Estimates 1991 (Resumed).

Debate resumed on the following Estimates which were moved by the Minister for Finance (Mr. A. Reynolds) on Friday, 5 July 1991: Votes 1 to 3, inclusive, 5 to 44, inclusive; and Supplementary Estimates, Votes 2 and 39.

Last night I was dealing with the serious recession in the tourism industry which was pinpointed clearly in the Irish Independent of last Friday. This is so serious for the industry and the economy generally that it should have the immediate attention of the Minister, Bord Fáilte and the tourism industry.

There has been a grave downturn in the numbers of American visitors to Ireland. I understand it could be running as high as 30 per cent less than the 1990 figure. A 25 per cent downturn would, according to the industry, represent a loss of £67 million in the season. At this point, therefore, with a 30 per cent drop, the losses to the industry are substantial. Because of its importance to employment, to the industry and to the economy generally, this should have the very urgent attention of the bodies immediately concerned and the Minister responsible.

It has been contended that the Gulf War was a major factor in the anticipated downturn in tourists from America. This is too simplistic an answer. There are factors which run deeper that require thorough investigation so that we can capitalise on the immensity of the American tourist market to Ireland in the context of the vastness of its resources and the ethnic Irish population of about 42 million people.

The means of travel and the cost of travel are the two most vital aspects for consumers travelling abroad. Currently Irish tourism has a major handicap in that only two major transatlantic lines serve it, Aer Lingus and Delta. It is regrettable that Aer Lingus did not proceed with servicing the west coast of America, particularly San Francisco, which has a very large Irish population. Britain has a minimum of ten scheduled flights per day with a multiplicity of chartered flights. The latest estimate of American tourists to Britain is five million. Britain is a primary tourist centre; Ireland is secondary. The cheaper air fares offered by some of the airlines servicing Britain directly from the States must be a factor in the decision of American tourists to go to Britain which should be thoroughly and objectively examined.

The next point I want to make is of considerable importance. In the context of the numbers of tourists going to Britain, there is an absence of a cohesive strategy to give American tourists an incentive to combine their visit to Britain with a visit to Ireland, even for one, two or three days. If we properly developed that type of sales strategy with the good will and co-operation of all airlines serving Ireland, a substantial volume of additional American trade could be converted to benefit Irish tourism. I would strongly urge the Minister and Bord Fáilte to examine this possibility very thoroughly.

When British Airways discontinued its service to the Republic last February I contended that it was of major significance to Irish tourism and to Irish business and that consideration should be given to initiating an alternative service to replace it. British Airways are one of the most prestigious airlines in Europe and spend colossal sums in marketing and advertising in every centre they are servicing. We suffered the loss not only of the service but of the benefits of the promotional activities of British Airways. A clawback of American tourists coming indirectly to Britain will be more difficult to achieve because of the loss of frequent flights to Ireland by British Airways. Nevertheless, it is an area that must be tackled for the sake of Irish tourism and the Irish economy, because I am quite sure that with the proper strategy and with proper incentives a substantial number of that five million plus could be attracted to Ireland. American tourists have travelled 3,000 miles and are within 45 minutes of this country. What I am suggesting could be done, and I urge the Minister to give a lead to the industry. It would give a fillip to Irish tourism if we could clawback some benefit from the very substantial volume of American visitors coming into Britian.

The next point I would like to make is in regard to marketing and promotion, where we are spending far too little. I am conscious of the budgetary limitations but there would be an enormous return from moneys spent in promoting tourism. The return would be at least six times — it might even be as high as eight times higher than the return on money invested in other developments. In 1990 the industry put up £56 million while the State put up £18 million for the marketing and promotion of tourism. While I welcome this investment by the industry in conjunction with the State, I should like to point out that the majority of those involved in Irish tourism are small family businesses. They do not have the capacity to keep pumping money to the tune of £56 million per year into the promotion and marketing of tourism. In view of the returns in terms of jobs, wealth and the expansion of the industry, the major onus rests on the State to invest money in this area.

We have tremendous products to sell in the area of tourism — friendly people, our relaxed way of life, a variety of excellent sporting activities, open roads and unrivalled scenery. I do not think any other country has such a variety of products to offer. However, we have to accept that all countries are competing for tourists and unless we promote and market our product properly we will lose these tourists. It has long been accepted that we will not have a boom in our tourist industry in the absence of American tourists.

Last February the Minister sent me a copy of the Bord Fáilte Marketing Campaign for 1991, which states:

Apart from a two-week 10 city series of workshops in North America held earlier this month Bord Fáilte has put a hold on its advertising and other promotional plans earmarked for North America and is likely to divert some of the funds for such operations into increased activities in Britain and Europe. These funds will augment the additional £1 million allocated to Bord Fáilte in the recent budget for increased promotions in Britain and Europe. Bord Fáilte is in negotiation with tour operators, air and ferry companies and representatives of the various tourism sectors here in Ireland in order to build additional incremental advertising and promotional campaigns for those markets.

Looking back in hindsight at the decision of Bord Fáilte to put their promotional activities in North America on hold, one wonders if there would have been an increase in the number of American tourists visiting Ireland this year if they had proceeded with their promotional activities. Naturally, nobody can answer that question with certainty. However, we should never abandon the American market. This market contains a huge ethnic Irish population who would be interested in visiting Ireland. I am advised — I speak subject to correction — that there are no flights from Boston to Ireland on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Having regard to the huge Irish population in Boston, I believe there would be consumer support for flights to Ireland on these days. The price of air fares and the frequency of service are two of the fundamental aspects which have to be taken into consideration in the promotion of our tourism industry there.

I hope the Minister will undertake an immediate review of our tourism industry. There has been colossal investment in tourism in terms of improving buildings, amenities and facilities, and it would be tragic if because of a lapse in any area those investments were put in danger in any way, leading to a lack of morale and confidence among those involved in the industry. At present some hotels are putting their staff on short time. It is regrettable that this should be happening during the peak tourist season. The June unemployment statistics show that there has been no major take-up in tourism employment this year. Every June huge numbers of students and others are recruited by hotels, guesthouses and restaurants to cater for the peak tourist season.

I want to refer to the allocation of money from the EC Structural Funds, which I think has amounted to £400 million over three to four years. Because of its structure this money is mainly directed towards larger projects. Private enterprises have to put up 70 per cent of the money and they receive the other 30 per cent by way of grants. I wish to criticise two aspects of this system in the hope that there will be some changes. This funding is orientated towards amenities and facilities rather than accommodation. As we all accept, many hotels and guesthouses are in urgent need of upgrading and refurbishment. In the absence of a provision in the budget for such work, grants from the Structural Funds should be used to upgrade larger and smaller projects which are in dire need of some incentive and aid.

The second point I would like to make — this refers to the lack of tourism promotion and marketing — is that some portion of these moneys should be allocated to the regional tourism organisations, who have an expertise in maketing and promoting their areas. At present regional tourism boards are in dire need of such funding. I want to press on the Minister the need to set up a new structure for the utilisation of these considerable funds which are devoted to the development of Irish tourism. These funds should be channelled towards the improvement of accommodation, both in small and large concerns. Those are the only concerns which can avail of these funds.

As I said, we have an excellent product but the extent to which we can market and promote it throughout the world is determined by the amount of money provided. In the early spring I put down a question to find out how much money has been provided by the Government during recent years for the promotion of tourism. I was informed that in 1986, £25.696 million was provided, £23 million in 1987 and £27 million in 1988 which included a special allocation of £4 million. The figure showed a reduction in both 1989 and 1990 when it dropped to £23 million and I understand it has been further reduced this year. Taking inflation into account it is clear that this amount is totally inadequate to market and promote tourism in a variety of markets.

I should also say it was inadvisable for the Minister for Finance to increase the rate of VAT on food in hotels and restaurants. Some years back the rate of VAT on food and accommodation stood at the incredible level of 23 per cent. However, in 1985 it was reduced to 10 per cent. In the light of the developments which have taken place in tourism throughout the European Community it was inadvisable to take this step and I ask the Minister to review his decision.

I have already mentioned the urgent need to review air services into Ireland and press for a major initiative to be taken. I suggest that an extended ticket be offered as an incentive by those airlines servicing Ireland in an effort to attract some of the substantial number of American tourists who visit Britain annually. Some of them, if offered an incentive, may be attracted to Ireland. That should be our goal.

I would like to refer to some of the other Estimates and seek clarification on a number of points. I shall refer to the Estimates for the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications first. An Post have brought forward a viability plan which recommends the provision of road side post boxes, the closure of sub-post offices, the downgrading of existing post offices and 1,500 redundancies. I attended a series of public meetings called by public and community groups to give full expression to their concerns about the viability plan. The public representatives who attended offered their full support and rejected the viability plan. I am aware the Minister has appointed consultants to consider all the options but he, his backbenchers and other public representatives who have been put under pressure by community groups should resist any steps to provide post boxes at the end of boreens or on roads up to two or three miles away from the homes of old age pensioners. They should resist attempts to close sub-post offices which have provided a valuable service, including the paying of pensions and social welfare benefits, and to make 1,500 people redundant. In addition to providing the services offered by An Post they have been social communicators down the years. The Minister should allay the concerns expressed in our communities by groups who have received the full support of public representatives. He should make it clear that the plan, no matter how desirable from the point of view of An Post, introduced to balance their books, is not acceptable to either him as Minister or the Government. This message has been accepted by the Minister's representatives at the public meetings I attended.

It was reported in The Irish Times last Saturday that the Irish members of the Economic and Social Committee of the European Community in Brussels condemned these proposals on the grounds that they would lead to the withdrawal of services in rural Ireland which formed part of its fabric. These proposals will have a devastating effect of the lives of rural communities. I appeal to the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications, Deputy Brennan, to bring an end to this debacle and to say to An Post, either before or after he receives the consultant's report, that this is an exercise which the Government cannot and will not entertain because of the hardship and inconvenience it will cause in communities where such a service has been provided heretofore. The post office and the postman should continue to provide a service in rural areas.

I should now like to comment on the Estimate for the Department of the Marine. We received some welcome news this morning; European Community funds are to be provided for coast protection works. My county, like many other, has been bedevilled by the problem of coastal erosion due to the Atlantic eating into the hinterland and in the process threatening dwellings and villages. The Estimate is totally inadequate to deal with this massive problem. It is my hope that those villages where the livelihoods of individuals are threatened or where there is a continuous threat of flooding of good agricultural land will have first call on any European Community funds which may be made available.

Another matter to which I must draw the attention of the House is the development of fish farming within enclosed waterways. The development by Salmara Limited of a number of fish cages in Kenmare River, County Kerry has been strongly opposed on the grounds that the Minister does not seem to be sure if this development will give rise eventually to pollution and harm the wild salmon stocks. The residents of Kenmare, a premier tourist centre with tremendous potential, are seriously perturbed about this development. I strongly urge the Minister to be extremely cautious in granting further fish farming licences in this area. In their opinion, to which I subscribe, there is an absence of adequate investigation to satisfy people that the chemicals and pollution emanating from fish cages will not eventually cause grave damage to the environment and the natural habitat of the area. That would be a tragedy for an area which is a magnet for tourists. We should satisfy ourselves that the tremendous potential of the tourism industry is not put at risk by a development the outcome of which is not certain. A recent seminar on fish farming held in Ireland was told by a representative from Norway, where they have great experience of such enterprises, that the development of fish farming within enclosed sheltered waters is a high risk undertaking. I would ask the Minister to be reluctant to expand further until scientific evidence proves that there is no danger. Such evidence is not yet available.

There are many harbours and ports which are in urgent need of improvement and development works. The continuing closure of Renard Point in Cahirciveen due to storm damage two years ago and the delay in giving final approval of the harbour development at Portmagee, which is so urgently required, are two matters I would bring to the notice of the Minister.

There is considerable concern regarding the overrun of the budget and possible cutbacks in education involving a renegotiation of agreements in relation to the pupil-teacher ratio. I refer in particular to the appointment of remedial teachers. I have here a document from a group of parents representing ten schools in the Cahirciveen rural area, attended by a total of 857 pupils. These schools have never had a remedial teacher but assessments carried out by the INTO reveal that about 14 per cent of the pupils are in need of the expertise of a remedial teacher. I implore the Minister in considering this matter to take into account the disadvantaged nature of the area and the scattered location of the schools and to accede to the demand for a remedial teacher. This would indicate that she is really concerned about those who have this difficulty. It would be a gesture in the right direction, regardless of the monetary cutbacks, to give these children the facility to which they have a moral entitlement.

I listened attentively to the Minister for the Environment last night in his lengthy and elaborate submission. Two aspects were omitted. Adequate provision is not being made for local authority housing needs. The Minister's estimate of 1,500 houses for the year will make little or no impact on the waiting list of 22,000 people. The second point is that members of urban district councils and corporations to which there were no elections this year are in a limbo and seek clarification of the Minister's proposals. Are urban councillors and town commissioners to continue in office without elections or will those bodies be dissolved?

The most serious problem confronting the country is unemployment. The total dependence of the Government on private enterprise to deal with this massive problem is not the answer. The right climate has been cultivated and the right incentives have been given, but the number of jobless continues to grow. We would urge the Government to reconsider their attitude to State and semiState developments. RTE are seeking a large number of redundancies due to the legislation last year which capped their advertising revenue. At the same time Channel 4 and other channels are carrying advertisements which should be broadcast by RTE. While there are job losses in RTE we are creating jobs outside the country.

I hope the points I directed to the Minister for Tourism will be reflected upon.

I thank Deputy Moynihan and I listened very carefully to the points he made on the departmental Estimates. I am sure that the relevant Ministers will respond in turn as the opportunity arises.

Deputy Moynihan referred in particular to remedial teachers and asked that in reviews of Government spending the disadvantaged, and in particular the remedial needs of pupils, would not be overlooked. I am glad to say that the provision for 1991 agreed with the social partners in respect of extra remedial teachers has already been carried through. I am sure the House will be pleased to know that managements of schools throughout the country have been informed of the provision of additional remedial teachers who will service 240 extra primary schools. If the Deputy will give me the details of the particular schools to which he referred I will be glad to look into the matter.

Despite what other measures have had to be curtailed, over the years the Government have always had regard to the needs of those who would seem to be disadvantaged in society and particularly the needs of children with remedial demands. Eighty teachers have been appointed and they will serve 240 extra primary schools. I think that is a major advance and evidence of commitment under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. However, I take the Deputy's point that, whatever else one may seek to review, the case of those children should not be further reviewed but their needs should be met.

Today I am seeking the approval of Dáil Éireann for Votes Nos. 26 to 29 for which I am responsible as Minister for Education. The total gross provision in the Education group of Votes sought for the current year is £1,416 million representing an increase of £45 million or 3.3 per cent on last year's expenditure. This gross provision includes over £217 million in appropriations-in-aid. The net Exchequer provision is, therefore, just over £1,199 million which represents 17.2 per cent of net Exchequer expenditure on supply services. The provision of £1,105 million in 1991 for pay and pensions amounts to 82 per cent of the gross noncapital provision. The overall provision also includes nearly £70 million of capital expenditure.

Of course, put baldly, figures have really no life, but when you see the percentage of the total Estimate which goes on salaries it is very obvious that practically our total budget is spent on that. I think it is money very well spent and one would wish for more and more every year in this regard. Education is an area in which money would always be well spent, but we live in difficult times and one must be careful. The economy at present is fragile but the Government's commitment to that amount of money is praiseworthy.

My overall aim as Minister for Education is to afford each individual the opportunity of developing her or his potential to the full. To achieve this aim requires continued investment in education and on ongoing commitment to rigorous review and evaluation of the education system itself — encompassing such aspects as access, structures, institutions and the content of our educational programmes — to ensure that the present and future needs of our students in a rapidly changing society are being addressed adequately. Given the importance and pervasive effect of education on all our lives, it goes without saying that the Education portfolio at any time is both interesting and intensely challenging, all the more so at present as we seek to bring about the reforms necessary to meet the demands and challanges of the new millennium.

Sir, there is nobody more interested than your goodself in the matter of education and you have sought time and spoken on education in debates here. I have been greatly heartened and pleased that, apart from the normal party political jousting that goes on on such occasions, there is a strong thread of co-operation and coming together of interests in the educational field from all the parties and individuals represented here in the Dáil. That is a clear recognition that in education all more or less share the same aims, with perhaps different ways of arriving at them and a shift of emphasis with regard to expenditure. By and large consensus has emerged, never more so than in the recent debate on the Thomond College Bill, which was enacted to merge that college and the University of Limerick. It was a rare day of friendship in Dáil Éireann. All sides exhibited a close interest in the subject, recognition of past endeavours and optimism about the future structures of those two fine institutions which have come together.

I cite that because it was to me a very clear example of the resources of goodwill which exist among all personnel in all the parties and the Independents for measures such as that, which are seen to be correct in an educational sense and to give greater opportunity to young people and particularly greater access to third level. The Bill is now signed. It went from here to the Seanad. I agreed to an amendment from Fine Gael and The Workers' Party in a merged form. When the Bill went to the Seanad a similar type debate ensued there when co-operation and agreement were expressed. I noticed in one of yesterday's newspapers an extensive account of the debates in both the Dáil and Seanad by a writer on Irish matters. It was written as Gaeilge and lauded all the contributions made in the debates and especially a special provision with regard to the status of Irish, which this House will remember and which was emphasised in the Seanad also. I was glad to see that recognition.

If there is in this House anyone who would question anybody's commitment to continued investment in education, let us look at the programme and I will go through the various arrangements. The improvement of the pupil-teacher ratio for this year is already in train. Enrolment schedules have gone out some months ago to the various schools. I have already spoken about the remedial teachers. The six year cycle will be introduced, as agreed, in 1994. That means every child going into a post-primary school this coming September — I should say every young person; they are not children at that stage, they are students — will have the opportunity of taking a six year cycle in post-primary schools. That is optional; there is no compulsion about it. All sides of the House have always put this forward as a very laudable objective. The school commencement age here is the youngest in Europe at four years of age. That is not compulsory. But the vast majority, 90 per cent of parents, send their children to school between the ages of four and five, which is very young by European standrds, though some European countries have statutory provision for preschool activities. Here we start early with the result that young people were leaving second level at an early age when in some instances perhaps they had not reached the desirable level of maturity which would enable them to make clear decisions about their future or decide on options but were open to them. We intend to introduce a provision similar to that operating in Europe, but I stress it will be optional. I have had letters from parents who wish their children to continue in a five year cycle, so it will not be compulsory and the arrangements will be worked out. Each student going into a second level school, be it voluntary, secondary, vocational, community or comprehensive, will have the opportunity, if he or she so wishes, to go into a six year cycle.

Work is proceeding apace within the Department of Education on the Green Paper mentioned in our programme. It is proving a most interesting and stimulating exercise. It involves a huge amount of work and I want to pay tribute to all who are working with us on our team preparing it. As I have said so often here in the House and in public through various media, I hope the publication of that Green Paper in the autumn will lead to a very wide ranging debate on education. By that I mean the participation of everybody involved in education.

I also hope it leads to debate among people who are not involved in education because it is a lively topic. I expect the debate to be lively and robust — and robust can mean many things. It will be interesting, because we are at a period of great change in society, a period of momentous decisions about our involvement in Europe and various other matters. It is a time of great flux in society. The Green Paper and the questions it will pose will seek challenging responses.

In a series of fora which I attended at Easter time, during the traditional week of conferences of teachers, parents and management, I availed of the occasion to say to various interests that this is an opportunity for people to put forward their views, so that they will not say later that we should have put forward such a point of view or decided on such an aspect, that we lost that chance. We now have that chance and I would say carpe diem, seize the day for the publication of the Green Paper. I hope the responses will be measured. As I have said, the debates will be lively and robust; but I hope people do not take entrenched stands from which they will find it difficult to progress. It is important that people recognise the opportunities and the challenges of the Green Paper and respond adequately to it. I am not speaking from my script but I intend to go through it. Those who know me and have heard me speak in public know that I very seldom stick to scripts.

As long as the Minister sticks to the rules it is all right.

I think that is something that should be praised rather than derided. I have my own thoughts apart from those put to me in writing. That is the way I have done my business since I went into the Department, particularly my public business. I shall allude to my script but I shall not stick to it. I am not doing that just for today. Those who know me well can bear out that that is the way I do my business, and I have found it has stood me in great stead. I have not left too many tracks behind me.

The Green Paper will be followed by a White Paper which will be followed by for the Education Act. All parties have sought such an Act for quite some time. The Labour Party have adopted a very positive stance on the whole idea of an Education Act — it has always been part of their policy — as have The Workers' Party and latterly the Fine Gael Party. The Green Paper will be comprehensive in its coverage. It will relate to all aspects of education and will afford the opportunity to all those involved to offer views before the Government's policy is set out in the White Paper. The final outcome of the process, an Education Act, will ensure that the Irish education system will reflect a clear and basic educational philosophy, objectives, policies and strategies, as well, of course, as their underlying democratic rationale. This should guide and inform all education decision making in this country for many years to come.

When the whole process of the Green Paper, White Paper and the resulting Education Act has been gone through I do not know who will be the incumbent in Marlborough Street, but for years to come there will be very clear guidelines legislatively, with rules, circulars and so on. As the House will know, there has been a very tenuous base for much of what goes on in education. It is interesting to note that the basis for our very fine education system is Stanley's letters of 1834 and the resulting amendments of 1868. As I have said, the link is tenuous and needs to be very firmly established.

