Skip to main content
Normal View

Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 21 Jan 1975

Vol. 277 No. 4

Financial Resolutions, 1975. - Financial Resolution No. 13: General (resumed).

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

Before I reported progress I was endeavouring to emphasise the factors that show this is not a normal year where we could expect a normal budget. I referred to the unprecedented increase in unemployment, to the dangerous and rapidly rising deficit in the balance of payments and to the 20 per cent increase in prices during the year. All these matters should be considered by any Minister who wished to tackle them in a serious way by any monetary or fiscal adjustment that might be necessary in the budget.

If I may deviate for a moment, I would mention a reference made here by the Minister recently to a speech of mine and this will show how catty and naïve the Minister has been. Prior to the budget when the House was discussing the Estimate for the Department of Industry and Commerce. I pointed out that the Minister had the duty to bring in corrective measures to ease the pressure on prices by monetary or fiscal measures in order that jobs might be saved. The Minister said that I had proposed new taxation measures but he knew perfectly well that fiscal or monetary measures can be downwards as well as upwards and, in this case, that they would have to be so. I was referring, of course, to the possibility of reducing VAT in many cases to ease the pressure on prices and to adjust significantly the tax-free allowance to workers that would put money in their pockets without calling on their employers to do so out of non-existent profits. The Minister pretended not to see what I meant and said I was advocating further taxation.

In addition to the balance of payments deficit, the unemployment figure, the unprecedented increase in prices and the serious inflationary problems—in themselves these factors are alarming and they call for emergency measures—there is a problem in agriculture and it has been approached in a shabby manner. There has been a lack of policy in dealing with education. It is being treated in a haphazard and clumsy way. No action has been taken with regard to mining. It has been used as a political sop, with the Minister saying that he will ensure the State gets its due share but, at the same time, he is not taking positive action to get mining going.

In addition, the position with regard to prices is chaotic. The National Prices Commission are capable of doing more and they should be asked to examine why prices are increasing and, where action can be taken, to prevent price increases. Perhaps equipment could be provided to help certain firms to attain cheaper, better and increased production as well as lower unit costs. They may not have the capital to invest in the necessary equipment and this is where the Minister could come to the rescue of those employed in industry and in the services sector of industry in which there is a considerable amount of unemployment.

Industrialists cannot be expected to invest money in expansion or in maintaining the existing level of output when they have not the money. They are faced with rising costs with which they will probably be unable to grapple and these will erode their competitiveness and they will be unable to maintain their level of output. While this is happening they will be faced with demands in the immediate future that they will be unable to meet. The Minister made a few million pounds available with regard to deferring income tax but it will be a mere drop in the ocean. Now the employer and the employee—but to a greater extent this applies to the employer— will be mulcted with paying completely for the weekly social welfare contribution. The Minister refused to disclose the figure but it could amount to more than £5 per week. The State is withdrawing from the contribution it made in the past to the national insurance fund. Formerly the employer paid one-third, the employee paid one-third and the State made up the difference but now the State is withdrawing from any contribution to the fund. This means industry will be mulcted with the extra payment in respect of each employee at a time when the employer can least afford to pay it.

It was pointed out recently by a leading industrialist that if an industrialist invests £100 at the moment and if he makes a 40 per cent profit, the State will take 20 per cent in tax and inflation will take another 20 per cent. Therefore, he is left with nothing. That position has obtained in the last year and it will be intensified in the coming year. The profits of the industrialist to generate expansion are non-existent.

The Minister for Local Government spoke a short while ago and, while he dealt mainly with housing, he referred to the great amount of money made available for industrial development. Of course, he was referring to moneys placed at the disposal of the IDA, as well as other moneys. Money is given to the IDA for the promotion of new industries and for the payment of grants where suitable industries are prepared to set up. This does not assist existing industries who are in serious trouble at the moment and, in many cases, are going into liquidation. When we consider the Book of Estimates and the amount of money placed at the disposal of the IDA to provide for industrial expansion, we must remember that is only to pay for the incentives provided to industrialists coming into the country or for major extensions to existing industries where they can show they will have new products or meet the requirements of a new market. This will not happen in relation to existing industries. I think I am correct in saying that the IDA seldom spend the amount made available to them. A good deal of this could be diverted to existing industries, to help meet their problems, particularly in relation to liquidity if the commercial banks cannot be induced to relax the purse strings and be a little more generous in extending credit facilities to industry at present.

The banks are calling in old loans and drastically curtailing credit, which was formerly available to industries. The banks are not performing a useful function for the community if they do not stand up to the requirements of industry in the present difficult times. If the Government cannot ensure that is done they should divert to Fóir Teoranta some of the vast amount of money which has always been available to the IDA to enable them perform a fire brigade exercise in saving firms which may be going into liquidation as a result of the serious problems they are facing.

These are some of the things which should be done by the Government but which have not even been forecast in the budget. The NPC should be given further duties in relation to things which could be done for the consumer and not merely harass people for charging increased prices. The reason for such price increases could in many cases be due to Government action or inaction. The NPC have a rather unenviable task at the moment. When the price increase that was sought is taken into account and the amount granted is subtracted from it we are often told this is what the public were saved. We should all realise that when industry ask for increased prices for their products they ask for twice as much as they expect to get and they very often finish up getting more than they expected. I do not agree with the suggestions flown as kites from the front bench that we should completely relax price control.

Does the Deputy want intensified price control, because that would lead to even more industries going out of business?

Deputy Brennan, without interruption.

The Deputy is in a hopeless dilemma.

The Parliamentary Secretary will have plenty of time to talk. He should have manners and allow me to speak if he does not want to turn this into a dialogue. We only have an hour to speak.

This is a limited time debate.

I do not think I have ever spoken in this House without being interrupted not once but many times.

Not by me.

This is a limited time debate.

The Minister for Local Government dealt almost entirely with housing. The thing which amazed me about his speech was that he stuck tenaciously to the old attitude that everything in relation to housing is all right. Does he expect anybody in Ireland to believe it is? I do not need to go to the Central Statistics Office to ask them what is happening with regard to housing. I have only to go to some of the well-known builders' providers, to the people who produce cement, to the people who sell everything that goes into a house and ask them how their wholesale and retail sales are. They are laying off people and they do not know what to do with the stocks they have on hands. The Minister told us today that house prices were coming down. I can see people having to sell houses below their value or face bankruptcy because they are simply not selling them. The output of cement has been drastically reduced. In Donegal, because of its proximity to the Border we can buy concrete blocks cheaper in Northern Ireland than we can have them produced here. Many of those are made from cement which is imported from this part of the country. Sin ceist eile.

I do not know how the Minister can say that building is doing well when almost every builder has laid off men. when there is redundancy, when the builders' providers have been asked by their banks to pay off loan repayments, which they are unable to meet. Housing in an expanding economy should move rapidly towards private building with the necessary incentive from the Government. The white collar workers mainly do not qualify for local authority houses and are not in a position to build their own houses without some assistance. They are the people who generate activity in the building industry but their incomes do not permit them to buy houses at present. As the year goes on more and more of them will be unable to buy houses. Nothing whatever is being done for them.

In an expanding economy if people find themselves in a remunerative position they will be able to build their own houses with the help of State assistance. That is real housing progress. At the moment we have more and more people in the dole queue qualifying for local authority houses. The local authorities are being forced to build more and more houses at the expense of the ratepayers.

These are some of the problems which show us that this is not a normal year and not one in which normal procedures should be adopted to deal with budgetary matters. It is being discussed from the other side of the House as if this were a normal year. We are left with the huge problem of inflation, unemployment and rising prices without the Government doing anything to improve the situation. We are getting tired of the allegation that inflation is entirely due to external matters. Earlier on I quoted from the recent Central Bank report in which they quite definitely point out that somebody has to face this problem fairly and squarely, that the biggest factor in the present inflationary spiral is in relation to domestic matters which are within our control and should be tackled. The sooner we face up to that the better.

A great deal of cynical comment was directed towards us about the various programmes for economic expansion. They were very useful, but we have no such programmes now nor, from what we have heard, are we likely to have one. It might not always have been possible to hit the targets that were set in these programmes or to attain the rate of expansion that was projected, but whether it was or not they were always very good guidelines for the various sections of Government and for the State-sponsored bodies as well as the private sector. I would ask the Government, for the sake of the safety of the economy, to forget about the 14 points which they are ashamed to hear about now because they know they were used only as election gimmicks. They have codded the people and eroded confidence——

They were nearly all performed.

I would ask them to start anew and express a mea culpa and to say that they will now try to produce something that is attainable. Let them draw up a programme and let us see the direction in which they hope to move. I know it is a waste of time talking in this respect because the two diametrically opposed ideologies in the Government of socialism and conservatism could not possibly conspire to bring out such a programme.

This is something the country needs more than anything else at this time when we are being buffeted on the sea of international turmoil and being told by the Government that nothing can be done about it. It is tantamount to a situation in which we have no Government and no autonomy. We are left at the mercy of the EEC and the Arabs with their oil and of inflationary trends in other countries, and all we can do here, as the Minister said recently, is merely batten down the hatches, lie low until the blizzard passes and pray that it will not sweep us away.

That is the type of programme we are working on at present. I would like to see some sort of programme whereby the Government would state the direction in which they would like to go, the way in which investment should be channelled so that a particular policy could be pursued in relation to every Department and every sector of the economy. We would then see what would be the policy in regard to public transport and in regard to the taxation system, we would see the policy on State-sponsored bodies, and whether they were to be allowed to let their prices inflate in order to try to recoup their losses or whether the losses would be met by subsidy. We would know the policy in relation to the Army and the police force and, particularly, in relation to agriculture. We would know where we were going in education and social welfare. We would know when it was intended to have people brought into the national insurance scheme so that there would be contributory benefits without a means test instead of, as at present, assistance on one side and national insurance on the other.

