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Dáil Éireann debate -
Wednesday, 18 Feb 1981

Vol. 326 No. 11

Financial Resolutions, 1981. - Financial Resolution No. 9: 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 resuming my contribution to the budget debate I should like to commend the Taoiseach for his action in the aftermath of one of the greatest tragedies that has befallen our nation since it came into being. It goes to show at least that human concern entered into politics. I hope the relevance of what goes on in this House will be displayed by positive swift action in implementing legislation and that the wave of emotion and the avalanche of sympathy which followed this terrible disaster will ensure that the young people who died so tragically and whose aspirations and ambitions can now never be fulfilled will not have died in vain. I trust that the tribunal to be set up to look into the disaster will inquire comprehensively into the entire situation and that the House will deal effectively with it afterwards.

The debate on the budget that has been going on for some weeks seems of minimal consequence because everything that possibly could be said about the budget, good and bad, has been said. That, of course, does not take from the fact that Government and Opposition speakers must carry on in the wake of the speech of the Minister for Finance. I said in my short contribution last week that the best summary I have heard of the budget did not come from the Taoiseach or members of the Government or from any member of the Opposition. Indeed, it did not come from anybody in this House. The best summary I have seen and heard of this budget came on international television at the inaugeration of the President of the United States on the steps of Capitol Hill when the Rev. Moomaw, in his stentorial voice, said: "Oh God, we need you now more than ever before". In political terms, maybe we do.

He was referring to Fianna Fáil.

Seeing that the Minister of State is here, I will remind him that I was speaking about the telephone system the other day——

What telephone system?

Deputy Kenny, without interruption.

I was talking about the Irish telephone system, such as it is. I said that both the Minister of State and the Minister had received high commendation from the workers in Posts and Telegraphs for their interest in the activities of the Department. However, the figures produced by both Ministers do not stand up in real workable terms in so far as the telephone system is concerned. It is good to hear that 80,000 telephones will be installed this year and that by 1984 there will not be a waiting list. I hope that target will be lived up to. I have in my possession a typical letter from a constituent in a far distant region of the west who is lucky enough to have a telephone service of a kind. I will not go into the details of the letter but I should like to make two points. He is on a party line——

The wrong party.

If he has an emergency he must get the priest or the doctor or the local Gardaí to crank the telephone of the 300 subscribers simultaneously in order to get a signal strong enough to contact the local exchange. The gentleman who has written this letter suffers from a vocal disability — he has a slight stammer. I will quote from the letter:

Noise comes and goes during a conversation so that one tries to speak rapidly when the line is clear and this vocal disability trying to speak rapidly when the line is clear causes palpitations of the heart and if you have to receive medical attention it is not going to be that easy to do so.

I am making the point that that is a typical letter from a constituent. The service is not what it is stated to be. If you try to dial any 091 or 093 number from upstairs here it is virtually impossible to make any contact whatsoever.

Some time ago we had a debate here where questions were asked regarding rumours of political implications in the appointment of trainee installers. The Minister and his Minister of State defended their case very well. Many young men who were successful in their medical examinations and about whom references have probably been given to the Minister have not yet been called for employment. I hope the Ministers concerned will ensure that these people are called for service within the Department in a reasonably short time.

I presume the Deputy is referring to Castlebar? I should like to inform him that we took 20 people into Galway this week.

I thank the Minister. I hope the remainder will also be taken on. The budget introduced some weeks ago has lost its relevance so far as debate in this House is concerned. The man in the street will have to pay for what is introduced here and no amount of talk or debate will change that. On this side of the House we can only highlight the issues but the Government intend to introduce them.

The answer to Question No. 127 on 10 February 1981 to the Taoiseach gave the percentage increase from mid-February 1977 to mid-November 1980 in respect of various items. It is interesting to note that petrol has increased by 63.4 per cent, postage charges by 65.7 per cent and another increase is due shortly, telephone charges by 80.4 per cent, electricity by 88.5 per cent and town gas by 139.7 per cent. There are other variations also, all of them upwards. The cost of this has to be borne by the citizen and this is not becoming any easier with the falling value of the punt. Times are becoming more difficult for the citizen who has to bear the brunt of the burden imposed by the budget, irrespective of what is said here. Bread has increased in price from just over 20p in mid-February 1977 to 38.5p in February 1980. The price of 1 lb of creamery butter has increased from 53p in mid-February 1977 to over 65p in February 1980.

I could continue with the list of price increases that are startling and that affect the standard of living of every household. In this connection the recommendation contained in the programme given to the people by Fianna Fáil in 1977 has not been implemented and will not be implemented in the time remaining before the Taoiseach goes to the country. If I remember correctly, the Government stated that prices would decrease by 1 per cent for the remaining period of 1977, by 2 per cent for 1978, by 2 per cent for 1979 and the decrease projected for 1980 was left blank. The decrease projected by the Government made a total of 5 per cent, not taking 1980 into account: we could multiply that total by 40 in the case of many items and we would not be within striking distance of the price increases that have taken place. That promise was not honoured by the Government. Something should have been done about the matter, even if only to re-introduce food subsidies in an emergency such as exists now.

The effect of the budget on every household has meant that the items most spoken about by people are prices, unemployment, the lack of confidence in agriculture and the lack of job opportunities for young people. I should not like the people to be distracted from those matters by any references to Northern Ireland. We do not want any emotional drum beating, even though in political terms the statements by the Rev. Ian Paisley may be of advantage to the Taoiseach. I should not like the people of this country to be distracted from the real issues that concern them in their daily lives and on which they will be asked to make a judgment sometime before June 1982.

Job opportunities for young people are of crucial importance to every parent and young person. Much has been said about the percentage of young people under the age of 25 years, questions have been raised about the number of young people unemployed and much debate has taken place about the opportunities that exist for them. The aspirations of these young people are not being met. Thus, the credibility of the Government and of all politicians is at stake in that specific promises and guarantees were given to young people that have not been implemented. Politicians of all parties run the risk of paying the price in electoral terms when these young people exercise their franchise.

If employment were to be dealt with on the lines promised in the Fianna Fáil election programme we would have fewer than 50,000 people unemployed at this time. In fact, the number of unemployed is more than 130,000 and that number is rising. Many of these people are under 25 years. They have made attempts to get employment on many occasions but each attempt has been frustrated. This leads to apathy and a lack of confidence on their part and it should be considered seriously. The work experience programmes and the youth employment schemes introduced by the Minister of State for Education and another Minister, although they were introduced as temporary schemes, have played a major part in giving experience to young people seeking employment. These schemes have come to stay, at least while the demographic situation remains as it is.

In the report on Youth Employment by the Manpower Consultative Committee there is the following statement:

As a comprehensive examination of the educational system regarding its relevance to modern employment of a technical nature should be carried out, the Manpower Consultative Committee might consider how this should be done.

That is very important in the context of the micro-electronic industry that is with us now and for which we have a tremendous base and the necessary facilities. If this is pursued properly, the fear of very large numbers of people being replaced by machines will not be that great. In fact, unlimited opportunities present themselves if the matter is followed through properly. In the same document there is the following observation:

Indications are that many of the most disadvantaged young people do not come into contact with the official employment agencies. Efforts of official bodies to help such minority groups should, therefore, have a high public profile.

The report goes on to say that in the case of people from economically deprived backgrounds, intervention may be necessary at the primary school stage. That is a very important statement which is of concern to all parents and teachers. It is true that the National Manpower Service has done a marvellous job in recommending young people for different types of employment, but there are many with whom they have no contact. There is a need for advice at primary school level.

The responsibility for bringing young children to an intellectual level where they can look after themselves from a basic point of view rests on primary teachers, but they have not been given the facilities which they deserve. Many of our primary schools are substandard and it is unfair to ask parents to send their children to schools which do not have the same standards as their own homes. The INTO have campaigned to bring pressure to bear on the Department to carry out necessary repairs. This campaign has been effective and the Government should by now be aware of the importance of the primary school sector and should see to it that further finance is given to this area. More remedial teachers must be appointed in national schools because the ordinary primary school teacher, in a situation where the pupil-teacher ratio is too high, has not sufficient time to use his abilities to bring children of lesser intellect to a stage where they can reasonably hope to look after themselves in the area of basic reading and mathematics. While primary teachers may have a certain amount of training in the remedial area, they have not the necessary time to develop the minds of these children, who will be completely lost if they go on to secondary or vocational school. Such an experience will badly damage their confidence.