I cannot stress strongly enough the need for everybody to get involved in the debate, not just the various educational interests who have their own strong points of view but also the community at large. I repeat once again — because it is worth saying, and I have said it on every public occasion — the need for people not to take up entrenched positions in the debate from which they find they cannot progress. If they show a particular flag they may find they cannot change the colour of their flag, and that would be a pity.

I cannot expect everybody to pay heed to me — that would be expecting too much — but I hope they will at least listen and note what I have said. I was alarmed to note after Easter that there were very clear signals, before ever a Green Paper was published, as to what was supposed would be in the Green Paper. I found that hasty and, in an educational and policy sense, difficult to understand. I hope people will not adopt entrenched positions. However, that remains for the autumn.

Since I came to the Department of Education one of my goals has been to bring about fundamental reform of education, which is necessary to meet the challenges of society today and in the future. Previously, the primary building unit and post-primary building unit of the Department were separate, but we have integrated those into one building unit. That is a move that I regret was not done many years ago. For a long time the number of pupils has been increasing and it seemed as if there would never be an end to the increase. The Department were always at bursting point trying to accommodate more and more pupils each year. Each September more schools were needed. Now for the first time we have a clearer picture of the demographic position, although it is being altered. I am joyful to see people coming back to this country with young families. I notice in my own home of Athlone couples returning with two or three children whom they send to the local school, and the school is delighted that the numbers are increasing again. There should always have been an integrated primary and post-primary building unit so that if one unit found there was surplus accommodation the other could use it. People in County Cork in particular have worked in that way and it has enabled surplus accommodation to be used more readily than if the units were separate.

It seems, now that we know the number of pupils will not vastly increase again for some time, that would be the end to headaches in building, but of course that is not the case. In the primary sector we are now replacing buildings, many of which were built in the last century. Some have been maintained beautifully and they do not need to be replaced. I visited a school in County Cork last year which is the oldest primary school in Ireland. It is a lovely small stone building which the community are proud of. This school has been refurbished most beautifully in keeping with its original design.

In many areas there is a need for replacement of schools, particularly those built in the forties and fifties which, because of post-war restrictions on the supply of proper building materials, were built hastily and with scant regard for the quality of materials used. Huge faults have arisen in many of those schools as have in schools built in the seventies which had flat roofs. The House will be aware of many of the faults which are now showing up in large community and comprehensive schools. The whole concept of community and comprehensive schools is very good but they were built in line with the housing policies at the time. Flaws have now emerged which will necessitate much remedial work if the children are to continue with their education in them. The rationalisation process of second level schools where a voluntary second level school and a vocational school come together to form one school in a town or an area in many instances, necessitated either extensive refurbishment or the erection of a school. There are about 20 green field sites on stream waiting to be advanced and to go ahead. It is not a case of a down turn in primary level which will advance to record level; or replenishment of the stock we have so that it will continue in good use rather than be allowed to go into ruin.

We are all aware that in rural areas where a new school has been provided the old school falls into a dilapidated condition and in many instances, is a blot on the scenic beauty of an area. I have been giving that matter some thought and I hope to come up with some ideas. The schools are not the property of the Department of Education but are church property but we need to have that issue addressed.

There has been an increase in the number of multi-denominational schools and gaelscoileanna. This is a very strong indication of paternal preference for alternative types of primary schools to which to send their children. Every year there is a huge growth in gaelscoileanna. On my desk at present I have four files relating to new gaelscoil primary schools opening in September and two or three files relating to the meánscoil gaelscoil. I have always given much support to these and the same applies to any initiative which has come to me in regard to a multi-denominational school. When I came into the Department the process was underway but it seemed it was dealt with in a grace and favour way rather than as a right. I was glad to be positive about such initiatives. A difficulty arises because of the need for accommodation in what is now becoming a surplus situation. I appreciate that a church school in Cork has been given to us which in turn will become a multi-denominational school. I appeal to others to do likewise. It makes common sense to do this and to use "surplus" church accommodation for the needs of alternative schools, be they gaelscoil or multi-denominational. This trend has started to evolve in a natural way and I want to encourage it.

I shall refer to my wish to decentralise education. I said recently I wanted to undo the apron strings and, perhaps, that was an analogy feminists would not agree with because the incumbent is a woman. We want to give the board of management of any school—primary or post primary — greater responsibility in their day-to-day activities so that the Department do not have to be contacted on every decision they have to make. They want to make those decisions, they do not want to contact us, but the rules as laid down say they must contact us. We will be referring to that point in our Green Paper and we will be loosening the apron strings.

I am glad to say that the improved pupil teacher ratio, as already announced, will be operative from September and the schools have been informed and the schedule of accommodation has been sent out. The appointments in many instances have been made or are in the process of being made. Posts for remedial teachers have already been sanctioned. In the 1991-92 school year I propose to allocate an additional 30 primary teaching posts to disadvantaged areas. The managements of those schools have been so informed. I propose to allocate an extra 15 teachers to the home-schoolliaison projects LINKS scheme which will bring the number of schools involved in that project to 80. That scheme has been a great success. I started it and I am particularly interested in it. This year 80 schools teachers will be appointed — sometimes to serve a few schools — who will not teach but will visit the homes in a pastoral sense, talk to the parents and pupils and rekindle the interest which parents have both in their own and their children's education. It is based on the tenet that school is good and it is good for the child and the parent to be interested in it. I wish to pay tribute to the women in charge of it, Concepta Conaty, who managed a large primary school in Dublin and took on the task to be the general overseer of the home-school scheme. She, and all who work with her in that scheme, are making a great success of it.

At second level the improvements in the pupil-teacher ratio are already in train and the schedules have been given to the schools. The teachers have been appointed and will be in the classrooms this September. At second level the 60 posts agreed under PESP are already underway. Sanction has been given and the appointments have been made or are in the process and the teachers will be in the classrooms in September. Recognition will be given vice-principals and guidance teachers on an ex quota basis.

In the two reviews on primary education by Moya Quinlan on the curriculum and by Dr. Tom Murphy on the general primary review, there was great emphasis on inservice education. There is no doubt that there is a need for it and I admit we have been tardy in addressing it in the fullest sense. The moneys provided have been increased each year but we are still not satisfied with the content or the format of inservice education throughout the country. The National Council for Curriculum and Assessment commissioned a report on inservice education which has been presented to me. It makes very interesting reading. It has cost implications and how we will address that is another matter. It is the first comprehensive report that addresses both the content, the format and the strategy for inservice education. It is very important, with changes in the curriculum, that we have that report.

The changes introduced by the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment in the Junior Certificate and changes pending for the senior cycle mean that inservice education for teachers, in a proper professional sense, should be implemented. It is easy for people to say a teacher goes into a classroom and teaches. Nowadays much more is demanded of a teacher than heretofore because of the changing nature of pupils, their expectations and those of their friends, the pressures on them from advertising and the world around them and, sometimes the expectations of parents which are beyond them. There is a proper realisation by young people that everybody has a worth and a value and that they need to have confidence in themselves. Teachers are required to be so many things to so many different types of students. When I was a teacher, and when I went into the Department, I resented the fact that so much is expected to be rectified when one goes through the portals of a schoolhouse. Much is expected of teachers. In the main young people respect teachers. Thankfully, their status has remained high, due in the main to their professionalism and their high standards of education. More and more schools seem to be a refuge, indeed a saviour. Many young people see in school a regulatory system which gives form and shape to their lives which they cannot obtain elsewhere. They draw great comfort from that and, therefore, it is up to the Government to seek to identify ways of helping that process.

I gave very detailed answers in the House recently in regard to Lingua, the programme through which EC funding will be provided to assist pupil exchanges and to offer opportunities for teachers and students of foreign languages to spend a period of time in the country whose langauge they are teaching or learning. This is a much easier way of learning a language, although, of course books must not be forgotten. Institiúid Teangeolaíochta Éireann and the Youth Exchange Bureau are both involved in implementing various aspects of the EC programme which will start in September. I also answered a number of questions in the House regarding European languages in post primary schools. There are approximately 750 post primary schools in the country and nearly 500 of them now offer two European languages in addition to Irish and English. The emphasis is mainly on French, but I hope that German, Italian and Spanish will also be taught. Indeed some adventurous schools are teaching Russian and Japanese and it will be interesting to see how that works out.

Parental as well as general expectations about German led to a very big take-up of the language. Various measures were in place over the last number of years to intensify the take-up of German and it has now become so popular that the number of teachers available has shrunk. The head of education in UCD came to see me recently with a plan for an intensive course for Higher Diploma students in German this year. We trawled all the schools for teachers who might have German but were not teaching it in the curriculum; however, even that source is now exhausted.

We had a very lively debate in the House regarding the issue of the provision of school books. I could give figures regarding their cost but I would prefer to talk about the issue itself. It is a very vexed issue which surfaces periodically. There are really two issues involved, the cost and proliferation of school books. There should be a proper scheme for those who cannot afford school books. I met the publishers of school books almost two years ago and I am in constant touch with the parents. A study has been done in this regard which will be published before the school year commences. It will not affect this school year's books but I am determined that there will be a change in future. We do not set the number of type of school books at post primary level on offer to students; we set out the curriculum and the managers and teachers order the books. Every year there is a bewildering change, which I do not sanction, despite what some people think. It is a free market and publishers decide to produce new, glossier, fatter and dearer books each year. I do not think that that is necessary and the study to which I referred will show startling results.

Expenditure at primary level on the scheme of aid towards the cost of schools books increased by 42 per cent over the past two years. This year I have again provided for an increase of 23 per cent to give an allocation of £1.447 million.

A huge sum is allocated for the free book scheme each year. However, I am not satisfied that it is directed to those in greatest need. Perhaps a rental scheme would be a better way of utilising resources. How many Deputies have attics full of children's school books? There are many school books in our house although our children have left school. The changes which I anticipate will mean bruised feelings for those who are producing all these glossy books every year. Of course nobody can stop people buying all these books if they want to, but I want to lift the burden from parents who cannot afford them. The newest and glossiest book is not always necessary to give a son or daughter a chance in life.

I mentioned the vocational training opportunities scheme. I am glad that the measures announced in the PESP are going ahead. It will mean that more schools will participate in this scheme whereby people who have for one reason or another left school and are unemployed will go back to school. They study formal subjects and sit examinations, including the intermediate or leaving certificate. I have a file at home containing letters from people telling me how they benefited from the scheme. Some of them try for a place in the local regional college or in Bolton Street. Last year Dublin VEC had an access scheme whereby people who had come through the VTOS or who had obtained qualifications were accepted in colleges under their control. I know that one does not tell anecdotes about one's own constituency but five students who came through the VTOS were accepted in the regional college in Athlone last year. They were all successful in their first year formal examinations. I know that DCU have had applications this year from the same source.

The certificate examination relates to the merging of the inter certificate and the group certificate for the first time next year in the new junior certificate. For the students who go back to school in September the National Council for curriculum and Assessment have prepared a very simple booklet —What is the Junior Cert? It contains questions and answers. Two days are set aside for in-service training of teachers in November. The report on in-service training will by then be in place. I hope that the year will be interesting and challenging for all those in the final year of their three years and for the young people who will sit their junior certificate next year.

Item 12 relates to parents in education. Increased parental involvement has been built up from initiatives of previous Governments. In 1985 the then Minister, Mrs. Gemma Hussey, with the approval of her Government, set up the National Parents Council at primary and post-primary level. The Council was an ad hoc body, but it was the first step. The concept has blossomed. Funding has been agreed under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress and has already been provided to the groups for both levels this year. The groups have embarked on a nationwide information course for teachers. From my own experience as both a parent and a teacher, I remain strongly convinced that the education process has much to gain from the full participation of parents. The participation should not be viewed, as it may have been previously, as being in any way threatening or authoritative. Each group is professional — management, parents and teachers. Nobody knows more about the child, though, than the parent, so why should parents not have an input into the child's education? I am glad that that development has occurred gradually and that the layers of groundless fears, as opposed, perhaps, to hostility, are wafting away. I have asked each board of management to ensure that a parents association is formed in association with its school.

I talked about the capital building programme when speaking about primary and post-primary education. At the third level education stage the ERDF programme has commenced this year, mostly for the development of the VEC third level colleges in the regions. There is a phased programme for improvements in the coming years.

In tandem with that programme, the two colleges Bills have issued. As the Taoiseach explained, there was no conspiracy in that regard. In fact, today I meant to bring in correspondence I received from the TUI and other professional interests asking me not to rush the legislation through before the recess but to allow them time during the summer to give it detailed scrutiny. They asked that a consultative process then be set up with all interest groups. I have already arranged to meet a group next week to talk about the various measures contained in the Bills. The legislation will come into effect in tandem with the improvements and with the huge increases in numbers attending VEC third level colleges. The colleges have been unheralded and untriumphed, but they have gone about their business well. To me the continued increase in the numbers attending the colleges, along with the continued expansion in courses offered in various regional colleges and VEC colleges, is the education success story of the past 20 years.

The House will be aware of the various ways in which the Government have enhanced the admission system at third level. Really, we have just made it simpler. As and from now the CAÓ-CAS application form will be of common denomination for all third level education. The refined grading system will come into effect in 1992. The system for the accumulation of points, which was decidedly inequitable, is to be abolished. A person could sit the leaving certificate examination as often as he or she liked, up to 20 times if he or she wanted to and accumulate the points. That has been stopped and people will not be able to and the points received from year to year. My idea to take that bold step was reinforced after a study undertaken by DCU showed that those students who went to college on an accumulation of points system had the greatest percentage of drop outs; in other words, in the main the students were not up to it. The abolition of that system will be a distinct advantage in that it removes a source of inequity. Little did I think that I would have my way in relation to the abolition of the NUI matriculation examination. However, reason prevailed within the NUI. Some of my predecessors seemed to have balked at any such move but it was something I commended to the Department. I pay tribute to the Chancellor of the NUI and to members of the NUI governing body for reaching that decision, which was not an easy one for them. Last year I also amended the four-two honour rule and the Department are considering various other proposals for third level grants.

I commend the Estimates to the House.

I gave up trying to following the Minister's script after her first 30 seconds.

I did not follow my script. I made myself perfectly plain.

Indeed, I listened to what the Minister said.

I welcome the Minister's determination to come to grips with the books issue, it is very important and has been a bone of contention with me for a long time.

Could I just say that I said at the beginning of my speech I was not reading from my script?

I heard the Minister.

I have not done that and I do not intend to do it, even to please the Deputy.

I wish to share my time with Deputy Garland.

Is that agreed? Agreed.

The question of the Government's Estimates, the overrun on expenditure and the economic situation generally is very important. Consequently, it is necessary that the debate on the issue, be held before the Dáil goes into recess.

It is very disappointing that the Fine Gael Party saw fit to ignore the issue at such a crucial time. The electorate and the thousands of young and not so young people who are desperately seeking jobs will recognise no merit in the abrogation of Fine Gael's responsibility in a fit of pique and petulance. Fine Gael Deputies, like all other Deputies, are democratically elected to represent the people and to make sure that every man, woman and child in this country has a voice at parliamentary level. Unfortunately, Fine Gael have reneged on their duty, and that is a pity at such a crucial time in our economic development when farmers, small business people and PAYE workers are under threat. To participate in political ball-hopping is an insult to Fine Gael's supporters and to all those who helped elect them to Leinster House. It is here in this House that the battle lines must be drawn in order to create a society that is fair to everyone, and Fine Gael by their absence at such an important time have thrown in the towel to the Coalition Government. We in the Labour Party will not do so, we have no intention of doing so.

The Minister for Finance has rejected any suggestion that the budget presented earlier in the year was unsound or would not meet the demands for the coming year. The facts now speak for themselves. Unemployment is at record levels and we now have people in their late twenties who have never worked and who have no prospect of doing so. This Government, obsessed with financial rectitude at any cost throughout the past number of years, have blatantly ignored the serious and potentially explosive situation that now exists in our society — a society which has no future under the present Government. This Government have failed miserably to come to grips with Ireland's number one enemy — unemployment. The Minister has blamed the international recession has a part to play in our misfortune, but Government spokespersons for 12 months or more have pointed out consistently that the country was faring very well despite any recession on mainland Europe or in the USA. It would now appear that all we were doing was whistling in the dark and pretending we were isolated from any such effects; that we were immune from any tailspin of the international scene.

The Minister also asked who could have predicted that this year social welfare would cost £66 million more than was provided for in the budget. It is the Minister's job to anticipate and to allow for such an escalation of costs, taking into consideration the economic policies which this Coalition Government have pursued over the last number of years. While I acknowledge that the Minister cannot accurately assess or analyse the growth or lack of growth in the coming years, it is also an undeniable fact that at the Minister's disposal are all the experts, all the advisers and the economists, who should at least be able to make provision for any eventuality. This Government, expounding their so-called successes, must pick up the tab for their mistakes, their miscalculations and their misdemeanours. The Government have got it hopelessly wrong.

The Minister conveniently quotes other countries in the EC where there are overruns on budgets. While this may be the case, none of these countries has the same problems as we have. Neither have these countries the same opportunities as we have and have failed to grasp. The end of June Exchequer returns issued last week are now frightening. The borrowing requirement for the Exchequer is now standing at £815 million. When one compares it with the figure of £460 million, the projected amount for the whole of the year, then the true picture emerges as to how badly off course the Government budgetary policies are.

To say that the Exchequer now intends to run a surplus in the second half of the year is living in cloud cuckoo land. The alternative — and this is what I am most fearful of — is that Government Ministers will be instructed to bring in such cuts in departmental expenditure as to be draconian, penal and to viciously hurt those in our society who have borne the brunt of fiscal rectitude policies for years. Those on fixed incomes, social welfare recipients, mortgage holders, young couples trying to rear families and pay their way are at breaking point. Youth unemployment is at an all time high with no prospect of improvement in the immediate or distant future unless we dramatically change our whole approach in this area.

The Minister lists as the main contributors to the serious budgetary picture the drop in tax revenues. He said that due to depressed consumption tax yields were lower than expected and he also indicates that health and social welfare overruns and delays in the European Social Fund receipts boost departmental expenditure. Surely these important aspects of budgetary planning are part of the job of mapping out this country's course for the 12 months ahead. It gives the Labour Party no pleasure to say that we told you so. Now that the Government have got it wrong it is completely unacceptable to ask those who have borne the brunt of fiscal rectitude — the PAYE sector and those who are under privileged — to shoulder any adjustment in our financial situation. It has been a case of bad management, bad planning and bad advice and I certainly hope that that bad planning will not result in the people who can least afford it being asked to foot the bill.

The Minister points out that the unexpected sharp rise in unemployment figures is due to the altered pattern of migration and that, due to the recession in the UK and in the US, many of our people are returning home. I welcome their return home because they will have a very vital role to play in any future election whenever it occurs. I would strongly advise that they check their local register to see that they are registered for voting purposes, because this Government last March shamefully voted down the Labour Party's Bill to enfranchise our people forced to leave this country and go abroad to earn a living. In the recent local election there was a substantial number of young people who while still registered here had since left their native cities and towns. Perhaps in the not too distant future those young people will have an opportunity to pass judgement on those who denied them their basic human right to live, to work, to rear their families and to grow old in their native land. Some of those people have gone since the last register was out and some have come back due to the economic circumstances abroad. This is an opportune time for those people to assess who drove them out and are responsible for their having to wait for the dole in employment exchanges around the country now that they have come back.

The Minister and the Government's acceptance that emigration is an integral part of Government economic planning is an indictment of the whole philosophy of Fianna Fáil and Progressive Democrat thinking in putting the national book-keeping before people's rights. It is obvious that emigration does not rate very highly on this Government's agenda except when it is a cost on the Exchequer.

The Minister again trots out the Gulf War as another reason we are in financial trouble. It is simply not good enough to put this forward as a reason. We know it has some effect, but God knows it is a good job the war finished so soon or else this country would be entirely bankrupt if hostilities broke out somewhere else. The Government cannot just keep bringing forward the same excuse and harping back to the old Coalition Government of 1987. That is not good enough any longer. Our future is grim enough without having to go back that far.

The Minister also emphasies the over-run on the higher than anticipated prescription costs under the general medical services scheme. Surely these costs should have been anticipated if the job was being done properly by the relevant Ministers. It is not acceptable to say that we made a mistake and that we are £25 million to £30 million out in our projections. This is a farcical excuse. Will the response be to introduce substantial charges or, worse, will certain categories of patients be denied the right of jobs because they cost too much? I know from the record that Fianna Fáil Ministers had all the answers when in opposition. They said there would be no problem in health, that resources would be carefully managed and budgeted for. They said our agriculture would be put on very sound footing with great benefits to our farmers. They said we would have a new national shipping line flying the Irish tricolour to bring our produce around the world, that we would have a streamlined educational system, that house building would be accelerated with no long waiting lists, that we would have new roads and a first class transport system, that our fishermen would gain magnificently from our agreements in Europe and that industry would be booming. Once again the electorate were deceived and are now paying the price.

Many of our people are now cynical about our democratic system and the way they have been exploited and manipulated. Is it any wonder that our young people are growing more and more disillusioned with stroke politics? The low turnout and the results at the recent local elections show that.