These are only a few of the many things that would be outlined in a Government programme for economic expansion and development. The Government have a duty to utilise the expertise available to them in the persons of excellent civil servants who have the ability and also the facts at their fingertips to formulate the Government's desires. Let them put them on paper and let the community see the Government's thinking on these matters.

Never was it more necessary than at present to inculcate into the minds of the people a feeling of security and confidence that things will not turn out the way they have on a number of occasions in the past. This relates particularly to mining and exploration policy. The Government must see that these things are not merely done but done with an urgency that would indicate that in the emergency in which the country finds itself there are men who are prepared to tackle the problems and to focus all the resources of the State in rescuing the economy at a time when we could very easily go under.

The lack of such a programme is one of the causes of so much frustration in the country. We expected that the Minister would bring in measures to create employment, but there were the old reliables that we have called on in the past. While we have an urban-minded Government, they should have some idea of rural requirements, and know that we have such things as bog roads, which may not be very artistic for the academic to pay attention to but——

I do not sneer at academics.

Would you ask the Parliamentary Secretary to cease interrupting?

The Deputy's party was founded by a professor.

These bogs roads are as important to the people of the west and other parts of rural Ireland as are the pipelines of Arabia and the Persian Gulf to the transport of oil. Only one out of 20 bog roads —and this information can be elicited from the Minister—is approved for the LIS grant for which the Minister gave £500,000 in the budget. The LIS, for the benefit of the Parliamentary Secretary and others who would not be expected to know anything about rural life, is the local improvements scheme, a scheme to which interested parties contribute a percentage of money. There are hundreds of people who are so anxious to have these roads put in order that they are prepared to contribute to their repair. People who cannot afford to continue with oil or coal are going to the bogs to produce turf for their fuel, if a bog is within reach, but it is almost impossible to take the turf out of the bog because of the conditions of the road.

The Minister for Local Government seemed to be aware, when he was speaking a while ago, that they had slipped up, because he said this would be looked after. He would know this is a major problem, though it may not seem so, and one that affects every western county. A few million pounds spent on the making of these roads would create employment and take a number of people out of the dole queue while, at the same time, providing the necessary access to the fuel supplies that exist and the harvesting of those fuel supplies would have the effect of reducing the nation's bill for imported fuel. But nothing has been done about this. The same is true of other things and the answer as to why nothing is done is not easy to find.

I said at the outset that this budget is a hope and pray budget. We have a huge deficit. We are going to borrow. We may get the money or we may not. If we get it we will get it at the lender's rate of interest and we will be paying for it for many years to come. When I was in Government we were advised by those competent to advise to ease off on foreign borrowing. One does not have far to search to find the wisdom and the logic in that advice. But we have continued borrowing at higher and higher rates of interest. We intend to borrow more and long after the present inflationary trend has been brought under control the country will still be paying a huge amount in servicing a debt it really cannot afford and servicing that debt will keep us under for many years before we are once more back on our feet, if we do not succumb in the meantime to the present ineptitude demonstrated by this Government in their handling of the whole sorry mess. We are hoping to borrow and we are hoping to get. We are praying we will get. As I said, a hope and pray budget. We may not get the money. We are looking for petro-dollars. We will get them at the lender's price. It is a sad state of affairs.

This is a dangerous budget and it is most dangerous of all for those who cannot cushion themselves against the impact of rising prices. Social welfare recipients are told they will get more in October next because prices will go up in the meantime. What about those who will get nothing, who cannot expect to get anything? We are rapidly reaching the stage at which all the good done in the past will be siphoned away. We often have to listen to accusations that Fianna Fail did little in their 16 years in Government. Thank God, the most important economic indicators, socially and nationally, were there to show that we were in Government during those happy days in which we saw a rising population, an increase in the number of marriages and a dramatic decline in emigration. These are three major factors. They are particularly important in our community which suffered from 1847 from a deterioration in all three. We lived to see that deterioration converted into progress on all three fronts. We are now facing the danger—I say this in all sincerity and no one so far on the other side has said anything which would lead me to believe otherwise— of putting the country in jeopardy in the interests of political expediency and we could easily see a reversion of the happy trends the country saw when Fianna Fail were in office. I refer to the increase in the population, the increase in the marriage rate and the decline in emigration. Emigration was reduced to a mere trickle. They were happy times and it is very sad to see these three important socio-economic factors put at risk for the sake of trying to hold together people of divergent views. It is just not good enough. It is the country which will have to pay.

There are those who are boasting that we are keeping social welfare recipients abreast of deteriorating standards and the rising cost of living. Let us remember only a certain number of people produce wealth. They have been doing a very good job in the past. Certain people saw fit to talk about the affluent generation rising up just because the country was getting its head above water. What have this Government done for those who generate wealth? They have imposed a wealth tax, a capital gains tax, a tax on farmers plus increased taxation generally and increased VAT. We are rapidly reaching the stage of diminishing returns so far as taxation is concerned. The number of those producing wealth to be distributed for the benefit of those who are not in a position to make it or earn it is shrinking and the number on the receiving end is increasing. Let us watch the gap between the two. We cannot go on forever grinding down those who generate the wealth that we need to redistribute. We must have some regard for these. There is little, if anything, for them in this budget.

I wish to deal with three particular aspects of the budget. I shall have some comments to make on employment and industry, some comments on social welfare and some comments on agriculture.

On the employment side, I do not think we fully appreciate as yet the multitude of economic difficulties affecting the country. This is something that has yet to be brought home to the electorate and, indeed, to politicians, particularly those on the Opposition benches. I refer to the serious and extensive nature of the difficulties. I do not think the chilling effect of global inflation on the country has yet fully dawned on the electorate. There is growing unemployment in the EEC and in the United States of America. There is a decline in world trade. There is confusion in international money markets. There are high interest rates for money borrowed. There is the collapse of stock markets. There is a scarcity of commodities. There are costly and unpredictable oil supplies. These undesirable developments are not yet, I believe, fully understood. Admittedly, there are a number of indicators. In the past 12 months the number of unemployment benefit applications has risen by 10,000. Short-time workers have increased by 8,500. In the United Kingdom three-quarters of a million workers are unemployed.

I stress in particular the number of workers in receipt of unemployment benefit and the number of workers on short-time as these provide the true dimension of our economic recession and our economic difficulties in particular industries. They put the problems in their proper prospective. We must bear in mind that the current total of 95,000 persons on the live register includes 8,500 on short time and many thousands in receipt of the rural unemployment assistance or dole who would be on that register anyway irrespective of economic recession or economic growth. Such is the nature of the dole.

It is quite irresponsible for the Opposition to attempt to draw any analogy with the situation in 1957 when our economic infrastructure was in an embryonic state and when 50,000 persons emigrated each year. Some of the Fianna Fáil efforts to undermine the confidence of our people in Ireland's future go beyond the pale of constructive political opposition. If the Fianna Fáil Party were to adopt the neo-Powellite policies of Deputy Haughey, for example, and expanded on just now by Deputy Brennan, they would have a great deal to answer for to future generations. It is best that the Fianna Fáil Party should remain in what we commonly call a state of "Deputy Colley confusion" rather than adopt the extreme right wing conservative policies of Deputy Haughey and Deputy Brennan, as epitomised by Fianna Fáil opposition to the wealth tax, the capital gains tax, the elimination of the mining tax, and the taxation of 9,000 large landowning farmers. That is the state of play of the Opposition.

Opposition to Fianna Fáil is not enough. We in Government have to ask ourselves what have we done. As we undertook in the White Paper "A National Partnership", in this budget we have given priority to promoting employment. To help industry to meet the cost of maintaining employment, the increased prices of raw materials and future investment requirements, we have removed £12 million from taxation direct from industry. In Government we are continuing various investment concessions for industry and we are increasing from 20 per cent to 50 per cent the first year capital allowance for industrial building. This will help in some measure the manufacturing and the construction industries. The IDA and the other State-sponsored bodies which provide finance for the maintenance and creation of employment are getting a massive increase of £20.2 million in 1975. However, I believe that to secure the further development of Irish industry and the expansion of Irish exports we have to press forward, and there is an urgent need for a more comprehensive package from the Minister for Industry and Commerce.

I would suggest that consideration should be given to some selective import controls. As one who supported Ireland's entry into the EEC—a rather lonely figure I was at the time in the Labour Party, and I still support entry on balance—I believe we should have the introduction of selective import controls for textiles, clothing and the footwear industry, with EEC approval. I hope the Ministers will be successful. We need more extensive credit facilities for the manufacturing industry. We need a much greater emphasis on measures for export promotion, marketing and product development.

I wish to pay particular tribute to Córas Tráchtála and the IDA for their sustained efforts towards greater industrial development and export promotion. I have knowledge of the rescue service of the IDA and the tremendous work of Fóir Teoranta in the past 12 months. They have mitigated the worst effects of redundancy in industry and the public servants in these bodies deserve great credit for their dedicated work. They have not lost their nerve and the harping and destructive criticisms of Fianna Fáil in relation to our economic difficulties were no contribution towards the success of their endeavours.

In his budget speech the Minister said:

Of all the tasks which could engage my attention, the least realistic would be the publication of a medium or long-term economic plan based upon irrelevancies in the past, hunches as to the present and clairvoyance as to the future.

