I have said everything I wanted to say on this Budget and all I have to add is let us get down, as quickly as we possibly can, to the real business of giving the people the opportunity of expressing their view on this set of miscreants who are masquerading as a Government.
Committee on Finance. - Resolution No. 13—General (Resumed).
I do not think anybody need consider this Budget as being a long-term policy Budget although that was the impression the Minister tried to convey in the House when he made his very long speech the week before last.
I cannot help feeling that this country is living absolutely up to the limit of its means. The unfortunate thing is that, no matter how far we go, each year we seem to go back to the question of further and further taxation. Figures can prove anything but the figures I have here are ones compiled by the Government themselves. They show that in 1963-64 the cost of the current Budget running this country was £186,442,000. That is only four or five years ago. For the period 1966-67 we find that it cost as much as £270,000,000 to run the country in the current Budget. This year the Minister came in and asked for the phenomenal sum of £386,683,000.
The idea is being promulgated by the Government and the Fianna Fáil Party that this is a great advance in our economy, that our economy is improving all the time. We are told that every time extra tax goes on there is an increase in social services and we are told that the extra money is necessary to provide these social services. We on the Opposition benches if we vote against the increased taxes are accused of voting against the improvement of social services. The question I want to pose is: Are we, as Dáil Éireann, to go on indefinitely increasing taxes every year under the guise of social services and of national advancement and improvement?
I shall just worry the House for another few minutes about the increase in the servicing of the national debt. In 1963-64 the sum for this purpose was £38,000,000 which meant we had to collect £38,000,000 in taxation before there was any money provided for any service whatsoever. In 1966-67 the servicing of the national debt cost £56,000,000. In the present year the servicing of the national debt is costing £88,788,000. The Government's answer to that is that this money is being borrowed for the purposes of national expansion. This expansion is against a background of 62,000 unemployed and 24,000 a year emigrating. This is causing an enormous increase in taxation and, when we come down to it, there is nothing to show for it. There is great talk by economists and financial statisticians of a 4 per cent increase in our economy. It may well be that there is a 4 per cent increase in our economy. It may be that there is a 4 per cent increase in our national income, but that does not show that we are making a sound economic expansion. We cannot be doing that if we are carrying the same number of unemployed as heretofore.
The question I am posing is—and I am posing it because so many have posed it to me—are we to go on simply producing extra taxes each year? Is that the policy of this Government? Is it the policy of the Parliament as a whole? If so, where will we ultimately finish up?
The cost of living in this country is rapidly approaching one of the highest in the world. A few years ago we had a considerable tourist attraction in that the price of our petrol was virtually the lowest in Europe. I asked a question about this a few days ago and I have not got the figures here but at the moment I think our petrol price is about the fourth highest in Europe. This has removed a tourist advantage we had previously.
With regard to the taxing of nonessential goods, such as spirits, beer and cigarettes, and improving social welfare benefits nobody objects to that or decries it but can we bring that into its proper perspective? Taxation has been doubled in the past few years but the social services have not increased to the same extent. Many other Deputies have indicated that our social services are probably the lowest in the free world today. Therefore, the Government need not congratulate themselves in any way.
It is quite obvious that this Dáil is in its last few days, or its last few weeks. The Government imagined the social services would be an advantage to them. I can see the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries forgetting about the NFA and the farmers, going to Donegal and expounding on the great social services the Fianna Fáil Party are giving to the country. This has now proved to be a damp squib. The benefits they expected to get were enormous. Last Wednesday people said this was a good Budget but then they began to think and to realise that, as against the growing burden and pressure of taxation, the cost of living must rise.
The Taoiseach made a long speech last week. He dealt with statistics almost from the beginning to the end. I said last year that I am always suspicious when the head of a Government talks almost entirely about statistics. He spoke about economic expansion. He said one thing with which I thoroughly concur. He said the Fianna Fáil Party have never been afraid to tax the people. I say, "hear, hear" to that. They taxed the life blood out of them every year they were in Government since I became a Deputy, and that is quite a few years ago.
The Taoiseach produced all those statistics to show the advances the country was making. He did not refer to the vital fact that all along the line, ever since this Government came back into power 12 years ago, the value of money, the value of savings, and the value of the £ have been depreciating. That is a subject he avoided. I want to stress the fact that, because of this heavy burden of taxation, the £ is buying less and less. Therefore any increases that may be given to civil servants, or any better fees that may be given to professional people, are entirely eroded.
Unfortunately, this Government staked their all on the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement. I do not think it is claimed even by the greatest supporter of that agreement that it is working to our benefit, nor will anyone object to the statement that two or three times we have been kicked in the teeth by the other contracting partner to the treaty. They acknowledged the fact that they had a special trade agreement with us, a long-standing trade agreement which has been improved and brought up to date but when they found themselves in difficulties they did nothing to alleviate the burden on us, although we had given them the bulk of our trade, although we had guaranteed to sell them all our livestock and although we had guaranteed to reduce our tariffs and place them in a particularly easy relationship so far as inter-trade between the two countries was concerned. When they found themselves in difficulties they said we had to take the knock just the same as any other country.
That nullifies the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement, because it places our trade and our economic foundation in jeopardy. That is exactly what the Government have done and the sooner they get us out of the morass which they have got us into, the better. The Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement was signed in 1966 and one of the benefits which were supposed to accrue was an expansion of our economy. There has been some expansion, but it has been entirely nullified by an increasing cost of living. It was supposed to give us a better standard of living. One of the results one would expect from that would be a diminution in unemployment and a cessation of emigration.
It may well be that emigration is not running at as high a rate as heretofore. It is practically impossible for anyone in Opposition to assess the rate of emigration but a figure of 24,000 people emigrating every year has been given. These are the people we cannot afford to lose because they are, to a certain extent, the flower of our youth. Every Deputy knows that not a week goes by without someone coming to him and asking: "Can you get me a job, because otherwise I will be forced to emigrate?" The answer, in so many cases, is no.
The Government were always great at producing something at the last moment. I am referring to Fianna Fáil Governments, of course. They may not be very much longer in office, but that is a matter for conjecture. What puzzles me is that the Buchanan Report was in the hands of the Government since last December. There is nothing wonderful about it. In fact, I have a strong suspicion that the person who drew up the geographical end of it took a motor drive around the country, had a look at Ireland here and there and put a few crosses on a map for suggested industrial areas. The Buchanan Report is produced now. I do not know why, but I presume because of what is probably going to happen on Thursday night. I wonder are the Government basing their future policy on it. The Parliamentary Secretary who is sitting over there represents the constituency of Carlow/Kilkenny. It seems to me that this report completely failed to notice that there are such places as Wexford, Carlow, Kildare and Kilkenny.
Is the Deputy relating his remarks to the Financial Motion?
There is rapid industrial development in Kilkenny.
My argument is that the country is over-taxed, that the economy is literally on a string, that it is as tight as it can be and cannot go any further. I pointed out that the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement on which the Government staked their all seems to be a rather damp squib. Now they have brought out the Buchanan Report immediately after the Budget and this seems to be an indication that they are basing their future policy on it. I do not want to go too deeply into the report. Indeed, I cannot do so because I have not had time to read it. I have read the press reviews and looked at the maps.
I am trying to stress the fact that the Government have no policy for this country other than to go on from day to day. One expects to find long-term policy in a Budget, but there is no long-term policy in this Budget. I am seeking to help the Government to find a useful policy. They gave us the Buchanan Report immediately after the Budget although they had it since last December. One opines that it was being studied by the inner Cabinet which is concerned with these things. The Buchanan Report has been produced to give an indication of long-term policy. As one of the representatives of Kilkenny is sitting over there, I am pointing out that this county seems to have been eliminated from the map.
That is not the case at all.
I was trying to explain why I thought that was the case but the Chair thought I was going rather too deeply into it. If the Chair will permit me, I will explain.
The Chair is anxious to avoid a discussion on the Buchanan Report on the Financial Resolution.
The Deputy is making the point that the Government have produced the Buchanan Report as some sort of last minute thing and, at the same time, that it is a bad thing to produce it. I do not follow the reasoning.
The reasoning is extremely simple. In the Buchanan Report one looked for some indication of a long-term Government policy. We can see no other long-term Government policy. We can see short-term Government policy. We have seen it in all the Budgets—the bi-annual Budgets—produced by the Fianna Fáil Government. All their policies have been short-term. They have all been on the doorstep in by-elections, in referenda, in county council elections, in presidential elections or general elections. They have all been short-term policies. I do not know if the Parliamentary Secretary disagrees with that.
The Deputy will agree that there are either by-elections, county council elections or presidential elections almost every year.
Exactly. My argument is that the Fianna Fáil policy is a short-term one associated with whatever elections are pending. There are certain things which are omitted from this Budget. We could have had a great deal more help from the Minister for Finance to improve our economic position. For instance, I do not accept that it is a good thing for our economy to give large sums of money to foreign firms, non-nationals, setting up industries here, because the results of that policy have proved to be absolutely disastrous. The position in continental Europe and to a certain extent in Britain is that there is a tremendous shortage of manpower. There is a huge bill for the servicing of our National Debt, and the money is being spent for the purpose of setting up industries here which are very largely foreign-owned. Many of these are firms who are operating in their own countries and who through lack of factory space, lack of manpower, and so on, cannot fulfil big orders. Here is a heaven-sent opportunity to come to Ireland. These industries have not been successful in meeting the problems here, in giving employment here. Some of these firms do not even stay here; as soon as they have filled the particular order they were unable to fill in their own country they turn the key in the factory door and move out, and all the State has to recoup itself against that loss is the factory building.
If Fianna Fáil think what I am saying is wrong they should deny it. I do not like to mention the names of factories, but I know one town where three foreign factories started one after the other and each one, having received State aid, went out of business. They were not in my constituency, because we never get anything except what we provide for ourselves. I should like the Government to reverse their policy, to get rid of the idea of turning this country into a United States of America. Special grants should be given for industry based on Irish raw materials. It is time somebody said that.
The Deputy should expand that idea.
There is no State grant for an industry based on Irish raw material. If an Irish national wants to start an industry here based on Irish raw material he is absolutely on a par with somebody who may come from Poland, Czechoslovakia or anywhere else. I am looking for special facilities for Irish nationals. We have given enough money to foreigners over the last few years. We ought to give the money available, which, after all, is the people's money, to Irish nationals, to existing Irish industries to enable them to prosper, and we ought to give a special, higher percentage grant to anyone starting an industry based on Irish raw material. That is the foundation of sound economy. No other country would do what we are doing. We have poured millions down the drain.
That is not so.
What have we done with the £800 million in national loans? It has not been put into Irish industry.
There has been a spectacular development of Irish industry, and this has been so because of the assistance which has been provided by the Government.
Eighty per cent of it is done by private investment. It is not the Fianna Fáil Government but the person's own ability which has achieved this.
Is Fine Gael against industrial development or not?
Fianna Fáil do not like criticism. I am entitled to criticise their policy which I am telling them is wrong.
Hear, hear. We welcome criticism.
The Deputy must be the only one in Fianna Fáil who does.
We welcome constructive criticism.
I am always criticised and attacked by everybody. They should not be so sensitive over there. I am saying what I believe to be in the national interest. If we have an election and my own Party become the Government and they do not do what I am advocating, I shall say the same thing. We are not against industry. However, what we are for is the better employment of the resources available to the country. We recognise the fact that the people are leaving the land. Fortunately, people are not leaving the land to the same extent as in continental Europe and other places, but we realise they are leaving the land due to changing circumstances. Machinery is doing today what human beings did before. We do not want to see people leaving the places where they were born and reared. We want to see them employed in the area in which they live. We do not want to see them going to the cities. That is Fianna Fáil policy. Fianna Fáil want to start big industries.
No. The small industries scheme has achieved spectacular results.
That is your pride and joy.
The small industries scheme, when it started originally, was confined to a few places. The Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy Colley, has extended it. I shall give him credit for that. But that is the very thing I am talking of. I am trying to educate the other members of the Fianna Fáil Party, because there is a big group behind the Fianna Fáil Party who do not like small industries, who do not like rural Ireland being developed. They want to make money easily here and to get control of big industries. I am a rural Deputy and I speak for the people I represent.
Deputy Esmonde does not believe one word of that. He is too decent a man.
I seem to be one of those unfortunate people who are always subject to continual interruption when they speak. From an industrial point of view this country has been wrongly served. The policy adumbrated by the former Taoiseach was, I think, the wrong policy. His policy was to try to industrialise the whole country and may I say, en passant, that the Buchanan Report suggests the same policy—big industrial centres should be established all over the country and rural Ireland should be allowed to die. But that was not the policy implemented in the poorer areas in France; it was not the policy implemented in Brittany. In Brittany they started small rural industries designed to keep the people on the land. That is what the policy of our Government should be.
We are doing that here. I have seen the small industries programme implemented in my own constituency and I am very pleased with it.
If the Parliamentary Secretary looks at the map attached to the Buchanan Report he will see very little consolation in it. Only industrial centres are outlined there. I thought the Parliamentary Secretary would be with me in this, but he seems to be against me. The people in Kilkenny will not be allowed to have their own hospital; they will have to go to Waterford. There will be an industrial centre in Waterford. However, I will move on now to the European Economic Community.
The policy of the Fianna Fáil Government vis-à-vis the EEC lies in ashes around them. From the replies given to Parliamentary questions it was assumed we would be in the EEC by 1970. Then the situation was that, so long as General de Gaulle remained, there were difficulties; now General de Gaulle has disappeared from the scene and there are, apparently, still difficulties. There is still no sign of early entry by this country into the EEC. There is nothing in the Budgetary proposals to suggest that we are looking any further afield than the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement. There is no sign of any negotiations with the EEC, no sign that we might be going to change our trading policy. We are still entirely dependent on the one market. We are back-to-back with the British Commonwealth. There is no denying that. It may be suggested that I am anti-British. That is not so: I should like to see Britain prosper. I should like our trade with Britain to be as extensive as possible, but we should not have all our eggs in one basket. That is the ultimate folly from a trading point of view.
The OECD have advised that our economy is reasonably stable and progressive, but the OECD have also advised that we should seek alternative markets. Will the Parliamentary Secretary tell us what the Government have done by way of finding alternative markets? Our policy seems to be one of "wait and see", the old Asquithian adage. We proceed to reduce our tariffs with Britain, binding ourselves irretrievably to the British economy until such time as Britain goes into the Common Market. From time to time certain international prophets say that she will go in and we will trail after her. Apparently, until then, our economy must stay as it is; we must have our 62,000 unemployed and our 24,000 emigrating every year.
The fact is that the Common Market people are perfectly willing to negotiate some form of agreement with us, taking into consideration our long economic association with Britain and recognising that it would be quite impossible for us to give up our trade agreements with her. They are perfectly willing to negotiate on that basis. But the Fianna Fáil Government will not open any negotiations. They keep on reiterating that we will wait until Norway, Denmark, Britain and ourselves are received en bloc. I warn the House that negotiations, when they take place, will be both prolonged and extensive. I warn the Government against waiting to negotiate until these other countries have been admitted. Britain's entry will make a much bigger difference to the existing economic situation than our entry would at the moment. We are a small country. We will be trying to sell mainly agricultural products, which are still in short supply, and our entry will not affect the Community to anything like the same extent that Britain's and these other countries would. They will be faced with extremely difficult industrial negotiations. Apparently we are prepared to leave industrial policies to one side because we are offering Britain a reduction in tariffs at the same rate as we would be required to offer a reduction if we were members of the EEC and there is, therefore, no reason why we should not negotiate with the EEC in the meantime, no reason why we should not have some external association. Up to a few years ago we were selling more and more of our products in the Common Market countries, but the introduction of the overall agricultural policy in the EEC prohibited our exports. If we now negotiated a trade agreement I have every reason to believe they would waive certain considerations and permit us to export agricultural products. Surely some effort could be made to negotiate. That would be better than doing nothing.
Many people talk about the inflow of capital and how necessary is the inflow of capital here. However, nothing has ever been said about one way which would be certain to get an inflow of capital into the country and that would be by the reduction of estate duty. I am told that the estate duty gives us a revenue of about £3 million a year. No Minister for Finance can forego that but I understand from replies given to Parliamentary questions here that the actual cost of collection amounts to hundreds of thousands of pounds a year. It has not been possible to get a correct assessment of the amount it costs because the replies have been evasive.
Those who advise successive Ministers for Finance do not wish to do away with estate duty; they do not wish to do away with £3 million. It is costing a total of £384,000,000 a year to run this country. If we were to forego the £3 million which we get in estate duty for the purpose of causing an inflow of capital, would it not be worth it? We would get this £3 million in return for increased allowances and it would not be necessary for us to go around with our hat in our hand, as it were, borrowing money all the time.
Until such time as a Government can produce an overall policy that will secure the country and keep people where they are instead of having them drifting from rural Ireland into the towns and cities we will not be able to show the world that, fundamentally, there is a sound economic State here. It is now 50 years since we first formed our own Government and if we look back over the years we will realise that, in fact, great advances have been made in such fields as social welfare, education and so on. At the same time, while making these advances we have borrowed £888 million to do so.