The Minister indicated that he instructed his colleagues in Government to thoroughly examine Departmental expenditure to see where they could cut back to solve the existing problem of financial over-run. It is good to examine expenditure to cut out needless waste of taxpayers' money but one must ask what Department will be trimmed? What Department can shoulder cuts and yet function as a viable Government Department? What Minister can admit that he has surplus to hand back to the Department of Finance? Is it the Minister for the Marine, seeing that much needed work needs to be carried out in our fishing ports? Will the budget of the fishery boards be cut again, which could lead to disastrous results such as the accident exactly 12 months ago in Ballycotton. The public inquiry showed clearly that lack of funds was a major factor in that tragedy. Will our fisherman at sea have to contend with the marauding foreign pirates and bandits who deliberately put life at risk by ramming our trawlers with their steel hulled boats? Will this continue because of financial constraints on our fishery protection vessels? This is not a realistic option.

Will the Minister for the Environment cut back on local authority spending, making people wait longer for housing? Will road repairs again be put on the long finger thus contributing to higher insurance costs and car repair bills for car users and adding to escalating costs in road transport? Will the Minister again postpone the long awaited downstream crossing of the Lee? That would be resented by the people of Cork and I warn the Minister not to even think about it. We must have no more excuses. Already Cork Corporation have started an environmental impact study which should be completed soon and we should be ready to start a tunnel under the Lee in 1995. Many jobs depend on this project. The Ringaskiddy Industrial Park, which up to now has been somewhat of a white elephant, is depending on this crossing. We have been informed that the money has already been allocated and we will not countenance any postponement of this long awaited project which has been planned since 1978. It has been kicked to touch on too many occasions and if this project is tampered with by the Government the Government and the Minister will bear the brunt of the anger of the Cork people.

Listening to the Minister for the Environment last night one would think that everything was rosy in the Department, but nothing could be further from the truth. In Cork city and in other cities there are record housing lists with applicants waiting for houses which will not be built. Our roads allocation has been cut back to 58.5 per cent of what it was in 1985. The city engineer in his last report indicated that the city is on a care and maintenance basis. I would remind the House that redundant factories and mothballed ships go on a care and maintenance basis. It is disgraceful that Cork, the second city of the Republic, falls into that category.

In the area of health, will the people in the Southern Health Board area have to wait again because there is no money for cardiac equipment for ambulances. One can imagine a person getting a heart attack in Goleen and having to be transported over 100 miles to the regional hospital without proper equipment in the ambulance. Since 1983 ambulances in Dublin have this equipment and have been refurbished since then and modernised, while we have not got this equipment. There is an imbalance when it comes to saving lives in the biggest health board area in the country. It is a shame that we do not have that facility. Will the long sought air ventilation system for the operating theatre in St. Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital in Cork be again put on the long finger due to financial constraints? The hospital has been built 35 years and it needs to be refurbished at this stage. Operations have been suspended in some cases due to the bad ventilation system. I wonder will this worthy capital expenditure be again postponed. Will the Minister seek an increase in charges to raise revenue? Will more hospitals be closed or beds be made redundant or will staff be let go?

Recently in Cork a yong child was injured in a car accident and a neighbour rang for an ambualnce to bring the child to hospital. Within a fortnight or three weeks the child's father was charged £30 for the ambulance. The parent had paid PRSI all his life and the least he could have expected was to get a free emergency service to bring his child to hospital. I know of a case of a young baby who had to have a serious operation and who was in the regional hospital but was moved to Our Lady's Hospital in Dublin on the advice of the surgeons. The parents were subsequently charged £300 for an inter-hospital transfer by ambulance. It is appalling that there should be such a charge to transfer a patient from one hospital to another for medical reasons. Will those charges be increased due to the over-run in the Department of Finance?

I would like answers to these questions. No later than yesterday a person contacted me asking me to make representations with regard to getting an appointment with a consultant in the regional hospital. She had been told by the administration there that they could not even hazard a guess as to when she could be seen and not to bother to go back, that they would contact her. That is the situation that prevails despite what the Minister for Health said yesterday.

Will the shameful situation with regard to home help in the Southern Health Board area be allowed to continue, where women are paid a miserly sum of 75p an hour while they are saving the State thousands of pounds by keeping old and infirm people out of hospital, thus keeping hospital beds free? It is incredible in 1991 that the Department of Health cannot pay a decent hourly rate. This has been highlighted in Cork on several occasions and I am highlighting it here this afternoon. That is the reality and what the Minister is saying is not entirely correct. The facts are that charges are there and payments are miserable so that the State can save thousands of pounds.

Will the Minister for Defence have to further curtail his already reduced capital budget? Will the Army and the Navy have to put up with their antiquated barracks and poor facilities? The Government are very loud in their praise of the Army and the Navy when they protect our fisheries or take part in peacekeeping operations in the Lebanon and so on, but when it comes to providing proper facilities for them they seem to conveniently forget that some of their premises are Victorian.

Will the scandalous situation whereby social welfare officers cannot cope with the demands for their services by those signing on the dole — they have to tell applicants not to bother coming back until they are sent for — be allowed to continue because no funds are available to cope with this demand? Will new restrictions be put on social welfare recipients in order to save money? Those questions have to be answered before there is any trimming in Departments.

I listened very attentively to the Minister for Education. I admire her stamina and welcome her determination to put the school book issue right. Will parents already in dire need trying to make ends meet, be requested to dig deeper into their pockets to maintain antiquated schools, provide heating and, in some instances, pay for staff? Will young people in schools be penalised because they have been unlucky enough to be at school when there is an overrun of expenditure in returns to the Exchequer? Will these students have to suffer just because they happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time? If they do, they will suffer throughout their adult life. Those questions must be answered.

Will the Minister for Justice have to cut back on Garda recruitment, a proposal which has already been mooted? Will our elderly continue to be a target for thugs and vandals? Will the Garda Síochána have to wait for new equipment to help them combat the escalating crime in our cities? Will the much needed reforms of our prison service be put on the back burner? Will there be a curtailment on recruitment to the prison service, thereby creating more problems for an already over-stretched prison system? Those questions have to be answered.

With regard to agriculture, will the farming community, who are facing the greatest crisis in agriculture since our membership of the EC, have to endure further cutbacks in investment and grants, thereby escalating the flight from rural Ireland? Will these farmers who have seen many members of their families forced to emigrate also be forced to sell their holdings because they will no longer be viable under the new economic proposals from Brussels? Will these free people in the west and south-west who have hung precariously to their land through thick and thin be finally forced to let go of this land which has been in their families for generations? The signs are there that these people, the backbone of rural Ireland, are now considered expendable. It now appears that the fearless, faceless bureaucrats in Europe, ably abetted by their masters, have succeded in doing what Cromwell failed to do. These are the frightening prospects which lay behind the instructions of the Minister for Finance to examine line by line the expenditure of the various Government Departments. It must be stated loud and clear that those who have suffered over the past number of years cannot be asked once again to tighten their belts.

It must be very obvious at this stage that the so-called famous rising tide which, according to the Taoiseach would raise all our boats, ebbed fast leaving many people high and dry. No matter how brave a face the Minister puts on it is now apparent to most commentators that this country is in deep trouble. The Programme for Economic and Social Progress emphasises the need for extra jobs in the public sector and schools and hospitals have been identified as areas where jobs will be created. We also know that on the instructions of the Taoiseach, semi-State bodies are supposed to create more jobs. Since 1985 there have been wholesale redundancies in the public sector, which has cost the Exchequer millions of pounds in redundancy payments.

Is there now going to be a U-turn on this policy? Would it not have been better and cheaper if there were no redundancies and jobs were safeguarded in the first instance? To many people, the Government have no policy on employment in the public sector and, to their social partners, they have put forward plans to employ more while at the same time they are cutting back on public expenditure.

The Labour Party have called for a reduction in interest rates so that investment in job creation will become more attractive. It must be abundantly clear that the only way out of this crisis, and it is a crisis, is by the creation of sustainable jobs. An interest rate cut would help both business and consumers, stimulate the economy, increase output and employment and create higher consumer spending which would lead to increased indirect tax revenues and substantially help the Government's finances. A full examination of our interest rates, comparative with German interest rates, would show that the fears about an outflow of investment are non-existent. It is a fact that excessive interest rates have damaged our economy, causing unemployment and contributing towards the problems in regard to the Government finances.

The Government have belatedly recognised that unemployment is now the number one priority facing them and that to try to correct the present financial difficulties by creating more so-called "voluntary redundancies" in the public sector will add more to the unemployment crisis which is now facing this country. The unemployed, who now total the staggering figure of over 250,000, and thousands of school leavers who are desperately seeking work will have no chance whatsoever if there is a policy of cutting back in the public sector. It is a damning indictment of the Government's policies that people of 27 and 28 years of age have never held a job. Is it any wonder that politicians and policymakers are looked on cynically by young people who see no future here. Young married couples who are encouraged to build their own homes, and thereby pay high interest rates are then saddled with medical bills, school expenses and probably put to the pin of their collar in trying to make ends meet. In addition, they are faced with the prospect of unemployment. These people are angry because they see no future here. The Government must act now to make sure that existing jobs are maintained and protected.

The Minister for Finance said: "Whoever else is in recession we are not". This is pie in the sky and shows how out of touch the Government are with the electorate. It is not too long ago that Deputies of the Minister's party were calling for a Minister to be appointed to cope with our unemployment problem. I ask the Minister to tell the 250,000 people on the dole, the thousands who are on shorttime working and the workers in the electronics and computer industries that we are not in recession. I am sure he will get his answer from them.

If the Minister checks with retails outlets, hotels and guesthouses, car salesmen or building contractors, he will learn that this country is certainly not in a healthy economic state. If he insists that there is no recession then he and the Government are not facing reality, and the sooner they do so the better.

The Minister may comment on the OECD forecasts, say that we are increasing our share in world markets and predict growth in comparison to other countries but the fundamental fact remains that there is a huge upsurge in unemployment and we are in a serious financial situation. It now appears that the Government have no answers. To blame the recession in other countries for our financial problems and to say that emigrants returning home and young people not leaving have contributed to our financial mess is derisory and insulting. This is their home, their native land and they are entitled to come and go as they please. We should never put a price on that.

As I said at the outset, any Government who make emigration part of their economic development policy do not deserve the support of the people. At least one former Minister was being honest when he said that this island was not big enough to hold all of us. The Labour Party have consistently highlighted the disastrous effect unemployment is having on our society. We have put forward various suggestions on how this problem can be tackled. We see it as a great evil which has destroyed communities, denuded rural Ireland of its people, has led to an increase in crime and vandalism and driven thousands from our shores.

It is unacceptable, after 75 years of independence, that a country rich in natural resources, with the finest agricultural land in the world and the richest fishing grounds in Europe, should have over 250,000 people unemployed out of a population of just over three million. This is a scandal, a disgrace and an indictment of the economic policies of Governments who rely solely on the private sector to provide employment for our people. This policy has failed. There is an obligation on our democratically elected Government not alone to create the right climate but also to make sure that jobs are created using the wealth generated by the private sector by way of the sacrifices made by its workers. If this is done either by providing incentives or through coercion, so be it; but this country can no longer afford to lose its young people abroad and sentence the rest to a lifetime on the dole for the benefit of a small minority.

I thank Deputy O'Sullivan for sharing his time with me. I would like to say at the outset that I was very saddened by the decision made by the chief Opposition Party, Fine Gael, to boycott this important debate because their contribution would have been very valuable. Due to their absence, I am probably the only speaker on this side of the House with a non-socialist perspective.

I note that the arrangements for this debate allow me to speak for one hour. I also note that some of the previous speakers used their allocation to the full, probably to the exclusion of other backbenchers who might wish to make a contribution. I feel this is an overgenerous allotment of time. However, due to the absence of the main Opposition party there may well be sufficient time for everyone. Nevertheless I suggest that in the future a time limit of 20 minutes per speaker might be sufficient.

In my short contribution to this debate I do not propose to go into the individual Estimates in great depth. I would much prefer to highlight the flawed concept of our economic and budgetary systems. Unlike other Opposition spokespersons, I do not wish to berate the Minister for the likely increase in the budget deficit and the consequential increase in public service borrowing. If we look at the revenue side, certain assumptions have to be made regarding the pattern of consumer spending, levels of savings and so forth. In a democratic society and in a free market such assumptions can be and frequently are incorrect. A tolerance has to be built into the figures. This is not to say that the Green Party are not concerned about the projected outturn for the budget. We believe in good house-keeping, balanced budgets and the continuation of the present very low level of inflation.

I would like to refer briefly to some of the points made by the Minister for Finance in this speech. He stated that an additional £66 million would be required for social welfare spending due to the increase in the numbers on the live register. He now estimates that this is likely to average 250,000 as opposed to the budget estimate of 228,000. This is accounted for by returning emigrants. Clearly, the chickens are coming home to roost and more space will have to be found for them in the henhouse. The policy of the successive Governments to accept, even welcome, involuntary emigration is a destabilising factor. Indeed, not so long ago the then Tánaiste, Deputy Brian Lenihan, stated that he positively welcomed emigration. The Green Party's consistent position on this matter has been that the economy should be based on the concept of paid work for all who require it as this would lead to the elimination of involuntary emigration.

In my budget debate speech I referred to the almost total absence of any provisions dealing with the needs of our environment, by which I mean the long term sustainability of our present way of life. Implicit in this concept is the need to challenge the principle of consumerism. It is clear that this concept and traditional economics based on everincreasing growth rates and the positive encouragement of consumer goods, whether necessary or not, are in serious conflict. I instance the Minister's reference to the fall off in the purchase of new cars which he estimated would result in a reduction of up to £60 million in VAT and excise revenues. The Green Party welcome this decrease. The Minister also referred to the likely shortfall in stamp duties due to the slackness of the property market. Again, this is something to be welcomed, reflecting as it does a levelling off of house prices which will help a little in bringing house purchase within the grasp of the lower paid.

I would now like to refer to the unemployment problem. There is no question but that this is a crisis of major proportions. I will not detain the House unduly in outlining the many consequences of long term unemployment, which include social alienation, crime, vandalism, drug taking and so forth. There is no single satisfactory solution to this problem and to the allied problem of involuntary emigration. Nevertheless, the Green Party would like to put forward a two point plan to deal with unemployment.

First, there is a need to introduce a basic income to provide everyone as of right with a subsistence level income. This would free the labour market and should lead to extensive recruitment in areas which are, in the narrow economic sense, non-viable. I am thinking in particular of renewable energy such as wind power, house insulation, organic farming and growing and recycling. It is no coincidence that these areas are of significant environmental importance. There is a vast market in the European Community for organically grown vegetables, cereals and meat products. The scope for expansion of our renewable energy resources is almost limitless and would represent a significant improvement in the quality of life through the elimination of acid rain and other pollution problems caused by our fossil fuel power stations. House insulation is another area which would benefit extensively from this measure. Improvements in insulating standards would lead to a reduction in energy demand thereby increasing the life of our fossil fuel reserves.

With regard to recycling, the shortage of new landfill sites has now reached crisis proportions. Sooner or later the local authorities will have to confront this problem and make provision for domestic separation of refuse. Again, this would be a double gain as extensive recycling reduces energy inputs and conserves scarce raw materials. I note from the contribution of the Minister for the Environment — he seems to be very proud of this — that we are now recycling 14 per cent of our glass and 10 per cent of aluminium cans. It is clear that we have a long way to go.

The other area which requires urgent attention is the standard working week, which has remained for many years at 40 hours although it was reduced slightly recently to 39 hours. Surely, all independent minded economists, trade unionists, workers, employees and the ordinary citizens of this country must realise that the days of the 40 hours week are over. We should seriously consider reducing the working week to 32 hours with a consequent reduction in gross pay. This should lead to unemployment being reduced to minimal levels with a consequent reduction in Government expenditure, particularly under the heading of social welfare. This would enable substantial reductions to be made in the PAYE tax burden. I would strongly recommend that a costing be done on this proposal by the ESRI or another appropriate Government agency. Their time would be much better spent on this type of work and indeed on costing a basic income scheme than on working out precisely what percentage of people are living below the poverty line. Surely everyone knows that this percentage is substantial. That is sufficient.

I remember spending virtually a whole day at a conference attended by about 80 people which was organised by the Conference of Major Religious Superiors. At the end of the day we arrived at quite an extraordinary conclusion — that unemployment was the main cause of poverty. That is typical of the kind of waste of time that is going on. I blame the ESRI and the Minister for not giving direction. We did not need 80 people to spend a whole day discovering that information. Any fool would know it by talking to people on the street.

I refer briefly to three of the Votes, starting with Vote 25 for the Department of the Environment. It should be noted that there should be a substantial saving in the Vote for the Environmental Protection Agency. I would remind the House that a sum of £1 million has been provided in the Estimates. Owing to the considerable delay in introducing the Environmental Protection Agency Bill, which was passed by the Seanad on 4 July, it is very doubtful that any expenditure will be needed in this current year. The reality is that this vitally important agency will not be up and running until well into next year and I suggest that the Minister knew full well when preparing the Estimates that this expenditure would not be needed in the current year.

Turning to Energy, Vote 42, in my budget speech I referred to the scandalous reduction of 26 per cent in the amount for energy conservation. I note that the revised Estimates show an increase of 28 per cent. This has been achieved, not by increasing the amount in the Vote for this year but by a downward revision of the estimated expenditure for 1990 from £790,000 to £447,000 — a reduction of almost 40 per cent. In a general way we would all welcome reductions in Government expenditure under a certain heading. I have no doubt that there is an immense waste in many of these Votes. The reality is that we were conned in this House in 1990. We were told that £790,000 would be spent in the necessary area of energy conservation and the Minister was able to make political capital out of this. The reality is that he has spent only £447,000. I put the Minister on notice that this time next year, if the Coalition Government survive that long, I will be looking very closely to see how the actual expenditure under this heading compares with the Estimate.

On the Health Estimate, I must once again deplore the inadequate provisions for the needs of the mentally handicapped.

For the many reasons I have outlined and other reasons which I have not specifically covered, I will be voting against the acceptance of the Estimates.

Before I discuss in detail the Estimates for my own Department I feel it necessary to discuss the context of these Estimates in the wider economic arena.

This country has enjoyed strong real economic growth over the last four and a half years. Last year the economy grew by over 6 per cent in volume terms. This growth has produced new jobs, it has consolidated existing jobs which were at risk due to the contraction of our economy over the previous years, it provided the resources to fund improvements in our social services, it allowed us to pay those most exposed in our society real increases in support and it has enabled us to increase our investment in our young people through improved education.

These improvements were all derived out of a general growth in our economy. We have managed to continue with real growth even though the major world economies are in recession. We have achieved this improvement by all our people working together to make their contribution to a better future. Through our Programme for Government, through the Programme for National Recovery and through the Programme for Economic and Social Progress the various strands of our society — politicians, Government, workers, employers and farmers — have demonstrated a commitment to a common goal to work together in the national interest.

We have become perhaps somewhat spoiled by our own success and, while we are still maintaining growth in spite of international recession, some are becoming impatient and we must all be concerned with the continued high level of unemployment. I share this impatience and this concern. It reinforces the need for us to redouble our efforts to ensure that our core objective of improving the competitiveness of our economy is achieved.

We must continue to implement those policies which have contributed so handsomely to our success in recent years. It would be foolhardy of us to react to the short term cyclical problems in a way that would undermine the work that has been done to date by all those contributing to the future economic and social development of this country.

I feel it is important to review those key aspects of the economy which Government policy is continuing to contribute to and which provide the environment through which existing jobs are protected and new jobs can emerge. These are as follows:

Our interest rates, although high, are continuing to fall. They will of course be influenced by international financial markets, but the differential between the Irish pound and the German mark interest rates has narrowed dramatically in recent years because of the steady relationship between the values of the two currencies. Our currency has remained strong and has provided Irish business with a level of exchange rate stability essential if long term contracts and trading relationships are to be established and maintained. Our inflation rate has fallen to the lowest levels in Europe.

These factors have meant that the competitiveness of Irish industry has continually improved in recent years as evidenced by the fall in relative unit prices. The result of the fundamental economic developments is that net employment in manufacturing has grown in recent years after a long decade of decline.

The net Estimate for my Department, at just over £235 million, represents an increase of 9 per cent compared with the 1990 outturn. This increase is almost exclusively based on Structural Fund related expenditures and shows no increase in net terms in any other area. The most significant increases relate to the allocations for the science and technology development programme, with an increase of £11.5 million, and the marketing area, where an additional £6.9 million is being provided for CTT and the Irish Goods Council. Both these areas qualify for support at the highest level under the Community support framework. The high drawdown rate and increased allocations reflect the importance which the European Commission and the Government attribute to improving our performance and our investment in these areas.

The increase in the allocation for SFADCo grants, £6.3 million, arises entirely from the major Shannon Aerospace project which will give rise to employment of over 1,000 people over the next four years.

It is now just two years since the present Government took office. At that time I was concerned at a number of aspects of existing industrial and commercial policy, in particular the effectiveness of industrial support programmes and the limitations of our competition policies and our competition law: Deputies will be aware that I established in recent weeks an industrial policy review group consisting of distinguished and successful people from a variety of backgrounds to examine not only industrial policy per se but public policy generally as it affects the development of industry. This was in line with indications I gave at the time my Department's review of industrial performance was published, in December 1990.