I regard the Minister as probably the most progressive and intelligent of all the holders of this portfolio in the history of this State. I genuinely hold that view. He has grown in stature and in competence during his period in office. The Opposition possess no front bencher to rival him. But I do not agree with his policy as enunciated on medium and long term economic policies. I submit that the very situation we find ourselves in demands such indicative planning both in the long and short term.

Two basic problems face our Government at present. They reside at the very core of any modern mixed economy such as ours. The first is how to maintain and achieve full employment without drifting into rapid inflation. The second is how to manage the economy in an open and egalitarian manner without excessive price rises, wage or taxation controls. We cannot possibly deal with these complex issues and their interaction at many levels unless we have economic planning of a social and economic content. Our future employment prospects depend on economic planning being effectively implemented by the Government.

We need another surge forward similar to that generated in the 1960s by Mr. Lemass and Mr. Whitaker. Future industrial development and productive capital formation demand economic planning now even in a highly inflationary situation. Our country has grown in economic managements in entrepreneurial skills and, if we are not to dissipate these resources, as politicians we must favour economic and social planning. Otherwise there is little purpose in being in the Oireachtas.

There is an urgent need to ensure that our important oil, gas and mineral resources are developed in the interest of the Irish people as a whole and not for the speculative enrichment of a few private or multi-natiional companies. Our agreements with these companies must be planned for the future and our relationship with them must reflect the principle of economic and social planning in this area. The oil and gas explorations off the Irish continental shelf and the future on-shore developments must be placed under the aegis of a State-sponsored development corporation. This will require economic planning of the highest order.

The almost complete absence of an effective domestic regional policy in Ireland and our failure to develop trans-Border industrial projects pinpoint the need for more effective economic and social planning. We must plan for joint ventures between the State-sponsored bodies and the progressive elements in public and private enterprise to ensure Irish involvement in the new technologically-based industries. This calls for economic planning. We have yet to develop a coherent strategy for industrial growth based on growth centres. We tend to have an excessive dispersal of industry in many areas. This, too, calls for a re-evaluation of economic policy. I suggest to the Minister, a most progressive Minister, a man for whom my regard has grown in the past 22 months, that he should rethink his comment on that aspect in his budget speech.

The provisions contained in the budget for increases in social welfare payments and the pledge to review and raise those payments again in October fulfils the undertaking given in the 14-point programme, at the Labour Party conference and Fine Gael ard-fheiseanna and clearly stated in the White Paper, "A National Partnership."

The budget raised the weekly rates of social welfare payments by between 21 and 23½ per cent, several percentage points above the rise in the cost of living since the last increases were paid in July, 1974. To take one example, in July, 1974 the contributory old age pension for a person aged 69 was £7.20. In April, 1975, ten months later, a person aged 67 will receive a pension of £10.50. That is an increase of almost 46 per cent in ten months. One could hardly do better than that.

Last week's welfare increases do not, therefore, just keep pace with inflation as is being suggested. They represent a real increase and are in line with our policy of improving the position of all social welfare recipients.

These rates will be increased in October. The Government have made a public commitment to maintain the new level of the value of all weekly social welfare payments by means of a review and further increase in October taking into consideration the movement in the cost of living and other relevant factors. I congratulate the Minister in this regard.

Since we came to power social welfare payment rates have been raised by increases ranging from 66 per cent in the case of some personal rates of benefit to 80-90 per cent in single parent families and to 96-140 per cent for child dependant allowances. Children's allowances which have been raised again for the third successive year in this budget have gone up since 1973 by 360 per cent for the first child, by 140 per cent for the second child and by 93 per cent for the third and subsequent children. In the same period the cost of living rose by between 35 and 40 per cent.

Government spending on social welfare has been increased by £46 million in full year terms. This means that since this Government came to power the proportion of GNP devoted to social welfare has risen from 4.1 per cent to 5.6 per cent, the greatest record in the history of the State. The Exchequer cost of social welfare has increased in two years by 140 per cent because not only have rates been raised but the scope of coverage and protection has been greatly extended by the introduction of new schemes, the reduction of the pension age to 67 years and by easing the means test.

All this is in line with the policy laid down at the last annual Labour Party conference and at the Fine Gael ard-fheiseanna. At our conference we made a statement on "Protecting The Future" and we declared:

The advances in social policy made to date by the National Coalition Government must be maintained.

Referring to the impact of the economic crisis on the less well-off, the statement said:

The defence of the living standards of the poor is a stated priority of the Labour Party in its policy to beat the crisis. In short, this means in a time of financial stringency that the real level of expenditure on health and social welfare must not be allowed to fall. Rather must the Government's commitment to social protection and reform be maintained whatever the cost to the community as a whole.

This particular reform is continuing. Increasing the levels of social welfare payments is not as far as we are concerned the be-all and end-all of activity in this area of Government policy. Work is proceeding on a number of major developments.

Tell us about the increase in the price of the stamp.

I shall come to that. There will be increases and they will be far less than the increase the Deputy pays for his coloured television.

I do not have one.

Work is proceeding on a number of major developments and many new moves are being planned in social welfare. The Department of Social Welfare is busy on the preparation of the Green Paper on an income-related pension scheme which will also deal with certain aspects of the social insurance of the self-employed sector of the work force, a much-needed and necessary development. The Parliamentary Secretary, Deputy Cluskey, recently indicated his desire to get to grips with the major job of consolidating the complex legislative framework within which the social welfare system operates. The Tánaiste has stated that a complete review of the basis of financing the social welfare and health services will be carried out. It may be said here that the total Exchequer cost this year of these services will exceed £400 million.

This provides a basis for planned advances in the future and for the fulfilment of the Government's solemn pledge to remember and cater for the needs of the disadvantaged to the maximum possible extent.

The elimination of poverty from our country remains a demanding and fundamental challenge to the Government. I am not satisfied with raising the level of social welfare payments, low as these are in many cases. I want to remind the House of the words of the Labour Party's policy statement on poverty in which it was stated:

The long-term strategic approach to poverty must be directed to the fundamental question of inequality —inequality in the distribution and control of wealth, inequality through political power which does exist (there are no poor in Leinster House as Deputies); inequality of educational opportunity; inequality in the living environment (there is not a homeless Deputy in the House); inequality of employment opportunity (there is not an unemployed Deputy in this House); inequality of living standards (the vast majority of Deputies are well above the national average in living standards). All these are symptoms which form the backbone of poverty measurement. The major elements of such policy must include economic and real social planning; redistribution of wealth and incomes; use of natural resources; economic democracy and enfranchisement of the poor.

I think this will come. It is very difficult for a poor person to be elected to Dáil Éireann and the budget has not changed that. This is a clear indication of the size of the task before us, one which calls for the best efforts of everyone in the Labour movement and in the Government, particularly in this period of economic difficulty.

As Labour Party Whip with a deep interest in the alleviation of poverty, I am encouraged by the progress made to date by the advisory committee on pilot schemes to combat poverty and particularly by the announcement of the first four projects which have now been brought to the planning stage. I hope this important project will soon be fully operational so that a start will have been made on the long but essential programme of action research capable of providing a proper basis for the evolution of policies capable of getting to the root causes of poverty and dealing with them. I wish Sr. Stanislaus and the committee every success in their endeavours.

I am confident that in the next few months we shall see full ratification of the overall EEC programme of pilot schemes and the implementation of schemes in all member States. I also congratulate Deputy Cluskey. The initiative of the Irish Government has opened up the prospect of a new direction in the social policy of the Community with an emphasis on the pressing needs of those citizens who are not part of the active labour force here. In that regard also I should like to congratulate Commissioner Hillery on the work he has done in that area.

Since my election to this House in 1969 I have repeatedly referred to the plight of single parent families, particularly the plight of widows with children, of unmarried mothers, of deserted wives, of prisoners' wives and, that other forgotten category, widowers with young children. The provisions in this budget have been of benefit to these categories. A serious effort has now been made by the Government to give social support to the young, and the not so young, women who have remained at home caring for their parents and who have not had the benefit of social insurance. I should like to give one figure to illustrate the changes that have occurred. In March, 1973, the insurance rate paid to a widow and two children was £8.60. The rate from 1st April next will be £15.80, an increase of £7.20 or of 84 per cent. We should bear that phenomenal change in mind.

Similarly, the deserted wife and her two children will receive an increase of 88 per cent over that same period, from March, 1973, to April, 1975. These increases far outstrip the increase in the cost of living. I urge the Minister for Finance to review the provisions for widowers with young children because the income tax allowances for widowers, and the home help provisions, are quite inadequate. I suggest that the Minister undertake a special review in that area.

I should now like to deal with the contentious issue of some types of claims for unemployment and disability benefit. It has been suggested by some extreme right-wing conservatives, particularly in Britain—they are developing in this country also since social welfare benefits have been improved—that many social welfare recipients are spongers and that many claims for pay-related disability and unemployment benefits are unjustified. I do not share that view. Unfortunately, it is true that a tiny minority in a society will always abuse claims, particularly for social benefits and social services. It is also true that the introduction of the much welcomed and long overdue pay-related system provided some incentive to those who might wish to defraud. For example, a married couple with two children with reckonable weekly earnings of £50 will be able to qualify for weekly payments of £31.20, £20.80 flat rate and another £10.40 pay-related benefit. This is a payment of 75 per cent of earnings for disability or unemployment. The applicant is also saved the cost of the social insurance stamp which is credited to him. Inevitably, all one needs in this situation is a lazy or unscrupulous doctor prepared to sign a disability certificate for a dodgy applicant. I emphasise that I have chosen my words carefully on this issue because they in no way reflect on the overwhelming majority of entirely legitimate claims. It is an area the Department of Social Welfare should keep a close eye on, particularly in relation to disability claims.

