Democracy confers power on the people and with that power comes responsibility — the responsibility to participate in the democratic process — the responsibility to have an opinion — to choose — to go out and vote on polling day. There were too many abstainers on Thursday last.
For myself, I am happy, proud indeed, that I brought forward the proposition and put it to the people. This for long has been the policy of the great party it is my privilege to lead, and the referendum was the culmination of a pledge I gave to the Irish people on taking Government. In this matter I have discharged my duty and honoured my pledge.
I believe, too — and this has not been seriously challenged by anyone — that the whole matter was dealt with in the best possible manner, involving the Oireachtas all-party committee, the Dáil and Seanad themselves, the Government and the Government parties, and extensive consultations with the Churches. The wording of the amendment was the best we could have devised. Even the timing was the best possible in the circumstances, as any later would have been too near an election, and any earlier would have truncated the very necessary discussion process.
The fact that the proposition was defeated does not diminish my belief that it was right to pose it. It is often the duty of a leader to lead, to put a proposition he believes to be correct and in the interests of the nation and its people. He should not be content to wait until he is certain of success. This can be the very abnegation of leadership as I firmly believe it would have been on this occasion.
I am happy in my conscience that I have discharged my duty in this matter, that I have honoured my pledge, that I have kept faith with the people who elected me to lead them. I accept the decision of the electorate and propose now to move ahead, putting before the Oireachtas in the next session proposals for changes in the law of marriage and separation, as set out in the Government statement of intent at the time of the publication of the text of the referendum amendment.
Work on the heads of appropriate legislation will begin immediately and will be brought to the Government in the autumn with a view to being presented to the Oireachtas in good time for full debate and enactment during the session of the Dáil that will end a year hence. In this connection we shall, for example, have a look at such matters as the preservation of provision for deserted wives where these wives are legally divorced by husbands who have established domicile abroad.
Clearly legislation to be put forward must be in conformity with the Constitution. It cannot, therefore, include any provision for the dissolution of marriage or for measures which could be constitutionally impugned as having this effect. Moreover, careful examination will have to be made of whether constitutional impediments may stand in the way of the implementation of certain other provisions, such as the transfer of property to a dependent spouse on the occasion of a judicial separation; but, these problems apart, the necessary legislation will be brought forward, and will, we have been assured by the Opposition, be given positive consideration.
Mention has also been made in recent days of the possibility of changes in the law of nullity. This, too, the Government will examine, as we have committed ourselves to doing in our statement of intent. But all should be conscious that in this area significant changes could carry with them a number of serious dangers. Any attempt to disguise as grounds for nullity a condition which was not operative at the time the contract was entered into, would be constitutionally void. Moreover, a very real concern, expressed both by many politicians and churchmen, clearly also by the people, about the rights of the first family, represents a powerful impediment to significant changes in the law of nullity that would put at risk the rights of dependent spouses and children of first families, which are at present secure under existing law.
In this area the Government must have due regard to the Constitution, to the rights of the first family, and to the importance of avoiding the casting of doubt on the validity of a wide range of existing marriages.
Having indicated the Government's intention to initiate the necessary reforms in respect of marriage and separation, and to examine further the question of improvements to the law of nullity, I may perhaps be permitted to add a comment of my own on this whole matter. I would not have embarked upon this referendum were I not personally convinced that the proposed changes in the Constitution would make possible changes in the law which would be to the general social advantage. While, of course, accepting the decision of the people on this occasion, I have not changed the view on this matter to which I have been brought over a long period of years, after careful consideration and deep reflection on this whole issue.
There are, moreover, broader considerations at stake: the principle of a pluralist society in this State, as in this island as a whole. And by a pluralist society I mean one in which the different traditions that exist in this State and this island can feel equally at home, not constrained by the predominance of the ethos of any one Church, or group of Churches. I have always seen that pluralist society not as a secular society, cutting itself off from its deep roots in Christianity, itself founded on Judaism — two great religions which share in common a vast body of moral values, and both of which, happily, are well represented in this House.
Of course I respect the fact that there are in this country a growing number of people who no longer belong fully to these traditions and who may in their own minds reject them — but who, I have often observed, base their own value systems for the most part on the values they have inherited from these religious traditions.