The Competition Bill, 1991, which has now passed all Stages in the Dáil and Second Stage in the Seanad, represents a central instrument in this Government's programme to revitalise the economy and to encourage growth. The Bill delivers on the commitment contained in the Programme for Government of July 1989 to give effect in domestic law to provisions similar to Articles 85 and 86 of the Treaty of Rome. The Bill will bring about a fundamental change in the basic structure of the marketplace by introducing a statutorily protected requirement for competition and will establish a new Competition Authority to replace the Fair Trade Commission. The Bill prohibits and anti-competitive practices and agreements and the abuse of a dominant position in the marketplace, replacing the lengthy and cumbersome "control of abuse" system which operates at present under the Restrictive Practices Acts and Orders. The Bill also provides for direct recourse to the courts for anyone adversely affected by the anti-competitive activities of others.

It is, of course, the abuse of a dominant position that is prohibited, not the dominant position itself. Behaviour in the market is the issue which is being addressed. The objective of this Bill is to ensure that we have a properly competitive economy. This can be achieved by constantly exposing all Irish firms to the stimulus of competition.

I regard these measures as potentially of very great long term significance in the development of the Irish economy and in achieving progress in tackling the most crucial economic, social and political problem facing this country today — that of providing employment for our people.

The main activities of my Department can be broadly categorised into the formulation of policies for industrial and export development, the development of science and technology, and regulatory activities in areas such as company law, insurance supervision, consumer and competition legislation and legal metrology. While the promotional-developmental activities give rise to the greatest element of expenditure, through the relevant executive agencies, I would like to refer briefly, first, to a number of measures taken in the past year which represent fundamental changes in company law.

Until 1990, the Companies Act, 1963, was the mainstay of company law for more than a quarter of a century, retaining its pre-eminence despite the enactment of four shorter amendment Acts and five sets of Community related ministerial regulations. The past year, however, marked the culmination of a major company law reform programme, a programme which, incidentally, I myself had initiated in the early eighties, to tackle the widespread public concern then prevailing regarding abuse of limited liability and malpractice in companies. During the year two Companies Acts were enacted, which together comprise the biggest reforming measure in the entire commercial area since 1963.

The Companies (Amendment) Act, passed in August, set out to deal with the perceived need for a workable, practical and equitable system to facilitate companies which were temporarily rather than terminally ill. The Act put in place a rescue procedure to encourage companies to identify financial problems at an earlier stage and to facilitate appropriate remedial action. I think it is fair to say that the new legislation has more than adequately met the requirements of its practical application, though it should not be seen as an easy answer to every company difficulty, nor is it a handy escape route through which companies can dodge their creditors. The provisions involved are very finely balanced to facilitate companies which are worth saving.

The Companies Act, 1990 passed in December, was designed to tackle abuse in the company law area. I believe that it does this in a balanced manner so that the majority of people who conduct their businesses in an honest and responsible manner should have no reason to be afraid of the new provisions.

I would like to dispel the perception that the Act is too complex for the ordinary business person to understand without recourse to expert advice. I do not accept that this is the case. While company law by its very nature has to be detailed to be effective, every effort was made to keep the provisions of this Act as simple as possible. The Act is being commenced on a phased basis, and by virtue of the three commencement orders which I have made to date — the last one on 13 May 1991 — more than 95 per cent of the Act will be in effect from 1 August 1991. I am satisfied that we now have a modern code of company law within which Irish companies can operate in the years ahead, one which is at least on a par with what exists in most other developed countries and indeed is more advanced than many in some respects.

The target set in the Programme for National Recovery to generate 20,000 gross jobs on average per year in manufacturing and internationally traded services was fully achieved, with an annual average of 21,000 gross job gains over the three years 1988-90 inclusive. The value of this in an industrial promotion context is, of course, not limited to the direct employment given. There is also the highly important impact of expenditure by industry on the Irish economy. It is estimated that expenditure on Irish raw materials, services and wages is now almost £11 billion per annum, with almost 390,000 jobs in Ireland — around one third of the workforce — supported either directly or indirectly from the manufacturing and internationally traded services sectors. There is the further spinoff in personal spending, maintaining, and generating jobs in retail and other services and indeed in manufacturing itself.

One of the most encouraging aspects of 1990 was the extent to which the focus on a small number of development-oriented indigenous companies is now beginning to pay off. Of the 6,500 indigenous companies in the manufacturing sector only 155 had annual sales of over £5 million one year ago. By the end of 1991 the IDA expect that the number of indigenous companies with sales of £5 million plus will have increased by another 20. There has also been good progress in the small firms sector, where IDA have intensified their work with 100 targeted companies. It is expected that about 20 of these companies will pass the £2 million per annum sales barrier this year. This is encouraging progress towards the very important aim of achieving scale in Irish owned companies.

Ireland continued to benefit from the worldwide growth in the internationally traded services sector where important investments are leading to new markets and substantial new job creation. Over 1,500 new jobs were recruited by Irish owned companies in the internationally traded services sector during the past three years, while the regional spread of these projects also showed an increase. Over 400 first time jobs were created in 1990 in locations across the country, including Killorglin, Cahirciveen, Galway, Monaghan and Dundalk.

The National Linkage Programme is continuing its efforts to help develop the supply infrastructure in Ireland for international trading companies located here. It has identified significant business opportunities, with both existing and new incoming investment, for Irish suppliers. A new feature of the linkage programme in 1990 was the focus on major construction programmes — for example, the development of Sandoz in Cork and Intel in County Kildare — to maximise the Irish content at the construction and equipment phase of industrial development.

The year 1990 was an exceptionally good year for Ireland in the international mobile investment market with 80 overseas companies confirming investment decisions in favour of Ireland. Some of the major world leaders in electronics announced plans to invest in greenfield facilities in Ireland, including Dell in Limerick and Mitsumi in Cork. A particularly encouraging feature of 1990 was that many of the overseas announcements in 1990 were for expansions — this shows that overseas companies are putting roots down in Ireland. Some examples of these expansions are Motorola in Cork, Baxter in Mayo, Mallinckrodt in Westmeath and Microsoft in Dublin.

Overseas companies continue to play a very important role in job creation and the economic growth needs of the Irish economy. They have consistently increased their spending in Ireland, with current annual expenditure of over £3.5 billion on wages and on Irish services and raw materials. They exported £8 billion of goods last year, more than half the total exports from Ireland. On the overseas side, the level of interest in investment has revived and site visits are now back to the same monthly level as was achieved during 1990, after a substantial fall in those visits during the first quarter of this year due to the Gulf War.

The primary objective for manufacturing industry in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress is to make the maximum contribution to employment growth and higher living standards in Ireland, which is possible only through building a strong internationally competitive industrial sector. In practical terms the aim will be to create 20,000 new jobs each year of the programme in manufacturing and international services.

The policy objectives supporting this aim will be: the continued strengthening of the indigenous industrial sector, particularly in terms of scale and innovation; greater integration of industrial activity with other sectors of the economy in order to increase the Irish value-added share of industrial output; the development of natural resources as a foundation for increased development; and the achievement of a satisfactory regional balance in industrial development. Despite the difficult market conditions, the industrial development agencies are confident of achieving the objective of 20,000 gross jobs under the programme in 1991.

The year 1990 was a year of change for Shannon Development. Debate about the company's role in industrial promotion overseas culminated in the mid-year decision to transfer responsibility for overseas promotion and existing overseas industry back to IDA. Organisational change also came about as a result of a review of the company's approach to their work as a regional development agency. During the year significant results were achieved in key areas of activity.

In 1990 a total of 2,742 jobs were created in manufacturing and international service industries in the area serviced by SFADCo resulting in a net increase in employment of 414. The results for Irish industry were particularly encouraging, showing strong growth for the first time in many years — 1,826 jobs were created in this sector during the year resulting in a net gain of 707 in the region. Total employment in the Shannon free zone grew to more than 5,000 for the first time and shows significant improvement from its position at the beginning of 1988, when employment was less than 4,000.

The availability of support from the EC through the Community Support Framework has made possible substantial allocations to marketing development measures in the subheads of both Córas Tráchtála and the Irish Goods Council, which are now in the process of being merged. The relevant legislation passed through the Seanad last night.

The substantial increase in the allocations is a recognition of the importance of marketing in the context of competition of the internal market. Given the more competitive environment in which Irish small and medium-sized firms will find themselves in a post-1992 Europe, special efforts to develop the marketing capabilities of Irish industry must be a priority.

The amalgamation of the two bodies into a single marketing board will ensure that a more integrated, streamlined and efficient service will be delivered to companies seeking to develop their marketing capabilities and will provide an integrated service to companies in developing their marketing strategies on both domestic and overseas markets.

1990 saw the emergence of difficulties in world economies, which persist to the present. Ireland, being an open economy, could not hope to escape such trends, and in 1990 we experienced a decrease in export values despite an increase in volume of about 8 per cent. Total exports in 1990 amounted to £14.3 billion, a 1.7 per cent decrease on the 1989 figure.

This emphasises the severity of the price cutting which took place in the international marketplace last year. Price pressures on agricultural products and the impact of a weak dollar on the exports of the automatic data processing and the chemicals and pharmaceutical sectors were particularly severe. Unfortunately, the export price decrease continued into early 1991, even though our performance on the volume of exports continues to be strong and to grow. The volume increase is particularly encouraging, given the difficult competitive situation, and is a strong base from which to capitalise on any upturn in the world economy.

In 1991 Irish exports will continue to reflect the market difficulties which exist in the developed economies and the sectoral difficulties in the data processing and food sectors. The rest of the exporting economy is remaining solid despite these difficulties. I would expect our exporters to turn in another good performance in volume terms, with an expected increase of about 6 per cent this year, but continuing downward pressure on prices may mean that our export values will not exceed £15 billion.

This year substantial extra funding, with significant EC support, is being provided for the Science and Technology Programme in order to continue the progress which has already been made since the commencement of the programme in 1987. This goes some way to redressing the previously modest funding available for this activity, which is an important building block for the long term development of Irish industry.

Under the programme funding is provided to support scientific research and development in a number of important areas. These include programmes in advanced technology, where considerable work has been done to identify niches in the emerging technologies which will be capable of supporting industrial growth in this country. Other areas include the promotion of greater collaboration and co-operation between industry and higher educational institutions, and the technology audit programme, the purpose of which is to assess the status of technology employed in a company in relation to products and human and material resources. Under the technology audit programme over 250 companies have been audited to date and recommendations on how existing company technology capabilities can be improved have been issued. The second phase of the programme, involving advice on the implementation of the recommendations, began in 1990 and reaction from participating companies has been very positive. Results from the programme to date suggest that significant opportunities exist for further development in the areas of manufacturing systems, production control, cost reduction and quality improvement.

The grant-in-aid funding for Eolas for 1991 is earmarked for the following activities, which include field and laboratory based services: provision of technical services to industry and Government. These services are of a strategic nature and cover consultancy and product testing services for key areas, including construction, engineering, materials, electronics, information technology, environment and industrial education; (b) provision of technical services of a "public" nature, e.g. standards — including certification — for quality and safety of products, metrology and information, e.g. access to databases etc; and (c) grants for industrial research.

The Eolas grant-in-aid for administration has been increased from £10.8 million in 1990 to £11.2 million in 1991 and capital expenditure has been maintained at £2.7 million for 1991. This capital expenditure is earmarked by Eolas to upgrade and expand laboratory and certification facilities in key areas, particularly in the electronics and metrology areas, in order to assist industry to prepare for the aftermath of 1992.

The ability of industry to meet more rigorous standards of quality, safety and consumer protection is becoming a key factor for survival in home and export markets. The application of such standards will be a fundamental condition for successful trading in the quality conscious and highly competitive European marketplace. The fact that some 260 national standards were published in 1990, compared with 150 the previous year is an indication of developments in this area.

The ISO 9000 series of quality standards provides industry with an increasingly indispensable tool for achieving success. In conforming to ISO 9000, a company has to meet rigorous and ongoing standards which apply to every aspect of the business from the purchasing of raw materials right through the process stage to meeting consumer needs. The National Standards Authority of Ireland have registered 250 companies to ISO 9000 in the last five years, 120 of these in 1990. This number is rapidly expanding and Ireland is second only to the UK, within the European Community, in the number of companies registered to ISO 9000. A target of 400 companies by the end of 1992 has been set.

As I have mentioned at the outset, I have put in train a process of rationalisation of the industrial promotion agencies aimed at achieving improved effectiveness and value for money. There is scope for further changes of both a policy and operational nature and I would hope to receive guidance on possible changes from the Industrial Policy Review Group which I recently established. I believe that what will emerge from this will ensure that our industrial policy efforts are geared in the best possible manner to deal with the needs of the nineties. They will complement the measures already taken by Government to improve the economic environment of our country.

We have performed well. Unlike many other countries we can continue to look forward to some growth in our economy this year. This, despite the adverse effects of the Gulf War and recession in two of our major markets. More importantly, I believe we have laid the foundations for a significant pick-up in growth and employment as the international economy picks up in 1992 and beyond.

I welcome this opportunity to contribute to the debate generally on the estimates and on the way the Government propose to spend our money over the coming year and to plan for the future. It is an opportunity for all parties in this House to review the way in which Government have functioned and, more particularly, how Government have failed to function in important areas. The first question that has to be raised is the extraordinary behaviour in the Fine Gael Party in absenting themselves from this debate in its entirety. Can it be seriously suggested that in considering the Estimates in this Chamber we should sit down and fine comb, search and question the itemised spending of each Government Department over the hours, days or more particularly weeks or months required if what was proposed by the Fine Gael as a method of dealing with this debate had been accepted?

There is no doubt the House needs to improve on the method of addressing Government spending. We in The Workers' Party have advocated constantly the establishment of a standing and permanent committee to deal with the Estimates whereby Members of this House, and others outside the House would sit in joint committee to investigate and review the Estimates in a specialist committee and to make a report and recommendations to the House when appropriate. That has been our approach. Consequently, when we came to the Whips' meetings to discuss the allocation of time for a debate on the Estimates there was, at the first of the series of three meetings, agreement by all parties, including Fine Gael, that our time would be better spent in a general debate on the economic performance of Government and in a general adjournment debate before the long vacation.

Subsequently the very dismal figures of performance budgetwise emanating from Government information sources presented a much sharper focus on Government performance in the broader sense. Faced with that sharp profile of Government mis-performance or non-performance, it did not take me entirely by surprise when the Government Chief Whip, Deputy Brady, felt it would better serve Government performance and interest in the debate if matters were structured on an Estimate by Estimate procedure which has been the unsatisfactory process heretofore. The parties in Opposition, in particular the Labour Party and The Workers' Party, countered that suggestion and requested a reversion to the general debate style as had been agreed by all three parties at the outset. The Minister of State, as Government Whip, agreed — reluctantly I think — to re-establish what had been originally agreed to by all parties, namely, the form of debate we now have.

At the last meeting the question of time remained to be decided. Following much discussion and searching about the schedules of the House for this entire week, double time was made available. In fact the Fine Gael Party were satisfied with the amount of time provided but at the last moment resurrected a position that they had not advanced at any stage during the meetings, namely, that the form and structure of the debate would have to be on the item by item method which they argued for ultimately in this House before they withdrew. I have dealt with this matter at length because I believe it was important to put clearly on the record what had been happening over the past number of weeks, not so much to embarrass or to highlight the ridiculous position of the Fine Gael Party but more particularly to indicate that those of us on this side of the House — both within the Labour Party and The Workers' Party — had addressed seriously the way in which this debate could be conducted over the hours and days available to us. We had a specific purpose in mind which was to structure a debate on the overall Government performance, particularly in the light of information emerging that that performance was anything but what the Minister for Finance had been leading us to believe.

The second issue that arises from all of this is the question of Dáil reform. There is in existence a sub-committee of the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, chaired by the Government Whip, Deputy Brady, dealing with Dáil reform generally. At their first meeting in June 1990 the Government Whip, Deputy Brady, presented a series of six priorities for that committee to work on. Not surprising the last of these was one which some of us in this House believe to be more important than all the others put together, that is the need to establish a register of outside interests of Members of this House and of the payments to parties of funds by such interests. That has been put at the end of the list of so-called priorities, it is Item No. 6, and, despite the fact that we have been in existence for almost two years, we have only got as far as — in part — Item No. 2 on the agenda. It is quite clear that the Dáil sub-committee on Dáil reform is being used as a device to deflect serious consideration of the way in which this House can by ordered, reformed and structured to make it relevant, meaningful, answerable and publicly accountable.

The Government's approach is regrettable because while we are struck on Item No. 2, having looked at no more than questions on the Order of Business and questions tabled for priority, generally, the Government, represented on the sub-committee by the Progressive Democrats and Fianna Fáil, have not yet addressed the commitment which they gave in the joint programme for government in 1989 that there would be a radical, comprehensive reform of the procedures of this House, pursued through the Committee on Procedure and Privileges or, more particularly through the sub-committee on Dáil reform. I understand that the parties in Government will meet shortly to review the programme and I hope someone from the parties in Coalition will take up this matter with the result that when we come back in October — perhaps the sub-committee will be convened during the summer recess, we understood this was to happen last year but it did not — at least we will begin to see the serious commitment of the Government to present proposals for Dáil reform.

The problem in the context of Estimates debates is that they are taken in Government time. The obdurate attitude of the Government is that Government time is Government time and that there will not be reform in relation to Estimates debates except by the Government. Therefore, we are disbarred at meetings of the sub-committee, and at the Committee on Procedure and Privileges, from dealing with any matter which would impinge on the fact that 90 per cent of all time utilised in the House is in the hands of the Government. That attitude must change and I hope it will in the form of serious proposals being brought forward by the Minister of State, the Government Chief Whip, regarding concrete proposals on better utilisation of the time of the House. For too long this House has been criticised for not spending its time well. The Government should bring forward realistic proposals to make Dáil Éireann a modern debating Chamber involved in matters of public importance and concern. It is only in that context we can begin to address reform of the debates on the Estimates. As I said, the way to do it is in committee structures. When one talks in this House about the establishment of committees the case is advanced that we do not have enough Members to fill them. However, other European parliaments with comparable numbers to ours, have a far more sophisticated system of committees in operation which work extremely well and have a fundamental approach to the work of the parliament with a view to making it constructive and progressive as opposed to the often irrelevant out-of-date and indeed vacuous institution assembled here in the form of the Dáil.

The opportunity now available is to review the functions of the Government's various Departments in the light of the Estimates and Votes which have been circulated. I intend to deal with a number of them which have been my concern and responsibility since I was elected to this House.

I will deal first with the Estimate for the Department of Justice and other related matters. In the order in which they appear, in the Schedule to be voted on in the House tomorrow, the first is the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions in Vote 14. There was a knee-jerk reaction from the Minister for Justice to a proposal I made in the House some time ago that it was incumbent on us to establish a method whereby the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions was accountable for his work and that of his officials and that he was answerable on occasions, where necessary, for decisions taken in that office.

My proposal in this regard is not to attack the independence and important work or even to criticise the excellent work of the Director of Public Prosecutions. However, it is not an acceptable proposition that any civil servant or any office of the Government or Executive working on behalf of the community, should have absolute immunity from questioning and be above any form of approach or criticism. Regrettably, that pertains in the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions today. It is probably because of the history and controversy which surrounded the institution and prosecution of offences prior to the establishment of the office in 1974. The experience in Europe in comparable situations to ours has been to clearly lay down methods whereby victims, their families or representatives, have the right of approach to the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions to seek answers to questions and to be advised as to why certain decisions were taken at times, especially if they were controversial. The same applies to decisions regarding the way evidence or cases were presented or prosecuted in court. In due course, we should look at a similar forum with regard to the Office of Director of Public Prosecutions generally; otherwise a certain element of criticism goes unanswered or unchallenged from the director's office to people who are concerned or affected by what would seem to be on the face of it controversial decisions. People are left unsure of their position and the sooner that matter is addressed the sooner we will safeguard the important independence of the Director of Public Prosecutions.

Vote 19 concerns the Office of the Minister for Justice. The first point that must be raised is one prompted by a press conference held two days ago to report on the 1991 Amnesty International annual report. At the press conference held in Dublin by Amnesty International special mention was made by the Irish executive of the way in which our Government examine the rights of aliens and other fugitives found within our national territory.

Particular criticism was levelled at our Government and, more particularly at the Department of Justice, the Minister and the aliens section within the Department, because of their failure to address within the context of the UN Convention on the Rights of Refugees and the principles of international law for the protection of persons in transit through our country, the rights of those people when they seek asylum, aid or succour in our territory. That problem is recurring with greater frequency. It is directly attributable to the increase in international travel, the opening up of our airways and seas and the important role that Ireland is taking up as a hub location for international air and sea travel. The advances made at Shannon to enable it to become not just an international refuelling stop but also a passenger transit area are showing signs of increasing the problem of people attempting to seek political and other refugee status in our country.