I should now like to refer to increased social insurance. Improvements in social welfare payments announced in the budget will cost £49.40 million gross in the financial year 1975 of which the Exchequer cost will amount to £25.86 million. The full year cost of these improvements will be £77.7 million gross and £46.05 million to the Exchequer. I should like to remind those who nostalgically hope for a return to power of Fianna Fáil that the total Exchequer cost of the social welfare services has risen from £92 million in 1972-73 when Fianna Fáil were in power to £223 million in the current year. I am proud to be part of a Government with such a record. I am proud of the Government who have made such an allocation of State resources which massively outstrips the substantial increase in the cost of living in this period.

Would the Deputy like to see 200,000 unemployed?

There are not 200,000 unemployed or 100,000 unemployed.

Doubtless the Deputy will have an opportunity of making his own statement later.

It is perfectly obvious that on the basis of the information made available by the Minister for Finance in this debate the weekly rates of employment contributions for social welfare will be increased when the Social Welfare Bill is published. I am not, I should like to stress, privy in any way to the Bill but I can make a deduction from data available to me as readily as most people.

How much will the stamp cost then?

The present ordinary rate for a main is £1.84 from the employer and £1.42 from the employee making a total of £3.26 per week. The rate for a woman is £1.79 from the employer and £1.35 from the employee making a total of £3.14. I submit that even if these rates are to be increased in excess of £4.00 per week the cost of social insurance here is very low and provides tremendous value for money paid to the State in the form of, as social welfare contributions are, deferred savings. I have no doubt that Fianna Fáil will exploit, in their usual cynical and short-sighted manner, the necessary increases in the weekly rates to be paid by the employee and employer. Is there any country in the world, any country in the EEC or any insurance company in the world providing for an employee contribution of less than £2 per week the following benefits, occupational injuries, redundancy payments, unemployment, disability, pay-related benefits, maternity, death grant, retirement pension, deserted wives benefit, contributory widows' pension, contributory orphans' allowance, contributory old-age pension, treatment benefit and so on? In fact, we have social insurance on the cheap.

The fact that one-third of our labour force is self-employed and the fact that large segments of our rural population do not contribute to social insurance has made the problem very much more difficult. I submit that there is an urgent need in 1975 for the Ministers for Finance and Social Welfare to get together with their experts to work out a comprehensive system of national social insurance bringing the self-employed and a substantial proportion of the farming community under the ambit of a national scheme. I also feel that a pay-related contributory system should be revised with particular reference to the current ceiling of £2,500 earnings. At present £25 per year is the maximum pay-related contribution payable by an employee and £50 per year is the maximum corresponding employers contribution. I submit to the Minister for Finance that in the light of inflation and increased earnings there is a need to revise these ceilings.

I should also like to point out that the current flat rate insurance contribution penalises the low paid worker and hits hardest at the female worker who is earning 55 per cent of the male adult earning and is paying a substantial social insurance contribution. This is an obvious area of imbalance in social welfare contributions and it should be put right in 1975. I know that the expert staff of the dedicated Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Social Welfare have the capacity, the competence and political will to bring forward radical proposals in these areas. I submit that the Minister for Finance should give them a leeway of going ahead and doing so.

There are two other matters of social welfare to which I want to refer —two very controversial matters, children's allowances and the dole. It has been stated in regard to children's allowances that the current cost is about £50 million per annum. As is widely appreciated, generally these allowances are paid with no reference to actual family income and with only the most marginal emphasis on size of family. In this House we have the spectacle of Ministers of State earning £10,000 per annum, public servants—in the higher echelons—earning £6,000 per annum, middle management executives in Irish industry, private employment, earning similar salaries, wealthy businessmen and farmers earning similar amounts, all drawing, say, for three children £123 per annum allowance with no clawback to the Exchequer. I submit this is a preposterous state of affairs. I suggest it is a scandalous waste of some £4 million to £8 million, or 10 per cent of the total, which should not be provided to families who manifestly do not need it. As a socialist, who believes in the concept of need, I submit to this House and, indeed, to my constituents in what is probably one of the wealthiest constituencies in Ireland, that the Minister for Finance and the Minister for Social Welfare should divert that money to those sectors of the community in far greater need.

Regarding the dole, I consider it an area of public scandal. I make no apology for saying so. I submit that a cursory examination of the unemployment assistance benefits paid out in the local employment offices will show clearly that there are farmers and small business people drawing the dole where their actual, real personal and family incomes do not merit such payment. Unfortunately, such is the political party attitude to the dole in this country that any effort to eradicate the abuses of the system is likely to be strenuously resisted. However, I would point out that there are, for example, in some of the Munster counties farmers with substantial weekly creamery cheques, with income from cattle and other farm revenue who, because of the valuation method of the dole assessment, qualify for such benefits. Any rural Deputy, particularly from the Munster area, will not be too hard put to give chapter and verse to that comment. That is a demoralising state of affairs and, I would suggest, has induced a cynical decay in the fibre of many a family generation. All the political parties have not only a major political but moral responsibility to face this issue squarely with some honour.

In making these critical comments —again, claiming to be a socialist—in this House I, as one who cares deeply about the poverty and low income existing in many parts of rural Ireland —in no way denigrate those who must, because of need, apply for the dole and who have never had an opportunity of earning a decent farm income or of having full-time employment in a rural town. As you well know, all of my family come from rural Ireland. I cannot be accused of having any particular anti-rural bias. My late father was reared with ten other children on the side of a mountain in north Cork, on a small holding of ten acres. Certainly, I am acutely aware of the need for such income maintenance needed by many families still in rural Ireland. But I do strongly submit that there is grave need for the Government and the Opposition to examine constructively the present position and to eliminate the areas of abuse with particular reference to the method of assessment of means.

Regarding agriculture, I would submit that this budget has, in some measure—and admittedy, with the limitations of finance available to any Minister—helped farmers with cattle over the difficulties of this winter. The Government have, as is known, provided another £2.2 million for cattle feed vouchers.

It is easy known the Deputy lives in Dún Laoghaire.

The Government have provided also new incentive reliefs under the income tax code to encourage further investment in farming. These steps, together with the £50 million or more negotiated by the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries in Brussels last October, will provide— and I am confident are providing—substantial and significant improvements for farmers during 1975.

I wish to congratulate Deputy Mark Clinton on his outstanding work on behalf of the farmers of this country —and for the country as a whole—since his appointment as Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries. Deputy Clinton has never over-reacted to the most obdurate and unco-operative criticism and whining from some spokesmen of farming organisations and particularly in recent months from the President of the NFA, Mr. T. J. Maher. Some most outrageous propaganda has been levelled at the Minister and, God knows, Deputy Clinton is a quiet man. I would not blame him were he to erupt but I admire him for the fact that he has kept his cool when others —on the farmers' spokesmen side— were semi-hysterical. Some most outraegous claims have been levelled at the Minister. I quote a classic example from last Saturday's Irish Independent by that well-known political commentator “The Drover”:

It is very easy to understand the reason for this——

That is, why the farming community is in revolt—

——the farming community have watched as various trade union groups held the country to ransom for pay increases, as National Wage Agreements shoved up wages and salaries and budgets kept social welfare benefits up to the stage where an urban dweller still gets a ready income even if he cannot get a job or will not work.

Meanwhile, the farmer has fallen steadily behind in income level and, after an extremely bad time in 1974, sees a final straw in the fact that he is expected in many cases to pay tax on the double income tax on his so-called profits (what farmer made a profit in 1974?) and rates on the land that produces his income.

Farmers are willing to pay rates on their houses, they are willing to pay their fair share of general taxation. But, at a time when things are very bad for them in a general sense, farmers are incensed at the idea of having to pay what they genuinely see as a double taxation.

That is sheer propaganda and has to be refuted in this House. My reply to "The Drover" and to the drovers in some other organisations is that there are in this country 200,000 farmers and that last year's Finance Act subjected only 8,800 full-time farmers, with farms of over £100 rateable valuation, to income taxation. About 7,000 other persons who also draw a livelihood from professions or businesses other than farming and whose farms are over £50 rateable valuation are affected also. Thus the tax liability affects, at the very maximum, 15,800 farmers only out of 200,000. That is 8 per cent of the farming community and that is not double taxation of the farming community as a whole.

I would point out that even after this budget has relieved many thousands of people from PAYE, the percentage of employed persons in this country paying income tax is still 85. Therefore, we have a situation in which 8 per cent of the farming community and 85 per cent of the other employed persons in the community are called upon to pay income tax. It is not double taxation. Therefore, let us not advocate that kind of nonsense.

Mr. Maher advocates that this small minority——

The Chair would prefer if names of persons outside the House were not mentioned. It is a convention to which we should like to adhere.

I shall refer to it in another context. Some farming spokesman said that this small minority of larger farmers liable to income tax should not have to pay rates. They fail to appreciate that if the rates claim were to be admitted the revenue loss would have to be made good by other taxpayers, namely, collecting income tax from wage and salary earners or from other sections of the community.

Those agitating for rates exemption for bigger farmers should realise that if the no-rates claim were to be admitted, the necessary corollary would be the extension of income tax to all farmers. These people cannot have it both ways. The relief provided already by the Exchequer for rates on land by way of the agricultural grant must be taken into account. As much as two-thirds of the total bill for rates on lands—about £27 million out of a total of £40 million—is met by the Exchequer and this is at the expense of other taxpayers. Farmers with valuations of less than £100 as well as those whose valuations are greater than that amount benefit from the generous relief afforded by this grant. For example, farmers whose valuations are £100, £150 and £200 get relief, when rates are set off against income tax liability, at 56, 55 and 52 per cent respectively. Therefore, it is nonsense to suggest that farmers are suffering the penalty of double taxation. A further major benefit to farmers is that the employment allowance of £17 for full-time male workers is given for rates relief. Taking these factors into consideration it is obvious that there is a considerable contribution by the State towards the easing of the relatively low burden of rates on the farming community. The president of the IFA has conceded, though reluctantly, that 53 per cent of all farmers having more than 20 acres pay no rates on agricultural land. The more authentic figure is that given by the Minister for Finance who has shown conclusively that 70 per cent of all farmers pay no rates on agricultural land.