I suggest to the Government that, if by any chance they are returned to power after the next election although I doubt this very much, they will at least try to frame a policy so that their first consideration will be for Irish nationals and for Irish industry and that all the help that is possible will be given to industries based on Irish raw materials.
Listening to the last speaker talking about European affairs, one would imagine that nothing has been done for the poorer sections of the community in Ireland which, of course, is part of Europe. My concern and that of my colleagues on the Fianna Fáil backbenches in relation to the Budget is that it is a Budget which lends credence to the political philosophy in which we believe.
In the first instance, the Budget caters for the weaker sections of the community. Deputy Esmonde whom we admire and respect as a senior Member of this House treated us to a long soliloquy on European big business but failed, at least, while I was listening to him, to mention the better features of the Budget which I shall outline during the course of my contribution to the debate.
The Budget has been called, among other things, a cynical Budget and a vote-catching Budget. However, if the Budget had not been acceptable to the people and had been a difficult Budget it would have been called a bad Budget. The Budget gives tremendous benefit to the lesser well off sections. Therefore, it is not acceptable to the Opposition. They give no credit whatsoever to the Minister for Finance or to the Government but if an election is held in the not too distant future, the Opposition will get a reply from the people in the ballot boxes and Fianna Fáil will be returned to office and will get the support of the people whom we have looked after down through the years. As one of the younger Deputies in this House, I do not believe in going back too far in history but the one-time Coalitionists should examine their conscience in relation to social welfare and the contribution they made to the lesser off sections of the community generally.
What have the people received from this Budget? Many have benefited from it. The disabled, the old age pensioners, members of that heroic band of men of the Old IRA all benefit from it.
The young are benefiting in terms of £100,000 for recreational and other outdoor activities and this is only a beginning. Widows of retired civil servants are benefiting for the first time and in conjunction with those, I should like to mention the name of Deputy Mrs. Celia Lynch who worked very hard to bring that about.
It was Deputy Clinton who introduced the scheme first.
I do not wish to indulge in any controversy with the Deputy but there are times when bringing matters to the floor of the House can do considerabe harm. It is possible that these widows would have received this benefit before now if a political plaything had not been made of the issue. Sometimes situations of this type can be better dealt with behind closed doors. However, if Deputy Clinton was instrumental in bringing this about, more luck to him but I am saying that Deputy Mrs. Lynch worked very hard on behalf of these women of whom there were two or three hundred involved.
Deputy Clinton went to the Minister for Finance before he raised the matter here but he was told "No". There was nothing political in it.
These women have been given what they are entitled to. This is the time to tell the people that this is an account of our stewardship for the past 12 years. Indeed, in every year since then we have been able to tell the people to judge us by our deeds and the people have responded because they know that ours is the type of Government that ensures a square deal for all sections of the community.
We are not like the Labour Party who vie for the sectional interests. The basic philosophy of Fianna Fáil is that we have the corner in our total commitments to all sections of the community. The Labour Party consider they have cornered the market on the less well-off sections of the community and in the trade unions generally. Let me assure the Labour Party that they are suffering from severe disillusionment. We have in the Fianna Fáil Party many trade unionists. We have in the cumainn throughout this country members of the so-called less well-off sections of the community.
As I say, the Parties across know this is the formula for success and so they refer to it in the words of Deputy T.F. O'Higgins as a cynical exercise. Ask the old age pensioners, the disabled drivers, the widows of retired civil servants whether it is a cynical exercise. I think the Fine Gael Party will get their answer and Deputy T.F. O'Higgins in particular will get his answer. A cynical exercise, indeed. Ask the mothers of severely handicapped children if it is a cynical exercise.
The cost of living has gone up 5 per cent in the last year and it wipes this out.
Ask the people who will now receive the old age pension at 65 years of age if it is a cynical exercise. One of the first Dáil questions asked by me some four years ago was when the qualifying age for old age pensions would be reduced to 65 years of age. Again, if the Fine Gael Party wish to corner that as their own we say to them: "Have it. There are no patents on ideas". If it is brought into being it is being brought into being by a Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance on behalf of the people. If they have other ideas like that let us have them. This is what I would imagine the Dáil is all about, constructive debate and constructive ideas. As I say, the cynics are elsewhere. There are those who run from their responsibilities when the heat comes on. This has been the tradition of the Coalitionists. On that point, with respect, we are not too sure whether we are not going to have a coalition, if, indeed, there will be a coalition after the next election. There has been much speculation on this.
Fianna Fáil will not be in it.
I can endorse that certainly. It is neither feasible nor wise to seek to alienate what are called business interests that it should be hoped will provide the work and the knowhow. The Labour Party are bringing out this sort of dirty word "profit motive". If businesses do not make profits how can they give employment? This is a question which the socialists, the pseudo-socialists, the cryptosocialists, all those people with the gimmicky names should ask themselves. My own view on that aspect of political philosophy is this. If a job is done let it be done without a label. If you go to a person's door and say to him: "this is what Fianna Fáil said within the last ten years" that person is not interested in whether you are a socialist or otherwise. That person is interested in what you have or have not done. Political tags seem to be fashionable nowadays.
On this whole question of the role of the worker in an industry and the role of the public servant, I think we should strive for a situation which will see to it that before the boss gets a rise the man at the bottom of the scale gets a rise first. This is what has led to a great deal of discontent in the past. We would welcome this philosophy in relation to wage increases in the future.
There is a suggestion I would make on children's allowances. I have already advocated that a new scheme would be introduced, not indeed dissimilar to that which has been introduced in this Budget. I would now make this further suggestion. It is that children's allowances be related to post office savings in some fashion. The suggestion is that there should be some effort made to link the receipt of such allowances with post office savings. I think the Minister was wise not to introduce any sort of means test for all sorts of reasons, which it is not necessary to go into.
There may be many people who would be prepared to invest all their allowance in the post office savings bank so I would suggest that there should be some sort of banker's order issued which could be credited to a person's post office account. This could be further linked with some sort of bonus scheme that the person who had invested so much children's allowance would have some additional sum added or that there would be entitlement to participate in a draw along the lines of the prize bonds draw. This is just an additional suggestion in relation to children's allowances for those people who may not require the money as urgently as some of the people who need it very badly. It is a sorry thing to have to say that in the Ireland of 1969 that there are some families patiently waiting from week to week for the children's allowances in order to put a meal on their table.
This Budget has gone a considerable distance towards bringing an end to the idea that the poor we must have always with us. I do not subscribe to that philosophy at all. I do not think we should have the poor always with us. The sooner we have a greater distribution of our wealth to bring up the lesser well off sections of the community and do away with this sort of thing, the better. Indeed, the people who make remarks of that sort from their ankle-deep carpets, looking out at their two or three cars in the driveway, should examine their consciences. It is very easy to make a remark of that nature when you are out of touch with the poor. This is why I make this suggestion in relation to the children's allowances.
Another interesting feature of this Budget is that it is the first time in the memory of quite a number of senior Members of this House that there was not a Division taken on it. One would ask why? It is just a simple question. Why was there not a Division taken on this Budget? One would imagine the answer to that would be that it was a good Budget, that they could not find anything about it to criticise and they have to do a lot of foot shuffling and make loud noises to show their opposition to it. It is largely pretence.
It is not a full Budget.
That is not what I am discussing at this juncture. What I am discussing is this document here and what it contains at this point in time. I do not know enough economics to tell the Deputy whether it is a full one or not. Quite frankly, at this point in time that does not really interest the people who benefit from it. The benefits are there. They are operating or will operate in the very near future. Many people ask me in the course of going around my constituency why there was not a Division on the Budget. The only answer I can give them is that there was really no opposition to it. Then they say to me: "Why did they make those allegations about it being cynical, vote-catching and so on?" It is probably the function of an Opposition to make loud, meaningless noises but I will tell them now that there is really no opposition to this Budget. That is the reason they did not divide on it. They could not divide on it, it was too good for them to divide on it. From their own point of view, indeed, it was a vote-catching Budget and if they had divided they would have got their answer in the ballot boxes.
I said to Deputy Esmonde I would deal in more detail with the benefits given by the Minister. One of the most ingenious benefits is the tax free allowance to artists and others for works of literary merit and so on. This has been described as far away as France as a wonderful thing. I read in one national daily today that Louis le Brocquy described it as being a wonderful thing from the point of view of the country, while another literary genius, Hugh Leonard, with whose work many will be acquainted, not only through his own works but through reading the English newspapers, welcomed it and said he was going to come back to this tax-free haven.
No less a figure in Irish literature than Seán Ó Faoláin also welcomed this stroke of genius. It is a piece of original thinking and we are not given enough credit for original thinking here. Indeed, it has been suggested that most Irishmen do their original thinking abroad. Surely this was a marvellous idea. Apart from those who will benefit here we envisage that it will attract foreign artists and foreign literary figures to our shores. Certainly, I would imagine that that is what it is all about, anyway. When a person like Hugh Leonard states that he is going to come back here it is a significant thing from the point of view of the country and will, I am sure, encourage others to return also. Whether they are nationals or non-nationals we will welcome them.
Another thing which we would have welcomed in this Budget would have been some concession to the acting profession and the theatre generally. One well known theatrical personage suggested that a beginning would be to give rates relief on our theatres and then we could examine what type of relief we could give to actors and actresses and those engaged in one way or another in this great profession which has brought a lot of publicity to the country over the years, and rightly so. We on this side of the House would certainly welcome any concession the Minister would give to this profession at some future time. Those of us who attend the Dublin theatre recognise the cultural and literary merit of the various shows we see from time to time. This is not to say that the Government are not doing anything in this sphere at the moment, they are. They are giving many subsidies and so on and Cork is one place which is receiving subsidies in this line.
I have already dealt with the question of the disabled and the fact that paraplegics, who last year were given free car tax, are now being given free petrol, or as near to it as makes no difference. The next progression in this line of benefits to these marvellous people would be income tax relief. I just want to reiterate what has been said already in the past about these people. If they were not in employment they themselves would consider that they were a burden on the State. I would say they would be receiving their entitlement from the State if they were not at work but by virtue of being able to work they should receive recognition by way of tax free allowances. As I say, this is a natural progression from what already has been done for them. Certainly, we would welcome this third point as soon as possible, even next year.
The Old IRA "the few" as they have been called, have again been recognised and this diminishing band of heroes has again been given benefits in this Budget. All sides will welcome this. Coming as I do from a Republican family and as a much younger person, having listened to all the stories of what these great men and women did for the country when there were few willing to come forward, I am glad to see these men and women receiving these benefits. Small and all as they are they are some recognition of what they have done. Indeed, in fairness to the British they are very good to their ex-soldiers and at some future date we might consider setting up accommodation and so on not only for the Old IRA, who unhappily are dying out, but also for our ex-soldiers. However, these are matters for the future, but not for the too distant future. Instead of their having to live on their own when they retire at a certain age billets should be provided for them, perhaps, in the form in which they have provided them in Britain. This is the line in social thinking we should be taking, in terms of discharging our debt to people who have given a lifetime of service to the nation in the Army, by providing them with the basic necessaries of life when they retire and cannot afford to look after themselves. These are matters that will come and, indeed, must come.
I have already paid tribute to the work done by Deputy Celia Lynch and other Deputies on behalf of the widows of public servants. Another piece of original thinking was the setting aside of £100,000 for recreational and sporting facilities.
In the future one of the great problems in the suburbs will be how to use leisure time. On previous occasions I have discussed the use of open spaces. It is a great tragedy that open spaces are not being properly developed around housing estates. Some developers try to build on the last piece of land available in an estate. In some instances they do not comply with the conditions of the planning permission. Developers should leave some land for recreational purposes. This matter should be examined. In my opinion developers should be compelled to develop an estate entirely before they are allowed to commence on the development of another estate. I would ask the Minister for Local Government to examine this matter. Legal sanctions should be imposed on developers. The provision of recreation centres is one aspect of cultural leisure. Within 20 years we will be regretting our laxity in this respect.
Community centres must be set up in suburban areas as a matter of urgency. In my constituency there is a wonderful community centre. It is the Glenalbyn Community Centre, which should be taken as a headline for the rest of the country. A swimming pool is being built in this centre at present. There are facilities for political Parties, and there are lounge and bar facilities. There are many facilities in this centre for the young people of the area. Anyone who cares to come and inspect the centre is very welcome. It is one of the first of its kind in the country. The GAA took part in the planning of this centre and gave much money to finance it. We certainly welcome their co-operation.
When the Minister mentioned the £100,000 he did not tell the House what should be done with it, nor did he mention the name of the organisation which would administer the money. I would suggest to the House that we hold a nationwide competition amongst students of secondary and vocational schools and of universities and offer prizes to young people for the naming of the organisation. Prizes could be awarded to young people who set out out its primary objectives. We should consult the young people. Young people want recognition and responsibility. This is one way of finding out what they really want instead of imposing on them from the top an organisation to administer this £100,000. Young people should be asked what sort of organisation they want. This is their money. I would envisage this type of nationwide competition under the aegis of the Minister for Education. There should be a panel of judges for this competition, composed of sportsmen and sportswomen, past and present. This competition should get under way as a matter of urgency.
The Deputy might not get the GAA to agree with him.
The £100,000 is set aside for facilities other than spectator sports. The Minister stressed the "Outward Bound" concept of the actual organisation which would administer the fund. I would imagine that the person who would administer the fund should be a full-time professional man. Young people should name this organisation. They should set out its primary objectives. They should be involved in the project through a competition. This £100,000 is provided in the first instance, and there will be other moneys available later. One assumes that when this money has been spent more money will be provided to continue with this excellent concept.
On the sporting scene generally, it is true to say that we do not adopt a very professional approach towards sport. Deputy Belton would agree with me and would be glad to see the Irish rugby team appointing a full-time coach instead of moaning over their defeat by Wales. Wales have adopted a professional approach to the game and by winning have brought honour and glory to their country. From the point of view of the physical wellbeing of our young people, the sooner we adopt this approach to sport and recreation the better. People like Noel Carroll are unable to finance themselves abroad. It is disgraceful that this country cannot send an athlete with the reputation of Noel Carroll to the Continent without giving him some assistance. He is perfectly right to complain. If we wish to win Olympic medals for our country we must ensure that the young people can train full-time for six months or a year before the games. I would like to see the £100,000 spent in this manner.
If we wish to compete with countries like Russia, America and Germany, who spend vast sums of money in pursuit of international glory through the winning of Olympic medals, let us spend money on sport. I am in favour of amateur sports so long as we get them into perspective. If we could adopt a professional approach to amateur sports it would benefit the country. When an Irish contestant wins a medal at the Olympic Games the Irish flag is hoisted on a pole in the middle of the arena. For a few moments, through television, the eyes of the world are focussed on it.
It gives me great pleasure to welcome General de Gaulle to our country.
I am afraid the Deputy is getting away from the Resolutions.
His visit focuses attention on the country.
It is hard enough to watch ourselves without watching others.
I should like to refer to the Budget as it affects my constituency. We are not sure whether we are getting a semi-State hotel in the constituency. This is the position brought about by the obscurantism of the Fine Gael Borough Council. I appeal to the Government to give us this hotel which would ensure full-time employment for 150 people all through the year. At the height of the tourist season such an hotel would employ between 250 and 300 people. So, it is important from the point of view of Dún Laoghaire specifically that we should get this hotel. My information is that in the first year of operation the hotel will bring in £¼ million to the traders in the community. That is a marvellous thing which we certainly would welcome. It is a pity it had to break down and become enmeshed in the political arena. I am not denigrating politics but there are some matters which should be kept out of the political cauldron and this is one of them.
We welcome the assistance given by the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in Dún Laoghaire. We are developing a very nice little fishing industry there. A very interesting aspect which I am sure the Ceann Comhairle would appreciate is that many of the fishermen are very young. The ages range from 25 to 40 years. They own their own boats. I am sure the Ceann Comhairle would object to my going into any detail on the fisheries and what is being done and not being done for fisheries. These men are setting a headline. I see the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance here. He has on two occasions, to my knowledge and in my presence, come out to view the harbour in Dún Laoghaire where these fishermen operate from the Coal Quay. We welcomed him. His coming out to the pier to see what could be done was a physical expression of interest. He went out and he did something and he came out subsequently. The place is coming along nicely. There is a great deal more to be done in relation to it.
This sort of development can be related to tourism. Those of us who have been lucky enough to have been in the north-western parts of France, Brittany and so on, realise the great interest tourists have in watching fishing fleets coming in at the break of dawn and in the dusk of the evening. It is a very nice sight to see fishermen discharging their catches. All this is part of the tourist concept of an energetic and thinking community. This is what we have in Dún Laoghaire. We would welcome any other concessions we can get for the fishing industry there, on the one hand, and we do want a semi-State hotel on top of the railway station there. Anybody who tells me that it is interfering with traffic can jump in off Dún Laoghaire Pier. Traffic is a man-made hazard and can be cured by man and traffic congestion is a man-made hazard and can be cured by man.
The Deputy is getting away from the Financial Resolution.
According to the newspapers, this may be my last opportunity in this Dáil or maybe in any other Dáil to express the need for the hotel in Dún Laoghaire.
It would seem to be a matter for the Estimates rather than for the Financial Resolution.