Within the Department of Justice there is a very inadequate mechanism to deal with the rights of people seeking refuge once they claim refugee status and seek to be established here. The aliens section is grossly undermanned. It has no accountability to any extraneous authority and there is no right of appeal for any person subject to a ruling of that section. There is no public accountability by way of a report to the House, the Minister or to any of the international agencies such as the International Red Cross committee, the United Nations or the High Commissioner in London dealing with the rights of international refugees or those seeking political asylum. Too often people are bustled on to planes or ships and removed from our territory and it is only later that we learn of an issue surrounding the cause being advanced by the person arriving in Ireland. It is time that the Department of Justice recognised their international duties and responsibilities in that regard. There should be established a proper unit with a tribunal of appeal available so that when people arrive they are afforded decency and proper accommodation, the right to be represented and the right to interpretation. None of those measures is provided for under the Vote for the Department of Justice as presented under the Estimates. They must be included in the financial remit of the Department in the coming years if Ireland is to meet its international and human rights obligations.

The next Vote that must be examined in some depth is Vote No. 21 dealing with the prisons. That Vote is the second most expensive item in the remit of the Department of Justice after that of the Garda Síochána. It has been brought sharply into relief, in questions I put to the Minister for Justice in the House again two days ago, that it is costing the taxpayer more than £600 per week to keep a prisoner locked up in the prisons. The annual cost in that regard is astronomical. Surely the time has now arrived when we must begin to debate seriously whether or not it is desirable to lock up large numbers of the community for such periods of time that we get no value for money spent, in that the vast majority of prisoners are released simply to return and that there is no opportunity to introduce any form of rehabilitative treatment for prisoners once they are taken into prison.

During a recent debate, when the House was considering regularising the rules in relation to imprisoning people for the non-payment of fines and non-performance of conditions laid down by the District Courts, I made the point that The Workers' Party were implacably opposed in principle to the concept of locking people up because they are unable by reasons of poverty or otherwise to meet the substantial fines imposed upon them by our courts. It is economic nonsense to do that. On the other hand, it is gross discrimination to impose such a regime. At some stage I want the Minister for Justice to debate and consider the issue — not just in the context of the non-payment of fines or the inability to pay a debt but in general — of whether we should seriously consider alternatives to custody as a means of dealing with offenders in general.

I accept that there will always be an element of the criminal community who must be taken off the streets, out of the community and confined for the protection of the public and, on occasions, for their own protection. It is clear that there are organised and committed terrorists and criminals in our society who represent a very serious threat to the wellbeing of the community and the nation as a whole and also to the wellbeing of individual members of the community. For them there is no doubt about the position of myself and that of The Workers' Party: they must be imprisoned. Indeed, of necessity, very often they must be imprisoned for long periods of time.

However, a study of the annual reports on prisons and the statistics contained therein shows that more than 70 per cent — almost 80 per cent — of prisoners committed to prison in any one year are confined for periods of nine months or less, often for petty and, I accept, persistent crime and often for drug or drink related offences. One has to seriously question what useful purpose is served by the expenditure of the huge amounts of money needed from the taxpayers' resources to keep those people off the streets for such a limited period of time. The period of confinement is usually so short that nothing constructive can be done to deal with the social problems that contributed to them being there in the first place. The prospect of rehabilitation, education or the delivery of a skill simply cannot be addressed in the period of time taken up inside the prison.

If those people were to be put through a much longer time of social supervision under the community service schemes or the probationary welfare scheme outside the prison walls and if they were kept to a course of training or education subject to strict supervision, then we would be somewhat closer to providing the real measures that need to be taken to deal with crime of a pretty and recurring nature.

The ideas I give are not radical proposals off the top of my head. I am echoing what was laid down by the Whitaker report published in 1985, which the Minister for Justice has ignored in a fundamental way. It is clear that the Minister knows of the existence of the Whitaker report. On occasions he has suggested in the House that he is doing much in the implementation of the recommendations of that report. The point has to be made that although the Minister is taking on board specific and minor details contained within the Whitaker report, for which he is to be complimented, he is failing abysmally to address the report in the much more fundamental and comprehensive reforms needed, such as a radical reappraisal of the cost-effectiveness and social usefulness of locking up large numbers of the criminal population for mindless periods of time.

One recommendation that could have been considered seriously was contained in a submission made by The Workers' Party to the Whitaker Commission at the time. We argued strongly, after having analysed the population of women in prisons — it was then about 40 women and it never really changes — that a very good case could be made for the closing down of the women's prison entirely. There is no great need to lock up women at all if we are serious about the alternatives to prison that we speak of. Again I accept — and I wish to make this clear — that at any one time there are potentially between three and five women who represent such a committed danger to our community that they must be confined. But do we need the gargantuan Victorian dimensions of the women's section of Mountjoy Prison to do that job? I do not believe so. On the other hand the, on average, 35 women remaining there are women with massive drug or social problems — single mothers, prostitutes, drunkards or other form of drug or alcohol abusers. They are lying in our prison cells and do not, either collectively or individually, represent any serious threat to the community. That line of Dr. Whitaker's argument was ignored. The Minister has instead begun to plough millions of pounds of taxpayers' money into the wastful exercise of trying to turn the women's section of Mountjoy prison into something modern and useful. It simply cannot be done. Mountjoy is beyond rehabilitation as an institution. It is a Victorian, Dickensian structure utterly and totally unsuitable for adaptation. As far as the women's section is concerned it should be closed and demolished and a smaller more cost effective unit of modern dimensions built to accommodate the small handful of women who need to be confined at any one time in our State.

One recommendation of the Whitaker report that the Minister has taken on board was in regard to setting up a review committee on long term sentence prisoners. It is one thing to take a recommendation on board and to set up a committee. It is another to look at it subsequently to see if the committee and the Minister are doing their respective jobs with regard to the recommendation and what the report says. In order to assess whether the committee in question is working, whether it is conveying views to the Minister and whether the Minister is acting on those recommendations, I tabled a question to the Minister on 9 July as to how many recommendations had been delivered to him since the review committee was established and how many of those recommendations he had acted on. All I wanted were those two figures which would have given me some information as to whether the Minister had not alone paid lip service to the recommendations of the report but had given real effect to the committee once it was established. The answer I got from the Minister was that he did not propose to make public details of the type requested in the question, of the operations of the group or of the action taken by him in relation to cases on which the group provides him with advice. I was seeking no more than two basic statistics. The response of the Minister leads me to the conclusion that, while he has addressed the idea in principle, by establishing the committee he has ignored the basic thinking behind that recommendation and that is why he will not impart the information to me. Any Minister who attempts to obstruct basic information as the Minister for Justice did on 9 July must be criticised. We must ask whether we would be prepared to sanction the spending of any money by such a person when he or she is not prepared to at least honour the concepts of democracy that should exist in this House of letting us know how the work we are paying for is being processed.

Another such example of the withholding of information by this Minister arises out of the debate we had in regard to the legislation on the committal of people to prison for the non-payment of fines. Using information that the Minister had furnished to me in 1988 I was able to illustrate the utter non-cost effectiveness of the concept by showing on the figures he had given me for the year 1987 that we were spending ten times as much on keeping a person in prison for the non-payment of fines than we could ever hope to recover from the person even if he paid the fine in total. How much more ridiculous can one get in terms of cost effectiveness which I had understood to be the cornerstone of the directions that all Departments are supposed to be acting under? We are spending ten times as much on keeping a person in prison than we could ever hope to get from them if they paid their fines in full.

I subsequently sought similar statistical information in respect of the subsequent years to date. The Minister's answer was that he had neither the time nor the resources available to him to provide that information. What was available in 1988 is not available in 1991. Why? Because, I have no doubt, the statistics once analysed would show that the position is as bad as, if not worse than, it ever was in the context of cost effectiveness.

The next item for consideration in this series of votes is Vote 20 in regard to the Garda Síochána. I had hoped that before I rose to speak on the Estimates the Minister for Justice might have found time to come into the House to debate this Vote. I would say that we all welcomed the fact that the Minister's brief was pared back by the removal of the communications portfolio when the new Government were formed. We were even more happy when a Minister of State was appointed to the Department of Justice because we hoped then that Minister Burke would find time to grace this House on occasions with his presence to contribute to the debates here. However, I think he has been in the House on only two occasions this session to deal with debates on justice legislation. I had hoped at least that at the end of the term when we had three days available to us to discuss the Estimates that he would contribute. Perhaps he will before the day is out or even tomorrow. It does not say much for our commitment to Dáil reform that the Government Whip was not prepared to advise us as to when Ministers would come in so that those of us from the Opposition side who, perhaps, wished to speak in the wake of the Minister had simply to take our chances and hope that the Minister responsible would have spoken in advance. Even that could not be arranged. So much for the reforming procedures of making this House effective.

I have, therefore, to speak not knowing whether the Minister will contribute. However, if he does, I hope he will deal with at least one matter that needs to be clarified before this House rises. That is in regard to the announcement made by him in the run up to the local elections that 1,000 extra gardaí would be recruited and that this recruitment would be provided for in the Estimates for the coming year. When the figures began to emerge with regard to the poor economic performance of the Government generally word began to circulate that the 1,000 extra gardaí would not now be recruited. It is incumbent on the Minister for Justice to come clean on this matter lest we be treated to the same type of performance by him as happened in the by-election in Dublin West a number of years ago when people in a housing estate promised their vote to whichever party improved the appearance of the estate which had been badly neglected by the local authority through lack of funding; it is now part of the lore of this House that Minister Burke, as then chairman of the county council, arranged for the delivery of all of the shrubs and landscaping effects that were needed to see the vote home. The day after the poll was taken the workmen were back in, the shrubs were all taken out and the estate was left bare, denuded and back to what it had been two or three days before. Is that what is now happening to the 1,000 extra recruits? Were they promised for the purpose of meeting very disturbing statistics that were emerging as to the burgeoning crime problems in certain areas, particularly in Dublin where Fianna Fáil expected to do poorly in the local elections? In Raheny, close to the Minister's own area, we had the single biggest increase in crime in the previous year and in Santry, next door, and closer again to the Minister's own constituency, we had the second single biggest increase in crime in the country, 38 per cent and 20 per cent respectively.

The news that 1,000 extra gardaí would be recruited was very welcome in the context of the protection needed for our communities under threat from increased crime. But are we now to be told after the elections that this was just a shrub like proposal to be planted in the minds of the people running up to election time, simply to be taken up again as soon as the vote was cast? The Minister will have an opportunity to speak to us later today or tomorrow. If he is busy, as he usually seems to be, he has a junior Minister who can come in here, a junior Minister who has been sent in many times before to bat for the Minister and to try to deal with the inevitable rumour that arises around a Department which is doing very little beyond issuing statements and not following through when it is needed. Will the 1,000 gardaí be recruited in the next year as promised? It is a simple question and the answer will expose this Minister for all that we make him out to be — unless, of course, the Minister does not answer that question before the debate ends.

Recently we voted for the appointment of extra members of the Judiciary in the District Court, Circuit Court and the High Court. This recognises a commitment on the part of the Government, to try to keep the courts in good fettle so that they can deal with the increased workload which arises from the legislative duties we cast on them with reforming legislation. I was glad of the decision, taken in response to my proposal some weeks ago, from now on to address judges of the District Court as judges and not as district justices. This reflects respect for the commitment and contribution of district judges in the District Courts to the maintenance of an effective justice system here.

We should reconsider the methods by which we appoint judges to the bench and we should reconsider the way in which we do not require them to engage in any form of training for the job or ongoing training to meet the changing attitudes and needs of society. It is high time that we appointed our Judiciary through an independent commission free of political patronage or interference. It is high time that we recognised that our judges are just like other public servants and that they should be appointed by competition, which should be decided by an independent commission or tribunal. If we want to separate powers there is an independent commission already existing in the form of the Council of State which is assembled to advise the President on matters of public interest. The Council of State comprises a wide range of people and advises the President, who ultimately appoints all judges on the advice of the Government. There is not anything in the Constitution that prohibits the Government from assigning that advisory function to the Council of State. If the Government are not disposed to establishing a new entirely independent commission, they should delegate functions in this regard to the Council of State.

We should look at the question of training for judges to be appointed. As public servants, the judges serve the community. They are not without public accountability. I do not suggest that judges should not be independent in their decisions; but we must recognise that in the period leading up to their appointment aspirant judges are easily identifiable, because there is a list in the Department of Justice for consideration in relation to all the vacancies. They could at that stage be required to undergo rudimentary training in the job; and, once appointed, there should be a mechanism of support, advice and research for judges on the bench. No one would suggest that judges should be taken from the bench and brought through a training or information process to answer questions with regard to their daily work as judges. But there is a far more fundamental issue with regard to the independence of the Judiciary and that is their capacity to retain respect and dignity in the community by being effective in their work. They need advice, training and support, as does everyone. For too long we have stood back and allowed judges to flounder in the inadequate support mechanisms made available to them. It is time we looked at this issue so that we could support judges in their important work.

Neither the Minister nor the Minister for Industry and Commerce addressed the voluminous and important report of the Fair Trade Commission published over 18 months ago which dealt with the future development of the legal profession generally in this country. I was disturbed recently to read an editorial in The Law Times Review which made an arrogant and unwarranted attack on the Minister for Industry and Commerce, Deputy O'Malley, and called into question his competence at any stage to deal with the reform of the legal profession. I will fully support any Minister for Industry and Commerce, acting upon as comprehensive a report as the Fair Trade Commission report on the legal profession, whenever he comes before this House with fair proposals based on such comprehensive and well founded recommendations.

My view of the Minister, Deputy O'Malley, would tend in the opposite direction. I take the view that the Minister is perhaps not prepared to effectively challenge the legal profession. The Minister is a member of the solicitor's profession, as I am, and many of his main advisers and party activists in the Progressive Democrats are well known members of the Bar Library, the other arm of the legal profession. I am extremely worried that while a lot of fair comment is made by the Minister in public fora outside the Chamber there is nothing emanating from his Department to indicate, at Question Time or at other times, that he proposes to take on any of the restrictive practices of the legal profession as contained in the Fair Trade Commission report.

The other disturbing thing in that editorial was the sneering attitude of the legal profession towards the Fair Trade Commissioners in the suggestion, although it was not specified, that some if not all of the recommendations in the report are laughable. The only laughing matter in the context of what has been reported in the Fair Trade Commission report is the hysterical self-interest of the legal profession, both solicitors and barristers, who as soon as they looked at the report saw the fundamental implications that it had in the future for the monopoly control they maintain over access to the profession, education for the professions, delivery of the service and access to the courts. The sneering then becomes hysterical laughter. I should like to say to the Ministers for Justice and Industry and Commerce that not only have they a duty to the wider community in regard to the administration of justice generally but they also have a duty to the excellent commissioners who worked long and hard in compiling a comprehensive and good document on the future development of our legal profession. They should come to the aid of those commissioners when they are disparagingly attacked by self-interested professions, be it solicitors, barristers or both. They must ensure that the good work of these public servants is recognised, protected and acted upon.

In this regard I wish to put down another pointer to both Ministers. Nothing is being done to implement the recommendations of the Fair Trade Commission's report which, by and large, The Workers' Party support. Indeed, many members of The Workers' Party would argue that this report does not go far enough in regard to the need to fuse both professions into one, the need to fuse the legal education institutions into one and put an end to the ridiculous outmoded practices which exist in both professions. It would appear that both Ministers are unwilling to take on board the recommendations of the Fair Trade Commission and bring legislation before this House, where it can be debated and amended for the betterment of the community, to deal with the issues raised in the report, because they are not prepared to confront the strong and powerful interests in the Law Library and Black-hall Place. Their attitude of looking to the goodwill of the professions in any negotiations is ridiculous in the extreme.

Only a few weeks ago the Bar Council assembled their members for the biggest meeting in their history to decide how they would address the proposals in the Fair Trade Commission's report. We should remember that this wing of the profession have stated publicly that the report should be torn up and disregarded in its entirety. At their meeting they discussed the report at length but they did not come up with any serious concrete proposals which could be enforced. The Minister for Industry and Commerce has had direct experience of trying to control the cost of litigation — he did this in 1979 in the case of the insurance industry.

I accept that we got rid of the three counsel rule but in the interim costs on the legal side, barristers included, have been allowed to escalate. It is now more costly than it was in 1989 to deal with insurance charges and litigation. The reason for this is that while the number of barristers was reduced the fee for the remaining barrister was increased. That is the kind of reaction one can expect from these self-interested professions who have no commitment to serving the public. Until such time as the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Industry and Commerce realise this, the Fair Trade Commission's report will be left to accumulate a lot of dust on the shelf. The community will suffer because we will not be given the opportunity to modernise the antiquated and antediluvian practices of the legal profession, bring them out of the 18th century and into the 20th.

My next point relates to Vote 35 for the Department of Tourism, Transport and Communications.

It must be recognised that the Broadcasting Act, 1990 — a legacy of the previous Minister for Communications, Deputy Burke — has not only failed dismally in what is set out to achieve, but has also been counter-productive. RTE, the established national broadcasting agency, have been stifled in their attempts to develop their service. Small advertisers and advertisement producers have been pushed out of business and off the airwaves. The capping proposals introduced by the Minister have pushed jobs out of this community and into the hands of other agencies in Northern Ireland and, in particular, Britain. In addition, there has been no passing down of contracts to independent programme makers, as was hoped for under the Act. The EC Directives which were in existence long before the Act was implemented have been ignored in their intent and direction. If anything, we are moving further out of step with what has been proposed at EC level.

In addition to the abysmal failure and counter-productiveness of the 1990 Act, no community radio station has yet been established. In the days before the Committee Stage debate on the Bill the so-called Independent Radio and Television Commission published an advertisement inviting applications for community licences. When criticisms were properly levelled at the Minister for a lack of progress in this area he pointed to this advertisement as progress. However, when the stormy debate on the Bill was completed we were advised by the Commission that it would not be possible to issue any community radio licences because "the matter was being reviewed in the light of international experiences elsewhere". As I said no independent third television station has yet been established. The longer this takes the more likely it seems that the Government drafted that legislation to put RTE 2 out of existence in order to make room for the avaricious and inexpert managers of many independent radio stations which have floundered around over the past few years in a small pool. The most regrettable point is that Teilifís na Gaeltachta is not likely to see the light of day during the lifetime of the Government. The past year has been a disastrous one for broadcasting. In the light of no indication from the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications about the setting up of this station one has to question the provision of moneys to enable him to proceed with it.

Another legacy left to the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications by his predecessor, Deputy Burke, were the difficulties being experienced by An Post and the doubts about their future. The campaign conducted by the Communication Workers' Union did not simply seek to protect the livelihood of their 1,500 members who will summarily be sent to the dole queues as a result of the viability plan. It also sought to highlight the social importance of the postal services both in urban and rural communities. It is now becoming evident that what was proposed by the management of An Post was not a viability plan in any sense of the word but a plan to totally dismantle the services of An Post.

The findings of all the surveys available to us show quite clearly that there is widespread support for maintaining our postal services at their present level. Equally, there is a widespread demand that the Government give a commitment to increase the allocation to An Post to enable them, as envisaged in the 1983 Telecommunications Act, to develop their services in the way their sister organisation, Telecom Éireann have been able to do. Unlike Telecom Éireann, An Post have never been given a fair chance or a springboard from which to launch themselves. It has been shown in Telecom Éireann that with the commitment of a progressive chairman, board and management on the one hand and, on the other hand, of the workers to put their shoulders to the wheel, these agencies can be economically viable, extremely competitive and profitable in due course. What we need is a commitment from the Minister to make capital funds available to An Post to get them over their difficulties, to modernise and extend their services. I have no doubt that if this had been done by the Coalition Government in 1983, as promised, An Post would not now find themselves in such an abysmal position which is primarily due to their having been neglected by the Government and by management. It is not due to the workers.

The lie which has been trotted out by the board of An Post is that one of their big problems is the question of wages, but this is not so. An Post, in pushing ahead with a programme to improve services in 1988, dismissed, under a redundancy package, 1,100 workers but then found they did not have sufficient men and women to carry out their plans and had to resort to overtime.

It is now time for the Minister for Tourism, Transport and Communications to declare that the viability plan is not acceptable to him and that he is prepared to do what the communications workers ask, that is to take part in tripartite negotiations with the management and workers of An Post to come up with a comprehensive programme which would allow An Post to develop and expand and become another jewel in the crown of semi-State organisations who have served the community so well.

I would now like to comment on Vote 3 which deals with the Department of the Taoiseach. I am glad that the Minister of State is present as he can make known to the Taoiseach my concern about the future of the Chester Beatty Library in Ballsbridge. The Taoiseach has said time and again, even in the face of an unfortunate pattern of accidents and mismanagement at the library, that his hands are tied and he cannot move because of the terms of the will of the late Chester Beatty who donated his invaluable collection to the people of this nation. I accept that as things stand, that is the law but there is nothing to prevent the Taoiseach and the House changing by way of legislation the terms of the Deeds of Trust and the terms on which the trustees hold and administer the collection at the Chester Beatty Library. We can, as a Legislature, provide as a matter of law, for the better keeping, use and development of the collection. I urge the Taoiseach not to hide behind the excuse he has advanced so often and to protect this important collection before irreparable damage is done to it.

I am pleased that I have contributed to this debate on the Estimates. I submit that all Members of the House should seek to take part in the debate. As I said at the outset, I am at a loss to understand the attitude of Fine Gael who have blustered about. Questions have to be asked in the closing days of the session, and the most important must be what the Government intend doing to improve their performance to meet the needs of the community. Fine Gael will not be asking any such question. By reason of their walking out of the House Fine Gael were wrong in what they did.