An interesting point made by "The Drover"—I am not being offensive in any way since I am not aware of his identity—is that all farmers pay rates on their private dwellings. This commentator, together with the other spokesmen, should remember that the rateable valuation of a residence in rural Ireland is about one-third of the valuation of an equivalent dwelling in an urban area. With respect to the propagandists involved it could be said that town dwellers have rate burdens three times greater than have those who live in farm houses.

I would point out to the dwindling band of supporters for the kind of agitation being exercised now that this is a very dangerous form of agitation and the protagonists of it would be well advised not to stress too often the question of the relative burden of rates on the farming community compared with other sections because such a spotlight would, if anything, merely expose the fact that the actual burden of the farmers as a whole is not any greater than that of any other section, that if anything it is somewhat less.

As a trade unionist I have no objection to the IFA or to any other farming organisation seeking the maximum improvements possible in the standards of living of their members but as I have said in the past in relation to the trade unions I deplore any attempt by any group to gain advantage for themselves on the backs of other sections. I deplore the attempt of some spokesmen in the IFA—I think they are a minority who are very badly advised—to use the back of the beet growers and the Irish Sugar Company in order to take issue with the Government. I would have more regard for some of these spokesmen if they were to resign from their positions on semi-State bodies, that is if they wish to continue that kind of sectional campaign.

The issues of intervention, of store cattle prices, of compensation claims for tillage and so on cannot be developed. These matters cannot be resolved within a democracy simply by destroying a most valuable cash crop for farmers and by destroying the employment of thousands of people in rural Ireland. Some members of the IFA may say that these are the words of another urban Deputy who is having "a go" at the farmers. I speak as a Member of this House and as one who has a national concern in these matters. Knowing the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries I am confident that if the IFA sit down with him and argue their issues calmly and reasonably without having recourse to hysterical television contributions or to intimidatory noises, the Government will understand, appreciate and give every assistance possible to the IFA. I know that the farmers have experienced a bad time but they would be very wrong to act on ill-considered advice and in a precipitate manner on an issue in respect of which some people have put themselves on the hook but from which they should release themselves as quickly as possible. Otherwise, the farmers and the farm workers will be the first to suffer.

The public may rest assured that this Cabinet will continue to introduce all taxation reforms that are necessary in the national interest. The reactions of Deputies Lynch, Colley, Brennan and of Haughey, both in the past and in the present, and also of Senator Lenihan, if I may refer to a former Minister, to the Government's taxation proposals, whether in relation to mining, to a wealth tax, to a capital gains tax or to the taxation of larger farmers, have shown that these men are very conservative politicians. They are what I would classify as the defenders of the old-fashioned Fianna Fáil capitalist of the narrowest kind. These men are unique in that they are the retired leaders of a so-called republican party, a party whose attitudes in relation to such issues as natural resources and taxation, would not be adopted by any other European country. No other political party in Europe have put themselves into that kind of mould. By contrast, we in the Coalition have a policy of developing a dynamic mixed economy with no pandering to those who would, in partnership with the State, develop our natural resources. This is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Fianna Fáil have been, tragically, a great party and in this debate have been a party of despair and retrospective wisdom. I would remind them in these difficult economic times that despair cannot be exported.

During this debate it has become increasingly obvious from Fianna Fáil contributions that they have nothing new to offer by way of policy, particularly in the economic field. Cheap sneers at Deputy Mark Clinton, Deputy Garret FitzGerald or Deputy Richie Ryan, who now carry onerous ministerial responsibility, are no substitute for constructive criticism in the national interest. It seems to me that the strategy of the Fianna Fáil Party has been to exploit, for narrow political advantage coming up to an Ard-Fheis, the dangers and difficulties inherent in a critical economic situation. They have made no constructive proposals on current domestic and international difficulties in this debate.

I finished my education in 1957 at the age of 21 and was unemployed. Eventually I got a job in a trade union. This was at a period of serious economic recession. I am confident that this Government will not allow a situation of relevant comparison to develop. There is no comparison between today and 1957. That year 55,000 people emigrated. The whole of my class from UCC, except three, emigrated. Of the three still in Ireland, one is a publican, one is rearing greyhounds and I am a politician.

This country has many things going for it which other countries would envy. Today our economy is basically healthy. Our export opportunities are greater. Now opportunities to export our agricultural and industrial goods are open to us in the Common Market. We have shown that our exports can compete successfully. We have a growing expertise in new technologies being developed here. We have a young and growing population who can make that contribution. The Coalition Government are committed to economic and social reform and, therefore, we will succeed in our endeavours. I regret the Opposition have contributed little else but abuse and negative reaction to this debate.

I commend the Minister on his carefully expansionary budget. Perhaps, he was wise to budget for a deficit of £125 million. Personally, I may have gone only for £5 million or a little over, in order to provide aid for the construction industry. I have no doubt that in the months ahead the Minister for Local Government, Deputy Tully, and the Minister for Finance will resolve the problem, knowing how tenacious Deputy Tully is in all matters, particularly those relating to the Department of Local Government and Finance. On that basis I have no doubt that aid will be forthcoming for the construction industry.

I commend the Department and the Minister for not having lost their nerve in an extremely difficult year. The Coalition have not lost their nerve and so will not lose the people's confidence in any further budgetary redevelopments during the next 12 months.

I do not intend to condemn the whole budget. I intend to be harsh where the budget is wrong and to give credit where it is good. In my opinion this is a "chancey" budget. If one borrows in a business, one borrows for productive purposes. The danger of this budget is that we are borrowing money to keep the people alive. We are spending large sums of borrowed money on social welfare. Much has been said about social welfare. I agree with every increase and congratulate the Minister. However, the country is in a very bad state when so many people are living on welfare.

There would be a bloody revolution in rural Ireland if it were not for Deputy Frank Cluskey's social welfare. In my area three people were drawing the dole two years ago. There are 50 people signing now because they have lost 70 per cent of their income. I am referring to the small farmers whose income has gone so low that they must depend on social welfare. I agree with Deputy Desmond when he says that this can demoralise the people. I remember the time when some of those people would not accept social welfare. But hard facts have made them accept. We are now budgeting and borrowing merely to keep our people alive. This is not good business.

I agree we should budget for a deficit but, in my opinion, a budget deficit of £125 million is too high. When I was growing up we were taught that in business we should balance our budget. We were also advised that if we had a productive plan, we should borrow and invest in it. This budget does not do that. It is giving a few pounds here and there solely to keep people alive.

I was disappointed that the construction industry did not get a much needed injection. Nobody can deny that the housing industry is in a very serious situation. The Minister for Local Government is a man with whom I agree on many things but I could not agree with him when he said today that he saw nothing wrong with the private housing sector nor when he said that he could not see there was any problem when a young couple wanted to buy a house costing £9,000 but could only get a loan of £4,500 plus grants. Where will they get the rest of the money? This is a major problem facing young couples today. The houses are there but there is no money to buy them. I have been pressing here for quite some time for grants for the building of private houses.

There should be no difference between the farmers' grants and other grants. They should all be the same. The farmer has the site while the non-farmer has to buy the site. The total of the farmer's grant at the moment is, at best, £920. That was granted at a time when houses cost only £2,000 or £3,000. Now houses cost £8,000 or £9,000. Therefore, at present the grant is useless. The £920 grant is not from the Department of Local Government. Half comes from the Department and half from the local county councils. I thought an injection should have been given to this sector. The building industry gives a great deal of employment. Everybody expected taxation to be mentioned in the budget, but I expected a big injection to be given to the building industry. That it did not get.

I also expected an injection to subsidise the wiring by the ESB of private houses. This is one of the greatest hardships at the moment in rural Ireland. Some of the old people did not accept electricity when the ESB were wiring in their area. Now a son, who has made money abroad, comes home and wants to build a house. He builds his house. He budgets for the building of his house but he does not budget for an extra £500 or £600 for ESB connection. We have been pressing here for some sort of subsidy to the ESB to help such people because this is a great hardship. I have cases where £500, £600 or the whole grant from the Department of Local Government has gone for ESB connection. The ESB will tell you, quite rightly, that they are a non profit making concern and that they have to pay their way. An injection of money in this area would help ordinary people to build their own houses. This is one of the things that prevents people from building houses in their own environment and drives them into the towns.

The increase of 15p per gallon on petrol was a shock to me. This is expected to bring in £27 million. We thought this would give the type of social welfare increases which we knew were needed to keep up with inflation. I cannot accept that this was done to cut down the consumption of petrol. I do not believe it will do this in the case of people who have plenty of money but what about the worker? I come from County Galway and I know people who are driving 30 or 40 miles to Galway city to work. They cannot be expected to travel on bicycles, they must have cars. This will add a couple of pounds a week to their expenses. Where will they get it? To cut down on the consumption of petrol I would go for rationing and I would give petrol to the people who need it at the right price. If the Minister had said he was putting 15p a gallon on petrol because the Government needed the money I would not be half so critical. I do not believe it was put on for the purpose of cutting down the consumption of petrol.