The pluralism to which I, and many more of our people today aspire, is a pluralism inspired by these religious values, respectful of them, and concerned that they be maintained. But what I, and others like me, reject is any suggestion that one tradition be subordinated to another. I believe in, and for decades have worked for, the right of the Nationalist people of Northern Ireland to be free not only from discrimination, but from the impact of laws based on a particular religious tradition to which they do not belong, and some of whose values they do not share — for example, the anti-libertarian laws that inhibit them from spending their Sabbath freely in accordance with their own traditions.
Our society in this State has been free of religious discrimination of the type practised in Northern Ireland — not perhaps because we are in some way inherently better or more tolerant than our Unionist fellow-Irishmen in Northern Ireland but, more probably, because in this truncated State the size of the minority has not represented for us a threat to which we have felt impelled to respond, in the way in which many Unionists in Northern Ireland have felt impelled to respond to the much larger Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland.
While this State has from its inception been free from any form of discrimination, we have not been free from the same kind of attempt to impose the value system of the majority religion here, to which most of us belong, upon those of a different tradition, when it comes to our Constitution and our laws. If I am to have the right to claim for the Nationalist minority in Northern Ireland not merely freedom from discrimination and a right to have their identity and tradition fully respected, but a system of laws based on common ground between the different Christian traditions of that part of our island, rather than on the tradition of the majority there, then I must, in all honesty and logic, make the same claim on behalf of the minority in this State, namely, that our laws, that our Constitution, will reflect the common ground we share with them, rather than the ethos of our majority religion.
I would not be honest with myself, nor with this House, if I failed to reassert on this occasion that fundamental principle, which to me, and to many others I believe in this House, to many others in all parties in this House, is what republicanism in the Irish context means.
In thus reasserting my own personal belief, to which I have been consistent throughout my political life, and to which I shall remain consistent in the years to come, I imply, as I made clear earlier, no criticism and no recrimination with respect to the result of the recent referendum which I recognise freely was decided in the minds of our people on the basis of different considerations and different issues. Many, very many, of those who voted against this referendum did so not because they reject in any conscious way the pluralist ideal of which I have just spoken; other considerations, some of them most genuine considerations of social concern, weighed more heavily with them in a campaign which did not, in fact, centre on this issue of pluralism. What is done is done. It can, and I believe in time will be undone. As a democrat I respect that decision. As a republican I hope to live to see it reversed.
Voices have been raised, especially by Unionists in Northern Ireland, suggesting that the result of this referendum has implications for the implementation of the Anglo-Irish Agreement. There are no such implications. The House will recall that this agreement is itself the fruit of the Forum report, the terms of reference of which addressed themselves exclusively to the problems of securing peace and stability in Northern Ireland. This, too, is the objective of the agreement, which, in its preamble drawn from the conclusions of the Forum report recognises the major interest of both countries, and above all the people of Northern Ireland, in diminishing the divisions there and of achieving lasting peace and stability. That preamble also recognised that a condition of genuine reconciliation and dialogue between Unionists and Nationalists is mutual recognition and acceptance of each others' rights and that the identities of the two communities in Northern Ireland should be recognised and respected, together with the right of each to pursue its aspirations by peaceful and constitutional means.
The structures and procedures set up by the agreement are directed towards these ends, though it has not been easy to secure recognition by the Unionist people of Northern Ireland that these are the objectives of the agreement, and that nothing in the agreement seeks to constrain them to accept any change in the status of Northern Ireland without the consent of a majority of its people.
The negative vote in the referendum does not in any way affect the implementation of the agreement. But it is, I believe, something of a setback to the long term prospect of the two parts of Ireland coming closer together politically. It cannot reasonably be denied, and I think we ought to face this fact, that we in this State have a long way to go before we create in this part of Ireland a society that would seem welcoming to, open to, and attractive to, people of the northern Unionist tradition. The principal Opposition party should face the fact and reflect on the deep seated partitionist attitude implied in a failure by a political party claiming to be a Nationalist party to do so.
I want to turn now to the recent European Council meeting. By agreement, my report on the European Council is incorporated into this debate. The House will have had adequate time to discuss other matters in the last two days. The main issues discussed at The Hague, on 26 and 27 June were: South Africa; nuclear safety; the internal market; a people's Europe; agriculture; and the economic and social situation.