Before entering into this debate I would like to say a few words about Fine Gael's objections to the format and manner of the debate. I wish to make the point that the Whips met on three occasions to discuss the schedule and timetable for the debate. There was also considerable discussion by telephone in the matter. Fine Gael were offered every opportunity to express their views fully. At the first meeting Fine Gael indicated that a general debate was preferable to debates on individual estimates in order to allow Deputies to comment freely, and at length. Deputy McCartan confirmed this. As a result a schedule was drawn up which allowed for a nine hour Adjournment Debate. Fine Gael while objecting to the schedule as a whole did not specifically object to the proposed Adjournment Debate.

When the Government decided to sit an additional week to consider the forthcoming proposals on agriculture Fine Gael, along with the other Opposition parties, were fully consulted. As additional time was being made available the Government, following convention and practice, now offered the Opposition the opportunity to choose which Estimates they wished to discuss and the length of time they wished to discuss them. The Government accepted the list of Departments nominated and the times given. The Government, however, could not accede to the proposal to have a Question Time as it was not provided for in Standing Orders. Deputy Ruairí Quinn of the Labour Party agreed with this point in the House, recently.

Fine Gael subsequently demanded that we debate every Estimate and that each one be individually voted on. It normally takes approximately 20 minutes for a vote to take place. If the Government acceded to Fine Gael's request to have a vote on every Estimate it would have meant that the House would spend approximately five hours voting which is ridiculous. It has been accepted for some time now, by all sides in the House, that it is not possible to discuss every Estimate and, accordingly, the practice has emerged over a number of years of a set period of time being given over to discuss the Estimates, and the Opposition being given the choice of format. This year in an attempt to meet Fine Gael's concerns, at the last Whips meeting the Government increased the number of hours available from 11.5 to 22 and also offered the choice of a general Estimates debate or individual debates on certain Estimates to be chosen by them. The format of this debate was thus chosen by the Opposition parties. Therefore, it is regrettable that Fine Gael have failed to participate in this important debate given that they are the main Opposition Party. Their reasons are unjustifiable and unconvincing.

I propose to give particulars of expenditure by the Office of Public Works this year on the basis of the programme format contained in the appendix to the Estimate for Vote 10 in the Book of Revised Estimates. The total amount sought for these programmes is £99.569 million.

A sum of £55.704 million is sought for Programme 1 — the accommodation programme. Of this, £24 million is required for the capital building programme. This covers the cost of erecting new buildings as well as adapting and refurbishing others to meet State accommodation requirements.

The House is aware of the excellent refurbishment of the former College of Science which was carried out by the Office of Public Works during the past year. This project has provided for the accommodation needs of the Department of the Taoiseach, Members of the Houses of the Oireachtas, the Attorney General's Office and the Department of Finance as part of a major rationalisation of accommodation being undertaken by the Office of Public Works. Deputies are already benefiting from the works carried out in the old engineering block which has provided accommodation of a high standard easing a situation in which some Deputies were housed in unacceptable accommodation. I might also mention that additional accommodation is being provided this year for Deputies and Committees in Kildare House. All in all we now have a centre for Government which compares favourably on an international basis. The overall allocation for the project is £17.6 million and, while most of this was expended in 1990, £3.5 million is provided for its completion this year.

There have been some complaints regarding the heating in that building. The Commissioners of Public Works have investigated the matter at my request. The heating in the building is provided by steam boilers located in a central heating station. These boilers must undergo periodic maintenance and this work is normally done during the summer months in what would generally be regarded as the off-heating season. It would take at least one full day for the system to power up again and restore heat to the building. These are new installations in operation for the first time this year as a result of the recently completed works on the college buildings. Full maintenance programmes and schedules have yet to be put in place and it will be appreciated that before those procedures can be fully worked out there are likely to be some difficulties. I am informed, however, that once these programmes are in place one of the boilers will be left on stand-by during the summer months so that heat can be provided at short notice. It is to be hoped, therefore, that this problem will not recur in the future.

As Chairman of the Boadcasting Control Committee I would like to take this opportunity to thank my fellow members for their sterling work in making the televising of the Oireachtas so successful. Deputies will be pleased to learn that an information service will be available to members next autumn. The service will include an up-to-date listing of all the business before the House including business of the day, the stage of each Bill, the date stages are taken, etc.

Magnificent work has also been done by the Commissioners of Public Works at Dublin Castle in recent years. The conference centre there has been the subject of much praise both during our EC Presidency and subsequently. I am pleased to say that money is being provided for further works at Dublin Castle in the treasury building which is located in the Lower Castle Yard, and these will commence shortly. This ensures the continuity of work towards the goal of a totally refurbished Dublin Castle.

The restoration of the Botanic Garden's curvilinear range of glasshouses, the work of the renowned Dublin ironmaster, Richard Turner, will commence this year. These buildings suffered severe deterioration but they will be restored faithfully to their original splendour. The entire project will take approximately four years to complete at a cost of £4.4 million.

In 1991 a further £5 million will be spent on new Garda stations under the ongoing Garda building programme for the Department of Justice. 1990 saw major Garda projects being completed at Bandon, Mullingar and Cavan and buildings at Balbriggan, Carlow and Shannon were recently finished. Work on the divisional headquarters at Anglesea Street, Cork, will also be finished this year. Starts have been made on the new Garda stations at Kells and Tipperary.

Work on a major upgrading of Templemore Garda Training Centre is on-going. The refurbishment programme is being undertaken in two phases at a cost of £16 million. Phase 1, which comprises a new education block, a closed circuit television studio and residential accommodation for 250 people was completed in 1990. Phase 2 is in progress at present and, when completed in December, will provide accommodation for a further 200 people. The new centre will contain all the facilities necessary for a modern police training centre.

A sum of £2 million is required this year for the on-going employment exchange programme. Work on a new exchange at Finglas will start soon and planning is at an advanced stage for exchanges at Tallaght and Navan Road, Dublin, and for the adaptation of Carlow employment exchange.

The decentralisation programme which is a major policy objective of this Government is based on the need for a more widespread location of public service jobs and job opportunities. Centres have been completed and occupied at Cavan, Sligo, Ballina, Galway, Letterkenny and Killarney. This year projects will be completed in Athlone, for the Department of Education, and in Ennis and Nenagh for the Revenue Commissioners. A contract has been placed for the refurbishment of Sarsfield House, Limerick, for further Revenue Commissioners' personnel and this will be ready in 1992. The decentralisation projects are being designed, built and financed by private developers, with the State purchasing the buildings on a deferred payment basis over 20 years. These payments will be met from the rent and rates subhead and this explains the increase in that allocation to £20,100,000. However, the programme will result in substantial savings to the Exchequer in coming years when there will be a reduction in the figures for renting Dublin office space. Furthermore, the scheme is socially positive in helping to redress regional imbalances and I am happy that, as recently announced by the Minister for Finance, the Government have decided to extend it to seven further locations — Cork, Dundalk, Kilkenny, Longford, Portlaoise, Tullamore and Wexford.

In the light of recent developments affecting Departments' accommodation requirements, in particular the decentralisation programme, the Commissioners of Public Works have been actively engaged in assessing the accommodation allocations of each Department with a view to achieving the optimum use of space and releasing the maximum amount for disposal. Occupancy surveys of each Department's allocations have been carried out by the Commissioners and have resulted in the disposal of some 400,000 square feet of space since 1986. Disposal of a further 250,000 square feet is in the pipeline. Some notable disposals attributable, either in whole or in part, to decentralisation are Teach Earlsfort, Davitt House and Hume House.

The accommodation programme also includes building maintenance, for which a sum of £9,318,000 is required, purchase of sites and buildings, for which £300,000 is needed, fuel, electricity and water for which £266,000 is required and national lottery funding of £1,720,000 for conservation work.

This national lottery funding has facilitated the completion of the restoration of the stonework of the Custom House. The recent reopening ceremony there was a highlight of the 1991 celebrations of Dublin as the European City of Culture. This award-winning project is rightly the subject of praise from all quarters. In fact I had the pleasure of switching on the illuminations there on 11 May to signal the completion of the works. A sum of £7.459 million is sought for arterial drainage under programme 2. This will provide for the survey, design, construction and maintenance of arterial drainage and embankment schemes.

The allocation of £259,900 in subhead L1 will facilitate the continuation of the environmental impact assessment and the cost benefit analysis of the proposed relief scheme for the Mulcaire River as well as some other studies. It also provides for the hydrometric survey work involving the collection and analysis of data on many rivers throughout the country.

The sum of £3.8 million is required for the continuation of construction work on arterial schemes on the Boyle, the Bonet and the Monaghan Blackwater. This latter project is a practical demonstration of successful cross-Border co-operation. Maintenance of completed arterial drainage schemes will account for £3.4 million in 1991.

A sum of £17,792,000 is sought for programme 4 covering parks and monuments. This figure includes the cost of projects which will be part-funded by the EC Structural Funds for tourism-related projects.

A total of £9,987,000 is required for national parks, national historic parks and gardens. These parks and gardens are an important part of our heritage, a source of pride to our citizens and a major component of our tourism potential. Staff in my office take care to ensure that conservation receives prime consideration. I am pleased of the conservation objectives while simultaneously allowing visitors to enjoy and appreciate the parks.

A major programme of development which commenced in 1989 is continuing. In Killarney National Park improvements to Muckross House are on-going. These will lead to the provision of much improved interpretative programmes there. This will result in an increase in the number of paying visitors to the house, which is already attracting impressive numbers — 164,000 people in 1990, for example. In another part of the park the restored Deenagh Lodge will be opened as tearooms.

Work is in progress on the extension of the visitor centre at Connemara National Park and new interpretative facilities will be installed there. This work will be completed towards the end of the year.

The Wicklow Mountains National Park was established with effect from 1 January 1991. This is Ireland's fourth national park and it comprises an initial core area of 3,700 hectares made up of two nature reserves at Glendalough and other land formerly under the control of the Forestry Service. The park will be extended, as finances permit, to encompass a much larger area, including the already acquired 2,500 hectares of the uplands of Powerscourt Estate. More land, including large areas which are at present under the control of Coillte Teoranta and the Department of Energy, will be acquired by the Office of Public Works over the next few years. The eventual aim is to have a national park of some 30,000 hectares stretching from Killakee Mountain in the north to beyond Lugnaquilla in the south. Under conditions compatible with the conservation of the environment, it will be the policy to encourage people to visit the national park for recreational, cultural, educational and inspirational purposes. Facilities provided for visitors will be harmonious with the cultural heritage, compatible with natural processes and as physically accessible as possible to all visitors. Any widening or straightening of existing public roads within the national park could have a detrimental impact on the scenic value and natural resources of the park. The Office of Public Works will therefore examine very critically any proposals for improvements to the roads with a view to providing transport facilities which are compatible with the natural environment.

I am delighted to say that the nucleus of a fifth national park has been established in the Burren, County Clare. Many plants which are rare in Ireland flourish in this limestone region. Furthermore, it supports a remarkable mix of plants associated with more southern shores and plants of alpine affinities. The creation of a national park to international standards will ensure the conservation of the landscape and eco-systems of this spectacular and unique region. The striking beauty of the Burren landscape, with its wealth of botanical treasures, makes it a worthy candidate for the internationally accepted title of "National Park". Changes in farm practices in the early seventies which saw accelerating land reclamation in the Burren pointed to a need to establish a national park to protect a representative sample of the Burren in perpetuity. The area chosen for the park was centred on Mullaghmore, where the Burren hills meet the limestone lowlands. At present over 1,300 hectares have been acquired and this is more than sufficient to meet the minimum international criteria for national parks.

The main objectives of national parks are to conserve nature and, under conditions compatible with this purpose, to enable people to visit and appreciate them. The provision of an interpretative centre is essential in order to inform and educate visitors about the special qualities of the park itself and of the need for conservation generally. The locations of the Burren and Wicklow interpretative centres were considered very carefully before the sites were selected. Contrary to the impression being given by certain commentators, I can assure the House that the fullest consultation has taken place with both local authorities and, indeed, other local groups. Work will start on the Burren National Park centre in the autumn and my office will present plans and a model for the Wicklow centre to Wicklow County Council and interested local groups in the next few weeks.

Plans are also in hand for the establishment of an archaeological park in the Boyne Valley, County Meath. The Park will embrace the internationally renowned passage graves of Newgrange, which was visited by 133,000 people last year, Knowth and Dowth as well as a large number of other monuments. The scheme will ensure the proper protection of these monuments while providing quality facilities and services for the increasing number of visitors.

Recent years have seen many improvements at various parts of the Phoenix Park. The Phoenix monument has been returned to its original location and it now provides a very attractive feature as well as contributing to traffic safety. A further monument will be provided at the Gough junction and this will serve the same dual purpose. Traffic safety in the park is a major concern of the commissioners and 1990 saw the introduction of the new park ranger force which will, in co-operation with the Garda, ensure that traffic in the park will comply with the relevant by-laws. I am delighted to report that the number of traffic accidents in the Phoenix Park in 1990 was fewer than half the average number of previous years. Further measures to improve on traffic safety include the closure of White's Gate and the remainder of Lower Glen Road to vehicular traffic.

1990 also saw the completion of the new modern playground at the People's Gardens. Landscaping at the Papal Cross has just been finished and it is hoped to provide toilet facilities and improved car parking at this popular location in the future. Signposting of a heritage trail continues and it is planned that this trail will be complimented by a self-guiding booklet. Other booklets which will be introduced will cover the birds and flowers in the park.

Work on the restoration of Ashtown Castle is well advanced and the commencement of work on a new interpretative centre and audio-visual threatre is imminent. This contract will cost in excess of £1 million and will be a major focus for both tourists and local people. Also in Dublin a new garden for the blind will be built this year in the central area of St. Stephen's Green and major landscaping work will be done at St. Enda's national historic park, Rathfarnham.

An Blascaod Mór National Historic Park Act, 1989, called on the Office of Public Works to protect the island in perpetuity while at the same time facilitating access to it and promoting an appreciation of the islander's culture and the Irish language generally. In planning to meet these statutory obligations the Office of Public Works established a formal liaison process with the local community through Fonduireacht an Blascaoid. At the outset both the Fonduireacht and Office of Public Works recognised that the basic character of the island should not be altered and visitor facilities there should be low key and kept to a minimum. It was agreed that the greater part of the required interpretation should be provided in a centre on the mainland. The local community were strongly of the opinion that such a centre should be in the Dún Chaoin area. Office of Public Works concurred and felt that it was necessary that the centre should also provide a visual and physical link, by way of a ferry service, to the island. The resultant site selection, brief and design for the centre was formulated in discussions with An Fonduireacht and meets fully with their approval. The plans also meet with the planning authority's approval and the project conforms to the county development plan. Facilities will be provided to present the themes of literature, environment, island life, culture and emigration and I am happy to say that planning is at a very advanced stage for the visitor centre on the mainland near Dún Chaoin.

A total of £7,085,000 is required for national monuments. The main objective in the National Monuments Service is to preserve our archaeological heritage with a view to passing it on intact to future generations. Conservation and maintenance will continue this year at many of the 700 or so sites which are in the ownership or guardianship of the Commissioners of Public Works. This work is organised through six depots strategically located around the country.

The proper presentation of national monuments and the provision of interpretative and other visitor facilities are also very important elements of the work. Interpretative facilities are used to spread the conservation message in a relaxed way and national monuments are an acknowledged component of the attraction of Ireland as a holiday destination. I am pleased to say that last year 723,000 people visited the 21 national monument sites at which charges are levied. This represents an increase of 13 per cent on the previous year's figure. The year 1990 saw three new guide serviced sites; Park Castle, County Leitrim, Carrowmore megalithic cemetery, County Sligo, and Pearse's Cottage, Rosmuc, County Galway, opening to the public. Further new services will be provided this year at Knowth megalithic tomb, County Meath and Lusk Church and Round Tower, County Dublin.

Recognising the tourism potential of national monuments the Government launched a five year programme in 1989 to provide new or improved visitor services at selected sites. This programme, which is part-funded by the European Community, includes works at Clonmacnois, the Rock of Cashel, Ardfert Cathedral, and at the castles in Rathfarnham, Athenry, Portumna and Roscrea. This year will see the introduction of an audio-visual show in the newly restored dormitory wing of the vicar's choral building at the Rock of Cashel. This facility will be a tremendous addition to the rock which is already a great attraction for Irish as well as foreign visitors.

National lottery funding has been allocated for the Casino, Marino and Kilmainham Gaol. Landscaping and architectural works at the Casino will be virtually completed this year. The major restoration and refurbishment of Kilmainham Gaol has been ongoing since 1988 with a view to properly presenting the building to the public. In 1990, 51,000 people visited this historic site and it has tremendous potential for the future as a major attraction in the capital city. I must say, as a Dublin Deputy, that I have great pride in the work of the Office of Public Works in caring for historic properties in the city, particularly this year which celebrates Dublin as Europe's cultural capital.

Good progress is being maintained on the production of sites and monuments records as part of the full archaeological survey of Ireland. These records form an initial data-base for all known archaeological sites and monuments and 20 counties have been covered to date. They are distributed to planners and various organisations involved with changes to the landscape with a view to making them aware of the presence of archaeological sites thus enabling them to avoid interference. It is hoped to have sites and monuments records for all counties completed by the end of 1992.

The grant-aiding of archaeological research excavation projects nominated by the Royal Irish Academy is continuing this year. Among the sites where excavation work will be done are Dysart Church, County Kilkenny, Curraghatoor late Bronze Age site, County Tipperary, and Lisleagh Ringforts, County Cork.

The provision for the maintenance, management and development of inland waterways under programme 5 is £4,901,000. The Commissioners of Public Works have responsibility for the Grand and Royal Canals, the Barrow navigation and the Shannon. The inland waterways of this country were under-utilised and underdeveloped for many years but recently there is a growing appreciation of their potential. Not only are they a valuable part of our heritage, they are also very important in the context of the development of tourism, a fact which is reflected by their inclusion in the Government's Operational Programme for Tourism which is being part-funded by the European Community.

Most of our man-made waterway structures are well over 150 years old and so it is not surprising that parts of the fabric require renewal at this stage. Accordingly the Estimate provides for major repairs to Meelick Weir on the Shannon and to the Blackwater Aqueduct on the Royal Canal, as well as for continued reconstruction of bog embankments on the Grand Canal. With regard to the Meelick Weir, this is not the dredging work so often requested, which would not solve the problems. The work involves reinforcement of the weir by pumping concrete into cavities drilled in the weir for this purpose. With the opening of the Royal Canal to navigation between Mullingar and the outskirts of Dublin in 1990, the focus of activity switched to the Dublin city stretch of that waterway. By the end of 1992 it will be possible to navigate from the River Liffey to Mullingar.

Last April I announced plans for a waterways visitor centre in the Grand Canal Basin, Ringsend, Dublin. Work will start on the building this year and it will be completed in 1992. Apart from being a significant attraction for tourists, this centre will serve to increase public awareness of all that our waterways have to offer. It will also enhance the canal basin area, adding to the rejuvenation of that part of the city. It gives me great pleasure in my role as Minister of State with responsibility for the Office of Public Works to be part of this major rejuvenation of the Grand and Royal Canal systems.

The Shannon is becoming more and more popular for cruising and facilities are being improved and expanded to cater for the growing demands. Work is at present in progress on the provision of new moorings at Portrunny on the Roscommon side of Lough Ree and similar projects will commence this year at Banagher, County Offaly and at Terryglass, County Tipperary. Work will continue on the River Suck to enable cruisers to travel to Ballinasloe from the Shannon. The feasibility of extending the cruising area still further by reopening Lough Allen to navigation is also being investigated.

Work has commenced on the restoration of the Ballinmore-Ballyconnell Canal. When the project is completed this canal will link once more the Shannon and Erne systems giving the island as a whole an unrivalled network of navigable waterways. Money for this project, which will be carried out by the Electricity Supply Board, is being provided from various sources including the European Community, which is the main contributor, the International Fund for Ireland, the Irish and British Governments and the ESB. A sum of £825,000 is included under programme 5 for this scheme.

Research is an important part of the management of the waterways and there is provision in the Estimate for several ongoing studies, all designed to protect and improve their environmental quality and character. I regard as particularly important a five year research programme being undertaken by the Central Fisheries Board on behalf of the Office of Public Works which will hopefully result in the canals being recognised as being among the finest coarse fishing venues in Ireland.

The Estimate also includes a provision for part of the cost of a major study of all the waterways in the State which are seen to have potential for development for navigation. The report on the study will include recommendations on the long term strategy which should be adopted to realise that potential.

An amount of £1,637,000 is required for the Wildlife Service under programme 6. The Wildlife Service are engaged in the conservation of our heritage of flora and fauna. An allocation of £845,000 is for the general management of the service and the implementation of the Wildlife Act, 1976, and other relevant legislation. To date, 68 nature reserves and five refuges for fauna have been established and these are managed in accordance with detailed plans which ensure the conservation of the habitat involved. Other areas are designated for conservation as part of our natural heritage. These include peatlands, due systems, wetlands, grasslands, bird sites and marine areas.

While the main duties of wildlife staff throughout the country involve the management of nature reserves and the enforcement of regulatory provisions of the Wildlife Act, they also provide an extremely important information and education service to the public. This involves contacts with private organisations, general advisory activities and talks in schools and other educational centres. Indeed, interest in the natural environment is growing nationally and internationally at present. The Wildlife Service are endeavouring to build on this and to play a positive role by generating awareness of specific issues. Also, a range of publications has been produced on various subjects and it is intended to extend this range over the coming years.