I spoke before about the mistake that was made in imposing a 50 miles per hour speed limit. That is a cod because nobody is keeping to it. I do not mind saying that I do not keep it myself. I have been fined a couple of times. If I am travelling at 50 miles per hour I am overtaken as if I were on a bicycle. To make an order to which nobody pays attention is humbug. Anyway, it does not save petrol.

On the first night after the order was made there was an attempt made to keep it. On the road on which I travel when one passes Kilcock the traffic begins to open up. The fast car gets away, then there is the medium one, the slow one and so on. On this particular night everybody seemed to be travelling at 50 miles per hour. The result was when we got to Kinnegad we had a funeral of cars. I used more petrol that night than I have used since then because I did not keep to the 50 miles per hour. I suppose I will be caught again. That is not very relevant, however. I do not agree with the increase of 15p per gallon and I do not believe it was put on for the purpose of cutting down consumption because the people who have money will continue to buy petrol and those who need it for their work are the people who will be affected.

I believe we will have another budget. If we have I hope the ESB will get something to subsidise the provision of electricity for those who are trying to build their homes. They come to me or to somebody else and ask whether we can do anything about the large amounts they are asked to pay. We cannot. We cannot even get the ESB to take it in instalments.

I was shocked that there was nothing in this budget by way of direct payment to the smaller farmer who must now live on the dole because of the low price of small cattle. I do not think I have got it across to city Deputies that the majority of people who have small cattle this year had 70 per cent of their income taken away. I know this. I had them myself and I know other people who had them. The average price of a weaned calf two years ago was £80. Last year it was £63 and this year it was £23 and it had to be a reasonably good one before it could be sold. Prices have improved slightly but the price of young cattle has not improved very much although beef has. I said before that the beef man has had it good over the whole year because with whatever he was getting for beef he could buy small cattle at a very low price. I have been appealing for some type of direct payment in respect of small cattle. I now understand that the carcase weight for intervention is not in EEC regulations but is decided by our own Government. I said before that I could not see why a 5 cwt. quality beast could not be put into intervention. This is something over which the Government had control. I thought there would be some direct payment to people who have lost large amounts of money. The big danger is that in springtime if there is an improvement those people will not be able to buy in because they got such bad prices for what they sold and some of them sold cows instead of calves. I asked for a direct payment on the first 20 cattle to such people.

The fodder voucher has been mentioned. That is only a loan to keep things going. When the voucher first came out the people who applied immediately got four vouchers, which was £30. People then began to get three. Eventually they got two and then none at all. Will the scheme be continued or is it the position that only people who had their applications in on the last date will get the four vouchers? It is my understanding that the Government will loan the money to keep the scheme going. Many people have asked me if it is in order for them to continue to apply for the vouchers and I have told them that I thought the scheme will be continued. I should like the Minister to make a statement on the matter in the near future. It is ridiculous to say that a few million pounds were handed out to the farmers. It is merely a loan. I have been arguing for a long time that repayment of the £500 loan should be put back until October and it is good that the Minister has agreed to it. It was not possible to repay the loan in March because the cattle would not be saleable then. When feed is scarce all the farmer can do is to try to keep the cattle alive but it is not possible to have them in a saleable condition before March.

The beef farmers have been advised to go back to milk. This kind of advice amuses me because different kinds of animals are involved in both lines. As any farmer knows, he would have to sell five suckling calves to buy a good dairy cow. It is not possible to switch suddenly from beef to dairying. However, if there is a switch to dairying— anyone who can afford to do so will make the switch—a large percentage of the calves that would be kept if the farmer stayed with beef production will be put on the market. They will be worth very little.

If the farmer stays in beef, at least he will be able to keep the calves for six or eight months by which time we hope the situation will have changed. However, if he switches to milk, the price of suckling calves will be very low. I am always annoyed when I hear people telling farmers to switch from one area of production to another when they do not realise what is involved. The people who give this advice are not farmers and do not understand the situation.

When I spoke in this House on another occasion I said it was dreadful that we were so short of tillage. I had expected in the budget that there would be some direct payment for at least a few acres of tillage. When I spoke in an interview before the budget I pointed out that this is not contrary to EEC requirements. When we thought the Treaty of Rome was very tight on these regulations we were told ten or 12 years ago that in the EEC it was not possible to subsidise by way of prices but that it was possible to pay a headage or acreage payment. We are doing this in the beef incentive scheme and I am glad the Minister has announced it will be continued this year.

I had hoped that in the budget we would not allow what had happened this year to recur, that farmers would be in the situation that they had no tillage. I was disappointed that nothing was given to this type of farmer. I cannot emphasise strongly enough that the type of farmer I am referring to has suffered the loss of a 70 per cent decrease in his income this year. If this happened to people in other walks of life what would they do? I am sure they would be loud in their protests. I have been trying to emphasise throughout the year what has happened to the incomes of the farmers I have referred to; I do not think any other section would accept that situation.

I am not referring to the type of farmers Deputy Desmond mentioned. I am as good a socialist as anyone else and I repeat that a certain section is being neglected. They have to depend on social welfare for existence. The budget has given increases in social welfare but it is said that we are budgeting for social welfare, that we have to do that. Instead of providing a living for the small farmer we have to give his social welfare. He would prefer not to be in this position but he must accept the benefit in order to survive. I compliment the Minister for his action with regard to this matter but it is sad that we have to budget in this way and that we are obliged to concentrate so completely on social welfare. I wish to make it clear that I am in favour of the payment of social welfare but it is sad that we have to borrow for this kind of measure and that we have no definite plan, for instance, with regard to housing. The 100,000 people who are unemployed will not get work as a result of this budget. Irrespective of on what side of the House Deputies may sit none of them wants to see the situation deteriorating. I hope the tide will turn and that the position will improve but I do not think the budget has done much. It has not spelled out how the 100,000 people might obtain employment.

With regard to small cattle, in addition to the question of reducing the carcase weight with regard to intervention, a board should be set up. This should be a different board from the beef board that is doing a good and specialised job. The new board should go abroad and try to get markets for young cattle. It annoys me when I hear people talk about the price farmers obtain for small cattle. I have said in this House that we went into the EEC in order to obtain free trade. The farmers with small cattle did not get this free trade because an £8 tariff was slapped on them. The Government should send abroad people who are interested in selling small cattle. The system that operates in this country is unique because we produce small cattle in one part of the country and we fatten them in another area. One of the parties concerned would not like the small cattle to be too expensive. The man who owns the small cattle should look after their sale abroad. The man with the beef cattle should have his own man looking after them. If I was a man finishing cattle I would not like to see young cattle too dear. That is why there was all the pressure for the £8 the time the tariff went on because they were afraid they would get too dear. The producer of small cattle has not all the advantages in the EEC. This is the first time he got a chance of getting anything but he was cheated out of it because the man finishing wanted to get young cattle as cheap as he could.

Some export body should be set up to look for a market for small cattle abroad. I cannot see when we are in the Community, if the cattle are to be fattened in one country and intervention is the same in every country, why the small producer in this country cannot get the same price as those in other member countries. I hope the Minister can tell us that the fodder vouchers will be continued and that the £30 will be paid from now on.

I expected some money to be given to the Land Commission to add to the £6 million which they have in relation to Directive 160. I understood the idea behind that was to get people who are not working their land off it. I find now it is not that type of farmer who are not working their land off it. I find now it is not that type of farmer who will retire. The State will have to contribute a vast amount of money for farmers who retire because the EEC contribution to that scheme is 75 per cent for farmers who retire between 50 and 65 years. If a farmer is over 65 years when he retires the State has to bear the full cost. A sum of £6 million is not sufficient to implement this scheme in full. If the Land Commission retire a man over 65 the State will have to pay the full cost, because the EEC pay nothing in his case.

We would all like to see people suffering from disabilities retiring from working their farms. Those people do not come within this scheme because it says that retiring farmers must have spent at least 50 per cent of their working hours over a certain number of years working on their farms. The scheme operates if a person is 50 years of age. If there is a widow aged 49 years, whose family has gone away and who would like to retire, she does not come within this scheme. There is no money in the kitty to carry out this scheme if the majority of people retiring are between 60 and 70 years.

Somebody stated that this was the first time that farmers got an opportunity to retire and that other sections were asked to retire at 65 years. No section is asked to retire at 50 years. A good working farmer will not retire at that age. If the Minister for Lands were here I am sure he would be able to tell me if I am right in saying that a large percentage of the people who want to retire are between 60 and 70 years of age and that the vast majority of them are over 65 years. Therefore the EEC will not pay any money for them.

I have great respect for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance, who is in charge of the Board of Works. If some money were given in the budget to his Department it would give greater employment and bring a lot of land in the west of Ireland into production. If extra money were given to housing, the Land Commission, the Board of Works and some incentive given to people to till I would not mind borrowing the money. But if we have to borrow money to keep people fed by paying them social welfare it is not good business. Many Deputies have stood up here and praised the Minister for giving extra money to social welfare recipients, but if he did not do this the people in receipt of those benefits would be in a very bad way.

I often have people coming to me who want to obtain land from the Land Commission. Social welfare is given out to farmers at the moment on the the basis of £20 for every £1 valuation. A small farmer with under £20 valuation who has a few children will get £8 or £9 a week. If you give him ten acres of land and put up his valuation £8 or £9 you put him in the rating bracket and the social welfare is taken from him. That is a disincentive to that man to take land or to become a developing farmer. The present system of assessing the income for social welfare is wrong.