Another fact which emerges from the Manpower Information Quarterly Bulletin for December 1980 is that redundancies notified as having qualified under the redundancy payments scheme in the first nine months of 1980 amounted to 10,667. Increases in employment took place in some areas. When word spreads about possible redundancies a loss of confidence occurs and the morale of workers drops, as does their capacity to increase output. There is a psychological effect on the workforce which causes a strain between them and management. This is a matter of serious concern at present. Many long established industries are being seriously hit and every town in the country is experiencing the trauma and despair of people faced with redundancy who may have no hope of obtaining decent employment within a reasonable period.

It is widely recognised that the IDA have done a marvellous job in bringing industry to various parts of the country. However, due recognition has not been given to the fact that many industrialists have come here because they recognise the quality and the capacity of our workforce. I speak particularly about the west where the environment may not be very suitable for larger scale industries. In spite of this, many of these industries have been set up during the past ten years and basic infrastructural facilities have been provided. The confidence shown by the industrialists has been justified by the productivity of the workforce. However, many of them are now faced with difficult times due to the world recession and in this context the Minister for Industry, Commerce and Tourism should examine the role of the county development teams and should consider an expansion of their scope and budgetary powers.

The ordinary county development team are very limited in their capacity to spend money to attract smaller scale industries or to invite local people with specific ideas to set up small industries. The team in my own county have been innovative in many respects, even to the point of having films made showing facilities available in the county which they have attempted to project to industrialists abroad. They find themselves somewhat limited in their capacity to do so. The Minister should consider the budgetary powers given to SFADCo as compared with those given to county development teams. As time goes on we will become more dependent on small scale industries and these teams must be given greater scope to develop them. That is not to say that the IDA should not continue their efforts to attract industry. Many advance factories throughout the country are empty and there is very little hope of their being occupied in the foreseeable future.

Probably the only section of the community who have welcomed this budget are social welfare recipients and various organisations involved in this field. This is the Year of the Disabled and I hope that the same amount of lip service will not be paid to it as was paid last year to the International Year of the Child. The disabled deserve much greater consideration and this has been recognised to a certain extent in the budget. Practical advances can be made without any great expense in such matters as easier access to public buildings. Other practical requests have been made by the disabled which should be granted.

Last year the introduction of the free fuel scheme caused quite a furore in many counties because the guidelines laid down by the Minister were never published in the local papers and are not published on the application forms for free fuel. Many people who consider themselves entitled, applied for it and on investigation it was found that they were not entitled to it. This has caused a great strain. The scheme in its present form is unworkable and something should be done about it. The assistance officers have been under enormous pressure to grant even a minimum amount of free fuel to people who consider themselves eligible.

In relation to social welfare, County Mayo in particular has a long standing row between the dentists and the Department. People who have contributed to social welfare payments are not entitled to dental treatment as a result of their contributions. I raised this in the House before but it has not yet been sorted out. It is time for the Minister to do what has to be done and settle it once and for all. A person who has worked in a factory for 20 years should be entitled to dental treatment on his contributions but the system operated by the Department requires that an applicant must go to the dentist who must fill out an application form and send it to the Department to determine the eligibility of the patient. This form is supposed to be returned in six weeks but sometimes it takes from 18 months to two years. If one had a toothache for that long we could expect an expansion in the mental hospital services throughout the country. This is bureaucracy at its worst. The staff in the section of the Department concerned are completely snowed under with applications. That should make it easier for the Minister to introduce a system in which the applicant would have a record of his contributions for the period of employment so that the dentist could recognise immediately that the applicant was eligible for treatment and he could apply to the Department for payment afterwards.

In the recent past I met several widows' associations who feel that they have not been justly treated by the Department of Social Welfare. Their pensions have been increased in line with the other social welfare increases but they feel they should be entitled to a minimum amount of free travel and electricity. Many widows have to look after young families and the effort of coping with and rearing these children imposes a great strain on them. They should be allowed the convenience of being able to use public transport to visit relatives even on a quarterly basis. That would be a small concession. The Minister should look at this to see what he can do about it.

The increased price of drink will affect the social life of our old age pensioners many of whom like to travel to their local pub to have a drink with their friends. This will be very much restricted now. An increase was granted to them but by the end of the year this will be negatived by inflation or other price increases.

In relation to pensioners in the west, many years ago these people were forced to emigrate to Britain or the US to earn their living and they supported their families at home while doing so. Some of them were lucky enough to be eligible for retirement pension on their return but they have found, due to the complexities of the legislation, that when budgets in the countries from which they receive their pensions, grant them an increase, their Irish social welfare payment is automatically decreased. A payment from the Department of Social Welfare here to an old age pensioner means more than does a payment from a foreign department. These people have a valid case in that they owe nothing to this country. In fact, they put everything they had into it. They were forced to emigrate and their productivity came to the assistance of their families at home. Week after week their payments flooded into this country. Without them many would not have been able to manage at all. The Minister should look at whatever legislation governs this situation to see what can be done. Several thousands of people right along the west coast are affected by this and they feel they are being discriminated against by a country they were forced to leave in order to look after their relatives. When they come back they find that they are denied any payments from the Department here.

The means test for the old age pension should be relaxed. I had a case recently where an applicant aged 69, a hard working farmer with half a dozen cows, was denied a pension. If he sat down and did nothing he would be entitled to a full pension but because he follows the advice of the Minister for Agriculture and goes into dairying to increase output he is denied benefit from the Department. It is a contradiction in terms. One Minister urges people to do something, while on the other hand there is a clear indication that if they do nothing they will qualify for all benefits. This should not be tolerated. We must have social welfare but we should not turn into a welfare society where if one does nothing one gets everything but if one does anything one gets nothing.

The increase in the price of petrol with further increases on the way will affect the standard of living of many people. A car is not a luxury in rural Ireland. There is too much tax on a gallon of petrol. I know the Government need money to run the various services and that we complain about foreign borrowing, and that we ask for more money to be spent in different Departments but the methods adopted by the Government to get this money are not justified.

The Government were elected in 1977 on a specific list of commitments. Half way through their period in office their leader was changed and the present Taoiseach was elected on the assumption that he was the only one with the capacity to work an economic miracle when times were bad. It has not come about. In fact budgetary over-spending was of the order of £200 million in his first year in office. Confidence has waned to an alarming degree in agriculture; unemployment is higher than it was in 1940 and inflation has not been brought under control. There is no semblance of control over price increases in essential foodstuffs. In general the state of the country is not what it should be. We cannot blame Deputy Ryan this time nor former Deputy Justin Keating, and we cannot blame the Arabs. Although the world recession has something to do with it, had we followed more prudent policies our country would be in better shape now to meet the economic circumstances of the time.

Housing was to play a major role in the Government's re-election. The £1,000 grant was an incentive that even an illiterate person can understand. The magical figure of £1,000 gave the illusion of an enormous jump in real terms in financial assistance for the building of new houses. The increase in the cost of housing since then has reduced this to a very minimal amount and it is simply not sufficient to offer a grant today of £1,000 in respect of a new dwelling. It is difficult enough for young people to get the money together from a loan, borrowing or savings to buy a house; but when the incentive offered to them is only £1,000 at today's prices and with the way increases are continuing to take place right across the board it does not make sense. The difference between the loan and the cost of the house is increasing all the time. The grant remaining static has not helped matters. It would not buy even the windows for a decent sized house. Everybody would welcome the grant being increased to £3,000. The qualifying area of the house should also be increased because at the moment it is too small in relation to a grant. The Government have given a commitment to reintroducing the home improvement grant. This should certainly be reintroduced because a lot of people are being denied this very necessary facility.

The Turf Development Bill, which is to be introduced shortly, gets some mention in the investment programme. The amount of money given to Bord na Móna for distribution this year is not sufficient. I urge the Minister to ensure that the scheme gets into operation before the turf cutting season this year. It is not fair that Bord na Móna should be the agency for distributing money to competitors such as co-operatives or private individuals. The level of grant assistance offered for the west of Ireland in the draft Bill is the same as that for the whole of the country. We recognise that the west is a disadvantaged area and the level of grant assistance in respect of bog development in the west should be higher than it is. Due to the very high level of rainfall it costs more and takes longer to save turf in the west than anywhere else. This fact does not seem to have been recognised in the draft Bill. I hope the Minister does something about that when the Bill is brought before the House.

A major political item for the west is a commitment to build another regional technical college in the west. There is some mention of this in the Minister's speech. Every political organisation, in fact every organisation of any consequence in County Mayo has backed the call by the VEC to lodge an official application to the Department for a regional technical college. There will be a lot of talk about this in the months ahead. I understand that the documentation has already been lodged with the Minister for Education. I hope the Minister will give attention to this. We are living in a technological age, which is becoming more sophisticated as time passes. People in County Mayo have to travel to Sligo or Galway to attend regional technical colleges. The economic hardship imposed on their parents is not justified. A commitment to the provision of a regional technical college in that district would enhance the ability of the area to attract further technological industries because the basic facilities are being provided. If this is not followed up with educational facilities many opportunities will be lost for our young people.