I appreciate that, a Cheann Comhairle. Again, under the heading of tourism, there is in Dún Laoghaire a first-class car ferry service. This is a matter that has been dealt with to some great degree in the Budget. Again, unfortunately, at one stage, when the old car ferry was being built it was objected to by the Fine Gael Party on the Dún Laoghaire Corporation. That was unfortunate because we almost lost the car ferry. Now look at what we have as a result of the prescience and foresight of the Fianna Fáil Government, of the then Minister for Transport and Power. We have one of the best car ferry services in the world—I will not say in Europe, but in the world. It is a magnificent operation. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance is here. He performed the opening ceremony. We appreciate the work he did in that connection. His Department must take a great deal of the credit for it in conjunction with the Department of Transport and Power. As part of the tourist facilities in Dún Laoghaire there is yachting and there is transport. There is a train service right out to the harbour. There is an ideal car ferry service. These are all matters which attract tourists. There are lovely places where tourists may visit. In particular there is the beautiful walk along the pier from Dún Laoghaire to the lighthouse. This is all part of the build-up of the tourist industry.
Sometimes one hears that the local hoteliers complain about the new hotel in Dún Laoghaire. That is no longer the case. They would welcome it. The hotel industry is one of the industries where competition makes for greater endeavour and the lower standard hotel raises its standard in order to meet the competition created by a first-class hotel. I greatly appreciate the patience of the House.
There is just one final matter to which I should like to refer. It is a new concept. Under the heading of recreational facilities the Minister said:
It is desirable that workers in manufacturing industry should have a wide range of recreational facilities and amenities provided at the factory and elsewhere for use during breaks and after hours. To encourage management to provide these, the Finance Bill will contain provisions to extend the industrial building allowance to capital expenditure incurred by a manufacturer on the provision of facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and sports clubs for employees, where such allowances are not available under existing law. The relief will have no effect on the revenue until 1970-71.
This statement should be posted up on every factory notice board in order to let the workers know what this Budget has given to them. Very often people read things in the paper and then forget them. The Department of Finance should circularise those who can benefit from this Budget. It is a very important matter. People may not know that these concessions or entitlements have been given. Workers should be informed that facilities such as swimming pools, tennis courts and sports clubs can be made available to them.
With regard to the allocation of a sum of £100,000 for the provision of sporting and recreational facilities for young people, the best way to get that known to those concerned is to have a nation-wide competition for schools, vocational schools and universities for the best name for the new organisation that would administer this allocation. Prizes could be awarded for the best name for the organisation and for the best suggestion as to the primary objectives of the organisation. These matters could be taken up by the Government Departments affected. I would ask them to ensure that the people concerned are informed of their entitlements.
On the question of Government publications generally, I should like to take this opportunity as a member of the Public Accounts Committee of congratulating the Department of Labour for their production of the bound volume of pamphlets giving information as to the various areas of endeavour open to young persons. The volume contains 145 pamphlets on career guidance. It is a most helpful volume. I have it available for use when anybody comes to me seeking information about careers. I understand that there are more pamphlets to come on this subject. Careers ranging from the professions to the occupation of bus driver are set out concisely and, to the undying credit of the Department, in simple language. I should like to congratulate the Department of Labour on an excellent production.
I am sorry to have to come back to the £100,000 again but the title I would give this organisation would be Amuigh Faoin Spéir, with great respect to the excellent television programme of the same name. That would be a nice title for this "outward-bound" organisation. I am sure Mr. de Butléir and his other friends would have no objection if we took that name which I put forward as a likely name for the organisation.
It remains for me to thank the Minister for Finance for his excellent Budget which has universally been accepted as the most original Budget this country has produced. He has been praised by the Irish Housewives' Association, by artists and by every section of the community for the original thinking and hard work that went into this excellent production. It confounded the sceptics and cynics. On that point, surely a Government have a basic responsibility? To be accused of gimmickry in the dispensing of the nation's money is one of the most outrageous suggestions ever made against any Government. The Government have an obligation to discharge their responsibilities in a responsible fashion. This is too important a matter to indulge in gimmickry. Indeed, the people whom this Budget affects welcome it. I am sure that, in time, our historians will look upon it as a new phase in budgetary endeavour. Once more, I congratulate the Minister for Finance on its production. It is his production. It has the stamp of his production and of his intellect and of his hard work.
Unfortunately, my voice is somewhat impaired and therefore I must be very concise in my comments on this Budget. For the life of me, I would not allow the occasion to pass without making a contribution to the debate. An election atmosphere prevails through this Budget debate. The claim is made from the Opposition benches that this is an election Budget but that claim is denied by the Taoiseach. The Deputy who is now leaving the House, Deputy Andrews, craved the indulgence of the Chair on the plea that this is the last time he will have an opportunity of telling this Dáil about Dún Laoghaire Pier, about the fishery in Dún Laoghaire, about the new swimming pool, and so on, that they are providing there and all the other items affecting the constituency of Dún Laoghaire-Rathdown.
It is evident, then, that the Dáil is about to dissolve. Scarcely a Deputy who has spoken has not mentioned the election. We have heard the Taoiseach talk about what a solid, united and firm team the Government are. He said they are governing the country in a first-class manner and that the people are reaping the benefits of their wisdom. If this is so, why talk about an election?
In 1965, we had an election. As the law stands, the lifetime of a Dáil, according to the Constitution, may not be more than seven years. Under a regulation, the lifetime is five years or such earlier period as a Government may be in a position to hold office. A Government could lose office through loss of confidence of the electorate or through some major set-back. With only four years of this Dáil term completed, we are told we must have an election. In fact, the Taoiseach is holding a convention in his constituency next Friday night. I should like to address myself to that question.
My view is that a Government is elected for five years if it holds a majority in this House. Fianna Fáil were elected in 1965 and with five years added to that it means that the next election should be in 1970. Why go to the country now? Assertions are made that every Deputy must be ready for an election. If one is not at least pretending one is ready to plunge then one is regarded as politically cowardly. I do not believe in that. I was elected in 1965 for a five-year term. If this Dáil dissolves this week, as we are told it will, I want the explanation for the present position. Can we think of a number of reasons? One reason is that Party advantage is to be put above national advantage.
This may be a suitable time for the Government to go to the country and not to bother about the year that is left so as to get a further extension of office—they hope. There is nothing national about that kind of thinking which is the thinking that seems to prevail in Government quarters at the present time. Why should our people have to vote next month, if the election is held then, to put Fianna Fáil back into office for the remainder of this year when, in fact, without any election, they are entitled to stay in office? They are in a position to remain in office as they have a majority in this House. There was, therefore, no need for them to bring the question of this election before the people, as they have done for the past six or seven months.
Did they bring it up?
I cannot recall any.
If the Parliamentary Secretary has any questions to ask, I shall sit down and let him ask them. The first question concerns the election.
Who said anything about it?
The Government are running away from office 11 months earlier than the regulation laid down under the Constitution warrants them. I want an explanation of why the Government are running away.
Has the Deputy any evidence that the Government are running away?
I will come to that later. The obvious reason seems to be internal difficulties.
Oh, is that it?
That is the obvious one. That would be a justifiable reason. What we are reading and hearing about infighting in the Government may be true, seeing that the Government are breaking up 12 months ahead of time. If the Government had dissolved Dáil Éireann last October everybody would have understood and accepted it at the time. We all would have agreed they were entitled to do so. Instead of that, we had the Government wasting 12 months of public time in the House and throughout the country discussing the change in the constitution, with particular reference to the proposed change in the constituency system and which we were then told by Fianna Fáil was essential, that the people wanted it.
Then we found that more than 250,000 of the electorate rejected the Government's proposal. If the Government had not been cheeky and arrogant, if they had any self-respect, they would have dissolved the Dáil at that time and asked for a vote of confidence from the people. Having refused to do that at that time, in November, 1968, and having outlived their setback in the referendum, why come along now, in May, 1969, if we are to accept what Deputy Andrews and other Fianna Fáil Deputies have been saying, and say: "We cannot last until April, 1970". Is something happening? Is our economy going wrong? Is there to be another mini-Budget such as in November, 1968?
Is our balance of payments out of plumb? Is the servicing of our national debt getting beyond us with an increase of £11½ million this year, putting the figure up to £75 million or £76 million? Apart from infighting in the Government, is not that the only apparent reason why the Dáil is coming to an end? Why should any of the Irish people go to the polls next month and vote Fianna Fáil in any constituency to elect them to any Government when Fianna Fáil can stay in office until next April by virtue of their majority? Why the vote of confidence? Do the Government feel they need a vote of confidence?
Another reason for this is what has happened about the by-elections. The by-election episode, to some extent, is responsible for precipitating the general election which we are told will take place next month. The holding of by-elections are regulated by law, according to the Constitution. The usual procedure throughout the years has been that when a Member of the House died, a month is allowed to elapse before his Party moved the writ to fill the vacancy. The late Deputy Kenneally died in September, 1968, but no move was made by the Government. Then we had the unfortunate death of the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Davern, and a few months later, Sir, your distinguished predecessor in office died. No move was made on either occasion.
It has been the procedure laid down that the Party suffering the loss move the writ. Labour were blamed for not moving the writ in the case of the late Deputy Hogan. He had been elected in 1951 and, by virtue of his office, he had not to submit himself to the electorate subsequently. He could be described as having been outside politics. Time and time again he was reelected as Ceann Comhairle. Why, therefore, in a constituency where the going was anything but firm, should Labour move a writ, particularly since Fianna Fáil had failed to move the writs in the other two cases? It may be said that we have saved money in the form of payments to the new Deputies who would have been elected, but I believe that what happened where Fianna Fáil are concerned is that they got such a fright from the referendum result that they were terribly slow to go before any section of the community. The second reason is because of what by-election campaigns have been in recent years. It is a scandal the way they are run in this country.
It does not seem to arise.
Money has been saved by not holding these by-elections and I am expressing the viewpoint that that saving is against regulations laid down by the House. What happens when a by-election takes place? We have Deputies and Senators of both Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil arguing it out. They are supposed to travel through even the smallest boreen to visit the electors. Wagons are brought along, akin to a circus, you have meals on wheels and every effort is made to impress the people. All Deputies are fed up with the way by-elections are run. The campaigns in by-elections should be left to the local organisation, with some help, perhaps. I was down in the constituency of the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Brennan, in Bray on the day of the last by-election. I am from Cork, the man next to me was from Donegal, the next man from Galway, there were two Laois men and two from Waterford. All were asking the electors for their names and for their numbers in the register.
It does not seem to arise.
This system of circus wagons at by-elections should be wiped out. A law should be brought in. At the moment every effort is made to corrupt the gullible ones. I am against that.
There are not too many of the gullible ones around.
There will not be the next time, anyway.
It is a well-known fact that, despite bringing people along from all over the country and despite annoying people for the three or four weeks of the campaign, the result is often decided by some local issue, the personality of the candidate and his relationship to the former Member.
I am very glad, Sir, that you allowed me to refer concisely to our system of by-elections because it is one of the reasons why the elections were not held. The first reason why the elections were not held was the fright of the Government following the referendum. Having got such a hammering in the referendum they were afraid to go before the people. There is no justification for what has happened so far as the by-elections are concerned. They should have been held. It was the Government's job and the Government's duty to see that they were held within a reasonable time after the deaths of the Deputies. They have established a precedent that must be disestablished as soon as possible.
Surely the Labour Party could have moved their own if they thought we should have had it?
Strictly speaking, the late Deputy Hogan was not a member of the Labour Party.
He was a member. He sat up there on the Labour benches.
Deputy Hogan was the honoured and respected Ceann Comhairle of this House and——
I accept that, but when he resigned the Chair he went back to the Labour benches.
——by virtue of that post he was a non-politician. Would the Parliamentary Secretary tell me, as he seems to be rather vocal at the moment, why Fianna Fáil did not move the writ in Wexford or in South Tipperary?
The moving of writs does not arise on the Financial Resolution. We are discussing taxes.
We are but this question has a bearing on taxes.
The saving to the Exchequer by not holding the by-elections may be small but it is there and therefore I am entitled to address myself to that question.
The Deputy is not so entitled.
I am equally entitled to ask why the Government are running away from their last year of office. It is to be assumed that this Budget is an election Budget. We had Deputy Andrews telling us all about it for one and a quarter hours. It is a simple exercise. A young fellow in first class could nearly tell you all about the Budget. What happened is that we went along and took a few extra pence from the people drinking the pint, from the people drinking the half one, from the people smoking the cigarettes, from the people using petrol and we gave 10s a week extra to old age pensioners and to disabled people. In some cases these things cancelled out each other because where an old age pensioner was anxious for his half one or his smoke the benefit was not there.
It is not an election Budget then.
It amazed me to hear the Taoiseach's comment in the course of his speech here on the 14th May that the Opposition were hopping mad over the Budget. We are hopping mad. It was a curious statement to be made by the Prime Minister of this country. Who is hopping mad? Did the Taoiseach mean the Opposition were hopping mad because physically or mentally incapacitated people were to get 10s from 1st August or because an old man or an old woman was to get 10s from 1st August or 1st January? Is that his belief in Irish people? The Taoiseach says we are hopping mad because these people got this increase. That is a damn lie. The Taoiseach went down in my estimation when I heard him make that statement, which was headlined by the newspapers the following day. It is not my job to speak for the Opposition, but I certainly can speak for every Member of my Party and say that we would like to see more money going into the pockets of such people. I have made myself quite clear so far as social welfare benefits are concerned. I have referred to people who get them and are not entitled to them, but so far as physically or mentally incapacitated people are concerned and so far as our old people — people of over 70 years and many of them are over 90 — getting 10s a week are concerned, that did not put me hopping mad nor I am damn sure did it put any member of the Opposition hopping mad. It is evidence that the Taoiseach was trying to build up a short-term popularity with the electorate so that they could go along to the electorate within a month or so dangling these benefits before them. We had a long dissertation from Deputy Andrews about benefits. Obviously, Fianna Fáil think that this is good election material, calculated to keep them in office for a long period.
Because of my difficulty in speaking this evening I do not propose to go into detail. Anyway, taking a few pence from the people and giving a few shillings to others, sums up the position. Deputy Andrews expressed his pleasure that the artists are now to be tax free. What about the working man who will have to pay tax on any income in excess of £6 10s a week? He got an increase of only £15 in his personal allowance. What about the other section I referred to — the people awaiting service from the ESB? There is nothing in the Budget to help such people, most of whom reside in remote parts of the country. I expected, because of the number of times it was discussed here, that we would hear something about an additional loan by the ESB to provide services for those who have been waiting so long for them.
This Budget is definitely an election Budget. It was meant to be an election Budget. There is no doubt about that. That the Government are guilty of gimmickry is without question. The proof of that was the appearance of the Minister for Finance on 18th March telling us they were all "broke", that the country was in a dangerous state and that he was handing in 15 per cent of his salary. My friends in Fine Gael believed that. That does not surprise me. They agreed to hand in another 15 per cent if the occasion should arise. Early in May when the Budget was introduced, everything in the garden was lovely. That is gimmickry. This is a special election Budget. There is no doubt about that.
I want to conclude on the note on which I started. On television, on radio, in the newspapers, talking with people around the cities, in the country districts and in this House, the main news for the past six months has been election news It is taking from the dignity of Parliament that such should be the case. It is peculiar, indeed, that at a time when we are hearing of a strong, united, firm Government, preached by Fianna Fáil, this news should be going around, since the Constitution does not require the Government to leave office for another 12 months. It is evident, in my opinion, that something could be seriously wrong with our economy and that the Government are running away from their last 12 months in office. Possibly all is not well, all is not healthy, so far as the Government services generally are concerned, and they want to move out on this note which they have played in the Budget, reciting a litany of those so-called benefits they have provided for the people.
I am hoping the Government will get their answer. If things are as they say they are, there is no justification for holding an election until April, 1970. If they are doing what they did in 1965, moving out after what they termed a favourable Budget, and a favourable reaction from the populace according to themselves and hoping to get additional revenue by means of a mini-Budget or something else later on, they are not playing fair with the people. I am hopeful that the Dáil will be dissolved as we are told on all sides it will be dissolved this week. When we return if we return, I hope that what will be left of Fianna Fáil will be transferred from the right to the left.
Deputy Andrews said that he would like people who get children's allowances to put the money in the Post Office and save it. At least 80 per cent of those who are getting children's allowances could not afford to do that. Deputy Murphy mentioned the caravans at the various by-elections around the country. These caravans are given to the Fianna Fáil Party for a job well done. In certain areas some kind of permission is given to the owner of a caravan and he then supports Fianna Fáil.
The servicing of the public debt cost £88,938,000 in 1969-70. In 1963-64 the figure was £38,156,000, that is a difference of £80 million. That is what it costs to service that debt, out of a total Budget of something in the region of £353 million. At the moment 25 per cent of the money provided in this Budget is going to pay our debts. It is not even paying our debts. It is paying the interest on capital loans.
I have heard Fianna Fáil speakers talking about what they did for the country, about what Fianna Fáil did for the country. I should like to ask them do they think it was Fianna Fáil who did it. What about all the business people, what about private enterprise, the unions, the workers who do much more than the Fianna Fáil Party ever did? The job of Fianna Fáil is to make plans and programmes. That is all they have done, and they have done it very badly. Even if they made no plans, the business people, the unions and the workers would make money for the country. You would think that the 70 Deputies or so in the Fianna Fáil Party, and their members in the various cumainn throughout the country did everything. Do they ever think of the business people, the farmers and others who work for the country with their own sweat? You would think it was the Fianna Fáil Deputies alone who did everything to hear some of them speaking.
