(Cavan): In view of the Minister's most recent contribution to the debate, when he closed his reply to the Second Reading, it would appear that we have not any reason at the present time for exercising restraint and that money is available for worthwhile projects.
Agricultural Credit Bill, 1969: Committee and Final Stages.
I made that clear when I published the Capital Programme.
(Cavan): That was not the impression given to the general public from listening to the Minister and the Taoiseach during recent weeks and from the example being set by the Minister and the Taoiseach in reducing their own salaries which was, to say the least of it, an unusual step. However, it now appears that we were wrong and that the general public were wrong in interpreting the speeches of the Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance and in interpreting the action of the Government in reducing their salaries as a voluntary measure as meaning that there was an economic position in the country requiring drastic handling.
The Deputy is playing politics and this is much too serious a matter with which to play politics.
(Cavan): It is the Minister who has been playing politics. In reply to Deputy Tully, he said that perhaps he should, in the near future, amplify his television appearance.
The Chair finds it difficult to see how this is relevant.
(Cavan): I propose to relate my remarks immediately to the debate. If we misinterpreted the Minister's speech and the Government's attitude it certainly would change my attitude towards certain sections of this Bill and it certainly would change my attitude in relation to the statement made by Deputy Sweetman and myself about agreeing to the necessity of the advisability of not making money available to buy land. I said that I would suggest that that should only be done if a substantial deposit was put down by a man who intended buying a farm if that man had not previously had a farm. However, in view of what the Minister says, I think that a son of a farmer who wishes to spend his life in agriculture and who cannot obtain a loan from a commercial bank should have money available to him from the Agricultural Credit Corporation if the money is available. I would say that the same provision should be made with regard to paying off members of a family in the case of intestacy. The present position is that the corporation do not make money available for those purposes but in the light of what the Minister has said it should be made available.
The Minister has accused me of playing politics. I am not playing politics but the country is entitled to know exactly where we stand. We are entitled to know whether the Minister was speaking factually when he appeared on television or whether he wishes to retract the advice which he apparently saw fit to give then. The Minister has invited me to read the speech that he then made but I can only say that when we find the Government announcing their intention to reduce their own salaries and applauding a suggestion that other people do the same, it is not unreasonable to think that an acute economic situation exists.
On the incomes front.
(Cavan): An acute financial situation in the country.
The Deputy does not understand the first thing about it. He is being deliberately obtuse.
(Cavan): I understand what the Minister is trying to put across but I am glad to hear the Minister say in his reply to Deputy Tully that he should amplify or clarify the speech that he made on television and, indeed, the speeches that were being made by the Taoiseach at that time.
I tell the Deputy quite simply, that since I made my speech on television we have published a Public Capital Programme in which the amount of capital made available under every head for productive purposes has been increased.
(Cavan): Except agriculture.
Again, the Deputy is not playing fair. He is not being reasonable. The reason the total amount of capital allocated for agriculture this year is down is because of the drop in the amount of money available for the eradication of bovine TB but under every productive heading we have expanded the amount of money available to be spent. That is not indicative of any financial crisis. What I tried to get across in my television broadcast, and since in my talks with everybody concerned, is that the economy is doing well and can continue to do well if there is restraint and moderation exercised in the incomes sphere by all of us.
What about the lower income people who were to get something? The Government said they would do something about them. They are not doing anything about them.
Do not be too sure.
I know what happened last year.
The Government recognise we have a problem with regard to the lower paid people in this country and we are anxious to do something about it.
Last year you did not give the lower paid people what everybody got.
We seem to be getting away from section 3.
What I want to try and get across, as I said before, is that Government action and advice is concerned with incomes. We were afraid if the expectations that seemed to be held by some sections of the community were sought to be realised we would have difficulties. I think this is recognised by the trade union movement aswell as the Government. That is what I am trying to get across. I never said we had a financial crisis or an economic crisis. I gave the full facts of the situation. I said we would have a balance of payments of something in the region of £50 million and we were not too happy about it but we were prepared to go along with it because our foreign reserves situation was satisfactory and, provided it did not look like getting any worse, we did not regard £50 million as something calling for emergency measures.
You just wanted to reduce the Minister's salaries.
We are discussing section 3 and those matters do not relevantly arise on section 3.
(Cavan): They arise out of the Minister's closing statements on the Second Stage.
I should imagine we would give the Minister all stages today. I intend to say something about what the Minister said during the closing stages of the Second Stage.
I would prefer if the Deputy would wait. I was not going to ask for the Final Stage now. This is a Money Bill and must go to the Seanad within seven days. If I was to get the Final Stage today this would present some problems. I would look for all Stages except the Final Stage.