I should like publicly to record my very deepest sympathy to the parents of those who lost their lives in the recent holocaust in Artane. It has been an appalling experience for every person. There has been an air of gloom over everybody.

I have analysed the contributions that have been made to this budget debate and I would like to approach the budget from three particular aspects — first, from its social implications to the economy; second, from the incentives which have been directly given to private enterprise; and, third, from the point of view of the national youth awards scheme. There has been a lot of doom and gloom about the budget. Shortly after its introduction many irrational statements were made which now seem to be discounted because people are beginning to see that the budget, when one considers the present European and international financial climate, is excellent.

There are three types of budget which could have been presented to the House. First, we could have had an austere, harsh type of budget, on the lines of the one introduced overseas. Second, we could have had a soft budget. The Government had been accused of preparing a soft budget for an election. Third, we could have had a balanced budget. An austere budget, like the one introduced in England, can cause great havoc. It is dismantling heavy industry there, which will be very difficult to get re-established, and is causing great hardship. A soft budget, taking soft options, programming inflation into the economy, is a course which could have been taken by the Minister for Finance, but he did not do that. He looked at the prevailing situation and produced this excellent, socially just budget, with key elements which have given great incentives.

With regard to the social elements in the budget a comparison must be made because an accusation has been levelled at the Government that it is not a socially just budget. It is important to compare the four years of Fianna Fáil in office, when in real terms slightly over 40 per cent has been awarded in social welfare benefits as against 10 per cent in the four years of the Coalition Government. Taken as it stands, that statistic indicates exactly how socially orientated this Government have been. It would be very easy to produce a table of comparisons showing that in many cases welfare payments have been increased by over 25 per cent. I have the tables in front of me. There is no point in doing that. They have been discussed before. They are printed and they are there for anyone to see.

This is a balanced budget and in the economic situation which prevails internationally, it is a courageous budget. We see the socially orientated policies of our Government in the increased benefit for old age pensioners. Walking around my constituency this is the feedback I am getting. These people have been looked after first and foremost, and this it the most important element in the budget.

A second aspect is the increase in capital expenditure from £1,270 million to £1,773 million, almost a 37 per cent increase. This is a direct incentive to private enterprise to take up the challenge. Private enterprise have a social obligation to become actively involved at this stage in our economic growth.

Another element of the budget is the £100,000 for our national youth awards scheme. I am particularly interested in this area. The Minister has an ideal opportunity to involve young people in schemes which can help us greatly. We are living in an age of rapid changes. Young people are being exploited in many areas of activity. This awards scheme could be of great help. I will cite three instances where this could be done.

We have a terrifying prospect of drug abuse. Within the next five or six years the abuse of hard drugs will become a real challenge to our health and educational authorities in trying to take a positive role in preventing this widespread abuse. In a national awards scheme this is one area where young people could become directly involved with the Department in identifying the problem and trying to do something about it.

We also have the awful problem of under age drinking. Young people of 15 and 16 years of age are being served alcoholic beverages. This is another area where the national youth awards scheme could be implemented and youth leaders could be appointed to specific areas such as trying to identify drug pushers or being involved in the introduction of identity cards to ensure that young people will not be exploited in the area of under age drinking.

A third aspect is direct community care. Young people should be afforded the opportunity of finding ways and means, with the assistance of the Department of Health, of helping old people and giving them the better life which they deserve. We must try to ensure that young people know what their direct responsibilities are. There is a developing gulf or gap between young people and elderly people which is undesirable and which comes from the exploitation of young people. If properly implemented the national youth awards scheme — and I have no doubt that the Minister will have a great deal to say on this score — can show positive results within the community. I should like to have seen a larger sum of money allocated in this area.

I have spoken about direct incentives for private enterprise. We hear talk about the differential between the punt and the £ sterling but, as a nation, we must be prepared to increase our work commitment and our attitude to efficiency and doing a good days' work. Our rate of absenteeism is holding us back at the moment. Unless we do something about it, jobs will be lost. In our major local authority, Dublin Corporation, last year we lost something in the region of 300 years in sick pay or sick leave, call it what you like, amongst 5,000 employees.

It is important that a work ethic should prevail. This budget has shown confidence in increasing capital expenditure. This should be appreciated and taken up by private enterprise. Incentives and proper awards should be given to workers for a good days' work. I believe the emphasis should be on rewarding people who work and have a good work record, rather than allowing for sick leave. The reward should be given to people who work. Perhaps a day off in the week should be given to people who do a full month's work rather than giving so many days sick leave.

This is a country bedeviled by an attitude of investment in sickness. The budget endeavours to create jobs in a climate where the microchip is making it more and more difficult to do so. Insurance companies are manning down their regional offices in some cases from 10 and 12 employees to one or two. Machines can be installed which carry out work formerly performed by employees. The bank can instal massive computers and the loss of jobs could be serious. It is a constant struggle to create new jobs which are so essential to our economy. The lifeblood of the economy is the creation of jobs. The number of jobs created by the Government over the past three years is on record for everybody to see.

I have spoken about the 40 per cent increase in social welfare benefits over the last three-and-a-half years. We have had a very serious oil crisis. There is no point in living in a dream world such as in John Lennon's revived hit "Imagine" where everything is all milk and honey. It is all very fine to talk about that when one has massive amounts of money to back one up. We are living in an economic climate where there is a downturn in consumer needs and in production. It is not an easy climate for any Government to steer an economy through.

The budget is taking a balanced course and making the best of our opportunities. It is not taking deflationary measures but showing confidence in the economy. We would have introduced a budget that would have battened down the hatches and been austere and made it very difficult for small firms to operate. Instead the Minister, in his wisdom, is steering the economy through this difficult time. People in industry and those operating small businesses appreciate this. Everyone would like to see greater income tax reliefs. In the present economic structure this is not easy and would be irresponsible. We have not increased direct taxation. It is a balanced budget to get the economy moving. Anyone going to England frequently will realise the nervousness that prevails there where firms are going to the wall and large industrial-orientated firms have been going bankrupt as a result of the harsh measures taken. Here we have kept things going and it is the policy of the Government to keep the economy on an even keel.

If one wants to get a measure of how the economy is going it is important to see how it is rated internationally. Our currency is faring very well within the EMS. Our £ is holding its own. There is an artificiality about the differential between the £ sterling and the IR£. Everyone realises that. Yet it is used to try to paint a picture of gloom. As recently as three weeks ago firm indication came from the English Exchequer that they were seeking ways of joining the EMS. When that happens the situation will be totally different as regards the rating of the £ sterling and the IR£. At present our exporters are seeking the opportunities available to them and doubling their efforts to avail of the opportunities that lie within the budget as it is framed.

There are small increases in certain social welfare areas. I should like to have seen bigger increases but it is difficult to increase in every area. Taking the development of the social welfare scheme over the past few years from a medical point of view, great advance has been made. This has been due to the Taoiseach who, when he was Minister for Health and Social Welfare, laid the foundation for a better attitude towards the socially deprived. I am very pleased with the budget in that area and the Minister should be congratulated in that respect.

There have been increases on cigarettes, and drink. I am not a kill-joy in my attitude to drink but if the increase served in any way to deter young people from drinking I would be happy. If it had that direct effect I would be happy for it to be increased by twice the amount. However, the great problem is that it does not appear to have that effect. The money appears to be there and that is unfortunate. I should like to see some of the revenue that will come from the increased tax on alcohol ploughed directly into incentive schemes to deter young people from drinking. I know I am repeating myself on the question of under-age drinking and drug abuse but I feel very strongly about it. Unless there is a new public awareness and unless parents and young people get involved we will have a massive problem. It is the exploitation of young people that I object to. The old age pensioner who has always enjoyed one or two drinks has also always had a balanced attitude to his or her drinking habits. We are not speaking about that sector of society at all. At present the big problem lies with young people and let us not run away from all the ensuing problems. What can one say about cigarettes other than that they constitute a programmed recipe for ill health. Despite all the efforts of the Health Education Bureau, unless people come to grips with this problem we will have more ill health as a direct result of cigarette smoking.