In this Budget there was nothing whatsoever about increasing employment. We heard the Taoiseach saying there are more people in the country than ever before but, if there are, they are children and old people because we certainly have fewer people in insurable employment, and the Taoiseach has admitted that. Therefore, we are becoming a nation of children and old people. The number of people per unit in this country contributing to the income of the country as a whole is a lot smaller than that in any other country in the world. I think it is one to six or seven here. It is two to four in England and two to five or six in France taking it as a family unit. These are the people who are producing. This is our problem. We have old people and children here.
Without any doubt whatsoever this is an election Budget. There are bits and pieces thrown around to everyone. We have £100,000 for swimming pools and football pitches. What could £100 000 provide in the whole country? This is just thrown out at random. I agree with the idea, but compared with the amount of money required this is nothing. This is an effort to get a few votes here and there and to suggest that Fianna Fáil have become concerned with cultural development at last.
Before the last general election the previous Taoiseach went around the country saying: "You never had it so good." That was one of the worst expressions ever introduced into England by the Conservative Government. When it was introduced into England certain sections "had it so good" and the rest had not, and they were entitled to their share. The Taoiseach and other Fianna Fáil speakers said: "Do not change the position. Keep it this way. If you let the others in they will change it." This was said on every platform. Fianna Fáil won on that occasion and we were hardly in here before we had a second Budget. It was two months: from April to June. Prior to that election the people believed in Fianna Fáil and they believed what they were saying, but all we got was inflation. Fianna Fáil allowed the inflation to run until after the election and, as soon as the election was over, they hammered the people.
When you hammer the people no matter what you tax it goes back to the customer. The person, rich or poor, who buys in a shop, the person who gets wages, is the person who is hammered. The price of cigarettes and petrol is increased and he is the person who has to pay. Therefore, the normal worker, the poor person, has to pay, and has to pay after the election.
Next we had a presidential election. Things had got worse but, instead of having the Budget before the presidential election, we had a split Budget. We had one before the election and one after it. The people were not told what the real position was before the election, but they were told it after the election. On that occasion Fianna Fáil did not do as well as they thought they would. Even though most of the Fianna Fáil people I met said their man could not be beaten, it was by a short head only that he won. It was 10,000 Fianna Fáil people only who got him there. This showed that the people did not believe what the Fianna Fáil Party were saying before the election.
In 1968 another Budget was introduced to win the referendum. This was intended to give dictatorial powers to the Government, to keep I them in office for another ten or 12 years. I do not think all the Fianna Fáil people wanted this but a certain group in the Front Bench wanted to keep themselves in power for their lifetime, and this is what they set out to achieve.
The referendum campaign took up the full time of three Ministers. When they should have been running the nation's affairs they were travelling the country telling the people half-truths to try to win that referendum. Salary and wage increases were due to civil servants, gardaí and various others in the public service and elsewhere. There was no mention of this in the Budget of April, 1968, even though the Minister for Finance knew he bad to pay it inside the next year. However, a few days before the referendum this money was granted to civil servants. The people did not trust the Government this time and Fianna Fáil were beaten by 260,000 votes. In the following month we had another. Budget. For some years now we have had two Budgets in each year, one before an election and one after an election. The Fianna Fáil Party use the people's money to buy votes at an election. "Taca" is a dirty word at the moment. Fianna Fáil were getting this money and were promoting people with no ability. Now that they cannot get this money they are using the people's money to help them to success.
On 18th March last the Minister for Finance, Deputy Haughey, appeared on television telling us there was a crisis and that taxation would have to be increased. This was followed by the action of the Taoiseach, again to fool the people, in asking that Ministers accept a cut of 15 per cent in their salaries. With Ministers earning £6,000 or £7,000 a year a reduction of 15 per cent would amount to only a few pounds, so this was merely a gimmick and the Taoiseach and the Ministers were trying to mislead the people. I want to know were they telling the truth then or are they telling the truth now. It appears to me they are not telling it now. When the Taoiseach was introducing the mini-Budget, or the maxi-Budget as it should be called, he said at column 2052, volume 236, of the Official Report of the 5th November, 1968:
There are clear indications that the economy is gathering speed too quickly at present and that if the brake were not applied we would run into trouble in 1969. We need not be concerned about the calendar year 1968, with its prospective balance of payments deficit of £15 million. Even a much larger deficit — of the £30 million order — could be tolerated next year without undue concern, having regard to the normal capital inflow and the high level of external reserves. What must be avoided, however, is a deficit considerably in excess of £30 million and it is because such a deficit is threatened that precautionary action must now be taken. A paper recently published by the Economic and Social Research Institute foreshadowed the possibility of a deficit of over £50 million in 1969 unless policy measures were taken to prevent it. Without being quite so pessimistic, the Government are satisfied, from the analyses and projections presented to them, that the risk of a deficit of well over £30 million is real enough to require that some measures be taken now so that more severe action will not be necessary later.
The Budget was introduced to make sure that the deficit would not go over £30 million. Now we come to this year. The Minister for Finance told us in March we were in trouble with the balance of payments and that there would have to be a curtailment of wage and salary increases. The Government have all the necessary information, having the Civil Service to give it to them. We can only surmise what is I happening and have access to only a limited amount of information. At column 638, Volume 240 of the Official Report of 7th May, 1969, the Minister for Finance said:
At the same time, the pressures carried over from last year are likely to cause a large rise in imports of consumer goods and raw materials for further processing. Capital imports will be swollen by exceptionally heavy purchases of aircraft. Allowing for a rise in net invisible camings, the likelihood is that the balance of payments deficit will be about £55 million.
In November the Taoiseach refers to a deficit of £30 million, while the Minister for Finance puts it at over £50 million. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance agreed about the position in March this year but because there is an election in the offing the Minister for Finance has changed his mind. The Minister for Finance continues:
Even if aircraft imports are excluded on the basis that they will be financed in the first instance by foreign borrowing, the deficit is likely to be £40 to £45 million.
That seems an extraordinary change within a couple of months. It is obvious that there will be an election shortly. Probably this week the Dáil will be dissolved and if Fianna Fáil are returned as the Government, if the people are foolish enough to believe them, or if the Opposition get into office, they will have to rectify this by having another Budget.
Social benefits have been increased. These benefits have been advocated, I suppose, by every Party and every Deputy in the House. However, if Fianna Fáil give 10/- increase in the old age pensions with one hand. they take it back with the other hand. Petrol is dearer, cigarettes are dearer, drink is dearer; all these increases cut in on people's incomes. Since the last increase 12 months ago there has been a five per cent increase in the cost of living, apart from the new imposts. I remember when I stood in the by-election and the turnover tax was introduced, which in no small way helped me to win that election and win it easily, the Minister for Finance, Deputy Haughey, went on television explaining that if he gave 5/- or 2/6 — I cannot remember which — to old age pensioners and the cost of living went up by five or six per cent.
It was a poor effort. The five per cent was on the old age pension. The Minister was not working on the average salary. No old age pensioner could live on £3 15s a week. If there is a house involved, no matter how small it is, rates must be paid on it. And rates are increasing all the time. Those in receipt of these allowances gain nothing by these increases because the increases are eroded by rising prices. A five per cent increase on a wage of £10 amounts to only 10/-. The Minister and Fianna Fáil Deputies have talked about what they are doing for the lower paid workers. Does that five per cent increase bear any comparison with the £2,000 paid in the last 12 or 15 months to the top officials in the Civil Service? I have no objection to top men anywhere being adequately compensated for their labours but the top men in the Civil Service do not take the same risks that top men in private enterprise have to take. This increase of 10/- and the few extra shillings by way of children's allowances will be eaten up in increased prices. Someone worked it out that a pint a day and 20 cigarettes a day for six days in the week will erode these increases entirely.
Fine Gael advocated increases in children's allowances quite some time back. Basically, Italy has the same standard of living as we have but, in Italy, the allowance for the second and third child is £7 10s. Incidentally, these allowances should have been increased last year before the industrial unrest started because, had they been increased, the unions would have had to curtail their demands. Suppose three workers have £20 each per week, one having no children, the second having two children and the third six children, the man who has no children will present a huge demand in an effort to equalise with the other two.
With regard to housing, before the land speculators got going a man who bought a house in 1959 to 1961 found himself paying something in the region of £2 10s per week on a small three-bedroomed house of approximately 1,100 square feet. In 1964 the repayments on the same type of house had jumped to £3 10s and £4 per week. Today they are £5 and £6 per week. Here there is a differential as between the man who bought a house in 1951 and the man who bought a house in 1965.
In the Budget debate on 23rd April, 1968, at column 86, Volume 234 of the Official Report Deputy T.F. O'Higgins is reported as follows:
What is being done about children's allowances? They were last adjusted in 1963. I think it is fair to say that children's allowances represent for families in the lower income group, where the wage earner is earning something around £10 a week, the only measure of assistance for the transfer of purchasing power given by the State. It is true that of the 950,000 children who are covered by children's allowances, something around 800,000 children are in the lower income group. There is no increase here, no effort to deal with this problem in the Budget. It is being long-fingered. The Minister says there is an examination taking place with regard to this difficult problem. I am sure there is.
Actually, we adumbrated this policy in our policy document and it has now been taken over by Fianna Fáil and introduced as their policy. The idea is to give something to as many as possible and then go to the country. All the good points in the policy adumbrated by other Parties have been jumped at by Fianna Fáil in an effort to gain votes. There was the beef bonus incentive for farmers. It was a little while before the full explanation came to light; the incentive was given to farmers who did not sell as much as a pint of milk. The farmer who sold milk got nothing. That, of course, reduced the number of recipients. It is like what happened before the referendum. The Taoiseach was asked would there be a constituency commission set up and he said there would but, when questioned closely, it transspired that the commission would be set up only if Fianna Fáil won the single seat issue and, if they did not win, there would be no commission. That was brought out very clearly on television.
Having lost the referendum, the Government then decided to make Dublin four-seat constituencies and the remainder of the country three-seat constituencies. This is just another attempt at fooling the people. In business, if one wants to get one's people to do something—work harder, or something else—then one has to be clear and precise about what one wants. One must have definite targets. Running the country is a very big business and programmes are just no good at all. The businessman had programmes 30 years ago. Today he has realistic targets. Fianna Fáil will not set targets because they are afraid they would not reach them or that they would miss them altogether.
It has been proved conclusively that it would be much cheaper to keep old people at home than it is to maintain them in institutions. Money would actually be saved provided the State would give a proper subsidy to relatives to look after those old people. This Budget is just a series of bits here and bits there in an attempt to keep people happy. We will never get anywhere unless there is proper rationalisation.
It has been stated here that about a fortnight before the Budget was introduced the newspapers, including the Fianna Fáil organs, were able to say what was going to be taxed. Some have referred to the Budget as a work of genius. I see no genius in putting a 1d on the pint and 2d on the packet of cigarettes. That is all Fianna Fáil Ministers for Finance have done all down through the years. They never seek out any new form of taxation. They give sops of £100,000 here and £100,000 there, but that is very little out of a Budget of £350 million.
The unions are asked to amalgamate and to do some new thinking about the system of negotiation, to avoid strikes and misunderstandings between themselves and the employers. The Minister for Industry and Commerce and the Minister for Finance exhort management to get updated and be competitive. A child of seven years— I have such a child at home myself— could have drawn up this Budget because all that is involved is adding a bit here and adding a bit there. The Minister, of course, had plenty of civil servants to do the addition for him. Will there be another Budget this year? One of the most disgraceful developments has been the advent of the double Budget. A good businessman plans for five years ahead. His plans do not work out 100 per cent, but they certainly work out 90 per cent. The Government will not plan for more than six months ahead. During the years since the last general election, one of these twice-yearly Budgets has always been introduced as a credit squeeze Budget.
Taking the 1965 Budget as an example, what happened to any businessman who, as a result of that easy Budget—when we were told that everything in the garden was rosy—went ahead and invested his money in Irish business, he probably having been born and reared in this country? Four months later there was a squeeze, the bank wanted the money back and he was not able to pay. Such a man would have had to sell out and take his children from whatever schools they were attending.
The people who have the resources to meet such a situation are foreigners. They come here from England, particularly in the retail trade, they come from Germany and other countries and set up industries here while the Irishman has to sell out. Some stay a while but others do not stay at all. I would say that in Grafton Street alone 50 per cent of the businesses are controlled by foreign capital. These businesses were purchased when there was a credit squeeze. These people can afford to sit back during three or four years of inflation, but this is not possible in the case of Irish businessmen. A big English firm with extensive interests in Ireland is about to be taken over by a big soap company and this soap company has retail outlets in Ireland. The same applies to the biscuit firms. These people will sell their own products in this country against any Irish product. While all this has been happening, the Government have been doing nothing about it. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has paid lip service to it, but that is about all.
Another point mentioned by Deputy Andrews, which was also mentioned in the Minister's Budget Statement, is that the people of this country should save more. The Government themselves are now paying interest on capital—I presume that means servicing the public debt—totalling £88 million. In 1963-64 they paid £38 million, which means that the £ has been practically reduced by half since then. They are now asking people to save with the Post Office where they will get about four per cent interest, which will be worth nothing in about three years time. The trade unions have been exhorted not to ask for more money. The unions ask for more money when the workers and members force them to do so. They will look for increases when the cost of living is going up, and the Government are the main cause of this.
During the past number of years, there have been big increases in postal and telephone charges. This must be the dearest country in the world in which to send an ordinary closed letter. The cost of telephone calls is now sixpence. Thirty-three shillings in the £ of the Dublin rates should come out of the Central Fund. A person with a valuation of, say, £20 is paying quite an amount of what should come out of the Central Fund. We must pay turnover tax, and wholesale tax has been increased three times. Beer, spirits, cigarettes, and other things have likewise been increased. Yet we are told that the 10/- increase for old age pensioners is adequate and that trade unions are looking for increases for which they should not look.
We have three main industries in this country. The first is agriculture, the second is the building industry and the third is the liquor industry. Of course, we also have tourism which may even be bigger than the building industry. In 1966, the farmers got £5.25 million from the brewers and distillers. This would now equal about £7 million. Our excess of exports over imports for drink amounted to £6 million for 1967. This would probably be about £7 or £8 million now. There are no imports except hops.
It is a recognised fact that, if a business person wishes to export more goods more cheaply, it is important to have a very good home market. As the consumption on the home market goes up production costs are reduced and the person is enabled to be more competitive in foreign markets. We, in Ireland, have some sort of idea that we can bring to this country a firm like Potez and set them up at a cost of £1½ million. I do not know what we cost on their Galway factory, but I presume it would have been about £1 million. Instead of giving the employment which they promised to give, those people are employing only very few people.
During the three Budgets of the past year, duty on beer has gone up by 50 per cent and on spirits by 22 per cent. If we had a greater production of beer and spirits, a greater amount of barley might be sown. In this way some of the worry might be taken from the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries as the farmers might then stop producing milk. No subsidy would be required for the barley.
There is another point which I mentioned on a few occasions in private to the Minister for Finance. We both live in the same area and the same district. The districe in which we live had many English tourists who stayed in private houses. They were English working class, factory hands, mine workers and small shop employees who came over here on holidays because there was reasonable accommodation. Drink and cigarettes were cheaper than in England. We have lost this now by increasing the price of drink. Admittedly, our tourist receipts have gone up but the revenue has gone to the luxury hotels. What we lost in one section has been gained by the other. We should have both together. If we kept the price of drink down I doubt if there would be much difference in the return to the Government.
One of the biggest contributory causes of increased costs has been the inefficiency of both Ministers for Local Government whom I have known in my time anyway. The present Minister for Local Government wasted money on the referendum. Also, the time he spent looking at appeals in the planning office would have been far better employed by a justice, thus allowing the Minister more time to get on with planning in this city and in the towns and cities in Ireland. We had no serviced land and no big sewerage schemes, except the odd one, anywhere in Ireland over the last number of years. What has happened as a result of this is that you have more people bidding for less serviced land. If we had serviced land in Dublin a number of years back we should have land now a lot cheaper and the price of houses would be down by at least £1,000 per house. I know that four years ago serviced sites cost from £250 to £400 with the odd exception of £600 and today the cost is between £1,000 and £3,500. It is costing this much today because we have no serviced land.
No effort was made by either of the Ministers for Local Government in my time to examine the traffic situation in Dublin and other cities and towns throughout the country. Traffic piles up; time is wasted and petrol, which we have to import, is used up in this city. This problem should be tackled whether by way of building bridges or obliging civil servants to work half an hour earlier in the morning or half an hour longer in the evening. We will have to do something to get an even flow of traffic rather than having it pile up.
Now, I want to deal with the Department of Justice.
Matters of detail which would be appropriate on Estimates are not appropriate on the General Financial Resolution.