In preparation for the Council I had useful discussions in Paris with President Mitterand and Prime Minister Chirac. I have had the conclusions of the Council on these and other issues laid before the House, in the usual way. I do not intend, therefore, to go in too much detail into what was discussed.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank the Dutch Presidency for the hospitality extended to us and to congratulate them on the order and efficiency with which the business of the Council was run. I should say at the outset that in the absence of contentious issues such as have made the work of earlier Councils tense and difficult, that is, contentious issues involving the European Community and their internal affairs, the Council in The Hague were able to proceed in the way in which these Councils had originally been intended to act. In other words, there was an opportunity for Heads of State or Government to exchange views without the disturbing necessity to resolve immediate and intractable technical problems. In this sense, the Council were constructive, even though their conclusions were not dramatic.
At the end of the Council, I met separately with the British Prime Minister for a brief discussion on Northern Ireland and other issues of mutual concern. In accordance with normal practice on these meetings, neither of us goes into detail about the subjects discussed.
The major foreign policy topic discussed by the Heads of State or Government was South Africa. The European Council reiterated the Twelve's grave concern about the rapid deterioration of the situation and the increasing levels of violence in that country.
The Council reaffirmed that the main goal of the Twelve was the total abolition of apartheid and decided to take additional action as follows:
They declared themselves in favour of a concerted European programme of assistance to the victims of apartheid, encompassing both Community and national action, in order to maximise the effectiveness of Europe's contribution in this field. In this connection the European Council agreed on an increase in financial and material assistance to the victims of apartheid;
The Council called on the South African government:
—to release unconditionally Nelson Mandela and other political prisoners; and
—to lift the ban on the African National Congress the Pan Africanist Congress of Azania and other political parties.
The Council decided to ask the future UK Presidency Foreign Minister, Sir Geoffrey Howe, to visit Southern Africa, in a further effort to establish conditions in which the necessary dialogue can commence.
In the meantime in the next three months the Community will enter into consultations with the other industrialised countries, such as the United States, Japan and the other OECD members, on further measures which might be needed covering in particular a ban on new investments, and on the imports of coal, iron, steel and gold coins from South Africa.
The outcome of these discussions on South Africa was not as I, and a number of other members of the Council, had hoped. In particular, I and others had argued for the adoption now of further economic measures directed at the South African Government. Unfortunately, this proposal was resisted by three States who preferred the weaker formulation than I have just cited involving the commitment to consultations with other industralised countries on further measures which might be needed.
I was particularly concerned that the vagueness of this formula might leave open the possibility of a veto on such measures at the end of the three month period specified in the draft and I sought clarification on this point, and an assurance that no country would veto the suggested measures if Sir Geoffrey Howe's mission proved unsuccessful. This proposal for clarification had the support of a number of other member states and it eventually led to the agreement of a slightly different formulation, put by the Presidency of the Council, and accepted without contestation by any member state, namely, that no member state excluded the possibility of sanctions.
Thus, the agreement reached by the Heads of State or Government is something of a second-best solution for the moment. But on balance it was preferable to a split in the Community, which would have sent all the wrong signals to South Africa. The agreement does represent a modest step forward.
In relation to nuclear matters, I recalled the formal request which we had made to the Commission, long before the Chernobyl accident, on the establishment of a Community health and inspection force. Such a force, which would be independent of national Governments, would be important with a view to reassuring the public about nuclear safety but is also in the nuclear industry's own interests as the number of accidents at nuclear plants is eroding sharply the confidence of the public throughout the Community and more widely in the industry. I emphasise to the Council that it is in all our interests to bring to finality a comprehensive plan of action, and that we looked forward to proposals on nuclear safety and health from the Commission which we hope will include a Community inspection force along the lines which we have proposed.
One member state disputed our claim that the EC had competence in the matter of nuclear safety and I am particularly pleased that the Commission contested this and supported our view that Chapter III of the EURATOM Treaty provides a clear legal basis for further action in this area. Incidentally, it was on my proposal that the reference to nuclear safety as well as public health was included in the Presidency conclusions.
In the discussions on the internal market I joined with a number of likeminded representatives in recalling the provisions of the Single European Act requiring that implementation of the internal market should be paralleled by steps to promote economic and social cohesion in order to ensure that the benefits are more evenly spread throughout the Community. I availed of the opportunity to remind the Council of the commitments we had been given in March 1985 that the part-financing of the integrated Mediterranean programmes from the structural funds would be from a real growth in the resources of these funds without affecting transfers to other lessprosperous and priority regions such as Ireland and that we will insist that these commitments are fully honoured.