The price of petrol has been increased as well, something nobody wanted to see happen. Everybody seems to feel it constitutes a very tough increase. From asking people what they thought about the budget it would appear that they objected most to the increased price of petrol. That message came through loud and clear. With regard to the usage of petrol the motor car is no longer classified a luxury and is essential to industry and many occupations as well. But there are many cases of cars being over-used particularly in an age when we must be more aware of the conservation of energy. There is no obligation on a person to use a motor car. Indeed greater restraint in its use could easily offset the increase to a huge sector of society, thereby doing our economy a great favour as well as our present adverse balance of payments.

The budget has been received with great acclaim by the building trade. As recently as 10 days ago the building federation applauded the budget particularly for its provisions in fuelling the building industry. This is particularly fortunate when one remembers that in other countries there is at present a downturn in this industry. The building trade is one of the key areas in a developed economy. It is almost a barometer of how the economy is going. Taking into account the increase in capital expenditure and the guarantee, almost, to private enterprise that if they develop, the Government will occupy many of the buildings completed, it must be realised that there is tremendous opportunity in this country. One can adopt an attitude of doom, gloom and depression but it must be remembered also that most Europeans look on Ireland as a country with immense natural wealth. Therefore it is up to our people themselves to exploit that resource. The Government can lay the foundation and the plan — as have been structured in this budget — but looking to the Government all the time for the answers just will not do. Nowadays, compared with the time when I left college, there are tremendous opportunities available to young people who are prepared to work hard. An emphasis on efficiency will help our economy tremendously. But we must all be aware that we must become more efficient to allow our economy to grow.

There has not been much comment in the course of this debate on the question of buying our own produce. When one examines the budget in detail one finds that there are areas where this is imperative. Our people have a tremendous weapon in this respect, in staving off problems, if only they are prepared to show a national pride, a pride in themselves demonstrated by the purchase of their own produce. Watching the Robert Kee television series — Ireland: a Television History — one could within a few weeks formulate an appraisal of how our economy has expanded since the inception of this State.

We are now at the point of growth expansion; the foundations have been laid. Confidence must prevail at all levels, a confidence in ourselves, by our people availing of the measures incorporated in this budget rather than adopting a destructive attitude. This is a growth budget and people must examine it for the opportunities it makes available. In the present climate of opinion it constitutes a balanced budget, and is fuel charged with incentives to the building industry, from which there can be quite a spin-off, coupled with the tremendous relief to people in need.

I appeal to private enterprise for more initiative, to take up the offer made to them and to endeavour to involve more and more young people through the national youth award scheme. It must be remembered that the future of the country is dependent on our young people and they must be involved. I know that the Minister of State at the Department of Justice present has very strong feelings about under-age drinking, drug abuse and so on. There is a great opportunity to involve young people in these areas through his Department and the Departments of Health and Education also. Indeed I would recommend that that award scheme be increased fivefold in the next budget, to be developed from there.

Before speaking about the budget and the economy generally I want to join the previous speakers in their expression of sympathy to those who suffered so much as a result of the Stardust fire. It is appropriate that I should take this opportunity to add my voice to theirs. I would add one further comment. Later in the day there will be a motion in regard to the setting up of a tribunal of inquiry. At this stage I would merely say that I hope the Government will not merely set up an inquiry and rest at that. In my own constituency the last major disaster at Whiddy took place and I saw the huge report coming from the inquiry and I am still waiting for the Government to take steps to implement that report. I also saw in my own county a major train disaster which was not quite as big. Again inquiries have been going on but I want to see some action and a bit of force to ensure that this type of disaster will be prevented in the future. I will leave it at that. It is not appropriate that I should say any more.

I was rather amused by the previous Deputy from the Government back benches talking in glowing terms about the ability of the Government to balance the budget. I do not know whether he has read much of the budget figures but on the Minister's own admission the budget is based on a deficit on current account of £515 million so it is a bit of a joke to be talking about a balanced budget. Even that figure is not a true one because it is based on sums which, quite frankly, do not add up and we will end up the year with a far greater deficit. But at this stage I merely want to point out to the previous Deputy that any thoughts that he has that this budget is presented on the basis of being a balanced one can be quickly disabused by looking at the last page of the Minister's budget speech where there is an explanatory table of the current budget. He will see that on the Minister's own figures the budget is based' on a deficit of £515 million.

By general agreement it is accepted that at present our economy is in a mess. Many of us who are interested in the future of our country, who are genuinely looking forward to the Government producing a strategy which would commence and stimulate a move out of the economic morass in which we are in. I judge the budget on that basis. It has to be accepted that in this budget and the accompanying plans and documentation, particularly the Book of Estimates and the capital budget, there is no planned strategy to improve the economy to any appreciable degree, to tackle the underlying problems of the economy. Therefore I have to say that this budget does not get anywhere near the pass mark; in fact it is a total failure.

In case it might be suggested that the basis on which I make my case is not a tenable one I want to quote a few figures to prove it. The basis of my case is that the economy is in a mess and this budget does nothing to bring it out of the mess. We have to look at the main economic figures as they were in 1980 as opposed to 1977, the year the Government took office. A quick glance at these figures will indicate quite clearly how much damage has been done to this country by the Government, how bad the economy is, and will sketch the dark and gloomy picture which would require a bit of imagination and a bit of vision to change. In 1977 unemployment figures were falling; in 1980, the unemployment figure went up by 34,000. In 1977 the growth rate was 5 per cent; in 1980 it was nil. In 1977 the increase in agricultural output was up by one-third; in 1980 it fell. In 1977 the national debt was £3,600 million; in 1980 it was £7,500 million, double the 1977 figure.

That is the major economic fault which I lay at the feet of this Government. They actually doubled the national debt since they came into power. One would see some excuse for that if one could see its results in an improvement in our employment figures, if we could see its result in improvements in our infrastructure. But unfortunately we have had a combination of increasing unemployment, pot holes in the roads and a doubling of the national debt. What use has been made of the borrowing since this Government came into power? I would accept a Government that would borrow if the money was put to good purpose. But what have the Government been doing with it? They have been paying the houshold bills with it over the last four years. On that basis it is clear, judging this Government since 1977, they have been a total disaster. The borrowing figures are so enormous that we are inclined to get confused and I see people using the foreign borrowing figure in relation to the overall one. But the foreign borrowing figure is very important and very relevant to the disastrous state into which this Government have put the country.

In 1977 our figure for foreign borrowing was £170 million. It is now almost ten times that figure. Everybody knows the difficulties associated with foreign borrowing. At the end of 1980 the figure was £1,600 million and that is only the foreign borrowing part of it but it is very important from the point of view of the falling punt, the extra cost on repayment of the currency in which we borrowed. The State gets nothing out of the interest because it has to be paid free of tax and there is no recovery. It is a matter which has to be emphasised and it is one in respect of which the Government can take no credit.

They are the comparisons between 1977, when this Government took over, and the situation today. We can talk about percentages and statistics but these figures cannot be disputed. What is the excuse of this Government for sinking this country into so much debt over their term of office? What is their excuse for doubling the national debt since they came into power without making good use of that money, without having a consequent reduction in our unemployment, a consequent improvement in inflation and a consequent improvement in our infrastructure? In comparing 1977 with 1980 I almost forgot one of the major parts of our economic make up, that is the inflation rate. How can members of this Government, with straight faces, stand up here and talk of what they are doing for the country when in 1977 we had an inflation figure of 10 per cent and which nearly trebled last year? That is the background and that is the comparison as between 1977 and 1980. It was in the context of that background and of the damage done over that period that one would have expected an improvement and a strategy to bring this country back from the economic bog into which it had been sunk by the present administration.

There is one other comparison that should be mentioned, that is, the projections included in the 1977 Fianna Fáil manifesto. I know people get sick and tired of that infamous document but it is no harm to bear in mind that this Government made certain serious projections in 1977 upon which they went to the electorate and got a huge vote of confidence. Those projections have proved to be totally wrong, totally false and, I can only come to the conclusion at this stage, totally dishonest. In these areas to which I referred the projections were that unemployment would now be down to 32,000. How can this Government face the people with straight faces and say they are able and willing to honestly tackle the problems of the economy when that figure is four times higher? There was a projection of an inflation rate of 5 per cent. Fianna Fáil said there would be no problem bringing inflation down to that figure, but what is the figure today? Nearly four times higher. There was a projection of a growth rate of 7 per cent. What is the comparison today? Nil.

The projection that really took my fancy, and which I would have strongly supported if there had been any solid effort made to implement it, was the strategy to be adopted which would result in 3p in every pound spent being switched into the purchase of Irish goods. This was to have the incidental effect of 10,000 extra jobs. What has been the outcome? It has gone into reverse and almost 3p in the pound less is being spent on Irish goods.