This is not just an Estimate matter. I am referring to the amount of money wasted by the Department of Finance. Take the area I come from, Coolock, which I know very well. We have a force of 26 gardaí to police 42,000 people. There are five men at a time in a shift in that area. This gardaí force could not possibly control the damage done in that area. There are fewer people employed on this work than there should be. As I said in my opening remarks, the policy should be one of more employment in this country. The Garda are even cut down and in the long run it will cost the country a lot more. Churches in the area have been broken into four or five times. The same has happened to the parochial hall, factories and houses. An understrength Garda party could not possibly control this. There may be many more gardaí in the constituency of the Minister for Justice but in Dublin they are certainly understaffed. They work long shifts and the people are not getting the protection they want, the protection they are paying for and the protection they are taxed for.
Some reference was made here to our entry into the EEC. With Fine Gael I agree that the bigger market is the thing of the future and we must all go into it. The farmer may not make much by it but I think even he would benefit from it. The one thing we must look at very sincerely is that many commodities we import from Europe in bulk at the moment will not come in in bulk when we enter the EEC. They will come in here prepacked. Before I leave this point I should like to say that our ambassadors throughout the world are, I think, outdated. They should be trade commissioners.
At the outset I referred to what the Taoiseach said in November 1968 that anything in the £30 to £50 million mark would leave us in serious trouble. On the 18th March this year Deputy Haughey, Minister for Finance, agreed with him and told us that we were in a diabolical position and that there was no chance of our getting out of it. A couple of months later when there is an election in the effing we are told that we are in absolutely no trouble although the balance of payments has gone up to what the Taoiseach was afraid of. The position is we have a Budget now. If you vote Fianna Fáil you will get another one afterwards.
It is very interesting to hear the Opposition speakers on the Budget debate. On one hand, we have Deputy Michael Pat Murphy of the Labour Party saying his Party did not want a general election, that the general election should not be held until the 5th or 6th April, 1970. According to him they did not want it. Alpparently they are terrified of a general election in the Labour Party. On the other hand, we have the Fine Gael Party saying it could not come half fast enough. It is very hard to understand the attitude of the Coalition Parties as far as this is concerned.
Now, coming back to the Budget. I have never heard such a poor case being made by the Opposition Parties. We in Fianna Fáil know that in any field we can face the people with confidence whether it is in the field of social welfare, agriculture, education, health, housing or local government. We can face the people with confidence on our record even during the past few years.
I believe that this Budget will go down in history as being the outstanding social Budget of this decade. There are increases for pensioners, the disabled and the less well-off sections of our community. Children's allowances have been increased. All those things add up to quite a sizeable sum. Fine Gael say that by 1973 or so they will pay £5 per week to old age pensioners. At our present rate of progress I calculate that by 1973, under Fianna Fáil, the old age pensioner will have £5 10s a week. I think Fine Gael are underestimating if they say it will only be £5 a week by 1973.
We are well aware of the progress that has been made in agriculture in recent years. In particular I welcome the proposal to maintain the present milk subsidy and I welcome also the payment of £1 on hogget ewes which will be much appreciated by sheep farmers. In my county in 1967 the hill sheep farmers made £28,000 from the mountain lamb subsidy scheme and last year they made £62,000. There is no doubt that this year with the £1 per hogget ewe they will increase their incomes greatly. In regard to education we know what the additional cost has been to the Government because of the free post-primary education scheme and the free transport scheme, and great credit is due to the Government for the manner in which these schemes were introduced and put into operation. In 1966, when these schemes were first announced. Opposition Members shook their heads and said they would not work and that the schools could not hold the increased number of the post-primary pupils. When the late Minister for Education, Deputy O'Malley, announced the free transport scheme many people shook their heads and said the scheme would not work and Opposition Members said that the money would not be available. However, both schemes are working well and we know how many additional children are now attending post-primary schools as a results of these schemes.
In the field of health we know how much extra money is being spent annually on the health services and in this year's Budget the amount provided for health is quite sizeable, even without allowing for any additional subsidies by the State towards the cost of the health services. We know quite well what the State is doing for smallholders, particularly in regard to unemployment assistance. Recently I was surprised to read that a Fine Gael candidate in my constituency described this scheme as a hand-out by the Government. This was not a very kind description of a very good scheme which was designed to help the smallholder and to ensure that, even though he would improve his holding, put an additional cow or two on it, reclaim his land and gain additional income, he would get assistance depending on his valuation alone regardless of his income from the holding. This remark was particularly surprising coming from a candidate in Kerry where a large proportion of the smallholders are living on holdings with valuations of £5 or under.
Despite all that has been said about housing we know how much additional money is being spent every year in this sphere and we are aware of the progress being made by local housing authorities. Provision for housing in this year's Budget shows a considerable increase over previous years. Earlier this evening a Fine Gael Deputy criticised the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Area Agreement on a number of grounds. I maintain that this agreement is a good one if for no other reason than that it has attracted a number of industries to the country which otherwise would not have come here. As a result of the agreement a major industry has been set up in Killarney within the past two years. Any director of this firm would tell you that they came here as a result of the agreement with Britain. The Taoiseach and the Minister for Finance were criticised by a Deputy for having quoted many statistics in their speeches, but the fact is that statistics are facts and cannot be disputed. If we can always quote facts, particularly as far as statistics are concerned, we are being honest with ourselves if nothing else. Under the Free Trade Area Agreement we will attract many small industries, as well as a number of major ones, within the next few years. In my constituency many inquiries have been made recently by industrialists from Britain and the Continent with a view to setting up industries there. I would say that many of these inquiries came as a direct result of the Free Trade Area Agreement.
The same Deputy to whom I have referred already criticised the Buchanan Report and compared it with the Fitzgerald Report in the field of health services, even though he said he had not studied these reports in any great detail. It was stated that certain counties would not gain anything as a result of the adoption of this report but there is no doubt that every area and district would benefit by the establishment of growth centres, whether they be major growth centres, secondary growth centres or otherwise, because nowadays it is common for people to commute back and forth for quite a distance between their homes and their place of employment. Any industry in a rural area which depends to some extent on female labour must be prepared to accept employees who live up to 15 or 20 miles away from their place of employment. If we study the Buchanan Report we will see that cognisance has been taken of the fact that industries must be established——
Already this evening the Chair has directed attention to the fact that on the Financial Resolution we cannot have a discussion on the Buchanan Report.
I am sorry. I was just replying to criticisms of the report made by other Deputies. I welcome all the provisions in the Budget for increasing benefits. I should like to refer particularly to the financial assistance being given to members of the Old IRA and the proposed ten per cent increase which they will get in their allowance as and from 1st August next. We owe a great debt to these men and women. We cannot do enough to assist them. I welcome particularly the assistance which has been provided for these people.
I welcome also the proposed increases for disabled persons. These people cannot provide for themselves. They are dependent on the State and on the local authority for assistance towards their upkeep and maintenance. I am glad these people will get a substantial increase from 1st August next.
The additional taxes which were levied in order to pay for the benefits granted in this Budget were well-apportioned. No one can say the increases affected the cost of living. Despite various increases in the cost of intoxicating liquor over the past few years, whether by way of additional taxation or otherwise, there has been no drop in consumption. Actually, consumption of intoxicating liquor is increasing. The same point applies to the tax on cigarettes and petrol.
In conclusion, I should like to thank the Minister for Finance for the manner in which he introduced this Budget. It has all the ingredients of a good Budget. Hundreds of thousands of people in this country will benefit from this Budget for years to come.
I should like to say to Members of the Fianna Fáil Party that Deputies on this side of the House have held the position of Opposition for many years. It is their duty, particularly at Budget time, to come here and criticise the Budget or any Bill brought into the House. We have Deputies who have fulfilled that duty since 1932 and we are very proud of them. They are here today waiting for a general election. They are prepared to take over where Fianna Fáil leaves off.
Somebody said that we on these benches were against the increases. We are not against increases which are given to social welfare recipients. We would like to see a bigger increase given to those people. There is a continuous rise in the cost of any goods being bought by our people. We feel the social welfare recipients are entitled to as generous an increase as our neighbours in Northers Ireland or in England. The cost of living is much the same in all these areas. It may be even higher here than in Northern Ireland or in England. We welcome the present increases and are anxious that greater increases should be given to these people. It has been shown in our social welfare policy that we feel those allowances should be increased substantially. I must say that the Budget did not measure up to our expectations.
The Minister is an expert at preparing the Budget; he is expert at preparing two Budgets in any one year. The Fianna Fáil Party may tell us that this is not an election Budget and that it is a Budget prepared by the Minister without any eye on the country or on the day of the general election. Neither the Minister not the Fianna Fáil Party are fooling anybody. One has only to go down the country and meet the people and ask them what they think of the Budget. The people will readily reply: "This is an election Budget. It is a soft Budget but we are likely to have another Budget in November." This opinion is not coming from the TDs or the country councillors. It is coming from the ordinary people. Fianna Fáil should realise that the people are accepting this Budget as an election Budget. After the election we hope that the members of our Party will be dealing with the next Budget. It is a pity that the Fianna Fáil Ministers cannot spare the time to go down the country occasionally, particularly when requested to do so. They would hear the views of the people and learn of their problems.
They could very easily hear of them if they attended a meeting of a county council or of a subsidiary committee. On many occasions those gentlemen are invited to come and hear grievances or details of some important problem that has to be dealt with in the county. They either refuse to attend or say they are unable to receive a deputation. In some cases they might consent to receive a deputation in Leinster House. It is a pity that Ministers could not spare the time to attend when invited. It is noticeable that if there is a Fianna Fáil Party meeting being held Ministers will arrive in good time. In the interests of the people, Ministers should start in the local areas where they would hear the views of the people and find out the true position.
In those counties where there is not good farming land emigration is very heavy. If Fianna Fáil do not come to the rescue very quickly it will be a case of a few farmers buying out the smallholders. When our Party get into power we will put in a Minister for Agriculture who will get down to work and who will start in those areas. The big farmers can look after themselves. Their farms are mechanised and they have sufficient capital. It is the small farmers with uneconomic holdings who need immediate assistance.
The only means of carrying out drainage are local improvement schemes and the arterial drainage scheme. These schemes are not sufficient to meet the needs of those parts of the country to which I have made special reference. A group of local people will not contribute to a drainage scheme which, first of all, is too expensive and, secondly, covers a very wide area. Some tributaries of rivers are causing dreadful damage by ruining crops.
I must remind the Deputy that details of administration are matters peculiar to Estimates and are not in order on the Financial Resolution.
I merely wanted to make that point to the Parliamentary Secretary who is in the House and I would like him to bear it in mind. There are intermediate schemes that should be dealt with through the Department.
Emphasis is laid on the revenue we derive from tourism. It is hoped that this year it will be around £100 million. We do not hear anything about the loss the country suffers through the emigration of 16,000 or 17,000 fine boys and girls every year. I would not be capable of calculating the loss that that represents but I can assure the Fianna Fáil Government that the loss to the country is far greater than the gain from tourism. Emigration is what leaves the roads in many rural areas without a soul to walk on them and leaves the little cottages without a soul to live in them. That is where Fianna Fáil made the mistake. Instead of starting in Dublin and advertising all the beauty spots that tourists could visit they should have started with the smallholder and the small cottier and employed every possible means to keep them on the land. I remember when there was employment on various schemes. Perhaps I am in danger of being out of order again?
The Deputy is going well.
The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is a gracious chairman.
I remember when employment was available in rural areas. At that time there were very few leaving these areas. The people on the small farms were quite satisfied when they got three months employment to supplement their income. That stopped because the work was mechanised and because the Minister for Local Government determined that in all areas the work should be equally economic. The result was that the employment opportunities were shattered. The smallholders could visualise no future for themselves in these areas and they left. When the change of Government takes place we will ask our Ministers to come down to rural Ireland and see for themselves and to start at the bottom and climb to the top rather than starting at the top and coming down from there.
As public representatives, we receive quite an amount of literature. A Deputy who is doing his job could not read one-half or one-third of the literature he receives dealing with the First Programme for Economic Development, the Second Programme, surveys, commissions that are to be set up, and so on. Actions speak louder than words. Action would be much better than all this literature that is issued to public representatives.
Some time ago the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries was speaking down the country and was reported as saying that it was difficult to be patient with those prophets of gloom who allege that there is no future for the west. This is a newspaper comment on that statement:
We share his view and opinion completely. We assert that there is a future, and a big future, for the west but that future must be guided by inspiring, visionary leadership and it is here the present Government have failed dismally.
Government spokesmen when speaking on the west invariably refer to what the Government intend to do but their actions never match their words.
Take Mr. Blaney's latest speech, for instance. He said there are various measures, constantly being improved and extended, to promote industry. But the promotion of industry is one thing; the establishment of industry to provide the necessary jobs in the west is quite another thing—and in this context we are quite naturally concerned with this county where work is so badly needed.
And what of the small farmer? Mr. Blaney was quoted as saying: "It is the Government's intention to ensure that an equitable share of total available support is directed towards the smaller farmer. The Government aims to help small farmers in several ways." Here you have an expression of Government "intention" and Government "aims," indicating concern with the nebulous future rather than with the cold hard realities of the present.
We receive all this literature that sometimes we have hardly time to open.
Is this out of one of these books? Is this not a Hume Street document?
It is a speech made by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries.
What the Deputy has just read?
The Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries would not make a speech criticising himself.
It is a comment on his speech. We are well used to such speeches being made by the Minister. While we are talking about these things, the people are going and the homes are closing.
Of course, Fine Gael policy is the 100-cow farm.
Oh, no—to look after the small farmer.
Has it been changed again?
It is to look after the small farmer and give him part-time employment to supplement his income and to keep him on the small farm. Nothing compensates for the loss of our people. It is all right to talk about £100 million from tourism but nothing compensates for the loss of our people, as the Parliamentary Secretary, who lives in a rural area, as I do, knows. I come from Leitrim which, I suppose, is one of the hardest-hit counties in Ireland today. That is really what we are hearing from Fianna Fáil and that is what is responsible for the position that exists in this country today.
We spent quite a considerable amount of money on the referendum: I do not think we got the total cost. Many people must have reflected on the great benefit it would have been to the country if the money spent on the referendum had been spent, instead, on housing or on some of those neglected small farms to which I have already referred. It is really depressing to think of young married couples and their children living on £10 or £14 a week and having to pay £3 rent out of that small wage. For people living in depressed conditions on small-holdings the position is equally grim. We must bear in mind that they are the people of tomorrow and that their children will be the next generation.
We should concentrate on providing homes for our people before providing fancy hotels with swimming-pools and every amenity one can think of to attract people who will come to stay in them only for short periods. People living on low and very low incomes are harassed. The woman of the house is really desperate. She may have a few small children. The whole family may be packed into one or two rooms. As often as five times a year the same people approach their public representative in the hope of getting a house in some housing scheme or other but all the public representative can say is that he will make the recommendation but cannot promise that they will get a house. By the time a house becomes available for them, many of these people have cleared off to England and it is sad to see this happening.
We see great hotels springing up in our country. Some of the GSR hotels are closed because they are not equal to the demands of some people who come here for three weeks or a month and then are gone after having a fine time. By all means, let us do everything possible to advance our tourism but let us not do it at the expense of the well-being of our own people. I do not wish to belittle the tourist industry in any way but the other side of the picture is a worse side.
I come now to the social welfare increases. By reasons of the present high cost of living and taxation in general, a section of our people are living on very scanty allowances and the social welfare increases will not give them much extra. I have in mind now ex-Army men who came out pretty early; ex-gardaí; ex-CIE men, ex-teachers; ex-post office officials and many other retired people. Some of them helped in 1922 to build up this State. Perhaps, at that stage, they were reasonably advanced and, therefore, they were the first to have to retire. They came out before the increases started to move up and before those groups of people became organised.
I am not satisfied with the increases: I hope that whoever is in power the next time will consider those people —not forgetting, by any means, the Old IRA men, many of whom should have been given an allowance but failed to qualify. I made representations here on behalf of some men whom I genuinely regarded as deserving cases. They supported Fianna Fáil all through their lives and had a good national record. It is unfair that some of them failed to qualify.
I have before me now the name of a person who gave up to 33 years service to CIE. In addition to the old age pension which, in any event, he would receive, he is getting a pension of £1 7s 6d from CIE. If a person stood with his back to the wall of any post office or at any corner in any town, he would get the old age pension at a certain age but here, from CIE, the person I speak of was getting only £1 7s 6d. That certainly is something that should be remedied. Discontent still prevails throughout the country in regard to land division.
I think the Chair already asked the Deputy not to go into detail.
Is that not something that could be applied generally to the whole Twenty-six Counties?
On the General Resolution, the debate is confined more or less to the matters contained in it.
While increases have been given in children's allowances and are intended to benefit, in particular, the less affluent sections of our community, nevertheless, because of steep increases in charges for electricity, the telephone service, postage, beer, cigarettes and the ordinary commodities necessary for the running of the home, the increased social welfare benefits will very much be offset by the extra expenditure involved in the increase in the cost of living. In the long run, any social welfare increases will be offset by increased taxation, direct or indirect. The old age pensioner might be inclined to take an extra "half one" but he will soon find out that the extra 10/- he is to get from a certain date will not be able to meet it.