On air transport, I drew attention to the limited scope of the proposals at present before the Transport Council. I said that the Commission should now also introduce proposals on the subject of market access, which would offer possibilities for all Community airlines to operate new services, and that these should be considered at the same time as the Commission's proposals to liberalise air fares and capacity-sharing arrangements. It is only logical and fully in accord with EEC Treaty rules on competition that priority should be given to access by airlines through expanding fifth-freedom opportunities throughout the Community, that is, the right of the airline of one State to carry passengers to cities in two other member states. This point was accepted and incorporated at my request in the Presidency Conclusions.
On public procurement, I recalled that at the Stuttgart European Council in 1983 I had drawn attention to the fact that policies in this area were being used by certain member states contrary to Community principles, in order to influence location decisions by investors from outside the Community and that we had been suffering from this practice and had lost a number of industries which otherwise would have come here. I again emphasised the need for action to eliminate this form of protectionism and urged that immediate consideration be, therefore, given to recent Commission proposals to liberalise public procurement.
I also drew attention, as I had done last December in Luxembourg, to the serious problems which would arise for us under the Commission's proposals on harmonisation of indirect taxes. The House might recall that, under the provisions of the Single European Act, proposals in this area are to be decided on by the council on the basis of unanimity and not by a qualified majority vote.
On the CAP, we discussed the development of the Community's agricultural policy in the international context against the background of mounting food surpluses and increasing EEC/US conflicts. I stressed the point that the Community is not the only body responsible for surpluses and urged the need for an orderly approach to the problem of their disposal and control.
I am glad to say that there was full acceptance in the Presidency's Conclusions that adaptation of agricultural policy to changed circumstances is not just a matter for the Community but is a problem to be faced by other countries, such as the United States, as well.
The European Council also gave specific recognition to a number of other points of particular importance to Ireland and ones which I had emphasised in the discussions. These included the retention of the objectives and principles of the Common Agricultural Policy, the need to take account of the Community's interests and location as an exporter of agricultural products, the specific nature of European agriculture, and the requirement to safeguard the social fabric in rural areas.
Overall, the European Council's Conclusions on agricultural policy in the international context were satisfactory from this country's point of view.
On the economic and social situation, I stressed the inadequacy of present policies in reducing unemployment and that every opportunity should now be availed of to accelerate Community growth and make it more employment-intensive, rather than wait until the end of the year for such a review, as had been suggested.
The Commission was asked to undertake a thorough study of the black economy. Preliminary estimates by the Commission suggest that this could be as high as 10 per cent or 20 per cent of Community GDP but they emphasise the difficulty of making accurate estimates of such matters as the proportion of registered unemployed who are actually out of work and seeking employment. The Prime Minister of one country reported that a study carried out by an institute in his country has shown that the actual number of people seeking employment is less than 10 per cent of the registered unemployed. I would not suggest that the proportion in this country is anything like that but there is obviously a common problem of gross overstatement of unemployment throughout the Community in every country and many people claiming unemployment benefit are actually at work. It is not a purely Irish phenomenon, in so far as that gives us any encouragement.
I laid a particular emphasis on the need to reduce further the level of real interest rates. And I urged support for the measures set out in the UK/Irish/Italian paper for an employment-creation strategy and, in welcoming the Commission's programme for the liberalisation of capital movements, drew attention to the problems posed for us in this area by the absence of the UK from the European Monetary System.
I also drew particular attention to the problems of developing countries, particularly the situation in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially in view of the fact that the flow of economic resources to developing countries continued to decline in 1985 for the fourth year running. In contrast, Ireland's development aid budget was being increased by almost 50 per cent between 1984 and 1987.
I was struck by the extent to which the Heads of State and Government expressed concern that the recovery — led by the fall in oil prices — had not yet really taken off in their countries or in Europe as a whole; and their view that measures were necessary now not next December, to ensure that the full benefits were obtained. Full implementation of the cooperative growth strategy agreed at the end of last year would, the Commission had estimated, reduce the rate of unemployment in the Community by one third or to a round 7 per cent in 1990. This is too large a prize to let go by default. We must pursue this and continue to press that the Commission's proposals for concertation of economic policies designed to achieve this objective will be implemented. The council urged a new sense of urgency on the Commission and it was agreed that the ECO/FIN Council be asked to look at this matter. The point was also made that they should look at it more seriously than they had looked at the results of the last European Council when they had seemed to reargue the conclusions of Prime Ministers rather than implement the decisions there taken.