It is very important that we bear these facts in mind. We cannot just look at the budget as presented by the Minister for Finance. We have to look at the background to it and the record of this administration since they came into power. On that basis we have to assess what should have been done and to what extent the budget fell short of that objective. I believe that, based on those figures and many others which have been quoted recently, one has to come to the inescapable conclusion forced by all the evidence (a) that the economy is in a mess, (b) that there should have been an overall strategy to effect an improvement to map a path out of the economic bog into which we had sunk and to steer the economy in that direction and (c) that this budget is a total failure when one judges it by those criteria.

Hopes were raised at the time of the palace revolution within the Government party. In fairness I thought there were grounds for some hope that the present leader would take a grip of the economy. Ten or 15 years ago in certain Ministries in which he was involved he showed a certain amount of initiative and imagination. From that point of view I watched him gathering the economic powers of the State under his control, directly or indirectly, and, like many other people, hoped that he would make good use of those powers. He gathered them in more than any other Taoiseach since the foundation of the State. He did this in a number of ways, de jure and de facto. De jure he abolished the Department of Economic Planning and Development and assumed entire and direct control over that area himself. He considerably expanded his own Department and, directly, and without any apology to anybody — least of all the last occupant of the Ministry — took direct control. In a more indirect way he also took control of other aspects of the economy and undoubtedly has exercised an influence over the Ministry of Finance greater than that exercised by any previous Taoiseach.

I do not propose to comment on the position of my fellow Corkman in that office except to say that since the present Taoiseach took over he has appointed two Ministers for Finance who, to say the least, had shown little interest in or knowledge of economic affairs. It would be fair to say that they were people who would have a degree of political subservience to the Taoiseach. I do not believe one should talk about personalities when in politics, but this has been the comment of many commentators.

I will look at the more tangible things, such as the Taoiseach's control over the finances of the State. There is a direct example in the supposed £100 million planned to solve our crime problems. In the Irish Independent of Friday, 5 September 1980 there was a full page spread “War on crime; £100 million to beat the bandits”. The other national papers carried similar headlines, not spread to the same degree on their front pages, but the background to that £100 million is what is important in proving my point. I will speak later about spending it because it has not yet been provided, and that is another day's work.

This arose out of a meeting between the Garda Commissioner and the Taoiseach following a tragedy in which a number of our Garda force were killed. The Garda Commissioner was instructed to draw up a plan. Last July the Taoiseach directly advised that whatever resources of the State were needed to implement that plan would be made available. There was no reference to economic problems or to the Minister for Finance. The Taoiseach confirmed that it would be done. When the commissioner carried out his instructions and drew up his plan there was a further meeting. That plan was approved by the Taoiseach. The fact that it was going to cost £100 million did not worry him; he gave the go-ahead. Was that not the action of someone who was taking over direct control of the finances of the State without any reference to the Minister for Finance?

That point is given further proof when one considers that with all the talk, the interviews on television, with everybody breathlessly hanging on to every word dripping from the Minister's lips, all the party political broadcasts and all contributions on this resolution, the entire budget only involved a net increase in revenue of £160 million and a net increase in expenditure of £150 million. That is what was done in the budget when one boils down the changes that took place, and yet at one meeting the Taoiseach was able to guarantee £100 million to implement a war against crime. That shows the extent of his control.

The Taoiseach has gathered the power. There were expectations and hopes throughout the country that he might be able to show a degree of economic wizardry and start to solve our problems. I am afraid that the awful realisation has dawned. It is clear from what was expected of the wizard and what has been produced that the emperor does not have any clothes. It is clear that the hopes and expectations of our people in that area have been totally dashed. The vision, imagination and innovation expected in the economic area are all lacking. It is only now that the extent to which the Fianna Fáil Lynch-style Government mismanaged our economy is becoming fully apparent. However, it is clear that the inefficiency then shown appears like genius when compared to the Haughey experiment.

The economy has got worse since it was taken over by the Taoiseach. The strategy one would expect to effect an improvement is totally lacking. The total dedication one would expect in regard to the important areas such as unemployment, prices and balance of payments is not evident. An attempt has not been made to establish a strategy to deal with those problems on a solid long term basis. All the efforts of the leader of the Government appear to be directed towards one objective, that of being re-elected. I am not so innocent in politics as to suggest that any politician should forget he has to face the people if he is to be re-elected. That is part of the democratic system, but if somebody is elected to do a job the carrying out of that task must be his primary objective. While one must bear in mind the need to be re-elected and the need to work towards ensuring that, it is letting down the people who elected one if one's abilities are not primarily devoted to doing the job for which one was elected. It is clear that that is not so at present and has not been so for the past 12 months.

The whole strategy appears to concentrate on publicity and press relations, to avoid any positive action and, in the words of McLuhan — if I remember him correctly — we end up with the medium becoming the message. I can only classify that type of approach as government by mirrors. Everything is assessed in the context of the publicity it will gain, the public reaction to every move made and the effects on the polls from the popularity point of view. A great disservice is being done to the country with that as the primary and fundamental approach of the leader of the Government.

The action in relation to the £100 million to be devoted to the war against crime is typical of the style of Government we must suffer. There was an emotional reaction here following the sad deaths of two members of the Garda. It was clear that the country demanded that action be taken to ensure as far as possible that such an awful occurrence would not happen again. The initial steps taken by the Government, directed and controlled by the leader, were: to have full discussions with the Garda Commissioner, to look for a plan and to commit the resources of the State to the implementation of that plan. There was a lot of publicity following that, culminating in a heading in a national newspaper telling us of the war on crime and that £100 million would be spent to beat the bandits. That was indicating decisive action by the Government who were committed and concerned. The leader of the Government gave the impression that he was going to make sure our people could be satisfied that appropriate steps were being taken to beat the criminals. That was a totally cynical exploitation of the emotional feelings of our people and of the demands and worries of the Garda in relation to increasing their strength and efficiency.

That money was never made available and from the manner that operation was approached by the Taoiseach it is now clear he did not have any intention of making that money available. Time does not permit me to go into this matter in great detail but I hope to deal with it when the Estimate for the Department of Justice comes before the House. That propaganda effort stated that £42 million would be spent on helicopters and airplanes in the establishing of a police air reconnaissance unit. In November the Minister was asked about the provision of the money for that purpose. The Minister mentioned that there was not anything he could offer in the 1980 Estimates but he would be making a provision under a separate subhead in 1981. He duly made a provision in the Estimate for 1981 under a separate subhead, aircraft. Bearing in mind his own figures when he talked about some eight helicopters at the time at roughly £5 million apiece and four light planes costing about £.5 million apiece amounting to about £42 million, what is the figure provided in 1981 towards meeting that portion of £100 million? Also on that figure let us judge the credibility of the Government and the commitment which they had to their £100 million crime package. The figure was £1,000 and that amount was included as a separate subhead in the 1981 Estimates. That is the actuality, the reality, as opposed to the wild, extravagant promise made last September, the cynical publicity exercise that was carried out at the time.

Other promises were made. They were going to increase the strength of the Garda force from 10,000 to 12,000, a very worthy object, no problem. They promised that the resources would be made available. There was direct commitment by the Taoiseach himself. What is the situation today? After six months of the 18 months in which this was going to be done the number in the Garda force is not even 10,000. It is actually less than the baseline which was going to be increased. If one is to judge by the recruiting efforts at the moment — or the lack of them — there is absolutely no intention of increasing that figure, and this is borne out by the fact that almost half-way through the 18-month period during which this was going to be done the Minister has not even gone to the trouble, as far as I can see, of increasing the statutory maximum number beyond the figure of 10,000 which was fixed some years ago. That again shows the extent of the commitment of the Government and it shows even more, and very saddeningly so, the cynical propaganda approach which has been adopted by this Government of an absolute pretence that they are dealing with the problems supported fully by a propaganda machine and then letting the problem fade, at least they hope, into oblivion. That is an important factor that has to be borne in mind and it is time to put it on the record of this House.

I do not object to the present Taoiseach or members of his Cabinet, sub-Cabinet or party using public relations. It is a modern part of politics, but at the same time one has to question the extent to which it is being used today. One has to question the manner in which things that are not happening are presented as being about to happen. One has to consider whether this is a total abuse of power. I do not intend to attack the media. As far as I am concerned the media do their own job, but in that area a few comments might be no harm. One expects the Fianna Fáil newspaper group to give the Fianna Fáil line, obviously. Indeed, one is pleasantly surprised now and again by a show of independence by some of their writers but in other areas I question the extent to which the Government party control the media. This is provided for me by the take-over of yet another paper, the Sunday Journal, by a company noted for their support for the present Government party.