I would like then, if I may, to refer to what the Minister said and I intend to say it fairly shortly. I want to ask this question? How can anyone in his senses take this Government seriously? What the Minister has said here today is perfectly true. It has been said, could be said and will be said by every Minister for Finance in this State up to this, or likely to be appointed, that any excessive increase in incomes is a source of danger. Are we to understand that that is what all the pother was about when dramatically the Minister appeared on the television screen and addressed the Irish nation with all the signs of drama created about it? Apparently it was all just saying the same thing, the same truism and no one was to take it seriously. There was no financial crisis. We are now told it was just a bad dream.
The Minister just cannot understand how anyone could have got the impression that this country was in the middle of a financial or economic crisis. The Minister's appeal apparently was not taken in the sense the Minister now wants us to take it by his own colleagues because two days later we had a dramatic announcement: "Government Ministers to cut salaries by 15 per cent." Apparently this was just something that happened and nobody is to take it seriously. How can anyone take this Government seriously? They are blowing hot and cold, puffing away, just depending on what the electoral climate might be. It was expedient three weeks ago to have an apparent financial crisis. It is expedient now not to have it and we are all supposed to forget what was said and assume the sun has come out from the dark clouds and everything in the garden is wonderful and rosy.
There will not be a harsh Budget now and the Minister cannot bring it in now in view of what he said today. The people can look forward to the kind of Budget on the 7th May that would be introduced by a Minister for Finance in a country that is doing well. They can expect the removal of many injustices. They can expect, and are entitled to expect, that the less well off will be amply provided for. Of course it will be an election Budget because we are going to have an election. The sooner the better if this is the kind of Government we are going to have in this country, a Government that staggers along from problem to problem and does not know its own mind on two consecutive days. I find myself at a loss to know what to say. I can look at what has happened in this country in the last 12 months. I can get my own feeling as to what progress we are making. I can look at the constant line of unemployed people. I can look at the thousands and thousands of homeless people. I can have regard to the fact that each week and each month thousands of our people are emigrating to find employment elsewhere. I can make up my own mind as to whether this country is doing well or not.
Deputy O'Higgins will certainly appreciate we cannot have a debate on the economic state of the country on this.
I merely want to say that the Minister's statement today on this Agricultural Credit Bill is something which must have caused surprise to the Deputies who listened to it, something which will cause considerable amazement throughout the country and will cement the conviction already largely held that this Government do not know their right hand from their left. That is one of the symptoms of a Government that is breaking up, as I believe this Government to be breaking up. The situation which now exists, I think, can best be solved by an early general election. The sooner it comes the better and after that we can get down to reconstructing the country properly.
As one of the Deputies who have sat through the debate, I should like to put things in perspective. Up to a few minutes ago the debate was a serious attempt to keep to the business of the country. There is only one point I wish to ask the Minister about in relation to the Bill. It is a small point but before I put it I should like to say I am at a loss to understand Deputy T. F. O'Higgins's action in blowing in here and giving us an off-the-cuff political speech. He did not address himself to the Bill but resorted to the old political stuff.
People want business done now. People want, as the Minister has in this Bill, a businesslike approach to the country's affairs and I am glad to say that Deputies like Deputy Donegan and Deputy T. O'Donnell addressed themselves to the Bill on a sound, constructive basis. Then Deputy O'Higgins blew in and resorted to this old-fashioned clap-trap. If he thinks that will do the country or his Party any good he has another think coming. It is a pity he did not learn more of what is going on in the House before he came in. We had been conducting the debate in a businesslike way.
I feel myself constrained, with regret, to say this because I am as much out of order in saying it as Deputy O'Higgins was; but it is about time we did the business of the House and the country. The stuff of Deputy O'Higgins is old-fashioned and belongs to another generation. It cuts no ice. Every decent person in the country realises the motive behind the clap-trap of Deputy O'Higgins about the Government breaking up and about what they are doing.
(Cavan): Does the Deputy see any difference between the Minister's television speech and what has been said here today?
As I have said, there is just one small point I wish to deal with. I do not know whether it comes relevantly under this section. It is the question of audit. I appreciate that the length of time for an audit can be unduly restricted but, on the other hand, with respect to a semi-State organisation in particular——
(Cavan): I should like to point out to a Deputy who speaks so much about order that this is not relevant.
I mentioned that this might not arise relevantly on section 3 but I do not want to get up again. I am not so completely out of order as Deputy O'Higgins was.
(Cavan): The Deputy's point is in order now.
I said it would be in order on a later section but I do not wish to hold up the House now.
(Cavan): Because the Government have not provided enough business, the House is in danger of breaking up anyhow.
I do not want the Fifth Stage now.
(Cavan): Why does the Minister not want the Fifth Stage?
There is a problem in respect of the Seanad. As a Money Bill, it will have to be taken in the Seanad within seven days. This is a Money Bill.
(Cavan): I do not think it is a Money Bill.
What is the problem?
The Minister is aware, of course, that this is not a Money Bill.
I am afraid I have been advised that it is a Money Bill. If it is not, I have no problem.
It is not a Money Bill.