The potential for a positive economic response in Europe will be of central importance in ensuring that the Irish economy benefits to the full from the new and more favourable circumstances. Indeed economic prospects at home are better now than at any time in the past seven years. The price of oil has collapsed. Interest rates have fallen sharply and are still coming down, and the annual rate of consumer price increases is set to fall sharply in the months ahead, to something around 2 per cent, and to remain at or below that level for some time thereafter.
The size of these favourable developments is very substantial, far greater than many people realise. On average import prices have fallen during the 12 months to April by over 10 per cent. This is not only due to oil price reductions but also to the decline in the value of the US dollar and sterling. It means a significant increase in purchasing power for the Irish consumer as these import prices are passed through into the shops. This has already occurred to a degree, with more to come. Moreover on Tuesday the VAT rate on restaurant meals and a wide range of labour-intensive services was cut by almost two-thirds. The estimated impact of this on the cost of living is two-thirds of 1 per cent.
The decline in interest rates has been equally striking. For a few months in the spring speculation ahead of the EMS realignment resulted in a temporary increase in interest rates. But since then money market interest rates have fallen by as much as seven percentage points and this has been translated into lower lending rates for industry and for the house purchaser. Looking back to 1982, when our predecessors were in office, the prime bank lending rate reached 19 per cent: it is now, in some cases, down below 10 per cent, half the level we inherited. In 1982 the mortgage rate was 16.25 per cent: it is now down to 10.25 per cent. The next reduction in mortgage interest rates could bring them to their lowest level for 13 years. This sharp fall in the cost of borrowing must be regarded as one of the most positive features of the present economic situation.
In saying this, I am not implying that interest rates are yet low enough. When they are compared with the rate of inflation the real interest rate that emerges, here and in other Community countries and more widely, makes it clear that there is ample scope for further interest rate reductions worldwide, and I am hopeful that these will occur and that the monetary authorities and Ministers for Finance of the different countries can so concert their policies as to achieve this objective.
This all adds up to the biggest increase in real household spending power in this decade. For the first time since the traumatic impact of the disastrous policies of 1977 to 1981 began to be felt by our people five years ago, the ability of the average man in the street to improve his living standards by increased purchases of goods and services is becoming a very significant factor. Both those at work and those reliant on social welfare payments will begin to experience a considerable and noticeable improvement in their standard of living for the first time in many years. Averaged over the economy as a whole, it has been calculated that real personal disposable income, the purchasing power of people in the home, will rise by between 3 and 4 per cent. The Government's innovative tax measures of January last will provide a further boost. These measures were designed to relieve the PAYE sector, while protecting revenue through the retention tax on deposit interest, and although the Government ran, and were willing to run, the risk of unpopularity by introducing this new tax, the very positive effect of the PAYE reliefs on take-home pay are now beginning to be noticed.
Social welfare benefits were also increased across the board in the budget by 4 and 5 per cent. These increases will take effect the week after next at a time when consumer prices may actually be about to fall over the coming months. The benefits of that to people on social welfare will be very substantial indeed.
What we would all like now is to see this increased spending power being translated into jobs. That has not yet happened, either here at home or in other European countries which are also benefiting from the decline in the price of oil. As I have mentioned, members of the European Council addressed this question and discussed the danger that some of the additional spending power might be added to savings for the time being instead of increasing consumer demand and investment. As we rely heavily on a healthy and growing demand in the economies of our trading partners, I am concerned, along with other members of the European Council, to see that, if necessary, steps are taken to ensure that the substantial increase in purchasing power is used to raise demand in Europe. Provided that this is done, the medium term growth prospects thus unleashed offer a good chance for an improvement in employment, after this prolonged depression. By the time the Dáil resumes in October, we will be in a better position to assess these developments.
Already the unemployment trend has improved dramatically over the past three years. In early 1983, after Fianna Fáil's last period in office, we were faced with an unemployment figure which had increased by 30 per cent in 12 months. In the most recent 12 months, the increase in unemployment was barely 3 per cent. Discounting the short lived summer influx of students and school leavers onto the live register which, if last year's experience is repeated, could be large, there is the prospect at least of continued near stability in the level of unemployment in the months ahead. I hope and expect that there will be a decline next year.