We are dealing now with a firm outside the House. The Deputy should not pursue that.

May I in concluding on that point refer to a newspaper article?

The Deputy is quite entitled to refer to a newspaper article.

Without developing that point overmuch I want to refer to a newspaper article in the Sunday Journal of 15 February, last Sunday. That is the paper I am talking about.

The Deputy is talking about a private firm outside the House and we do not attack people or private firms outside the House.

I will merely make my point by referring to the newspaper article and I will close that portion of my speech on it. This newspaper article aroused a certain degree of amusement on my part, at the same time making the point that I was making. The article is on page 10 of the Sunday Journal of 15 February and it refers to the enthusiastic support for the Taoiseach's speech at the Ard-Fheis last Saturday night as “well deserved”. It refers to Deputy Haughey as “well known for his perfectionism” and it goes into the reaction and the applause well deserved — subjective comment, mind you — for what, according to this article, can only be termed a brilliant speech by Deputy Haughey last Saturday night. In the name of goodness, does this paper pretend to be an independent newspaper while it produces that kind of tripe? It is clear what happened. This writer had his piece written and prepared beforehand, pursuing the line which he follows quite normally of polishing the image of the Taoiseach. When the awful tragedy of last week-end occurred he overlooked making sure that this piece of Haughey-licking was deflected and held for another occasion. The basic point there is, in the name of goodness, let the Government have their PR and their relationships with the press and we will face all that when we come to it, but let them get on with the job of governing and not be spending so much time polishing an image behind which there is nothing, no action, no activity, no attempt to do the basic job for which they were elected.

Getting back to the budget and the economy, there is hope for this country. There are factors within the economy which make it clear that with the proper plan and strategy we can overcome the difficulties which we face, but this must involve a constructive approach, a planned one that is not related to the short term or to elections-round-the-corner, one that is laid down over a number of years and which has the commitment of a Government to implement. Firstly, one has to look at the main productive areas. There is nothing for any of us, no pay for a TD, no allowances for civil servants unless one has an out-turn from the productive sector. It is primarily in that area that the eggs are laid, a portion of which we all eat subsequently. Any such strategy has to be based on the four main productive areas, agriculture, industry, tourism and fisheries.

Assessing the Estimates and the budget, it is clear that the Government do not accept my contention. These are the areas which are very important. What have the Government done? Let us look at agriculture, which is so important and in which a quarter of the country is involved. We have cuts in the capital budget and a total ignoring of the fact that, if agricultural incomes in the current year were to be at the same level as they were in 1978, they would have to be in the order of £1,450 million. According to the ESRI, they will be down to £815 million. This aspect was looked at in an article in The Economist in January. They did a survey and talked about Ireland being a nation of farmers, retaining the agricultural habit of finding fault with any harvest. It also said that farmers had plenty to grumble about now, unemployment at 10 per cent, an inflation rate at about twice that figure and so on. Real farm incomes — and farmers still form 22 per cent of the workforce — have fallen by half in two years, savaging trade in the market towns. That is the view of an independent magazine.

Agriculture is the basic area to which there must be an input from the Government and an effort made to restore confidence. We deserve to get a reasonable package from Brussels but, at the same time, any Government looking for a reasonable package have provided a readymade answer to those who do not want to provide such a package. They will ask the Government what they did and, if they were genuine in their protestations about the agricultural community, why did they not provide a reasonable package and make a genuine effort to tackle the problem. It is clear, both from the capital budget, which cuts the amount for the farm modernisation scheme, and from the current budget that the Government are not in any way committed to restoring the fortunes in agriculture, to restoring confidence and stopping people destocking, to increasing the breeding herd and to encouraging the small farmer to expand.

At a time when unemployment is rising industry must be encouraged. I am not in favour of giving hundreds of millions of pounds here and there. The money simply is not there. At the same time, if the Government had an interest in industry why did they virtually stifle the cash flow in many companies by insisting that one-and-a-half-year's tax should be paid in the current year? Is that the incentive one should give to industry to expand? It is clear the commitment is not there.

Tourism is very important in my own constituency — I am not being parochial about it — and it is very important for the country. In studying the capital investment plan, which I hoped would have emphasised tourism, I found it was a plan which was based on an investment. Investment, how are you — borrowing of £17,00 million. It is a lot of money. What emphasis was placed on tourism in the plan? What suggestions did the Government make to provide funds, albeit borrowed, to develop the tourist industry? A sum of £5 million was allotted to tourism. I am not great on figures but I think it works out at about .3 of 1 per cent. If that is a criterion of the Government's commitment to tourism, God help tourism.

The last major productive area which has to be tackled is fishing. Since the present Government came to office we have had messing about the limits. The 50-mile limit was done away with within weeks and we now have a failure on the part of the Government to establish even an exclusive 12-mile limit — this from a Government who, when they were in Opposition, howled about the 50-mile limit. When the last Government had an exclusive limit of 30 to 35 miles lined up, Fianna Fáil said it would not do; it had to be 50 miles or nothing. I am aware that the present Government were fully briefed on negotiations and were given every help at the time of the changeover. But we now are virtually helpless. This was highlighted by a statement by the Minister for Fisheries and Forestry when he said in December that a 12-mile limit was unrealistic.

What constructive approach has been made in regard to marketing in order to ensure that the fishery industry is going to develop? Examining the various documentation produced with the budget, we find that that area has been ignored. Unless these four major productive areas — agriculture, industry, tourism and fishing — are developed, there is no chance of improving our economic situation. The Government have not done so and on that basis it is clear that — I was going to say that their economic strategy had failed, but it is clear they have not even got a proper economic strategy.

We have often been criticised for not making constructive suggestions. We have to commit the resources of the State to those major productive areas. That has not been done. That is the first step on the path out of the present economic mess. What are the main economic problems? They can be summed up as jobs and prices. We must provide more employment or, alternatively, we have to prevent jobs being lost. The Government seem to be totally helpless when confronted with increasing unemployment figures. They seem to think that after a while it will reach a peak and then decline. Positive steps must be taken by the Government to ensure that the rise in unemployment is slow, and, if possible, that more jobs are created. It is even more important that jobs are protected. It is estimated that an IDA-created job in industry can cost £10,000 to £14,000 per job, depending on the industry involved. Sometimes it is even higher, but averages at over £10,000. I am not complaining about that because I think that the IDA are doing a good job. This party support them fully in their efforts but like Canute trying to keep back the tide, they are creating jobs while all the time unemployment figures continue to rise.

Therefore, there must be greater emphasis on retaining existing jobs. Without becoming involved in too much expenditure, existing jobs could be protected until, to use the hackneyed phrase, we get the economy moving. Until that time we must protect more of our existing jobs. Then, when there is an improvement in the economy and when, we hope, there will have been a change of government, we may talk meaningfully about new jobs. In my home town there is a food-processing factory which is associated with the Irish Sugar Company and in which 160 people are employed. This is a co-operative which is based on native raw material from the area but unfortunately, it is to be given the chop. This is the type of enterprise that we should be endeavouring to retain in the hope that ultimately it will be back to being a viable proposition. I am borne out in this by the remarks of the Joint Oireachtas Committee on state-sponsored bodies who, having examined the affairs of the sugar company, have stated objectively that in their opinion plants such as the one I have referred to should not be closed having regard to the various side effects that follow such closure, for example, the cost to the state in terms of social welfare and so on. In other words, such enterprises should be retained either until they become viable or until an alternative employment opportunity is offered.

This is an area in which the Government have not been concentrating sufficiently, having regard to the huge cost of new jobs and the relatively small amount of money that is needed to ensure the protection of existing jobs. There is no sense in expending £14,000 for the creation of one job while existing jobs are going by the board.

The other major economic problem that must be tackled is the problem of inflation. This budget will add 3 per cent directly to the inflation figure and we know that inflation affects everybody, regardless of his station in life. There is a feeling of helplessness so far as this situation is concerned. There is no evidence of the type of effort that was made during the day of the Coalition Government and when the 1974 oil crisis quadrupled oil prices, thereby forcing inflation upwards.

The Government tell us that our inflation problem is due to the price of oil and that there is nothing we can do about it. That was not their attitude when in opposition. Neither was it our attitude while in Government when, by way of a combination of budgetary measures which included food subsidies, negotiations with the unions and so on, we succeeded in reducing the then inflation rate from more than 20 per cent to 7 per cent. That was in 1977. For the short time that this Government will remain in office, they must show some positive strategy for tackling this problem of inflation. There is no point in their sitting back helplessly and hoping the problem will go away.