The Wildlife Service also carry out an important research role. This is vital in the formulation of conservation policy and in assessing factors and trends which affect the natural environment. Ongoing projects include surveys of Greenland white-fronted geese, merlins, badgers, bats, dune systems and blanket bogs. The conservation of wildlife is obviously a matter of international concern. Various problems and challenges are common to a number of states and so international co-operation is essential. Thus, my officials have regular working contacts with many international governmental and other organisations. They also facilitate the administration and implementation of laws arising from the ratification by the State of international conventions dealing with wildlife. One of the major initiatives being considered at present by the European Community is the Habitats Directive which, if agreed, will require member states to take positive steps to protect a wider and more representative selection of habitats. My office are making a major input to the discussions.

A sum of £250,000 is included for the purchase of raised and blanket bog. Arising from the completed national survey of raised bogs and the ongoing blanket bog survey a number of bogs of major importance have been identified. Acquisition of some of these will be pursued with a view to adding to the 15,000 hectares of bogland already under the control of the Office of Public Works.

The Wildlife Service is responsible for identifying areas of scientific interest — ASIs. An area of scientific interest is an area of special interest for its fauna and/or flora, either as individual species or as communities, or for its geology or topography. Selection of an area is based on scientific criteria which relate to the fauna, flora and general ecosystem. Areas are declared only on the basis of these criteria. Ownership of such areas is not a criterion for deciding on sites.

In the wildlife area £542,000 is required for capital projects. Work will shortly start on the provision of an interpretation centre and other visitor facilities at Coole — Garryland Nature Reserve near Gort in County Galway. This reserve boasts one of the most interesting vegetation and faunal complexes in Ireland. The new centre will facilitate the enjoyment of this resource by large numbers of Irish and foreign visitors while allowing for the control of the reserve in such a way as to ensure its preservation. I am sure that it will be a great success and that the development will constitute a major addition to the tourism attractions of the Galway/Clare area. Work will continue on the development of Doneraile Wildlife Park as a centre for native species, fauna and flora. Both these projects are part-funded from the European Community Structural Funds.

An allocation of £1,533,000 is required for the Government Supplies Agency under Programme 7. This agency carries out a central role in relation to bulk buying and buying which requires technical expertise. The costs involved are then recovered from the Departments that require the various items. The allocation covers the cost of services required by the Office of Public Works itself, printing and binding, the charge for which is not appropriate to other Departments, warehousing and central furniture services.

The administration of the Office of Public Works is covered under Programme 9, for which £17,863,000 is sought. This covers staff salaries and wages as well as travel charges and the cost of maintenance, machinery and various services necessary for the efficient running of the office. In accordance with the Government decision taken last November, an administrative budget agreement covering the years 1991-1993 has now been signed by the Minister for Finance and myself. The aims of the agreement are to reduce the running costs of the office and to improve efficiency and effectiveness through the delegation of greater authority from the Department of Finance to the Office of Public Works and indeed through greater delegation of authority within the office itself.

In conclusion, I pay tribute to all those involved in Office of Public Works. I am sure all Deputies will join me in paying that tribute because the Office of Public Works, in recent years particularly, have shown themselves to be a body with tremendous expertise and have not only changed from the views of the old style Office of Public Works but have proved to be first class leaders in the area of heritage preservation and certainly have provided a major boom as far as tourism is concerned.

I support the Minister of State in his praise of the Office of Public Works. In the past it was a much maligned organisation. From the report before us and from Vote 10 it is obvious that no other Department impacts as strongly on our visitors as the Office of Public Works. Irish people take our heritage for granted and do not give sufficient praise to those who have maintained it, despite a shortage of cash in many cases.

There are a few points I would like to make regarding the Minister's contribution. He did not mention Newgrange and the increase in visitors. A problem has arisen in Britain. Many of the ancient monument sites there have become extremely popular, resulting in too many visitors, and this has had a detrimental affect on the monuments. There was also a problem of soil erosion in rural walkways because too many people used these facilities. This is something that has to be monitored very carefully. We have here monuments which date from antiquity and were not designed for the volume of people now coming to visit them. Because of more leisure time being available and greater mobility among the population people are coming from abroad to visit these historic sites. While being very happy that so many people are coming to see these monuments, I want to express my concern that we could damage them in some way by over exposure. That is a matter that will have to be addressed.

I note that there is a greater urgency about the work in progress on Ross Castle in Killarney, an area I visit frequently. I know it is not possible for the Minister to respond to me at this stage, bearing in mind the nature of the debate, but I would like to know when exactly this work is likely to be completed. It is a major tourist attraction. The refurbishment and restoration work has been going on for many years. I accept that there appears to be a greater urgency about it at present. Having regard to the fact that visitors who tour the lakes take water buses from this point, access should be allowed. An injection of further finance for this work would be money well spent.

I compliment the Minister on the ongoing wildlife survey of Greenland whitefronted geese, merlins, badgers, bats, dune systems and blanket bogs. The badger has been a much maligned animal and the sooner we have these reports the better in order to clear up any doubts there may be as to whether the badger is a carrier of disease. Certainly, the farming organisations have been vocal and have expressed concern in this regard. I am happy that the wildlife service, at the Minister's behest, have carried out this work and I compliment him on it.

A number of walkways have been opened in Kerry and a brochure has been produced in this regard. I am envious when I go abroad and see walkways and direction signs pointing to where people can go without trespass on private property. Is there any means by which this system could be enlarged and that more access would be given to the countryside? Farmers are becoming increasingly conscious of the value of their property and livestock and resist intrusion from hikers and people who like to walk through the countryside. Can the State intervene and develop this wonderful facility? People are becoming more health conscious and there is now a greater inclination to ditch the car and go out and walk. There is evidence of that in Clontarf, where I stay, and it is most heartening to see people of all ages going out for a walk on the seafront in the evenings. I would like to see this being done throughout the country without fear of trespass. There is a reluctance on the part of some people to go across country and in many cases farmers would not object. This is an area we should try to develop and I would ask the Minister to examine the possibility of extending walkways throughout the country.

The Minister referred to the refurbishment of the former College of Science at a cost of £17.6 million about which there are arguments for and against. My one regret is that all Opposition Deputies had been excluded from that development. No accommodation of any description has been provided for Opposition Deputies within that building. It is not that we want to share the spoils but, quite frankly, much of the accommodation in this building leaves a lot to be desired.

I welcome the fact that here has been a 13 per cent increase in visitors to the various monuments throughout the country. This is significant and it is very encouraging. The fact that the Office of Public Works have provided these facilities and have made them accessible to people is one of the great bonuses in tourism.

When we are assessing the contribution that tourism makes to the country there is a tendency to ignore the Office of Public Works. I have worked in the State sector all my life — my only paymaster has been the State — and I am often annoyed at the criticism that has been levelled at the Office of Public Works in the past. They have an impossible task and a very limited budget to maintain the many ageing Government buildings throughout the State. I am glad that the work they do is now recognised as making a definite contribution to our economy.

Vote 6 deals with the National Gallery. It is a national asset but my criticism is — I raised this matter in the past by way of supplementary questions to the Taoiseach — that many of the paintings held in storage in the gallery are not available to the rest of the country. I cannot see why a mobile exhibition cannot be mounted, perhaps once a year, and taken to various centres throughout the country so that everyone can see its treasures. I do not see why it should be the exclusive right of people who reside in Dublin, or of people who have the opportunity to travel there, to visit the National Gallery. Many people would like to see the masterpieces in their own locations instead of having to travel to Dublin. I question the wisdom of holding these paintings in storage for many years away from the public eye. It should not be beyond the bounds of possibility to mount a mobile exhibition annually, especially during the summer months. It could be located in Cork for two weeks and then move on to Waterford, Limerick and Galway. An exhibition of this kind would maximise our wonderful asset.

Vote 15 deals with the Valuation Office. Many problems have arisen in recent times regarding valuation of property, and the fact that the office is in Dublin does not help. There should be decentralisation of the office and I do not see why valuations could not be entrusted to various local authorities throughout the country. A system already exists whereby valuation could be carried out at local level.

Some valuations on properties are bizarre. People often ask me why their house is more highly valued than a house, exactly the same, across the road. The appeals procedure is protracted and can take months. An ordinary person is at a complete disadvantage in dealing with the professionals in the Valuation Office and this has created many problems. The appeals system should be simplified and decentralised. There is a sense of grievance in some new housing estates. While I was canvassing during the recent election, one resident asked me why she paid more in rent than her friend across the road. I could not explain it as the houses are identical. The person in question would have to come to the Valuation Office and lodge a claim to have the anomaly rectified.

Vote 22 deals with the courts. Local authorities must bear the cost of maintaining courthouses. In the case of Cork Corporation, of which I am a member, the costs in the current year amount to £170,800. Granted, they will recoup £85,000 from Cork Corporation as their contribution, but maintenance of courthouses should be the responsibility of the Department of Justice and there is no reason for placing that burden on local authorities.

The courthouse in Cork is a fine building structurally but is in need of refurbishment. An application has been made for £57,000 in the current year for capital works and a sum of £54,000 has been requested to meet the requirements of the fire prevention officer. To date, there has been no response from the Department. If this continues I have no doubt that the fire prevention officer will be entitled to close the courthouse in Cork and only God knows what will happen then.

One of the drawbacks in this form of debate is that we cannot address our comments directly to the Minister responsible. It is coincidental that the Minister for Social Welfare and the Minister of State at the Department of the Taoiseach are present and that the latter has responsibility for the Office of Public Works.

Vote 23 deals with the Land Registry. There is a waiting list of two years for the registration of property. The huge backlog is a great impediment to development throughout the country. Again it is a classic case for decentralisation. As a result of the delays, people are suffering financially, and this should not be allowed to continue. The system is not efficient and young people in particular who have not had previous experience of house purchase should not be subjected to this hardship. They are thrown in at the deep end. They do not understand why there is such a long delay.

Vote 25 deals with the Environment. Local charges are potentially an explosive issue. I am a member of a council and most of the candidates in the recent local election — including members of the Minister's party — indicated that they will not vote for service charges in the coming year. It is very difficult to explain to people in the provinces that they must pay charges when people living in Dublin do not. I am not being parochial but the system is unfair. If somebody had the financial resources to pursue the matter to the European Court, the charges would probably be found to be unconstitutional. I do not see how you can justify people living in Dublin not paying charges when people throughout the country are compelled to pay.

Essentially, we have a system of double taxation. It is difficult to say how the matter will be resolved. One idea put forward in Cork city — not by myself, I must confess — was that people paying a local charge should receive tax credits when paying income tax to the Revenue Commissioners. That idea is worthy of consideration. It was put forward before and rejected, but it should be examined as a way of elminating the charge of double taxation, which is now the great stumbling block.

I regret very much that one item in the Estimates has remained static. I am referring to the grant-in-aid for the task force on special housing aid for the elderly, which has remained at £2 million. No other Department scheme has been of such advantage to old people. Why the Minister did not at least give an increase in keeping with inflation I do not know. The scheme is excellent, it is appreciated, some wonderful work has been carried out under it, and I do not know why it will not be allowed to develop. There is very definite proof of the scheme's success, and that cannot be said of all the schemes undertaken from time to time by Government Departments. I much regret that the Minister did not see fit to increase the allocation and I condemn his actions.

The Minister for Education came to the House equipped with a speech and completely ignored it but she nonetheless gave an impressive performance. She is obviously very much in touch with her brief. The Minister spelt out very clearly the way in which she felt education will develop in the years ahead.

In recent years we have experienced the growth of the gael scoileanna. In the past most students were subjected to compulsory classes in Irish. People are now going to the gaelscoileann simply because they want to learn Irish. The movement is away from imposing the language on the population and it must be welcomed. Problems have arisen in the provision of premises for many of those schools. I hope the value of the gaelscoileanna system will be recognised and that sufficient funding will be provided. Many of the schools operate from prefabricated buildings which are not suitable for young children in particular. The sooner money is made available and recognition is given for the work being done by those schools the better.

The Minister did say that there would be an increase in the pupil/teacher ratio. A criticism I have of the guidance teacher system is that many children are excluded from it. Pupils who do not go on to second level education do not have access to the service provided by guidance teachers. At primary school level the children who are in need and are more likely to leave the education system at 15 years are those who in many cases most need the assistance of guidance teachers. As a result of their being victims of the system, they come back into the system under schemes administered by the Department of Justice, such as the probation service, after getting into trouble because guidance was not available either at home or at school. There is need for a serious rethink in that regard. I made that point ten years ago when I was Lord Mayor of my own city and addressed a conference of guidance teachers and I am still of the same opinion. However, I regret to say that nothing has been done in that regard. The children with real problems are these who leave school at 15 years of age. Why do we exclude them from the guidance teachers' system? That service should be provided for those who are at risk. We let them slip through the net either due to negligence or because we do not realise the importance of making that service available to young children.

I welcome the commitment of the Minister for Education to come to grips with the problem of school books. Every year parents must pay for new text books and that imposes hardship in many families. The Minister has given an assurance that she will tackle the problem and that is to be welcomed.

As the Labour Party spokesman on Labour, I question some items in the Estimate for that Department.

The College of Industrial Relations provides invaluable service for the trade union movement in Dublin in particular. If I may be parochial once again, I should like to know why that service cannot be extended nationwide. Why do the Government not sponsor courses at regional colleges or in secondary schools? The College of Industrial Relations has been granted £45,000. I welcome the contribution to the college, but why not extend the service?

Given the tremendous task facing the country, and the Government, to expand employment and given the crisis level of unemployment, which, I am glad to say, the Government have now recognised, surely the Minister for Labour should be bringing forward emergency proposals aimed at maintaining as many existing jobs as possible. I raised that issue at Question Time yesterday and asked the Minister about the redundancy payment scheme. What was essentially a good scheme has been abused. Many companies now see the scheme as a means of shedding staff. In an effort to increase profitability companies that have been profitability, companies that have been State have shed jobs. In many cases they have offered workers generous terms they could not refuse. Often no matter how well a worker saved through the rest of his working life up to the age of 65, he could not accumulate a sum of money to compare with the redundancy package offered. I know of instances in Cork where companies gave eight and nine weeks' pay for every year of employment to those who accepted redundancy. Such packages may be good for the recipients, but what of those young people waiting in line for a job and those who are forced to emigrate? We are selling off jobs, and that scandal has to stop.

The scheme has been abused and the abuse has been legalised by a loophole in the redundancy payment scheme. The scheme was essentially a good idea because in the past people were just cast aside without any compensation having given a life's work to a particular firm. I am not criticising the redundancy payments system; I am criticising the abuse of that system. The abuse, I regret to say, has carried over into the State sector. Until we protect our existing jobs we cannot come to grips with the unemployment figures. First, we have to stem the tide that has eroded our industrial base. We have to defend the jobs we have and hold on to them. Unless we do so there is no way we can tackle the problems of unemployment and emigration. The Minister for Labour needs to examine that problem urgently.

It is important to maintain existing jobs and help the long-term unemployed through a programme of targeted wage subsidies. If the Minister listened to last week's "Saturday View" programme he would have heard one of the country's foremost economists, Paul Tansey, call for a policy of wage subsidies as part of job strategy. I wish to develop on that need. The Labour Party have advocated that concept for the past two years. That is why we support increasing substantially the subsidies under the employment incentive scheme to make it attractive for employers to take on unemployed persons who have been out of work for 12 months or more.

Unfortunately for the unemployed, this Government are still singing the tune of being responsible for the business environment and not jobs. The business sector equally says its primary responsibility is to secure a return of capital. The trade unions' primary object is to look after the interests of their members who have jobs, but I am glad to say that they now accept some responsibility for the unemployed. I would dearly like to see the Government test both the business community and the trade unions with proposals which would give priority to employment above increases in profitability or wages. I would like to see the Government taking the lead with targets to reduce unemployment in the same way that the debt-GNP ratio is to be reduced.

At this stage the unemployed have largely given up looking to the Government, and indeed to all elected politicians, for answers to the employment question. Let me make my position and that of the Labour Party clear. We will support any constructive proposal to retain existing jobs, create new jobs or expand the role of the European Community in job creation. In many senses the unemployment problem is beyond party politics. Unfortunately, the Government, by their own actions, reintroduced party politics in a number of key areas. Take the job shedding or, more accurately, the job destruction that is being forced on RTE by Government legislation and the 1,500 jobs that are still on the line in An Post. I will deal with that when we come to the Communications Estimate.

The Government need to give a signal that viable jobs in the public sector are not simply sacrificed to what are now increasingly recognised as threadbare policies of Thatcherism. There is also a need to amend the incentives for job shedding that currently exist in the rest of the economy as the answer to either technology change or downturn in business and as a means of increasing profits. These are measures under the control of the Government if they want to exercise leadership on employment. They are fundamentally necessary if we are to make a serious case to our European partners that unemployment should be of equal importance in the Community's priorities as economic integration of markets and businesses and monetary union.

We all know what the truth is on that score. The consensus in Brussels, in the Commission, in the Parliament and in the Council of Ministers, is that employment is not an issue — at least not for the EC. As a country of 3.5 million people on the periphery of Europe, can we hope to change this? I would look at it in these terms. Can we afford not to? What PESP can cope with 300,000 unemployed? What investor will be interested in investing in Ireland if the already stretched fabric is torn asunder? At this stage it is well and truly shredded.

Young people see no hope. I heard last week for the first time some commentators say that there is a lack of confidence, something I thought I would not hear during the lifetime of this Government. That sounds like the death knell for any Government. It is something we have not heard in recent years because the Government propaganda machine ensured that we would not hear it. They kept saying there was a growth in confidence. This is now eroding. Unless the Government do something, we will see no significant change in the numbers unemployed. In the past the State has been a catalyst in job creation. When the private sector refused to take up the challenge, the Government did so. Projects that were established by the Government include the ESB, the telephone system, the transport system, the development of Bord na Móna, the Sugar Company and so on.

Now we have what I consider to be an outrage — the selling off of Irish Life. When the private sector could not guarantee to honour their commitments in the thirties, the State had to intervene. Now, when the company is profitable, some people within that organisation impose their will on the Government and the Government respond by selling off Irish Life. The State did not take up the slack to ensure that people who contributed down through the years were compensated. It was customary for people to pay on insurance policies for extended periods to make sure that they at least would have a proper burial. When the multiplicity of companies in the thirties could not survive, the State had to intervene and to create Irish Life. Many people who subscribed to Irish Life did so out of sheer patriotism, because there were better terms available from foreign companies, British-based companies in particular. Many people contributed at disadvantageous rates to ensure that this company survived. I have met many of the people who were agents for Irish Life and who told me of their problems in the early days trying to sell insurance in competition with the many policies that were available from British companies at the time.

The State have at all times taken the initiative in the area of energy. The Shannon scheme was very controversial initially, but it has proved to be very efficient and profit-making and the board have spread their wings beyond these shores. We have Aer Lingus and Aer Rianta, who are showing initiative. Why do we have to dismantle them? Why do we not place greater trust in them? I am concerned that Telecom Éireann, which is now extremely profitable and employing a lot of people, will be privatised now that we have seen reports that it had a very good year. I will refer to that again on the Communications Estimate.

A good climate was created, and the Government are to be complimented on that; but they did not go down the right road. They created the climate but, having done that, the people entrusted with job creation failed dismally. They felt they had no moral obligation to create jobs because we had the safety valve of emigration. That is now gone. What will happen if young people who have left school in recent weeks cannot find jobs, if there is a build up of next year's school leavers? We have potentially an explosive situation. If we cannot provide jobs for our young people, if we cannot provide jobs for those who have been displaced by technology, those who are not young but not so old, what will happen?

Due to the downturn in Britain and in the United States it is no longer desirable to emigrate to those countries. There is a need for drastic action. The State have a very important role to play. I have no doubt that, if the other parties were present, they would tell me that they have enough of this ideology. What is patently obvious is that the ideology of the Right has failed dismally in this regard. They have not provided the jobs. Those who make profits have an obligation to create jobs. They have a moral obligation to ensure that as many people as possible have jobs.

Great emphasis has been placed on tourism as a job creator. We have had poor weather conditions for the past couple of weeks. I was around the Ring of Kerry at the weekend and it is obvious that there is very little tourist activity as a result of the bad weather.

We cannot be dependent on the service industries. There is a need for manufacturing as well. There is a reluctance on the part of people who have money in this country to invest. I often wonder where is the Irish entrepreneur, that mythical man. I do not think he exists. We are told by Allied Irish Banks that they are expecting reasonably good results from the Bank of Maryland. Do these financial institutions who have shed jobs, increased their profits and then employed people at a lower rate, who introduced a two-tier system of employment, feel they have any obligation to the young people? They are employing them on the cheap. How long will this scandal be allowed to continue? Unless the Government tell these people that they have a role in society other than making profit there will be a growth in unemployment.

Telecommunications is a most controversial area at the moment. I do not place the blame for that on the shoulders of the present Minister, who inherited the poisoned chalice, as another speaker said in this regard. The Broadcasting Bill has ensured the near destruction of RTE, which has served this country well down through the years. People in that organisation are being told that if they do not accept the current redundancy package before the end of July, similar terms will not be available in the future. The Broadcasting Bill was introduced to level the playing pitch. Having attempted that, we now discover a definite imbalance in favour of the private stations. Despite that, they are still not profitable. The people on the Opposition benches forewarned the Government about what was likely to happen in broadcasting. For reasons best known to the Minister, he introduced this now infamous legislation, which has proved to be a disaster.