If the turnaround in the world economy can be maintained and be supported by stronger demand at home, there should be an acceleration in the growth of employment. The recent falls in manufacturing and building employment both seem to be coming to an end. In the final quarter of 1985 manufacturing employment fell by just 400 persons, when seasonal factors are taken into account, compared with 2,500 in the corresponding quarter of 1984. In the case of building, the improvement has been helped considerably by the extraordinary success of the house improvement grant scheme which has especially helped the smaller building firms. Although figures are not available, it is believed that services employment continues to show a strong growth. Moreover, the social employment scheme — designed to help the long term unemployed — has now reached its target of 10,000 participants.
I am not, however — nor can anyone be — complacent about the future of growth and employment. Tourism this year has been hit by a number of special factors affecting the North American market, and I am conscious of the competitive difficulties which have been reported to us by the Confederation of Irish Industry. In this connection it is important if these difficulties are not to be compounded that pay settlements take account of the sharp reduction in inflation which is in prospect for the next few years.
Another factor which is making it difficult to assess just what the impact in timing of these events will be is the complexity of our exchange rate position. Our currency has by and large retained it value vis-á-vis those of other European Community countries — except Britain, which is still the country with which we trade most. Since Britain is still outside the EMS, sterling is subject to pressures different from those affecting the EMS countries. We are, therefore, as far as our trade and financial relationships with the United Kingdom are concerned, at the mercy of factors outside our control. The same is true, of course, in relation to the US dollar. Thus, with the two countries to which we sell more than 40 per cent of our exports, and from which we buy about 60 per cent of our imports, we are subject to currency fluctuations largely unrelated to the fluctuations in the currency system of which we are a member. This creates difficult and uncertain trading conditions for some of our industries, including the tourist industry.
It remains true that the economic prospects facing the country are better than at any time in this decade. This position has been reached with a greatly improved external position and without compromising the objectives of containing public expenditure and of reducing, in proportionate terms, the Government's borrowings. Even before the fall in oil prices, there was a trade surplus of £312 million in 1985, the first year since 1944 in which an annual trade surplus was recorded. The volume of exports in 1985 rose by 6¼ per cent compared with an increase of 3½ per cent in imports. Trade returns for the first five months of 1986 show a surplus of £180 million in this period — over £300 million better than the same quarter last year. Our trade surplus is now of the order of £600 million.
Since January, there have been both favourable and unfavourable budgetary developments. On the one hand, interest payments on the national debt will be much lower than we had allowed for, but on the other, the collapse of Dublin Gas will have an adverse effect on revenue from Bord Gáis Éireann which will also be diminished by the fall in oil prices.
Tax revenue has been closely in line with budget expectations — which were for a level of revenue below that expected in the national plan — taking account of the lower level of inflation we have experienced and adjusted for some reliefs afforded in the Finance Bill. Spending, however, and particularly current spending, has been running somewhat ahead of the level projected in the budget. A combination of factors have been at work here which have been offset only to a very limited degree by the lower than expected level of unemployment in the first half of the year. The Government have taken some steps to trim expenditure in line with lower than expected inflation in order to hold the budget deficit close to that provided for last January.
I want to say a few words at this point about the unrealism of many of the proposals that have come from Opposition parties with respect to our present economic climate. On the one hand, we have seen the principal Opposition Party proposing time and again, and not just at times of local elections, increased in public spending, both capital and current, which, if implemented, would involve a scale of borrowing that could only have a disastrous impact upon the level of domestic interest rates. It would have a similar impact on the rate at which we are currently borrowing money abroad arising from the more favourable credit rating which this country has been able to secure in recent years owing to the measures taken by this Government in 1981, and again, when we returned to office in 1983.
Even at present spending levels it has been only with some difficulty that the Government have prevented pressure coming on domestic interest rates because of the current scale of Government borrowing, which is only barely within the limits those lending to us consider reasonable. We are still, and will for a long period to come remain, on a knife-edge to a degree that we are inclined to forget, or deliberately to put out of our minds. We would ignore this reality at our peril. I have to recall the action of the Opposition Party when they were in Government in raising the volume of public spending by 50 per cent in five years which had the effect of preempting the growth of revenue for 20 years ahead, for an entire generation. That has to be made up.