Having regard to the way in which people will be affected directly by the budget and by the lack of economic strategy on the part of the Government, there is at least one sector who have cause for complaint. I refer to all those in the PAYE category. These people are entitled to a just and fair tax system but it is clear that the Government have not the slightest intention of introducing equity into this area. Income tax was introduced as a temporary measure about the time of the Napoleonic wars. The system has developed since then and we now have 750,000 people within our PAYE system. Any Government who fail to examine this whole question carefully—and I am not talking merely about setting up another commission—are failing those people.

We have heard much about the percentage increase in social welfare payments but in the light of the current trend in inflation these increases will have been eroded even before they become payable. Is there any evidence of a genuine attempt on the part of the Government to remove inequities from the social welfare system, to ensure that those who are entitled to social welfare payments receive them without having to wait for months and without having to make representations to their local T.D. in order to have the money paid? Is there the outlook that frauds within the system should be eliminated so that there is more money available for those who are entitled to it? This is an area that has not been tackled properly.

The last major area that I wish to consider relates to the total dishonesty of the Government in producing a budget which does not stand up to examination. As has been well documented by people both within this House and outside it, the budget figures for last year were very far out. They were out to the extent of £2 million on current account and £130 million on capital account. One might say that a mistake was made but in the light of last year's experience how can anyone consider the figures for 1981 and say that there is a possibility of inflation? If this year's figures are also wide of the mark, and I believe they are, it is not a question of a mistake being made but of a deliberate approach——

The Deputy should withdraw the word "deliberate".

It has been the rule of the House down through the years that Deputies must not refer to a deliberate misleading of the House.

In accordance with your ruling, I withdraw the word "deliberate"' since apparently it is unparliamentary. One learns something every day. Either a great mistake has been made in regard to this year's budget figures or somebody has come up with those figures knowing well what he was doing. One way or the other a Government who produce figures in that way do not deserve the support either of this House or of the people. Already we are placing bets within our party as to the extent to which the Government's figures will be out in the current year.

My last point is to reiterate my belief that the people generally would be prepared to make some sacrifices, would be prepared to pay a few pence extra on the pint or on cigarettes, if they thought that the money being taken from them in this way was being put to good use. However, it is clear that, while the Government are loading on the agony on the people, they have no specific strategy or plan to put to any good use the additional revenue being raised by these tax increases. The Irish people must get the opportunity of having a Government which are prepared to tackle the economic problems of the country with honesty, vision, imagination and integrity. They are not getting this at the moment and I do not believe that they will get it after the next election. When that happens and there is a Fine Gael Government, there will be an opportunity to start the process of getting us out of the present economic mess. That is the one hope which is now left to the Irish people.

I shall make a very brief contribution to this debate. We have heard much in the past weeks from the Opposition benches about the weaknesses and strengths of the budget, mostly about the weaknesses. It has been very frustrating for the Opposition to recognise that the budget is a well based one which was acceptable to their constituents and to the most vulnerable section of the community, social welfare recipients. The Minister for Finance in his budget statement made particular reference to the concern of the Government for social welfare recipients, particularly those on fixed pensions and old age pension. He has made a number of valuable and welcome improvements in their cases.

The leader of the main Opposition party has time and time again indicated that if his party were returned to Government they would give the farmers £70 million, give the social welfare recipients more than the Fianna Fáil Government would, and that they would reduce taxation. On the other hand, he accuses the Government of borrowing beyond their means, despite the fact that there has been quite a reduction in borrowing, and in foreign borrowing in particular. If the Fine Gael Party are going to provide such vast finances for the farmers, the PAYE sector and social welfare recipients and, on the other hand, cut back on borrowing and reduce taxation, before the people of this country make a decision and for one reason or another, return a Coalition Government—I certainly do not think that they will return a Fine Gael Government—if there was even the remotest chance of their returning a Coalition Government, I should like to ask where will the money come from to pay for all of these improvements, to cater for the farmers and the PAYE sector? I cannot hear a chirp of reason or sense in Deputy Dr. FitzGerald's statement. My constituency colleague, Deputy Kelly, in his flowery and colourful language, says that, no matter what Government are returned to office after the next election, some tough decisions will have to be made. Deputy FitzGerald also says that but traipses around the country getting signatures for the abolition of rates, resource tax and so on, promising the farmers this, that and the other. Yet, he comes into this House and says that he will reduce foreign borrowing and taxation. I do not wish to accuse anybody of misleading this House and, in particular, of misleading the people, but there is certainly a contradiction in the statement from the leader of the main Opposition Party, Deputy Dr. FitzGerald.

The seriousness of our unemployment now and in the past has never been a bone of real contention among any of the parties. The ultimate goal of any politician or any Member of this House is to ensure so far as possible that jobs are available for the young people coming out of school, for those made redundant when the industries and factories in which they are working are incapable of continuing in the prevailing economic climate. Irish industry must adapt and adjust. It is doing that, but not quickly enough to satisfy any Member of this House. We should not make political capital out of the sacrifices being made by the unemployed. It is a dreadful and sad thing for a child to grow up in a home in which unemployment dominates. Where one person is unemployed, three or four others are directly involved in that unemployment. Therefore, it is a serious problem. However, I have confidence, and so have the people, that the present Government are capable of taking us out of this deep recession and bringing us into a new era in the eighties when ultimately we will have jobs for the young when the worst of the recession recedes. The people have more confidence in this Government than they had when fewer people, or about the same number, were unemployed under the Coalition Government.

It is right and just that the people should now be reminded of the type of Government which they had to endure— and I use the word advisedly — under the Coalition. We had a Government with no cohesion, no leadership, a Government racked to ruin by divisions and the inablilty to bring legislation through the House, even if agreed at Cabinet level. I do not have to remind Deputies of the Family Planning Bill which former Deputy, now Senator Cooney tried to introduce into this House. We had a Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, former Deputy and Senator, Conor Cruise-O'Brien, who neglected our telephone and postal services. He excluded them from his portfolio to concentrate, as unofficial or official spokesman for the Labour Party on Northern Ireland, thus leaving the incoming Government an enormous legacy of neglect and incompetence in that Department. Even under section 31 of the Broadcasting Act, he was, to say the very least, illiberal. He tried to extend his influence in the broadcasting authority even to the type of music which should be played on the airwaves. Rebel songs were not allowed, traditional Irish music of one sort or another was not allowed. There was not a specific instruction, but it was insinuated that on television and radio certain types of songs should not be played.

I was not in the House at the time, I was an ordinary political activist in my constituency, but I know that certain civil servants were afraid to be seen bringing certain newspapers into Garda Headquarters or the Department of Justice. The Coalition brought fear in these quarters. Whatever the composition of that Coalition between Labour and Fine Gael, and it was bad and the people gave their verdict on just how bad it was, and the people should be reminded of it again and again so that they will never forget it, I ask the people today to consider the type of alternative Government Fine Gael and Labour are offering now. We had the incredible sight of disunity in the parties. We had the flight of the earls from Fine Gael, the elder statesmen of Fine Gael. We had the flight of Mark Clinton who will not be going forward. Paddy Donegan will not be going forward——

An Leas-Cheann Chomhairle

The Deputy is getting into an election debate.

I was coming back to the economic——

The Leas-Cheann Comhairle is the only person who was supposed not to be going forward who is going forward.

It does not matter two hoots who is going forward or who is not going forward. That is another day's work.

It does matter to people like Deputy Allen down in the hook of Wexford——

Their ex-Taoiseach is not going forward. They hunted him out of the House. We are all sorry to see him go.

He has had a most distinguished career.

They did not think of that when they were voting for him.

Will Deputy please——

I wonder if Deputy L'Estrange will go forward next time, or will he go with the thoroughbred foxes or the mongrel foxes—the thoroughbred foxes are leaving and the mongrels are staying.

If I am selected I will go forward. Deputy Gibbons left by one door when Deputy Haughey came in the other because they would not stand in the same hotel together. How often does Deputy O'Malley come into the House behind the Taoiseach?

Deputy L'Estrange and Deputy Andrews, will the Chair be given an opportunity to speak? It is a long standing rule in the House that when the Chair rises every other Deputy will sit down and remain silent. I want to make clear to all sides that we will not debate the next general election during this debate. We must deal with the budget as best we can, and who is going forward or who is not going forward does not concern this budget debate.

Jack was an honest man and they kicked him out.

Will Deputy L'Estrange let us have a bit of peace? Deputy Andrews, without interruption, on the budget.