I can well understand why Fianna Fáil have had to increase taxation. Very many places in country districts are closing down with the result that a greater share of the financial burden must be borne by the reduced number of people there. Schools are closing: teachers are leaving the district. Railway stations in certain areas are closed down resulting in the disappearance of people who must find employment elsewhere. The local revenue has to be provided by the people remaining in the area and the burden falls the heavier, therefore, on their shoulders.
Deputy McLaughlin spoke about increased taxation. We cannot give increased benefits unless we increase taxation. The only money a Government has is the money obtained through taxation. Fianna Fáil have always been anxious that the weaker sections of our community would be looked after. This Government have acted with that objective uppermost in mind. I was pleased to see Fine Gael and Labour supporting us in this increased taxation, out of which we are giving £12½ million extra to the weaker sections, the people in most need of it. Being a national Party, we are concerned with all sections, irrespective of class or creed, a fact I have repeated in the House during the years.
The economy of the nation was never more buoyant and if there is anything to exemplify this it was provided when a company went public a short time ago and the shares were bought up within three hours. English financiers wanted to buy them. That is one of the many tributes we have received.
That happens to every new company.
I saw the time when that was not the case.
Two hundred years ago.
British financial journals have referred to this as a miraculous country, a wonder country. That is a tribute to the Minister for Finance and the Government who are responsible for the housekeeping of the nation. There is no short cut to prosperity. It comes from producing as much as we can of what we need at home and from exporting the surplus. Behind the Iron Curtain they are trying to do this. I remember when our economy was so low that we had not any purchasing power. We had not even credit to fall back on. Within ten years our production has increased by an annual average of four per cent. Our wealth has increased and that is a great tribute to the initiative of our manufacturers, to the export companies responsible for increasing the range of our exports. I hope that will continue.
The Taoiseach said our industrial production had kept pace with our agricultural production. That is the way all of us here want it. I heard a Deputy speaking of our tourist industry. I should like to see that industry extended to the rural homes of Ireland so that our people in their cottages could benefit by it and at the same time contribute to the national economy. When I came into the House the proceeds of tourism amounted to less than £1 million annually. Today it is more than £90 million and we are only on the road up. The potentialities are wonderful. I remember when tourism was jeered at, when it was said that our hotels were white elephants, that we were looking after foreigners.
We were criticised because we had £400 million in external assets in England after the last war. It was said we should bring it home and build houses for our people with it. All that nonsense went on among people not now in the House and because they are not here I will not deal with it.
As I have said, in this Budget we have tried to help every section. I will not go into details but should like to say in general terms that we are helping the people who are trying to live on small incomes. We have succeeded in helping the farmers to the extent of more than £80 million, about £30 million of which is in the form of milk subsidies. We know how difficult it is to export agricultural produce and how we have to subsidise it to keep our balance of payments correct and to try to maintain employment on the land. We have been carrying out national drainage schemes and we have been providing water supply schemes to help our people. We have helped them also with reconstruction grants to improve existing dwellings as well as to build new ones. This year we have spent a considerable amount of money on housing. It has been reported that during the year we succeeded in building more than 13,000 houses. A lot of them have been built by private enterprise.
Most of them.
That is true, I believe. Only one-third have been built by local authorities in Dublin and throughout the country.
More is the pity.
In that way we have been trying to improve the lot of our people. The new education scheme has been costing the country a lot but it will pay in the long run. We have provided free secondary education, free transport to schools and free university education. These are big advances. They are the things that matter to a country. Members of the Opposition spoke in another place and referred to us as a Government and a Party concerned only with the rich man. If we are concerned with the rich man why do we give increases to the weaker sections? The Irish Independent paid the Minister for Finance the greatest tribute that could be paid to him when they described this as a Robin Hood Budget, a Budget which robbed the rich to feed the poor. That has been our policy all the time and it will be continued. As a Party we have always been concerned to build up the economy. We gave increases and grants and loans only to the extent that the country could afford to give. Bear in mind that we got no money from any other country. We were not like Israel and other small countries starting off that got large sums of money from their own people all over the world. We had to depend completely on our own resources. Britain is in economic difficulties. I will not cheer because there is anything wrong in Britain. I would prefer to see her a wealthy country. It would be better for us. I am only dealing with the plain economic facts. I believe that Britain has been living in Empire status for the last 15 years and cannot afford to continue. What we have succeeded in doing is against even the prophecy of Lloyd George when he said, behind the backs of our plenipotentiaries, that they had given us the agricultural south and that we would never be able to carry on economically. It is a great tribute to our people that we have succeeded so far and I should like to see the youth of our country realising that this is their country.
I am sorry to have to mention this but I was very shocked yesterday to read about intelligent boys interrupting the Taoiseach and the Minister for Local Government when they were addressing the representatives of 25 countries. They were educated men, a number of them university students, and it was a pity to see this. If they believed in free speech, surely the Taoiseach and a Minister of a country had the right to address those people and if they wanted to address them afterwards outside or any other place they could do so. They tried to misrepresent the facts. I cannot understand what they want to do. Do they want to destroy the good name of this country? They are educated and there is no excuse for them. I was really shocked yesterday as a member of Dublin County Council to see that upset at that international planning and housing conference.
I thought the Deputy was going to say Dublin Corporation.
I am only referring to that in general terms. Our young people should take a greater pride in their own country and realise the great strides their forefathers of all Parties, members of different Governments, have made to bring them the freedom and the economic prosperity we enjoy in this country at present. Our economic growth has been phenomenal. It has been spoken of in many countries and considering that we were so far behind in the industrial field before 1932, when we were just suppliers of cattle, horses, pigs and fuel to Britain, we have made great advances. I hope this will continue. I hope our growth rate will continue and that our people will get better off as time goes on.
If the Opposition have a better economic policy than Fianna Fáil they should put it to the people instead of a policy of criticism. It is easy enough to criticise but destructive criticism is no use. If they have a better policy they should put it to the people instead of criticising and misrepresenting. The cold facts are that this country is going well under Fianna Fáil, will continue to go well and I hope the people of Ireland will realise that. I am sure the intelligent people of Ireland will realise that it is in the interests of themselves and their children and the country to return Fianna Fáil to power.
Many Fianna Fáil Ministers and Deputies have posed the question as to why the Opposition did not vote against the taxes imposed in the Budget. I can only speak for the Labour Party. Our reason for not voting against the taxes was because we realised that the main part of the revenue secured from taxation was being distributed in the main to the working-class people, to the social welfare group by the increases in old age pensions, contributory and non-contributory, widows' and orphans' and unemployment assistance and also to the average working man by reason of the fact that children's allowances were increased. It is not a new thing for the Labour Party to support legislation imposing taxation to secure these ends. I remember being detailed by a Labour Party group here 15 years ago to make that proposal and to pledge the support of the Labour Party to the Government should they decide to impose taxation on items such as drink, tobacco and petrol, which are not absolutely essential for the livelihood of the people. We support taxes provided that, in the main, the money goes to the poorer sections of the community.
This is a difficult Budget for a Labour man to criticise because in the main I agree with the way the money has been distributed. It was for that reason, I am quite sure, the Labour Party decided to support the taxation and to let the taxation pass. However, would this sudden conversion to this devotion of the money raised by taxation to the social welfare group and to the working class be because a general election is due to take place within the next eight months at the outside?
Would it be because of the referendum last year in which the Government were defeated overwhelmingly or would it be because of the local elections in which, in the urban areas, the Labour Party had amazing gains? Would it be because of any of these things or because of a combination of all three that a Fianna Fáil Minister suddenly decided that the lower-paid group needed this help? Whatever the reason I am happy that it happened and glad to support, as a Labour man, the Government and to applaud the Minister for doing it. However, I cannot but have my suspicions as to the reason why it was done. There is one thing that surprised me.
In the Minister's speech on Budget day he mentioned that this was the best year of economic progress in the history of this country. That is quite true perhaps. He said that industrial production had increased by 11 per cent, and agricultural production by six per cent and had offset, practically he said, the wage increase which was granted during that period. He also said that employment in industry offset the loss that normally comes from a loss of employment on the land. He said that emigration did not increase, if it did not decrease. He said it was the best tourist year this country ever had.
He said all those things on Budget day in May but, on 18th March, I think it was, he spoke as if this country were on the verge of disaster. He appealed to the workers not to press any claims beyond certain limited amounts. Why did the Minister do this? Why did the ministerial group cut their salaries? Did they believe the country was doomed? Were they fooled by the speech of the Minister for Finance, or was it all part of a game? Was it part of a game to make the workers forgo their rights—rights which they have because they increased production. Because of that increased production they are entitled to be repaid in the form of increased wages?
The Minister was too intelligent to be fooled. I am quite sure the Minister was as well aware of the financial position of the country on 18th March as he was six weeks later. I am sure he was well aware that this was the best year of economic progress in the history of the country, that production had gone up in industry by 11 per cent and in agriculture by six per cent, and that it was the best tourist season we ever had. He was aware of all those things. Nevertheless he and the other Ministers, apparently in a conspiracy, desired to spread gloom among the workers so that following the maintenance strike the rest of the workers would not be tempted to demand their rights.
I am afraid that type of action does not lead the workers to have confidence in pronouncements made by Ministers. I am afraid that when an appeal is again made it will be like the boy crying: "Wolf, wolf." The trade unionists may feel they are again about to be fooled by a cry of distress and an appeal to them in the interests of the nation to withhold their just claims. Ministers should not try tactics of that sort. They certainly do not inspire confidence amongst the trade unions.
I am surprised at the Minister trying to persuade himself and the nation that the Anglo-Irish Free Trade Agreement is working successfully. I do not know how he could make such a claim in view of the fact that the other party to the agreement, Great Britain—in distress, it is true—decided to ignore the agreement and demand that levies should be put on goods imported into Great Britain for such time as they saw fit, causing us, the Government and the people, to have to call upon the banks to put up a substantial amount of money to pay that deposit so that we could carry on our trade with Great Britain. This seems to me to be a very one-sided trade agreement. The demand for an embargo on our cheese exports to Great Britain does not strike me as being like two gentlemen keeping their side of a bargain.
It appears to me that if we continue to reduce our tariffs by ten per cent each half year, in a very short time British industrialists will be free to export to this country while apparently feeling free, if at any time in their own interests they desire to change the agreement, to impose levies or quotas or demands on us which we, apparently, are afraid to impose on them. If this wonderful trade agreement, which the Labour Party opposed, is working so well, why is there all this stress on alternative markets? Why are we urging our exporters to go to the Continent of Europe and the Continent of Africa to seek alternative markets? I know it is a wise precaution not to have all your eggs in one basket. If we have made this agreement with Britain, surely all our surplus could be taken by Great Britain, because it is a well-known fact that we could not supply all the needs of the British market even if we were given the preferential treatment which the Minister seems to imply is awaiting us there.
While I laud the Minister for the increase of 10/- a week and the other increases for the different social welfare groups, I should like to know will this be followed by an increase in the contributions and, if so, how much is that increase likely to be. At the moment the contribution from an ordinary worker is something over 10/-. Will that be increased by another 2/6d? In other words, as well as contributing by way of taxation, will the ordinary worker be expected to contribute something per week in addition to his present social welfare contribution? If that is so, the increase proposed to be granted by the Minister next August will be carried mainly on the shoulders of the working class people. If their contribution is big, it will be a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul.
All of us want to see the lower paid workers brought up to a better standard of living so that they will have a decent livelihood. We still feel there must be other sources to tap as well as tapping the general worker in these various ways. If he is single at the moment, above £6 10s he is assessed for income tax. He pays his contribution to the social welfare fund. He pays turnover tax and he pays indirect taxation which is the main source of revenue in this country. Indeed, he pays more than his fair share of indirect taxation because he is not taxed in proportion to his means. He is taxed on the amount of food or luxuries, smokes or drinks, which he consumes. Very often it is the working man who contributes in the main to the taxation on liquor.
Recently in a broadcast a Minister said that the trade unions had made an agreement that they would forgo any demands for a wage increase as long as the wages of the lower paid income group were brought up. It is true that the Trade Union Congress have demanded, and are looking for, a general increase for the lower paid workers and have agreed not to press a demand for the higher paid workers until such time as the existing agreements have run out but, at no time, I think, has the congress president, or any responsible person in the trade unions, made any promise that the trade unions would not demand their just share of any increase in productivity to which their increased work would entitle them.
There is one factor of which I should like the Parliamentary Secretary to take note for the Minister, and this is because of something that happened last Saturday evening when I visited part of my constituency to attend a meeting. At that meeting there was produced a document purporting to be issued by a health authority in which it was stated that, in view of the fact that social welfare benefits, disablement benefit in this case, would be increased as from next August, the infectious disease allowance would be correspondingly reduced. I would ask if a health authority may issue such a document to a sickness benefit recipient who is suffering from tuberculosis or some other infectious disease, that the amount of money he would get from the local authority would be correspondingly reduced to make up for the increase he would get under this benefit. If that is so, it is disgraceful. I do not believe the Minister intends it to be so, and he should take steps to see that any increase granted under the present Budget, be it in an old age pension or in other social welfare benefits, will not be negatived by a corresponding reduction of any amount of money from an infectious disease allowance or home assistance allowance given by the local authorities. If that were allowed it would be purely a question of robbing Peter to pay Paul. If this increase is given with the idea of uplifting the status of the poor person and it is cut on the other side by the local authority there will be no gain at all, and if the cut by the local authority is substantially more than the increase in benefit, his last state will be worse than his first.
I regret to note—I made this point last year also—that income tax will again be levied on the overtime and bonus earnings of workers. This is the direct opposite to an incentive. The worker is willing to pay tax on his basic wage but if he is asked by an employer to make a better effort and if of his own free will he does so and earns £1 or £2 a week extra, it is a non-incentive to tax that as well as the basic rate. We have attempted to encourage our workers to enter into agreements so that there will be greater productivity, and it is a mistake to take that back in the form of income tax.
Not only will workers pay income tax on these earnings but as many of them live in a municipal dwelling under a differential rent scheme, the local authority will also take notice of that increase in bonus and overtime earnings. In order that a revision of rent can be brought into effect the worker must get from his employer a complete list of his earnings in the year and the county manager or his officials will increase the rent in correspondence with his earnings. Therefore he has to pay on his earnings income tax and an increased rent, and he also pays turnover tax. It is no inducement to a worker who increases productivity to expect him to give back from his earnings 7/- in the £ to the State and possibly to pay an increase in rent of £1 a week, and this is something that any Minister desiring to see increased production and to get the co-operation of the workers should certainly examine.
Deputies here are well aware of the furore which was created at the time Deputies' and Ministers' salaries were increased. Those of us who have given service in this House realised how obviously necessary it was to maintain fairly the status of a Deputy. Over the many years we have been here no attempt was made to improve the allowances of Deputies and Senators and, indeed, of Ministers. When, consequently, the Minister saw fit, at the request of all Parties in this House, to make an adjustment of salary there was a furore in the country; in fact it led to some trade union demands that might not have been started so early.
The reason I raise this matter is that I want to make a plea and a suggestion that the allowances of Members of the Oireachtas should correspond with the position of, say, a senior civil servant or of a judge of this country, so that we would not have the unhappy experience of being accused of voting for ourselves something we were not prepared to grant to other people. This was a very keen source of embarrassment to many Deputies that that accusation could be made without our being able to repudiate it. I am quite satisfied that the allowances paid to Ministers, Deputies and Senators are well and truly earned, and that the people who criticise them have very little knowledge of the expense and the hard work that has to be put into a lifetime here such as some of us have gone through. If the Minister for Finance could see his way to deal with this question for future Dála, it would save many a Deputy an amount of embarrassment to which those of us who have been through it would not like to return.
I was interested in the allocation of £100,000 for the promotion of art. I have no great experience of the promotion of art, drama or other cultural activities beyond paintings that an ordinary person can enjoy, paintings that are not too futuristic, good music and so on. As well as the encouragement of art and perhaps before that encouragement was given, encouragement should have been given in a much greater way to another type of culture, physical culture, that is, athletics. It was deplorable during the Games in Mexico to see our athletes in all branches of sport endeavouring to compete against practically professional athletes from all over the world. I believe we have here material as good as material anywhere else in the world provided enough money is available to give our athletes the kind of training they should have in order that they may have some opportunity of holding their own in competition with athletes from other countries. The Minister has indicated that this provision will come in time. I believe that, instead of this allocation of £100,000 for the Arts, there should be an allocation for athletics. There is no trouble in the case of the big ball games with attendances of up to 100,000 people; they are well able to cater for their own needs. Neither do I make any appeal for soccer or for the GAA. My appeal is on behalf of those who run the athletic clubs and who, in doing so, try to keep the name of Ireland in the forefront of athletics.
With regard to the promotion of the language, all of us would be proud to have a good speaking knowledge of Irish. None of us desires to see the language hindered in any way, but pouring money into the teaching of Irish and into the promotion of Irish literature is very little use unless the people in the Gaeltacht areas—I am thinking in particular now of my own Gaeltacht area of Ring—have worthwhile employment. There is not a single industry in the whole Gaeltacht area in my part of Munster. There were two fishing boats; one has gone and the other is practically useless. There is no factory. The only future before those leaving school is migration to Dungarvan or emigration cross-Channel. Whether they go to Dungarvan or cross-Channel Irish is of very little use to them. The way in which to keep the language alive is by providing the people in the Gaeltacht with employment, employment which will enable them to marry and rear families secure in the knowledge that their families, in turn, will have employment to enable them to marry and rear families, thereby not only preserving the Gaeltacht but broadening it out.
