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.