What about Deputy Joan Burke? If I could do so without interruption from Deputy L'Estrange—I know it is difficult for Deputy L'Estrange to restrain himself—I would address myself to the choice before the people. This Government produced a wise and reasonable budget and Deputies coming back from the constituencies after the budget appreciated that. A poll was conducted after the budget and it showed a favourable response to the budget. Anybody I have spoken to has not objected to the considerable improvements in social welfare. For instance, from April personal adult dependant rates for long-term weekly payments, old age and widows' pensions, invalidity pensions, deserted wive's benefits and allowances and health allowances will be increased by 25 per cent. That is a wonderful thing. The Minister increased the duties on beer and cigarettes. I drink beer and I smoke cigarettes but I have not the slightest objection to these increases, and I do not think that any of my constituents have. I have the choice of not smoking and not drinking. If I see the continuation of the social outlook of the Government in catering for the less well off in the community, I will be prepared to make sacrifices and so will my constituents.

We have had a lot of talk about money not being made available for infrastructure, roads and telephones. I have dealt with the telephone service, the legacy of neglect, of despondency, the lack of recognition of the skills of the people in the Post Office. That is what this Government picked up, and in the circumstances, in the few years they have had the opportunity to do anything about those things they have invested heavily in improving the telephone service, and they are succeeding.

The petrol duty increase, it will be admitted, was rough and perhaps it will come back in industrial costs and so on. The choice for the private motorist is to drive a little less, to drive more efficiently, to share cars to and from work. That is happening more and more frequently, It is not a bad thing because it will help to conserve energy. The Minister justified that increase and I fully support him.

We come to the question of money being made available for investment in roads. Of course we would like to have highways and flyovers as they have in Britain but we have no colonies to plunder so that we could build these efficient and expensive motorways. We have industrial development which is bringing juggernauts and other heavy traffic into urban estates. In my constituency there is very big industrial development and I welcome it even if the roads are not capable of taking the traffic from it. I welcome the thousands of jobs that have gone into the Sandyford Industrial Estate. It is an act of confidence in business. It indicates that business people have confidence when they have the right site for factory development. While sacrifices must be made, I see no reason why we cannot invest in some improvements until such time as money becomes available to provide greater growth structures.

The previous speaker spoke about rooting out dole fiddlers and the people who are cheating, robbing or stealing in regard to the dole—that is what they are doing. I know that a tradesman frequently will not work unless he is given time off to collect the dole and unless he is paid in cash by the contractor. That is a difficult thing to put one's finger on but it is happening. I would agree with the Opposition that these offenders should be rooted out and exposed. I know that the Government have provided for improvement in the investigation of suspected dole fiddlers and so on. But there are other fiddlers; there are the high income groups who are avoiding tax that the State could do with. There is greater concentration on dole fiddlers than on those in high income groups who are avoiding tax and in their own way depriving the State of what it is entitled to. Only the rich can afford professional accountants. Why does the House not concentrate more on that aspect of the matter? If one puts oneself on the place of an unemployed man who gets one or two days' work and gets £10 or £12 extra in the week—I am not justifying it—it is very difficult for such a man with a family even with £50 or £60 to maintain his family. I say to the people in the Department of Social Welfare that they should continue to pursue those who blatantly and continuously fiddle; they should view with compassion those who may be doing small jobs for a small return and on an occasional basis depending on their ability to do that kind of thing. The Revenue Commissioners should continue to pursue vigorously people whether professional or business who employ expensive lawyers and accountants in order to avoid payment of income tax. There seems to be an air of respectability about such people. I condemn them out of hand; I have no sympathy with them. I have more sympathy for and understanding of the man who is unemployed and is on a meagre allowance. Those who have jobs and an income should be thankful and should remember those not so well circumstanced and we should concentrate more on those who are prepared, with the help of professional assistance, to cheat the State of what it is entitled to.

Nobody has complained to me very forcefully about the budget. It is a satisfactory statement of the country's financial position. It has been repeatedly said to me that we must avoid the tragedy of the British unemployment situation where whole towns and villages, thousands of people, friends and neighbours find themselves without any work. The monetary Thatcherism of Great Britain has in my view failed and will ultimately lead to the recognition by that country that they no longer have an empire. Some echelons of British society do not admit that their empire has gone forever and that there is no more plunder, that they must concentrate on developing their own economy. I hope that no future Government will ever bow the knee to absolute monetarism of that kind which is savage in the extreme and threatens the whole western world with revolt and revolution. I am glad to see that this Government will not go bull-headed in that direction.

The Minister for Finance dealt fully with vulnerable industries. For a long time now the Government have been concerned with the problems of sensitive, vulnerable industries. The changes due to fully pay-related contributions and funding of social insurance expenditure, while principally made for other reasons were in practice of major assistance to these industries.

I conclude by calling on the Opposition, particularly the leader of Fine Gael, to declare definitively which course of action he intends to take if the people decide to return him to Government? Will he adopt the Thatcher monetarism? Will he close the gates on foreign borrowing? Or will he be flúirseach and spread promises to the farmers, the unemployed and the pensioners? What will he do when and if he gets the opportunity? Let the Opposition come clean on this issue which is a very important one. We can no longer be misled as regards the direction in which the country must go in these difficult times. We are told by Deputy Kelly, front bench spokesman for his party, that they will have to tighten the belt and, on the other hand, we have Deputy FitzGerald promising sun, moon and stars to the PAYE sector, the farmers and so on. Let him now come clean on what he intends to do. More than likely we are in an election year and it is important to clear up the matter.

As I do not wish to get into an argument with the Chair, I shall not discuss the composition of any future Government but I should like to make the following observation. I have been nearly four years a Member of this House and I have witnessed the performance of the Opposition and the divisions in their parties on which attention is not concentrated to the same extent as on the supposed divisions in Fianna Fáil. I have seen the migration of some elder statesmen from the othe side, I have seen the inability of the parties to unite on certain issues. I have witnessed the performance of the leaders of Fine Gael and the Labour Party on the election of the Taoiseach and I can only tell the people to be careful when they choose the next government. I can tell them that if they choose a government led either by one or both of the other parties they are choosing a throw-back to the last Coalition Government and for this country in the present difficult times that would be death, economically, socially and culturally. Fianna Fáil will not let the people forget that. No matter how the Opposition Parties criticise the Government, individually or collectively, they will not break up this party. We are a united party. We have supported the budget 100 per cent and there has not been any dissent. That cannot be said for the Opposition parties when they were in government. They disputed among themselves and broke away from one another. Let them remember that.

I am not casting any aspersions on the motivation of any politician. It is my view that all politicians are here for the best possible motives, but for one reason or another they find themselves dragged into less than honest criticism. When they can produce anything better than Fianna Fáil, let them stand up and tell us exactly what they propose. Let them say how they would govern the country. They cannot have it both ways and I intend to emphasise that point at every opportunity before the next election.

I find the motives behind the formulation of the budget somewhat puzzling. It can hardly be described as a "give-away" budget. Contrary to what Deputy Andrews has said, I found few people who were pleased with it. It has affected most people adversely, but while it has not been a "give-away" budget, neither has it been a budget that set out to solve the economic ills of the country.

We look on a budget as the annual housekeeping plan of the government of the day but one could not so describe this budget. It is only a short-term manoeuvre. We can see quite clearly that the Book of Estimates on which the budget was based has been cooked and the budget can only be described as fraudulent. It does not make any attempt to face up to the economic problems of the country. A whole series of figures in the Book of Estimates point to the fact that the budget is not a realistic assessment of our economic position. Virtually every figure can be questioned because it is obvious that the money provided in the Estimates will not be sufficient to finance the relevant Departments for a full year. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that enormous Supplementary Estimates will be introduced during the year.

If my memory serves me correctly, in 1980 the Supplementary Estimates came to approximately £300 million. On this occasion the figures have been so distorted that I imagine the Supplementary Estimates that will have to be introduced in 1981 will be £1,000 million or even more. There has been vast under-estimation in respect of the Departments concerned.

I agree with Deputy Andrews that the increases in the social welfare allowances and benefits are to be welcomed but I do not think the increases were extravagant. They were what the recipients and the rest of us expected. They are barely keeping up with the rate of inflation — in fact, they may not keep up with the huge increases in the cost of foodstuffs and fuel, items that affect social welfare recipients to a very large extent.

There has not been anything in the budget for any other section of the community. It has set out to penalise the working people and the private sector. Any working person who travels to his place of work by car or motor cycle is faced with an enormous increase in the cost of transport.

Debate adjourned.
Sitting suspended at 1.30 p.m. and resumed at 2.30 p.m.