If ever a Budget was conceived in dishonesty, then this is it. If anybody had any doubt then that doubt was dispelled when we found the most discredited Minister of a discredited Government rushing into print two or three days afterwards in the way in which the Minister for Education rushed into print; we knew then that the Budget was a fake. This Budget was brought in by the Minister a couple of weeks ago, a very short time after he went on the air on 18th March. In his speech that night he made two points—one dealt with the future policy of the Government in relation to incomes as a whole—he has endeavoured to explain what he meant in that respect—and the other dealt with the actual outturn of financial receipts into the Exchequer and issues out of the Exchequer in the financial year we have just commenced. I have a great respect for the ability of Deputy Haughey, Minister for Finance, to understand figures and to turn them as he wishes. Yet, the Minister for Finance went on the air that night and said— I am quoting from his speech as reported in the Irish Times of 19th March—
The bills we are facing in paying for——
and here he itemised a variety of things——
exceed our capacity to pay. To frame a Budget to meet this situation is clearly going to be a formidable task anyway. There will have to be increases in taxation with small, if any, increases in benefits for those who normally would expect them.
What happened? Within a matter of a few weeks we have a statutory constitutional issue of receipts and expenditure issued by the Minister for Finance four days before the Budget, in accordance with the constitutional provision in that respect, and we find that the statement made by the very man who issues these under the Constitution was flatly untrue. Instead of there being an excess of expenditure, as he indicated there would be, there was, in fact, an excess of revenue. Instead of his as he had suggested, having to impose additional taxation for the expenditure provided, he had, in fact, more than enough to meet that expenditure without stirring from his seat and, if he had taken what he considered to be in other years the normal adjustment for errors of estimation, he would have had quite a substantial amount more.
There are only two possible explanations: either the Minister was incompetent in making the public estimate that he made on 18th March or he was deliberately dishonest in telling what was untrue to the people. I will not judge between those two because, were I to do so, I should be very quickly pulled up by the Chair in conformity with the appropriate rules of order. But there is no other explanation. Nothing happened in relation to revenue receipts or expenditure issues, as projected, between 19th March and the date of the Budget. Yet, within that period, there was a complete turn around in the Minister's prognostications. As I say, nothing happened that could explain his volte face. But something else happened and I am still very considerably puzzled by it. There must be some explanation for it and, when we get over to that side of the House immediately after the general election, we will find out and expose it to the people.
If we look at the Exchequer returns between 1st April and 2nd May and compare them with the Exchequer returns for the same period last year we find the most extraordinary position. We find that position notwithstanding the fact that there was in both periods exactly the same number of Fridays because, if there are a different number of pay days as between one year and another over a short period of time, it is possible to get a distortion which prevents a true comparison. This year, in the first month of the financial year, the increase in Exchequer receipts was something over £7 million. That would mean that in a full year there would be an increase of something in the order of £84 million. We all know, of course, that taking the normal buoyancy of revenue the increase is only about half that, £42 million.
Now where did that increase come from? It came from a phenomenal increase in Post Office revenue. I know the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs has been since January last bleeding the public, but not all the bleeding he has been able to do could possibly account for the fact that in one single month £1,300,000 extra came in in Post Office revenue. We have had an increase in excise revenue and an increase in customs revenue. The increase in excise revenue is of more or less the same proportions and I am quite certain that this increase of £7 million, double the increase there should be in the first month of this year, is an increase that has to be taken into account and coupled with the excessive deficit on the Budget for last year.
When we consider the following week—and those two weeks are the only ones available to us—we find in respect of revenue that the same pattern is there and that the difference has not, so to speak, been caught up as it might have been if there was a change in pay days in the way that I have indicated. However, let us move from that to issues. We find an extraordinary situation in the first month from the 1st April, 1969, to the 2nd May, 1969. This year, when the Minister for Finance was complaining bitterly and vehemently about the appalling increase in Government expenditure, we find that issues for the current year in the period from the 1st April to the 2nd May as compared with the 1st April, 1968 to the 3rd May, 1968, are £800,000 down.
When we look at the figure for the following week up to the 9th May, we find that the expenditure this year is still less than the expenditure for the comparative period last year. When we go back and compare that with the prognostication that there was of a deficit on current account for last year, that there would be a deficit of £7 million, we find that the estimated deficit was primarily a little more than £7 million but what was the deficit on last year's outturn? It was, in fact, £8,400,000, £1½ million more than was estimated. Here we have a deficit for last year of £1½ million more than estimated receipts in the first part of this year.
Is it not clear that what the Minister for Finance did was that he paid out everything he possibly could before the 31st March to ensure that it would be down the Swanee River for his deficit of last year. He held back revenue to ensure that it would come into this year and that the estimate and the prognostication that he gave on the 19th March were true but between then and the date of the Budget he had switched around these figures so that we got in this year which, according to the Taoiseach, happens by chance to be an election year, a more favourable figure by a few million pounds.
When one analyses these figures, one realises that either the Minister for Finance on the 19th March was telling a deliberate untruth to the country and did not know his job or, else, the figures he gave at that time were the correct figures but that they were switched before the date of the Budget because this happened to be an election year.
I am surprised that the Deputy is basing the whole financial future on a two weeks report.
If the Parliamentary Secretary is not able to tell the differance between two weeks and a month, it is no wonder that the finances of this country are in such poor shape. I know enough about those figures that are returned every week to analyse them and to know when they are wrong and when there has been a scoop of the sort that I mention and the scoop that is borne out by the Minister for Finance's own figures. In the light of that, it was inevitable that the Minister for Education had to come along and as he usually does, blunder into an attempt to try to save one of his friends. This all came after a Supplementary Budget of 5th November last. One day last year, the Taoiseach realised that the country was facing a serious and heavy imbalance of payments of the order of about £50 million. He realised that the Government would have to do something about it because an imbalance of payments of that order was one which no responsible Government could ever possibly avoid. The Taoiseach, realising that, brought in the maxi-mini-Budget of the 5th November last. Why did the Taoiseach wake up on the 5th November?
What exactly had happened in the days, the weeks and the months prior to that to build up into this appalling situation which the Taoiseach announced on that day? In case the Parliamentary Secretary does not remember, the Taoiseach's speech can be found in Vol. 236, No. 12, of the Dáil Debates. Did the Taoiseach in his speech that day give any indication whatever of any events that had taken place in the weeks immediately beforehand which made it necessary for the Government to act then? Did he, in fact, make any effort to defend the fact that the Government had allowed the situation to drift? Of course, he did not but we all knew what had happened. It was clear to everybody, clear to the Central Bank, clear to the Associated Banks and clear to every economic writer months beforehand that it would not have suited the Government while the Minister for Local Government was on his mad rampage, to bring in that Supplementary Budget at the time when it should have been brought in and when, if it had been brought in, would not have allowed a serious situation to develop.
According to the Taoiseach's prognostications at the time, even with extra taxation there would still be a deficit of £7 million. What was happening then was what has been happening with this Government for the past ten years and particularly during the past 12 months. They have been dithering, unable to decide anything and when they do decide they change their mind the next day. One Minister is going one way and the other another way. Ultimately, the Taoiseach realised that he could not let the situation drift any further and when the referendum was over, although he was still suffering from the body blow that Fianna Fáil is still suffering from, he decided that they might as well get all the bad news over at once. That is what he thought. Of course, it is not what he thought that really matters. It is what effect it had on the country. If the appropriate action had been taken at the appropriate time, then there would not have had to be as serious action as was taken at that time. Yet, even though that serious action was taken, the Taoiseach failed miserably to rectify the situation he set out to rectify.
This Government were always prepared, almost by accident just before an election, to come in with a nice, mild Budget, giving benefits, and after the election was over, or the referendum—I make the Parliamentary Secretary a present of the difference between one and the other—to come along with the body blow. With that record, the Minister for Education felt he had to get up and make some effort to deny there was going to be another Budget in the autumn.
The Deputy has just proved him right.
I have heard this Minister for Finance say, and say correctly, that it was clearly the job of a Minister for Finance to watch carefully all through the year the economic progress or disimprovement of the country and to take the appropriate action in respect of that at any time during the year that it became necessary either to have restriction or to inject into the economic frame-work——
The Deputy's own figures are not correct.
Unfortunately, the Parliamentary Secretary cannot have it both ways.
Those figures will be used against him.
The Minister cannot say he is going to do that and, at the same time, say with the adverse trade balance still rising, as I will show in a minute, he will not take any action after the election is over.
The Deputy is proving there is no need for an autumn Budget. It is in contradiction of his colleagues.
My colleagues understand figures better than the Parliamentary Secretary. If the Parliamentary Secretary would explain to the House why he showed £1,300,000 extra in April this year over last year from the Post Office, I will willingly give way to allow him to give that explanation. If he is not prepared to do so, then he should keep quiet about figures he does not understand. If he is prepared to give that explanation I would be perfectly happy to give way to him.
This will be given. We set out to get extra money.
I am perfectly happy to give way to the Parliamentary Secretary. Even with all the efforts that are being made to bleed people through the Post Office there was not that much money in one particular month.
The Post Office is being run really well.
For Fianna Fáil supporters.
Of course, the situation is this. No Minister for Finance who is conscientious in relation to his job could ever at any time give any guarantee at this time of the year what he was going to have to do or not have to do in the fall of the year. When we hear the Minister for Education saying categorically there will not be any other action needed then we can only assume that this Government realise the manner in which they are leaving themselves open to criticism and that, in fact, the Budget being brought in this way at this time was purely for election purposes. If that is not so I invite the Parliamentary Secretary to let the Minister for Finance explain to the House and to the people how it was—the Parliamentary Secretary is leaving. He is going to get the Post Office figures. I admit the poor Parliamentary Secretary does not know what is happening in the Post Office.
That is what happened to the Deputy in 1957. He could not get money and he ran out.
Go and get the figures.
The Deputy is mixed up with his figures.
The Parliamentary Secretary can get all the technical advice he wants but he will still find at the end the figures I gave. They are the correct figures, except in one case in which it is most unlikely that the Revenue Commissioners have not told the truth. I am satisfied they have. Let us go back to November. We will look forward to the figures with joy.
What happened last November? What happened to cause the change in that pattern? Of course, the only thing which happened was 250,000 people disowned Fianna Fáil. When the steps were being taken then they were taken in an atmosphere in which the Taoiseach said that it was essential to take them if we were not going to run a deficit of over £50 million a year in our balance of payments. The extraordinary thing about it is this. Notwithstanding the steps the Taoiseach then took, because they had left it too late, because they had not moved in time in view of the referendum, we are still running at exactly the figure he said.
The figures published in the last few days show that our balance of payments has not at all reacted to the medicine the Taoiseach, in the unfortunate absence of the Minister for Finance, had to administer in November last. Of course, I feel rather sorry for the poor Taoiseach in relation to financial matters. We have not yet forgotten, and never will forget, his wonderful opening statement in one Budget when he had a deficit of £8 million in the previous year and he said: "What went wrong?" If the Minister for Finance, as he then was, knew what was happening in the economy he should have been able to answer that instead of asking the Opposition to answer it for him.
Now we have another Budget. Let us look at it in its detail and in its pattern. The Budget, first of all, is one in which certain benefits have been given by the Minister for Finance. These benefits have to be given out of taxation. I really enjoyed the conversion I witnessed this evening of Deputy Paddy Burke when he said, in contradiction of everything he said down through the years, that the Minister for Finance could only give benefits out of taxation. When I was over there I can remember him saying that the benefits had to come out of nothing.
The benefits in relation to children's allowances, for example, are extremely welcome but nobody need imagine that these allowances now are not away behind the children's allowances payable by our neighbours, even our nearest neighbour, the United Kingdom, or our neighbours in the Common Market countries. Italy has approximately the same per capita national income as Ireland and in Italy the monthly children's allowance is 65/4d. Belgium has a higher national income than ours but the first child in Belgium gets 80/- a month and the allowance rises up to 167/6d per month. In France, the first child gets 99/8d and it rises to 170/8d per month. In Germany the allowance goes up to 125/- a month; I have not got the figure for the first child in Germany. In Luxembourg for the first child the allowance is 70/9d and the highest rate is 124/2d. All these are monthly figures. In the Netherlands the figure is 59/6d for the first child and the highest rate is 112/10d. In the United Kingdom the highest rate is 43/4d while ours is now 40/- but it is still only 10/- for the first child.
While the increase which has been given is undoubtedly welcome, there is no use the Government pretending that we are anywhere near the rates our would be colleagues in the Common Market are dealing with. We rightly pride ourselves that our life here is built on the family but is it not a fact that these figures show we are not as good as, but that, in fact, we are a long way behind, what is made available in other countries? The tragic thing about all this is that if these steps, even to improve these, had been taken at the right time we might have avoided some of the difficulties arising from the maintenance strike to which the Taoiseach referred. If I may digress for a moment, I was very struck, when listening to him, to hear him talk about all the damage which was supposed to have been done by that strike. I was very struck to think back over that period when everybody was asking, not about what damage the maintenance strike was doing, but whether we had a Government at all. The Government were not in any way giving a lead to the men or to the employers and were leaving it entirely to Mr. James Dunne, President of Congress, to make any effort to show in which way public opinion should be channelled. The Taoiseach, during the whole of that long period, never once faced up to his responsibilities and never once indicated a Government view as distinct from the view expressed at the time by the Minister for Labour, Deputy Dr. Hillery. It would have been more appropriate for the Taoiseach to have taken some proper step at that stage rather than come in now and moan about the damage done to the economy by the strike.
We have had too some small benefits here and there through the Budget Resolutions. Something was given, as if it was a great thing, in relation to the artificial value of land for death duty purposes. It was, of course, Deputy Dillon's father who wrung that concession originally out of the British Chancellor, that Irish land would be valued at 25 times the poor law valuation rather than at the market value for death duty purposes. The artificial value at that time was a concession that was worthwhile because the way that concession works is that you take 25 times the poor law valuation of the land, deduct, if you like, any mortgage there may be on it, such as the redemption value of a land purchase annuity, and add to that figure the value of all other stock on the land and then if the whole of that total, the artificial value plus the value of stock and furniture, did not exceed £1,000— now it does not exceed £2,000—the artificial value is the one that operates. Of course, we all know that in these days 20 cows, and that is not a very big stock, amount to more than £1,000. I am thinking now of the manner in which they are usually valued for death duty purposes which is not quite the same as other values. If you take the amount at which 20 cows would be valued and if you take the addition of the value of the furniture in the farmer's house and if you take 25 times his poor law valuation, you will be a long way over the £2,000 in no time. Of course, this is a complete mirage and it is not going to do any real good for the farmer. It will, of course, be a benefit in cases where there should not be any death duties payable at all because it may save a little trouble, but only trouble to the extent that the small case, up to £5,000 in market value, is not taxable anyway. For the Minister for Finance to suggest that this was a very great and desirable innovation, to increase the artificial value in this way, is nonsense.
The appropriate way to have dealt with this would have been to extend the tax-free limit from £5,000 to £10,000 and make a proper scaling after that or, alternatively, to extend the provisions of section 12 of the Finance Act, 1956, which I introduced, to cover the value of land as well as the value of Irish industrial securities. This would have been something really worthwhile. Under that provision Irish public industrial securities are only valued at two-thirds of their market value. That would have been something worthwhile and it would have been effective right along the scale.
We are now in a situation in which we are complaining all the time that the small farms in Ireland are starved of capital. People are trying to pump capital into them but the moment the father of a family dies the extra capital pumped in has to be taken out again because of the death duties payable. It just does not make sense. Apart from that, how many of us have seen in rural Ireland where family businesses have been virtually forced to fold up, and certainly to stop any measure of progression, by the death of a principal man in it or of one of the principals in the business? The family business is an important part of a person's assets, not alone for the sake of the family but because of the employment it gives and the place it has in our society, particularly in our smaller towns. I feel that the same extension of only two-thirds of the value being taken into account should have been given to the family business by the extension of section 21 of the Finance Act.
The Minister made some small concessions in relation to stamp duty. The people welcome these concessions. The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Local Government knows of many cases in Wicklow, as in Kildare, of cottages being vested. Thank God they are vested cottages because people should be encouraged to own their own homes. Yet, in such cases if a father wants to hand the cottage over to his son there is a substantial stamp duty payable in respect of the transfer, particularly as the value of these cottages has increased. There is a worse aspect than that to be considered. Under the Housing Act, 1966, if a cottage is sold the county council takes one-third of the price realised. Even though the county council takes one-third of the price realised the stamp duty has to be paid on the full price and not on the two-thirds passing from the purchaser to the vendor. A concession which would have been very welcome in this Budget would have been to ensure an easy and cheap method of transfer without any stamp duty, Land Registry fees or probate fees. A person would then be enabled to take over the ownership of a labourer's vested cottage without heavy expense. I feel that all transactions under £500 should be completely free of stamp duty and thereafter there should be a graded rate of duty. There are graded rates of stamp duty at present. There should definitely be no stamp duty on the transfer of labourers' cottages.