I agree with Deputy Desmond when he said there are people who have other sidelines. Just because they are assessed on a valuation basis they can draw social welfare although they are not entitled to it, while there are others who are just above the guideline and are very poor but cannot get social welfare. Valuations vary a great deal. There are reasonably good lands that are valued at 15p an acre while there are very poor lands valued as high as 75p an acre. There is an historical background to that. In the old days of the grand jury you had to have a certain valuation in order to qualify to be on the grand jury. In those days, when the rates were only a penny in the pound you were not one of the aristocracy if you were not on the grand jury, and many people applied and got the valuation on their estate increased in order to qualify. That valuation remains to this day. That land is known in places in my constituency as landlord's land. There are very high valuations on it, and all the tenants on that land, having a few in family, might be poor, but they cannot get social welfare. If their genuine income was assessed against the income of a man with a lower valuation, I believe they would be more entitled to social welfare than he is. There is a farmer in County Galway, in this area where the low valuation is, who has nearly 100 acres of fairly good land and who has 90 Friesian cows, and if that man wanted to—he is not doing it—he could apply for social welfare on the valuation basis. That is why I say it is wrong to assess income on that basis.

I know nothing about high finance and I do not intend to go into it, but one wonders when one is on the safe side in regard to borrowing. It seems to be the general policy among economists that borrowing is no harm at all. I agree that it is no harm provided you are borrowing for productive purposes, but when you have to borrow to keep people fed, I worry a little about it. I may be a little old-fashioned, but I was brought up with the idea that if at the end of the year you were paying out a lot more than you were bringing in, you were going the wrong way. Apparently now you are going the right way.

What we want to do at the moment is to take the unemployed off the list, and I know we have to borrow, but I am just worried about the amount being borrowed and where it is being channelled, putting a few pounds here and a few pounds there and trying to give something to everybody, except of course the small farmer. The small farmer got nothing. The Minister may talk about the fodder voucher, but that is only a loan of money until it is recouped from the penny off the beef.

I should like an answer to the question that was asked on the first evening of the budget and on which we have no information yet: what will be the cost of the stamp to the worker? All the increases in social welfare, in old age pensions and so on, the good size of the budget on which we all agree, were spelled out, but the other side is not mentioned. We had the 15p on petrol. We know about that, but the stamp is a further imposition on the worker.

Again as regards the small farmer, if you go into any town in the west or in the midlands and ask the people who is the best customer and the best spender in that town they will say: "The small farmer's wife when she has it, but when she has not got it, we feel the pinch." If the small farmer is short of money everybody feels it. That is why we are sadly disappointed that nothing has been done for this section of the community.

In conclusion, I would ask the Minister whether the fodder voucher will be continued. Can you apply all the time? Will you get your four vouchers with the money the Minister is lending provided he collects it on the beef? If people switch from beef to milk what will happen with the newlydropped calf which will not be kept, if you are going into milk, for eight months in the hope of a better trade? Will an export market be set up for small cattle? This would be different altogether from the beef end of it. What will happen if the small farmer's position does not improve—and I do not think it will? I am worried about the effect of paying out social welfare. When you start paying out money it is surprising how fond people get of it, and they lose the incentive to do things for themselves. I would prefer to see something given to the small farmer to improve his farm and to build him up so that he would not need social welfare. The provisions of the budget remind me of somebody running a business that is going down: we borrow money; we decide to put a few bob here and a few bob there and hope for the best. I hope, in the interest of the country, no matter what side of the House we are on, things will turn out all right and that the economy will improve considerably within the next 12 months. I believe this is a very dangerous budget, but as a man who does not understand high finance I am not in a position to go into it in detail.

I would appeal to the Government even at this late hour to do something for the kind of person I represent. I represent the workers in the towns as well as the others. There are a great many people unemployed and more will be unemployed in my constituency because of the increased price of petrol. Government Deputies and Ministers will be down there for the by-elections. I would appeal to them to take a look around and see the position for themselves. They should ask the people what it costs to drive from one constituency into the other. I need not tell them the answer the people will give.

I do not want to be too critical but I am annoyed because I expected the Minister to do something better for those who most need help. They are the people who are very hard hit. I thought there would be an indication in the budget which would show that the workers would be removed from the unemployment list. I thought something would be done for the small farmers. That has not happened. That is why this is a disappointing budget. I think it is a gambler's budget. I may be wrong in that. It may turn out very well. All the same, I would not like to be the Minister for Finance because I think it is a chancy budget.

I join with Deputy Callanan in hoping that before the year is out the economy will take a turn for the better and things will not be as difficult as they are now. I compliment Deputy Callanan on his honesty and sincerity. If we had more of this kind of contribution it would serve a better purpose. The pattern is set, not just in relation to this year's budget, or last year's budget, but in relation to every budget: people on this side praise everything in the budget while those on the Opposition benches criticise everything in the budget. This does not make for constructive debate.

First of all, I want to deal with the circumstances in which this budget is introduced. A previous speaker said it is a budget which is not introduced in normal circumstances because of the serious economic situation at home and abroad. There is rampant world inflation and I have no doubt the Taoiseach and the Minister took a great deal of care and exercised a great deal of consideration and research before this budget was ultimately presented to the House. It is somewhat difficult to discuss the budget on its own. I believe we must also take into consideration last year's budget and the budget the year before that.

Hear, hear.

We must do that to get an indication of the pattern adopted by the Government. One thing is quite clear—it emerges above everything else—and that is that the Government are determined to look after the needy sections of our community. This is something for which many Deputies on the opposite benches have not given the Government credit. That is one thing that emerges above all; they are determined to look after those whe were neglected for far too long, social welfare recipients, the aged and the infirm. It gives me great pleasure to support a Government determined to do this. This budget clearly shows that this is the policy of the Government.

There are a number of things I should like to see done. I will take up now a point made by Deputy Callanan in connection with agriculture. I am sure he was sincere when he said he was very concerned about the plight of the small farmers in the west and that they had had a lean year. I do not accept altogether the percentage reduction he gave in their incomes. I concede there was a reduction but I would not agree it was 70 per cent. When Deputy Callanan talks about the small farmer changing from beef production to milk production I would like to remind him that this is a very costly process. I contend that the small farmer should never have been induced to go into beef production. There is no living in beef production on a farm under 50 acres of top-class land. There is no one more convinced of that than the present Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries and he has said time and time again that every inducement should be given to those misled by the beef incentive bonus scheme to go into beef production to get out of beef production now and go back into milk production.

I am sorry Deputy Callanan has left the House because there was one point I wanted to put to him. The year 1973, the first full year of the National Coalition Government, was the best year the agricultural industry and the farming community have ever had. Towards the end of the year there was a turn for the worse, but the dairy farmer did not do too badly. I believe every incentive that can be provided should be provided to induce the small farmer to go into milk production. This would be a worthwhile exercise. There is a future for milk. Unfortunately the cost of reversing the process is enormous. There are modern parlours, modern milking machines, bulk tanks and so on; all these are very expensive. This is the dilemma in which some small farmers induced into beef production now find themselves.

This year there was an increase of 4p per gallon for milk. We are going through a transitional period in the European Economic Community. In 1977 we will become full members. The gap between prices in Europe and here will be bridged by 20 per cent until such time as we reach par with European producers. Once we are in that position I believe we will be in a very sound economic position provided our farmers are totally geared to milk production. Our dairy farmers are second to none. Our climate is right for milk production. The winter period for in-feeding is far shorter than it is in Europe. As high as costs are at present they are far lower than they are in the other eight countries in the European Community. We produce milk far cheaper because of our valuable grass crop and because we have an excellent type of dairy farmer.

A mistake was made in former years with the beef incentive bonus scheme to induce those people to go into beef rather than to continue in milk production. There are difficulties in milk production as well. It involves a seven-day week, but times are changing and farmers are becoming more modern. In some areas they are helping each other and they have weekends off. It is vitally important to the agricultural industry that we should induce and encourage as many as possible of the type of farmers mentioned by Deputy Callanan to go back into milk production. The Minister has said time and again that this is the right thing to do.

I agree that the price for small cattle is bad at present. I agree that the producers of store cattle have gone through a difficult year. I hope that the new scheme which the Minister will be introducing in the not too distant future, the scheme for the underprivileged areas, will benefit some of those people and that it will apply in the most deserving areas. At present, many schemes apply to certain areas in the 12 western countries. I contend that there are areas outside the 12 western counties which are in a far worse position than the privileged areas. Deputy Desmond and Deputy Callanan said that in the Gaeltacht areas—and most of them are in the 12 western counties— and in areas where unemployment assistance or dole is available for small farmers, many farmers who are doing reasonably well, some of them earning £20 or £22 or £24 a week, are receiving unemployment assistance.

I was pleased to hear Deputy Callanan from the Fianna Fáil Party saying that the dole is demoralising for the small farmers, and that it is soul destroying. It takes a bit of courage to say that, particularly for a Fianna Fáil Deputy. It takes courage on the part of a member of the party who introduced it for the sole purpose of gaining votes, and so they did. All the more credit is now due to Deputy Callanan for saying that. This prompts me to say that, while we are talking of changes in our social welfare and our agricultural schemes, we should also talk about a change in the working of this Parliament. Deputy Desmond made a constructive contribution to this debate and he criticised where he thought criticism was necessary. We should make more use of committees. I understand that there are all-party committees dealing with matters like the Northern situation and the Constitution.

I suggest to the Taoiseach and the Government that this suggestion is worthy of consideration. Knowing the Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, I know that he would welcome an all-party committee of this House sitting with him and discussing problems such as the problem mentioned by Deputy Callanan of unemployment assistance. That scheme is wrong because it is based on valuation. West of the line determining the 12 western counties, which brings into that area part of my constituency, unemployment assistance or dole is based on valuation. It does not matter what income you have. You could have the milk of 50 cows going to the creamery. The scheme is abused wholesale. I would love to see twice as much money being devoted to some form of inducement or incentive towards increased production. This is what we want for the most hard-working section of our people, the small farming community. I should like to see a change in that direction. An all-party committee of the House could examine this question with the Minister for Social Welfare. I am reliably informed that if you are living in a dole-drawing area, if you are a farmer with a wife and children, your dole is based on your valuation and the number of your dependants.

