed, by, in many cases, the people concerned or the people who rebel against this action—to probe into the personal background, financial and otherwise, of decent, honest-to-goodness citizens who have worked hard to provide a living for themselves, their families and indeed, their families in turn. When they reach the age of 70, because they tried to save, to put something away to protect themselves in their old age, it is held against them, by, as I say, in many cases, the Government whom they themselves, their husband, wife and family have supported since the foundation of this State. I think this is wrong. I pledge here and now that I will use every agitation at my command, within the framework of the Fine Gael organisation to try to change that situation. If we are given government of this country, it will be my complete desire that an old age pension will be paid to a person irrespective of means when he or she attains the age of 70, and, maybe at a later date, 65. I pledge myself in that regard not alone because I think it right but because I think most of the people, irrespective of class or politics, believe and think along those same lines.
Similarly, I believe that health services should be provided for the sick, the needy and indeed for all those who demand them. I use the same arguments to support that belief, namely, that, by voluntary effort, many groups, seeing the need to provide security for themselves and their colleagues, for their wives and families, banded themselves into voluntary associations and paid weekly subscriptions to protect themselves against sickness. They forced the powers that were to take notice and to provide those services and to spread the cost equally over the entire community.
I do not for a moment wish to condemn any Minister for Health or any Minister for Social Welfare who has served the people of this country in the past 45 or 46 years. I do not wish for a second to criticise them unduly for falling down on the job because these services for which I now ask are things which evolve rather than are designed. They are services that must be perfected through trial and error. They are services which must be perfected and increased by experience. I am quite satisfied that the Ministers for Social Welfare and the Ministers for Health who served in this House before I came into it and, indeed, during my time here have tried in some way to improve the standards. However, I accuse them of not doing enough and of being out of touch with the political trend of thought in this country if they still believe that an old age pension should be awarded on the basis of a means test or that certain individuals should be deprived of medical services which they have provided for, or their families before them have provided for, simply because they tried to save or because they were more energetic than their neighbour. This is fundamentally wrong in society. I shall expose it and defend my argument on any platform in this House or outside it.
I pledge that every force at my command will be used within this House, within the framework of the Fine Gael organisation, to see that the day is not too distant when the majority, at least, of the Irish people will be afforded free medical services and social welfare benefits will not be awarded on the basis of a means test.
One of the ironic situations here is that in relation to the Budget the Government altered the regulation concerning unemployment assistance, or what is commonly called the dole. I cannot too strongly criticise the attitude of the present Administration in this regard. I know that what I am saying now will be used by members of the Fianna Fáil Party in Donegal to say: "Harte is against paying the dole." Harte is against any Government making common beggars out of decent, honest-to-goodness, hardworking people, because that, in fact, is the sum total of the results of dishing out the dole.
I remember a meeting in the town of Buncrana about 12 months ago when a few public representatives were called together to protest against certain people in that area being in receipt of unemployment assistance, namely, the dole, who had motorcars and were working on the sly. I understand that members of the Government Party were invited, but, unfortunately, the only members of the Government Party who accepted the invitation were two local county councillors. No Fianna Fáil Member of this House or of Seanad Éireann attended that meeting. A question was put bluntly to me in the course of a short and simple address: "Do you favour the dole or do you not?" In other words: "Now, Harte, Fianna Fáil Deputies and Senators are not here and we cannot say to your supporters what they think of it. We will tell our supporters what way you are thinking."
On the spur of the moment, I explained the situation like this. Most of the dole being paid is being paid to recipients in the congested areas, in the west of Ireland—in west Donegal, and to a degree in east Donegal, but mainly in the west of Ireland. When these people in the west of Ireland rebelled against a foreign Government 50 years ago, 100 years ago, 150 years ago, and for the past 700 years, there was no dole. There were no benefits and it could not be said to them: "Stay there and we will give you so much but remember to vote for Fianna Fáil at the next election." That is what the dole means. The strange thing is that there were four times as many people living there when this alien Government were paying them nothing.
In those times if you did not work for a living you ended up in the work-house. In spite of working for a living and protesting against an alien Government telling them how to run the country, strangely enough, that alien Government provided them with a market for their produce. They had an incentive to work and earn a living. The only excuse this Government can offer to these people—and the population is now one quarter what it was 50 years ago—is: "We have failed to provide markets to allow you to make a decent living for your wives and your families, but we are paying you dole, and when it comes to election time, if you do not vote for us we will withdraw the dole."
Someone said in this House during this debate—and another very noble Irishman said it some 50 odd years ago—that they have purchased half our people and now they have intimidated the other half. This is an indication of the need for the organisation called Taca. This is all part and parcel of the political thinking of the Fianna Fáil administration which we must tolerate in this day and age. There is no progressive thinking in the Budget. It is simply a bid for votes in the local elections. Its prime purpose is not to increase the productivity of the nation but to perpetuate an administration that is there much too long. I have not got the answer as to how we should get rid of Fianna Fáil.
In the late 1930s, the big power in Western Europe was Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany. One insignificant individual, one of the backroom boys of Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany, was Dr. Josef Goebbels. His only function in that administration was in relation to propaganda. He succeeded so well that he convinced what I can rightly describe as the nation with the highest degree of education, and with the strongest economy in Western Europe, that Adolf Hitler's policies were correct. The whole basis of his argument was that if you tell a lie often enough, and if you tell a lie big enough, the people must believe you.
I do not compare this administration with Adolf Hitler's Nazi Germany but I cannot help remembering the slogans such as: "Get your husbands out to work.", "Bring your sons and daughters back from England.", "Get the wheels of industry turning.", "One hundred thousand new jobs.", "Do not turn back the clock." That was all propaganda. Was this propaganda formulated by a backroom boy in Taca? Was it formulated by one of the nameless ones none of the backbench Members of the Fianna Fáil Government knows exist? Was it formulated by the straightforward thinking of a group of Fianna Fáil Deputies, who, I have no doubt, are sincere and honest-to-goodness individuals but who are being used by people in high places for sinister purposes?
Just as the régime of Adolf Hitler collapsed, so too is the day of reckoning fast approaching for the Fianna Fáil Government. When that hour arrives and when they take their proper place on this side of the House, not alone will they have collapsed but they will disappear completely from the political scene. The Minister for Finance smiles.