I was disappointed to see that the Minister for Finance did not make any concession at all in relation to meeting the rising cost of fire-prevention. I put down a question to the Minister for Finance on this subject. I was told— and I am sure, perfectly correctly— that the question could not be allowed because of the Financial Resolution discussions on the Order Paper. This Budget, and these Financial Resolutions, should have included some provisions for free depreciation for the installation of more modern fire-fighting equipment. This country cannot afford heavy losses in industry as a result of fires.
I found it amazing that we did not get from the Minister for Finance the homily we have got from one Minister for Finance after another since the period of office of Deputy Dr. Ryan in 1957 about the necessity of streamlining the Civil Service and reducing the number of civil servants. On 1st January last there were 34,434 civil servants. In addition to that, 633 civil servants were seconded from the Civil Service to various State-sponsored bodies. That would have had the effect of making the total Civil Service at present some 35,000 persons. When Fianna Fáil came into office in 1957 Deputy Dr. Ryan, as Minister for Finance, made many promises in relation to the streamlining of the Civil Service. We were told that the country could not possibly afford the cost of the Civil Service at that time. There were only 30,723 civil servants then. Those are exact figures but they do not tell the whole story. As is often the case when Fianna Fáil find in Government that the statistics are going against them they change the basis of their statistics. In fact, since 1957 they have changed the basis of these statistics so that there are today 2,700 more civil servants than those returned in the annual census, compared with 1957. Since then they have ceased to count certain grades as being civil servants at all. Despite their boast that they would streamline the Civil Service and cut down its cost, they have increased it by 22½ per cent from 30,723 in 1957 to 37,767 in 1969. The streamlining and reduction in cost which the Fianna Fáil Government undertook to effect seems to be going in a reverse direction.
When looking at the effects of this Budget and its cost to the economy we should consider whether we are getting value for it. Last year central Government taxation took 32.7 per cent of our national income. It took practically 33 per cent of our national income. In addition to that, we must consider the amount taken by local authorities in rates. Rates are at present a heavier burden on some people than Central Government taxation. Apart from considering whether one-third of the national income is too much, too little or just the right amount of our national income to be taken in Central Government taxation, we should consider whether we are getting value for it. What value are we getting? Since 1957 there are 101,000 fewer people working on the land. According to the Statistics Office estimates of which the Taoiseach is the head 301,000 of the best of our people have gone out of Ireland in the past 12 years during which time the Government have been in power. In fact, we are getting for it a record high cost of living and the number of people at work is becoming fewer year after year. The total labour force in 1963 was 1,066,000 people. In 1964, it rose by 5,000. In 1965, it dropped by 2,000. In 1966, it came back again to 1,066,000 and, in 1968, it was 1,065,000.
With all this heavy increase in central taxation, with this one-third of our national income taken for central taxation purposes of government, be it administrative cost or distributive cost, what do we find? We find that in these five years since 1963 the total at work has gone down instead of having increased and, of course, if you added to that the number of people who are out of work, then we would find that, in fact, the decrease was even more striking. It is something which the Government must find it hard to show as their record and, certainly, it is something in respect of which the Government are not entitled to ask for a mandate at the coming general election.
We had published yesterday morning a report—I do not propose to deal with it in any detail for the reason that I shall give now—a report which is supposed to deal with growth centres and with industry—the Buchanan Report. I understand that the Buchanan Report has been largely in the hands of the Government for the past nine months. Lo and behold, it suddenly comes out on a Monday morning. Why does it come out on a Monday morning? Because, of course, the most successful Ard Fheis that had ever been held had been held on the previous Saturday and Sunday and the Government thought that by bringing out the report they would be able to ensure that we would get less publicity in the newspapers. That is the sort of silly, slick type of Party politics that has this Government discredited but, much worse than that—and I want to make this emphatic protest—the Buchanan Report was issued to the press and television on Sunday for publication yesterday morning and yet Deputies in this House who asked for that report yesterday morning have not yet got it and cannot get it at all today. It seems to me, therefore, that that proves conclusively that the report was brought out only as a gimmick at the last moment and, of course, if one analyses the gimmick one finds that the report is out, that it has been in the hands of the Government for nine months and what have the Government decided? One thing only—to let the report out to endeavour to drive the Fine Gael Ard Fheis off the papers, but the Government have taken no decision whatsoever in respect of it. After nine months sitting on it, after nine months cogitation, this Government, that are completely unable, apparently, to make a decision about anything, came to a momentous decision, that they would publish the report on the day after the Fine Gael Ard Fheis but were not able to decide after nine months what they ought to do in respect of it.
I do not grudge the press or television or radio their copies of the report but it seems an extraordinary thing that the Members of this House who seriously want to examine that report in the light of the Government's failure to take the action months ago that might have got some results in employment in certain of the growth areas that were suggested, are not able to get the report to study it for themselves. Rarely must there have been a case in the annals of this House where the Members of the House were treated with such scant courtesy by the Government in relation to any report which the Government suggest, and which I believe, is of some considerable importance.
We find, too, that the Minister for Finance in assessing his Budget has done so on the Revenue estimates that we are having this year a more substantial rise in the cost of servicing the national debt than ever before. Of course, the increase in debt each year means that the cost of servicing is increasing. As a counter-balance to the cost of servicing, there has always been some offset by the increase in receipts in non-tax revenue for productive investment but either the productive investment has been such a failure or the Minister for Finance has failed to make the right selection in productive investment that this year we find, contrary to the usual pattern, that the amount of non-tax revenue is nothing like sufficient to meet the Central Fund expenditure.
The increase this year, of course, from £41,500,000 to £50,864,000, or an increase of £9,327,000 arises partly because of the increase in high interest rates and I am sorry to say that it seems that, even since the Budget was introduced, we look like entering into a period in which interest rates might even go higher but, of course, even if they go higher, unfortunately, according to the Minister for Education, we are going to do nothing about them at all.
Some five years ago, I think it is, a Fianna Fáil Minister for Finance said it was useless looking to the old hardy reliables to get increased taxation and that therefore he had to bring in a turnover tax, even though very much against his will, even though he wept bitter and salt tears for having to introduce it. Yet, where are we? Twenty cigarettes now, in this period of office of Fianna Fáil, are paying 2/2d a packet more in duty and on every packet of 20 cigarettes the Minister for Finance is getting 4/- in duty. The glass of whiskey is paying 1/- more in this period of office of Fianna Fáil. Out of every glass of whiskey the Minister for Finance is getting 3/1d. The pint is paying, in the same period of office of Fianna Fáil—these last 12 years—11d more in tax. I cannot remember whether the Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Lalor, drinks a pint of Guinness or whether he takes a glass of orange but the fact is that a bottle of orange has also got the knock from Fianna Fáil. However, the pint, shall we say, pays 11d more than it did at that time and now the full duty on it is 1/5d.
The cost of distribution has gone up. There has been an increase in the same period of 1/11d per gallon duty on petrol. A sum of 4/2d from the price of every gallon of petrol now goes to the Minister for Finance—and that, of course, is in respect of the gallon of petrol that is produced at the White-gate Oil Refinery that was initiated, started, and brought into operation by the inter-Party Government and not by Fianna Fáil.
I do not see where, in this Budget, there is any indication at all of the Minister for Finance's doing one thing that the country is crying out for in its present economic conditions and that is an adequate saving incentive. There is no change on the saving front. Ironically, the trifle for insurance companies is to enable them to compete abroad for pensions business and, in that respect, it is not an additional incentive: it is only a concession to put them on a level with their British counterparts rather than to put them in any better position.
When Deputy O'Higgins and Deputy Cosgrave were speaking on this Budget they made it clear, and correctly clear, that the person who smokes 20 cigarettes a day and drinks, perhaps, one glass of whiskey would, as a result of the change in the personal allowance, be able to make a profit of 1/- in the year if, but only if, he denies himself any cigarette at all on a Sunday and any glass of whiskey or pint of beer on a Sunday.
Whiskey on a Sunday is out.
That is the real estimate of the so-called benefit of this Budget from which the Government think they are going to get from the country something to flag their failing fortunes. But, worse than that, even, we see this Budget brought in at this moment of time in a situation and in a picture in which the last information issued three days ago by the Central Statistics Office shows a deterioration of 2.3 per cent on the last figures available in terms of trade. If you add up imports and exports, that means, alone, a deterioration in the terms of trade of about £12 million in our balance of payments—on the wrong side.
I have said many times before in this House and I repeat it now that the Government cannot be blamed for any deterioration in the terms of trade. We in Ireland are not responsible for the price we have to pay for our imports nor can we fix, internationally, the price we can get for our exports but we can do something about it if it goes wrong one way. If we are going to suffer from an imbalance in relation to our trade, we can and we should and any Government alive to its responsibilities would take action and have taken it long ago, against those countries who find it nice and handy and easy to sell overwhelmingly to us but to take nothing in return. Yet, we can see, on the face of it, no sign of any action by the Government at all. There may be some secret action that they have kept locked in their breasts but there has been no sign anywhere of any open action by the Government and no sign whatever, until last week, that they had even done anything at all about it. Then, last week, we heard the Taoiseach say that, in respect of one country, some effort had been made. As far as we can discover, as far as we can see, the effort has not met with very much success. Certainly, I think we are entitled to say and to think and to believe that, in this year —which, miraculously, happens accidentally to be election year—if any good was to come out of it we should have heard about it long, long ago.
Even since the Budget was introduced, there was another Budget introduced by another Minister. The farmers had the gall to feel, particularly in my constituency and in the area around Dublin—the liquid milk area around Dublin—the whip of the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. After many years of pressurising of every sort, kind and description, the Parliamentary Secretary knows that it is true that every single effort was made down as far as Abbeyleix, in the semicircle round Dublin, to do everything to get people into milk. Whether it was the instructor of the county committee of agriculture, whether it was the inspector of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, whether it was anybody else, an effort was always made to get people into milk.
The good price.
Then, suddenly, they were given ten days to get out of milk —ten days to get out of milk.
It is not the Government panic I am sorry for in relation to this: it is the justifiable panic that farmers in milk felt at this outrageous reverse of advice that was being given and because they were being given no chance whatever to adjust themselves to the new position. However, since then, because of the force of public opinion, because of the force of argument by the NFA, because of the force of argument by Deputy Clinton and others from these Benches, the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries has changed his mind in this respect and has deferred any further consideration of this matter until 1st October next.
A most reasonable man.
Because it is election year.
We have always said it.
Of course, as I say, miraculously, this is an election year.
That remains to be seen.
And, of course, 1st October when the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries declared these arrangements until they would be after the general election, just as the Minister for Finance also arranged that he would be able to come along after the general election and reverse the procedure of the other day. On one day the Minister for Finance brought in his additional taxation and the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries followed.
On 1st October, if Fianna Fáil are left there, we will have the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries bringing his additional taxation and then, later in the month, the Minister for Finance will come along. But the people will not swallow that again. The sooner the general election comes, the better for the people, the better for Ireland which will get a Government that will not dither, that will not dally, that will tell the truth to the people, a Government who will be judged by the people on that truth in years to come.
It was interesting to listen to Deputy Sweetman's classical economics but though one can listen to lectures in classical economics, one must come down to earth and discuss the Budget. This Budget has given benefits to the sections of our people who are in most need of help. We must examine exactly the purpose of this Budget and during his introductory statement the Minister for Finance said that a successful Budget must, step by step, take what measures it can to terminate poverty and injustice. Deputy Sweetman gave a mass of figures, which I accept as being true, but these classical economics will not help the old age pensioners in the way this down to earth Budget has done. I do not think the Irish people would appreciate Deputy Sweetman's attitude.
In previous years we have had experience of producing a balanced Budget by refusing to give benefits to the weaker sections. Unless the economy is planned, we cannot produce wealth but by good management the Minister for Finance this year has been able to produce what has been described even by Opposition Deputies as a very good Budget. It has been so good that for the first time in my short experience here there were no Divisions against the proposals. I must say that this is a tribute not alone to the Budget but to the Opposition Parties because it marks a maturing of thought in this House. However, they had before them a good Budget and nobody would think of opposing the increases provided for old age pensioners, for widows and by way of increases in children's allowances. If next year we can give the same level of increases we shall be well on the road, as the Minister for Finance said, to building our prosperity and providing good living for our people.
It has been said that our social welfare services are among the lowest in Europe, if not the lowest. I suspect that that is not true. The basis of good living is good housing and this year the Government have produced £30 million for the housing programme. This will, of course, be supplemented by contributions from local authorities. The Minister this year has sought to ensure that there will be no slowing down in the housing drive. He has produced an extra £1½ million towards this purpose.
When we come to examine the Budget we must try to find the provisions that will increase employment and in this way create wealth. A Budget should endeavour to ensure that the people who work will be able to maintain a good standard of living and that those who do not will be enabled to acquire it. If the money is not there, these things cannot be done, whether the system is capitalism or socialism. If wealth is not created it will not be there for distribution.
With our maturity of political thought, people are realising this in the way that the West Germans have done so. We should endeavour more and more to build an economy on a par with that of West Germany, though people are beginning to say that the West Germans are too prosperous. The Germans have learned a lesson from their experience after the War when they were plagued with inflation. Now they are the most prosperous country in the world. When West German workers got increases in wages, unlike us they did not spend it. You cannot get a German worker to spend his money the way we do and the point is that they have the best social services in the world.
The Government are prepared to use the financial institutions for the benefit of the people. Recently the Minister for Finance announced that we would be making a change in relation to the pound sterling. I do not know whether this will be effective in the immediate future or not. I feel that our Minister for Finance must be one of the finest brains in these islands, if not further afield, and that this is only part of what this man will do to bring our country to full prosperity. I do not want to be fulsome in my praise of the Minister but I feel that he is a man with a great amount of intelligence. Furthermore, he is a man who sees a problem and decides in a commonsense way how to tackle it. This, perhaps, is the secret of his success.
There are many things we would like to have seen included in the Budget but everything cannot be included. The Minister has certainly come forward with a very attractive Budget. He has brought relief to the weaker sections. He has given us a blueprint for the future. I would like to have seen perhaps more money provided for housing. There are two sections of our people who could do with a lot more help. First are the young couples who bravely set out to get married and buy their own houses. There are great difficulties for them. The deposits are high. They struggle and save. They are the salt of this nation. I should like to see housing subsidised to the extent that any young couple getting married and wanting to acquire their own house would be able to do so without making the very large sacrifices they are making today. Here in Dublin the corporation have introduced a scheme of tenant purchase houses financed partly from Government funds and partly from local revenue. The deposit on these houses is fairly low. The tragedy is that there are just too few of these houses. A booming building trade is a barometer of prosperity. If we have a booming building trade there will be lots of other industries benefiting from this and we will be a further step on the road to wiping out our legacy of bad houses. Our young couples can start life with a good standard of living and their children can have a proper upbringing.
The other section I should like to see helped are the old people. Here again the picture is not too rosy. One mistake here is that local authorities are left to do practically all the work. We have had a break-through with some of the charitable and religious organisations. Houses have been built in Sandymount by the Methodist Church for elderly people. This is a model housing scheme. At Gardiner Street we have the Catholic Housing Aid Society's scheme of flats for old people and also for a certain number of young couples. The Soroptomists' Club also made a contribution. However, the total number of dwellings built by private bodies is very small. I should like to draw attention to the fact that any organisation building a dwelling for old people is entitled to grants of £600.
The mark of any civilisation is the way it treats its old people. In this city we have a big problem here but we are making progress. It is far too slow, however. When one reaches the biblical three score years and ten one does not have a great lease of life after that. We should step up this building for the old by every possible means. There is almost £30 million for housing in the Budget. The cost of a dwelling for an old person is £2,000 or £3,000. I believe they could be built cheaper. It has been suggested in other places that a percentage of national production should go to relieve the starving people of other countries. I feel we could make a contribution here and look after our old people properly. It would be a good thing if each local authority built a certain number of dwellings each year for old people. In this city the corporation never needs to be pushed on that line. In many areas they have been providing these dwellings but we never reach a stage where we can guarantee an old person a dwelling. We have provided mobile chalets but I hope this will be only a temporary measure.
I realise that finance is not the only thing needed for building houses but it is as important as bricks and mortar. Even the most idealistic society cannot build houses for nothing. The people who build houses must be paid wages and salaries. I am one who does not think that profit is a dirty word as long as the profit is a fair one. We are a free enterprise society. I hope we will remain that way. I say that because in countries where they have not got our way of life they still have their housing problems. Even in countries where the banks are nationalised and labour is drafted they still have housing problems. It is no easy problem to solve but the Minister for Finance here in his Budget has played his part by taxing the people and he has put in a goodly measure of money in order that the present housing drive will not only be maintained but will gain momentum.
I want to bring up one thing with the Minister. I got a message from an old lady to ask the Minister to remove the duty from snuff. I do not think many people use snuff. It is used almost entirely by old people. I suppose it is harmless. Certainly old people derive much pleasure from it. I would appeal, therefore, to the Minister to remove the tax in respect of snuff which is part of tobacco. The gesture would be appreciated by old people who, mainly, are the persons who take it. Present day teenagers would not know what snuff is. In years past, it was a clerical habit to take snuff——
Snuff at a wake.