Some people in receipt of unemployment assistance in those areas have bought a second farm and put it in the name of another member of the family in the United States or in Britain, and they can still draw the dole. This scheme is necessary at this time to provide a livelihood for some people, but it is being abused. It is terrible to find that somebody who is sending the milk of 20 or 30 cows to the creamery and drawing unemployment assistance qualifies for a butter subsidy, while next door a widow with young children in receipt of a contributory pension does not qualify for a butter subsidy. That is why I say it is time we had changes. There are many anomalies in social welfare benefits today. I do not blame the Parliamentary Secretary or the Minister. You cannot transform the whole nation in two years. That takes some time. I am pleased that old people and the infirm are being looked after. It is high time they were.

I should like to pay tribute to the Minister for Finance. I have the greatest admiration for him. When you consider the amount of money being provided this year for social welfare benefits and when you compare it with what was provided a few years ago, you realise what has to be provided from the Exchequer. People should realise that the Exchequer is only a pool of resources taken from the people and redistributed to people like the social welfare recipients. It was stated that each year more and more people are going on social welfare benefits. This is quite true.

For 50 years the qualifying age for the old age non-contributory pension was 70 years. Prior to the change of Government the Labour Party and the Fine Gael Party said they would reduce the qualifying age for a non-contributory old age pension year by year until it was in line with the qualifying age for a contributory old age pension or retirement pension.

This was right, but one must realise the magnitude of this task. From 1st April next the qualifying age will be 67 years. Therefore, the social welfare net for the non-contributory old age pension is being cast very wide. I want to pay tribute to the officials of the Department of Social Welfare who are dealing each year with two years' applications. We have had less delay in dealing with some of those applications than we used to have.

Many crocodile tears are shed about the way rural Ireland was denuded of its population over the past number of years. Even in my own constituency huge areas are sparsely populated, and that is not the worst hit. There are empty houses. The doors are locked. The people have emigrated. Does anybody ever stop to realise what was the main contributory factor to this draining of our young people from rural Ireland? If what was done over the past year and ten months had been done 20 or 30 years ago, it would have stopped much of the draining of our young people out of the remote parts of rural Ireland.

If you had a self-employed man and wife, whether shopkeepers or business people in a small way, or farmers, and they reach the age of 70 and they made an application for the old age pension, if they had a right of residence and maintenance under the deed of transfer of their property to a son or daughter or other member of the family, this was reflected in the non-contributory pension they received. If they had an income of £25 per year there was a reduction of five shillings in old money. This was a very raw deal for people who had given a lifetime of service. What happened was that the old people because of insecurity, fearful of being thrown out or put into an institution, retained their farm or property and would not sign it over. Consequently, the sons and daughters could not wait until they reached the age of 50 or 60 before the farm or business was transferred. Now we have a situation, I am glad to say under this Government, where a man and wife, under a deed of transfer, can reserve for themselves in a farm or business or other occupation, while transferring their property to their family, an income from that property of £12 per week and still qualify for the maximum old age non-contributory pension. This is very welcome and if it had been done years ago would have obviated the movement out of rural Ireland.

It is easy to say that you can try to bring people back. While this is a good aim it is very difficult to achieve, because once people leave it is very difficult to get them back. In my opinion, the situation I have described was the cause of a considerable number of young people, particularly small farmers' sons and daughters, leaving rural Ireland. I am glad even at this late hour that this matter is rectified. Now, when even one partner reaches pensionable age, the couple are satisfied to transfer because they know they can retire with the dignity they deserve. As a public representative, it is my experience that far more people are now inclined to sign over their property to their families much earlier than in previous times. This is something for which great credit is due to the Government. They reduced the pension age and eased the means test applying in such cases. Previously people reaching 70 found that when they got the pension it was not very much good, but they can now draw a pension at 67 while still young enough to enjoy retirement. Whatever one's occupation retirement at 65 is very commendable, so that people can enjoy a few years at the end of their days after having contributed so much to the State.

I am pleased with that aspect of the budget and the previous two budgets but I am slightly concerned about another aspect of this budget in connection with social welfare. A person becoming unemployed under a pay-related social welfare scheme will get a worthwhile benefit and this is as it should be, because the vast majority of workers would prefer to be employed rather than draw unemployment benefit or assistance. The Irish people particularly have a sense of pride and prefer to work rather than join the dole queue. But when you have a situation in which a man and wife with three children qualify for unemployment assistance at the rate of £23.85 per week you are very near the danger line where some who may not have that pride I referred to and may be inclined not to work will elect to live on the £23.85. This is a danger of which the Government should take note. We should be trying to provide employment for as many people as possible. While there are unemployed, there are also unemployables and that is something we should not encourage. I do not want to be misunderstood. We have an excellent work force in this country and if a man is unemployed through no fault of his own the benefit he can get is richly deserved but, on the other side, there is the danger to which I referred and it is something to which the Minister for Finance and the Government should give consideration in the future.

I want to refer to housing. I heard the Minister for Local Government dealing with that subject today and he gave a detailed account of the activities of his Department over the last two years. These details can be checked by any member of the Opposition. I believe all the criticism of his Department is totally unjustified. When he became political head of his Department the Minister gave an undertaking that we would reach an output of 25,000 houses per year. Some doubted if this could be achieved but I am glad to say that the figure was reached last year with 300 more in addition. This is a worthwhile achievement because housing and employment are two most important things. If you have people in good houses and secure jobs it is conducive to prosperity. We in public life realise only too well that some of our people, particularly some with young families, are still living in hovels.

I am a member of Cork County Council and the one committee in which I have most interest—I have been chairman of it for at least a year —is the housing committee. One thing that is clear from the reports presented to our county council's housing committee is the fact that the schemes submitted for sanction to the Department of Local Government have not been held up. We have not experienced the delay in obtaining sanction for the erection of houses like we did in past years. In former years people had to exercise pressure to obtain a house. I do not believe that many Deputies realise how difficult it is for a family to live in a bad house, a house without sanitary facilities or running water.

In this field I should like to pay tribute to the Government, and the Minister for Local Government in particular, for their housing programme. The Minister has tackled this problem in a serious way and, I believe, that within a few years we will have reached the stage where we will be able to provide a decent house for those in need. In former years we had to tell applicants for rural cottages that they would have to wait four or five years before a proposal to erect a cottage for them was sanctioned. It takes three years less for a person to qualify for a house now than it did under Fianna Fáil. Under Fianna Fáil some people were as long as seven years on a housing list. I am glad the Government are stepping up the housing programme and I hope they reach their target of 25,000 this year.

Local authorities also receive grants from the Department of Local Government for road improvements. We must continue to improve our main road network and because of increased costs more money is needed. I should like to pay tribute to the Minister for Local Government for the work he has done in this regard. My experience, as a member of Cork County Council, has been that he has made great strides in this sphere.

Deputy Callanan made the point that there was not much money in the budget for the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Finance who is in charge of the Office of Public Works to carry out drainage work. I agree with the Deputy in that regard. I should like to see more money devoted to that activity, something which has been sadly lacking over the years. It is difficult to understand that while we talk of solving the problem of the small farmer and uneconomic holdings thousands of acres of land are flooded. Some of the rivers in my constituency which are choked are between No. 14 and No. 17 on the priority list. Unless progress is stepped up these will not be reached in the next 30 or 40 years. If such rivers were cleaned the holdings adjoining them could be made economic.

There has been much talk about providing money for the Land Commission so that land can be acquired for division amongst small holders but the drainage of land must be tackled. It is a futile exercise acquiring land at enormous expense to solve the problem of small farmers while at the same time thousands of acres of arable land is flooded for more than nine months of the year. A river in my area has flooded more than 20 small holdings but money cannot be found to clean that river. The first question I asked in the Dáil following my election was if money would be provided for this work and I was informed then that the particular river was No. 13 on the priority list. For some peculiar reason this river has been moved to No. 17. This is crazy. Extra money must be found for this type of work if we are sincere about solving this serious problem.

People would not have an objection to paying rates on a holding that is capable of providing them with a decent living for their family. The farmers I have spoken of have given up hope that the river which floods their land will be reached in their lifetime. This problem must be tackled with the same initiative as the housing problem and others have been tackled by this Government. Very little progress has been made in this regard down the years.

Some very welcome changes have taken place in agriculture in the past 12 months. We had the serious problem of professional people, millers and so on, buying up land and as soon as they purchased it making application to the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries for every conceivable grant available. Some people drew grants in excess of £50,000 while the small farmer was not in a position to buy the land because he was outbid by these people. Even if the small farmer proved successful in his efforts to buy the land he could not avail of the grants. Under the farm modernisation scheme which is cumbersome and is causing great hardship to the farmers and the advisory service to operate these wealthy people will not qualify for grants. It is only right that they should not be in a position to draw, at the expense of the taxpayer, enormous grants to improve newly acquired holdings.

While progress in some areas may have been slow many welcome changes have taken place over the past two years. The Minister, Deputy Clinton—I accept that there is some criticism of him by some of the farming organisations—has proved himself to be a hard working and dedicated Minister for Agriculture and Fisheries, the best to have ever graced that office. I feel sure that everybody agrees with that statement.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 10.30 p.m. until 3 p.m. on Wednesday, 22nd January, 1975.