Another speaker mentioned that the Independent Radio and Television Commission, which was set up to receive applications from people interested in becoming involved in broadcasting, have yet to reply to the community broadcasting stations. Many groups have indicated a willingness to set up community stations, yet not one of them has been given a licence to broadcast. Why is there no action in this regard? If one questions the Minister at Question Time he says that it is not his responsibility but the responsibility of the independent commission and that he cannot direct them in any particular way. That is not an acceptable response. Until the applications are processed there will be a question mark over the role of the IRTC. The Minister must address this. It is outrageous that after 12 months, despite the willingness of people, we have not yet a community broadcasting station.

In relation to the viability plan of An Post, I would refer the Minister to a letter in The Irish Times of Friday, 5 July last, which was from Tomás Roseingrave, Muintir na Tire, John F. Carroll, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, Joseph Rea, Irish Farmers' Association, Gordon Pearson, Federation of Irish Employers, Cornelius Scully, Irish Creamery Milk Suppliers Association, John Freeman, Irish Congress of Trade Unions, James G. McGarry, Chamber of Commerce of Ireland, as Irish members of the EC's Economic and Social Committee, Brussels. These responsible, experienced people, in speaking of the need for cohesion in Europe, said that we, as a peripheral nation, must have a proper postal service. These people have not been party political in their letter. I have been interested in the viability plan since it was first presented. The chief executive of An Post admitted that bad management has led to the need for the viability plan. An Post went from a profit in one year to a loss of £9 million gross the following year. Having received money from selling assets and shedding 1,100 jobs, the company should not have had such a loss.

If we are serious about tackling unemployment this viability plan should be scrapped. In the interests of stability and good industrial relations there should not be a breach of the PESP. It was never envisaged when the PESP was signed that this viability plan would be produced. The company need to develop their services. There is provision in the Postal and Telecommunications Act to allow the company to become involved in banking. That is one of the ways in which the company could expand profitably. I look for an announcement that the viability plan is to be scrapped.

Last year a sum of £250,000 was provided for North-South co-operation. This was reduced this year by 20 per cent to £200,000. I am connected with an organisation in my constituency which is actively involved in North-South exchange. Their grant was slashed this year as a result of the cutback under this subhead. At a time when the Minister for Foreign Affairs and the Minister for Justice are on a shuttle service between Dublin and Belfast to improve North-South relations I cannot see the logic in reducing this allocation by 20 per cent. If anything, we should increase it. An improvement in North-South relations can be achieved only if people come from North to South and have an opportunity to see how life is lived here. The organisation with which I was directly involved operated from Ballincollig, County Cork, and they brought senior citizens from Protestant and Catholic communities in the North to Ballincollig, putting them up in their own houses at a very reasonable rate. I think all they asked for was travelling expenses so that they could bring the people to and from the North. The decision to reduce funding under this subhead has meant that this organisation have had to drastically reduce this service. This was the subject of a parliamentary question I put down to the Minister for Social Welfare on 2 July. I must confess that I was not too happy with his response on that occasion and I again ask him to address this issue, if possible.

I wish to refer to Vote 40 for the Department of Social Welfare. I am pleased the Minister for Social Welfare is in the House as I want to refer to one or two anomalies in the system which need to be addressed. I have spoken privately to him in the past about the method of assessment for young people living at home. This method of assessment is outrageous; to say it is an anomaly is not strong enough — it is penal clause.

At present parents are not entitled to receive a tax allowance for someone who is not deemed to be a dependant. Yet in assessing the entitlement of an applicant who may be 23, 24 or 28 years of age living at home, the income of the wage earner, usually the father, is taken into account. It is insulting to say to an adult that he is a dependant just because he is living at home. Many young people are being forced out of their homes into private accommodation — they are not eligible for corporation or local authority housing. At times they can be exploited by unscrupulous landlords and many of them have to seek a rent supplement from the health authority. This supplement, which is based on the amount required by a person to survive, is not a princely sum. I ask the Minister to put an end to this outrageous method of assessment. It is absolutely essential that this matter is addressed. I am glad the Minister for Social Welfare is in the House to listen to my comments. I realise that there would be cost implications in reforming the method of assessment but this has to be weighed against the loss of human dignity suffered by people who are forced into the system and told, even though they may be 26 or 27 years of age, that they are still dependants.

On the other side of the coin, the wage earner in the home cannot claim income tax relief for supporting their son or daughter. As a result, families are being torn apart. Many of these young people are reluctant to leave the family atmosphere they have grown up in. It is about time this outrageous method of assessment was changed.

One of the greatest anomalies in the social welfare system relates to medical referees. I am not in any way questioning the professional competency of any doctor. However, I question why any doctor would completely ignore consultants' reports presented to him by applicants seeking disability benefit and invalidity pension. Even though a person may have a back injury, only his pulse and chest are examined by the doctor. Reports from some of our most eminent consultants and X-ray results have been completely ignored by medical referees in an effort to reduce the number of people in receipt of disability benefit. Many people who are unable to work are forced to go to the employment exchanges and make a claim for unemployment assistance. A person who applies for unemployment assistance is supposed to be fit to work. Medical certificates from some of the senior consultants in the Cork Regional Hospital stating that an applicant was not fit to work have been ignored by medical referees. The Minister needs to address this problem urgently.

I sought a meeting with the Minister this week to discuss the matter but, unfortunately, due to pressure of work or for other reasons, he was unable to meet me. I very much regret this. An end has to be put to this outrageous practice. The Minister has shown himself in the past to be a caring Minister and I hope that he will review the system of examination by medical referees. Many people are being subjected to much pressure as a result of the present method of examination.

I wish to refer to Vote 41 for the Department of Health. At present people have a tendency to forget about the level of health services being provided by virtue of the fact that there are so many other problems, particularly unemployment. Even though this problem has been brushed aside, it still exists. There is one glaring problem in this area which needs to be addressed, that is geriatric accommodation. We have been told that the acute hospitals are keeping people alive longer but sufficient geriatric beds are not being provided. This problem needs to be addressed urgently. We owe it to our senior citizens to see to it that they live out the last years of their lives in a dignified way. The level of service being provided at present is not satisfactory and many families are being put under undue financial pressure because they cannot secure accommodation for elderly relatives in State run hospitals and have to put them into private nursing homes. This is beyond the means of many families who are being put under pressure just because they want to ensure that their elderly relatives live out their final days in some form of comfort with proper care. The Minister has to take the problems suffered by such families into account.

Likewise, there are long waiting lists for hip replacement operations. People waiting for hip replacement operations suffer pain every hour of every day. This issue needs to be addressed urgently. It is not possible for the staff in St. Mary's Orthopaedic Hospital in Cork to use an operating theatre during the summer months due to the lack of a ventilation system. This means people have to wait for an undue length of time for hip replacement operations.

I wish now to turn to Vote 42 for the Department of Energy. Natural gas is one of our greatest natural assets. This is a non-renewable source of energy. Due to lack of policy to date — it should be said that the Government of which I was a member were equally careless in this regard — we have not exploited this resource to its full potential. There is room for job creation in this area if we use the gas in other ways instead of merely burning it, as we are doing at present. I ask the Minister to look at the possibility of providing an incentive so as to ensure that the maximum value is gained from the natural asset and that we do not, through negligence, burn it off, so to speak. By-products from natural gas could be of benefit to the State in terms of job creation. If we are really serious about reducing our level of unemployment we need to ensure that the maximum number of jobs is provided in this area.

I sincerely hope the Minister will consider some of the points I have raised and perhaps respond to them when he makes his contribution. The way in which young people are assessed is outrageous and the Minister is duty bound to do something about it. Likewise, the attitude which medical referees adopt to medical evidence presented to them is a matter which has to be addressed as a matter of urgency.

At the outset let me respond to the points made by Deputy O'Sulivan. With regard to the question of benefit-in-kind, it comes down to a matter of money. As the Deputy is aware, I am making provision in the Estimate for the first time for a minimum payment of £5. This will cost a considerable amount of money to implement. Those who at one time would have been awarded 50p, £1, £1.50 or £2 will now receive £5 at the minimum.

With regard to medical referees, if the Deputy is aware of cases where someone, allegedly, is ignoring a consultant's report I will have the matter investigated. Normally, if something like this happens the independent appeals system will pick it up. In addition, the views of an independent consultant can be obtained. Complaints relating to back pain cause much difficulty for the Department.

My Department's Estimate for 1991 is £1,610,453,000. This is the amount which the Exchequer provides for social insurance and assistance services. The bulk of spending on social insurance, £1.36 billion, is met by PRSI contributions from employers, employees and the self-employed. The Exchequer meets the full cost of social assistance. The total expenditure on all social welfare services is almost £3 billion.

Some 740,000 persons receive a weekly social welfare payment from my Department covering 1.3 million beneficiaries. Our support for the elderly comes to £17 million each week, income support for families, including widows, lone parents, child benefit and family income supplement, costs £15 million each week, the unemployed receive £14 million a week and those who are ill get £7 million each week.

The Estimate includes the cost of this year's budget improvements, which amounts to £145 million in a full year and £60 million this year. Expenditure on these programmes is broadly in line with the published Estimate with the exception of the cost of payments to the unemployed, which is now projected to exceed the budget Estimate.

The Government are achieving a more equitable spread of social insurance cover. PRSI contributions from the self-employed this year will amount to £56 million. This brings their total contribution since they came into the social insurance system in 1988 to £176 million. The extension of full social insurance cover to part-time workers from April this year continues our policy of extending social insurance protection.

The live register is now expected to average up to 250,000. A number of factors contribute to the high number on the register. During the past month an estimated 11,900 students, teachers and other school-related entrants "signed on". The number of people emigrating has fallen by 30,000 in the past year. The deep recession and worsening labour market conditions in the United Kingdom and the United States have resulted in more people returning home.

The number of people leaving the live register is higher now than at any time in the last four years. This is a result of the Government's success in job creation. Changing types of employment such as part-time working are also contributing to the greater numbers leaving the live register.

People are returning to Ireland because things are better here. Through our progressive social policy over the last four years we have raised the real standard of living of both the unemployed and those families at work.

The policies we are following are clearly right. In the four years before the Programme for National Recovery, unemployment increased by 100,000 and emigration began to spiral. In the last four years, unemployment was falling until the Gulf crisis and the recession particularly in the United States and the United Kingdom interrupted international trade. We projected that there would be a slow-down in growth this year. The international recession in turn has led to a fall-off in emigration. This is the main reason for the current increase in the live register. This Government inherited an established pattern of rising emigration. The upward trend peaked during 1988, when net outward migration was 46,000.

By 1989, when the Government's policies had begun to take effect, emigration showed a dramatic 30 per cent decline to 30,000. The preliminary census figures published recently confirm that emigration has fallen to a mere 1,000 in the year ended April 1991. This fall-off in emigration accounts for the difference between the current level of unemployment and that for which provision was made in this year's budget.

Economic growth is a prerequisite for job creation. We have to find ways to speed up growth and to ensure that this growth brings more jobs. We are committed in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress to the creation of employment and the reduction of involuntary emigration. Tackling unemployment and the creation of new jobs remain the priorities of the Government. All our policies are aimed at creating the right climate for business and investment and to bring about increased employment. Let me remind the House of what the Government have achieved over the past four years.

There has been a complete turnaround in our economic position. Economic growth in the period 1987-90 exceeded the EC average at more than 4 per cent per annum. There was no growth between 1983 and 1986. The debt-GNP ratio has been reduced from 131 per cent in 1987 to 111 per cent at the end of 1990. Inflation has been maintained at around 3 per cent, about half the rate in the United Kingdom. In 1987 our interest rate was 9 per cent higher than the German interest rate. Now it has been reduced to just over 1 per cent above the German rate. Real interest rates, however, still remain unacceptably high. Exchequer borrowing has fallen from 13 per cent of GNP to 2 per cent of GNP last year, the lowest for 40 years. This Government will take whatever measures are necessary to avoid an upward spiral. Our balance of payments deficit of £500 million in 1986 was transformed into a surplus of £700 million in 1990. Workers got real increases in wages and we have had a prolonged period of industrial peace.

The IDA have recently confirmed that the ending of the Gulf War has led to a resumption of visits by overseas executives interested in investing in Ireland. The IDA are now confident that the jobs target of 20,000 in manufacturing and international services for this year will be met. The managing director of the IDA has also confirmed that, despite the international economic slow-down, output growth and new job creation in industry this year will be in line with the strong performance in 1990. Manufacturing output growth is likely to be of the order of 4 to 5 per cent this year in line with last year's performance. Similarly, tourism has shown a remarkable recovery.

The establishment of a task force on employment under the central review committee of the Programme for Economic and Social Progress has been welcomed by the social partners. The review of industrial policy, with its emphasis on the development of indigenous industry, has also been welcomed. The task force on employment has recently identified an area of opportunity for job creation. Multinational companies based in this country buy £1,000 million worth of components abroad annually. Seven semi-State companies have now taken on the task of ensuring that some of these components could be sourced in this country. Up to 25,000 new jobs could be created in this area. Deputy O'Sullivan will be familiar with some companies in Cork which have successfully done this job in the private sector already.

It is now time for industrialists to up their performance on job creation. This is not the time for pessimism. We are not in recession and we must not try to talk ourselves into recession. The industrialised countries are already showing signs of recovery. That recovery will commence in earnest before the onset of 1992. At this time more than ever before we are well placed to extract the maximum benefit from the international upturn now in prospect.

Some commentators have suggested that PRSI levels in this country are a disincentive to job creation. I want to refute that allegation. Let us look at the facts. Social insurance contributions in Ireland are low by European standards. Our total social insurance rate, that is, employers' rate plus employees' rate, is 17.7 per cent compared to 36 per cent in Germany and over 52 per cent in the Netherlands. Those on the lowest incomes are already exempt from employee PRSI contributions as a result of the "£60 exemption" which the Government introduced last year.

There is little evidence to suggest that a reduction, or even abolition, of PRSI would generate more employment. In the 1990-91 tax year employers were exempt from PRSI in respect of any additional workers taken on in the four months up to February 1990 who were formerly on the live register. Only 1,300 jobs qualified under the scheme. Given that some of these jobs would have been created anyway, this outcome casts considerable doubt on the assertion that a reduction in PRSI will generate jobs.

If PRSI were to be reduced it would be necessary to raise money elsewhere to fund social welfare payments. This in itself could have adverse effects on employment. Payment of PRSI contributions gives an entitlement to receive a wide range of social insurance benefits. These are paid to contributors, as of right, without a means test. This is clearly more acceptable than a system of taxation where there would be no clear link between paid contributions and entitlement to benefits. PRSI contributions raise over £1.3 billion annually to help pay for unemployment benefits, sickness benefits and pensions. Any disruption of this flow of income would have serious implications for the financing of pensions and other social welfare payments.

The whole structure of the PRSI system has been under examination at interdepartmental level. The Government will be examining ways in which the system can be further streamlined and simplified bearing in mind the interests of both workers and employers.

I want to refer to the success we have had in tackling fraud and abuse in the social welfare system. Further savings of the order of £36 million will be made this year. The external control unit was expanded in 1988. This unit's activities are focused on ensuring that those getting unemployment payments are genuinely entitled to receive them. Savings in the region of £7.5 million will be achieved through the activities of the unit this year.

I introduced regulations, with effect from 1 January 1989, which require employers in certain specified industries to notify my Department of the commencement of employment of new employees. The industries involved were: construction, cleaning, forestry and security, areas where there was a record of abuse. The regulations were extended in 1990 to include subcontractors. The industries specified were construction and forestry in which subcontracting is a particular feature.

In the year ended December 1990 a total of 16,000 notifications were received from employers and almost 4,000 were received from subcontractors. In accordance with a commitment given in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the system of notification of new employees will be extended to other sectors later this year. It is proposed that the road haulage industry, private road transport, the catering industry and the licensed bar trade will be brought within the scope of the regulations from 1 September 1991.

An extra £20 million of taxpayers' money will be saved this year in a major crackdown on PRSI-related fraud. This crackdown involves overhauling the PRSI registration system; ensuring that employers comply with their PRSI obligations for their employees, and the recruitment of additional staff costing £1 million to investigate firms and detect defaulting employers. Inspectors of my Department will carry out surveys on 15,000 firms this year to ensure that employers are complying with the law. This week 25 new investigators have taken up duty.

As part of the crackdown, I announced an amnesty for employers and employees in March last. The amnesty will last until September next. I will not take legal action against employers who do not meet their-obligations under the PRSI system on condition that they come clean and make arrangements to pay what they owe and bring their PRSI payments up-to-date. Similarly, employees and other individuals fraudulently in receipt of any social welfare payment will not be prosecuted on condition that they now report to my Department and make arrangements to repay the moneys received. To date 265 people, including 130 employers, have availed of the amnesty.

The joint Revenue-Social Welfare investigation unit has since been expanded and black economy type investigations figure prominently in the work of the unit. Savings in the region of £8.5 million will be achieved this year through the work of the unit. I am determined to root out those who cheat on their fellow workers, their competitors and the taxpayer. We have made very considerable progress in this area and I will be considering further measures during the Dáil recess to combat abuse of social welfare and to ensure that payments go to those for whom they are intended.

This year's budget package will cost £145 million in a full year and £60 million this year. The Government are committed to maintaining the value of social welfare payments. The general increase of 4 per cent this year more than compensates against inflation. In addition, this is the fourth consecutive year in which additional special increases have been given to those on the lowest payments. From the end of this month all long-term rates of social welfare payments either reach or exceed the Commission on Social Welfare's priority rate, which is £54.60 in 1991 terms. People who are receiving old age non-contributory pensions, long-term unemployment assistance, pre-retirement allowance and disabled person's maintenance allowance now have a new weekly personal rate of £55.

I am very aware of the financial needs of families with children and I have made significant progress in recent budgets in improving the position of such families. This has included increases in the basic rates of payments and substantial increases in child dependant payments. Child benefit payments have also been increased.

In 1987 there were 36 child dependant rates with a minimum rate of £6. In the 1991 budget the minimum child dependant rate was increased to £12, representing a 100 per cent increase. The number of rates was steamlined to three. Also, child dependant allowances were extended to age 21 in respect of the child dependants of all long-term recipients where the child remains in full-time education. Other improvements in child-related payments were: the payment of the higher child benefit of £22.90 in respect of the fourth child onwards, which represents an annual increase of over £85 for families of at least four children; substantial improvements in the family income supplement scheme, including an increase in the income limits and the abolition of the maximum payments — this latter improvement will be of significant help to low earners; and the introduction of a back-to-school clothing and footwear allowance scheme providing for families on social welfare, up to £25 each for children in primary school and £40 for children in second level schools for back-to-school costs. It should be noted that it has been extended to include those on family income supplement this year.

In addition, for families at work on low pay, the child-related tax exemption scheme, with effect from 6 April 1991, provides for a child tax exemption of £300 for the first and second child in a family, and £500 for third and subsequent children. Under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress, the Government are committed to providing the resources needed to implement the additional child income support measures recommended by the Commission on Social Welfare — some £69 million in 1990 terms — over the ten year period of the programme. The particular measures taken will be decided in the light of up to date information on child and family circumstances and taking account of available resources. The issue of agerelated child dependant payments will be considered in that context.

The following example illustrates the increase in payments for a family on long term unemployment assistance with five children between 1987 and 1991. This family is now almost £50 a week better off than they were in 1987. The basic weekly payment, including children benefit, in 1987 was £120.36. In 1991 that rises to £169.51 or £49.15 per week increase. In addition, in 1991 clothing and footwear allowance has a value of £155.00. This is the new scheme introduced in 1990, assuming three children at primary and two at second level. Formerly a limited number of families received some assistance towards the cost of footwear for children.

As regards other improvements, the carer's allowance has been extended to cover carers of people receiving disabled person's maintenance allowance and carers of pensioners getting a State pension from another member state of the EC or from a country with which Ireland has a bilateral social security agreement. The weekly rate of the carer's allowance goes up from £45 to £50 next week. While mentioning bilateral agreements, I would like to thank the Members on the opposite side of the House for agreeing to the motion which went through yesterday and which, as far as the House is concerned, is the final procedure on the agreement we signed with Australia. We look forward to the negotiations on the agreement with the United States being concluded in the latter part of this year.

About 28,000 DPMA recipients qualify for free travel pass from my Department. However, many people receiving the allowance are unable to travel without the assistance of a companion and they miss out on the benefits of the free travel scheme. Last November I introduced a new free travel "companion" pass for people who are unable to travel alone. The new pass allows a companion to travel free of charge when travelling with the DPMA recipient. There are no strict rules and different companions can accompany the pass holder on different occasions. These new arrangements benefit up to 12,000 people receiving disabled person's maintenance allowance throughout the country. This year's budget went one step further. I have now extended the right to free travel and the companion pass to former recipients of DPMA who had lost their entitlement to DPMA because they went into residential care. In that case they have been assessed as DPMA, so from our point of view we can take that assessment and on that basis give them free travel and the companion pass while they are in residential care, to go home for weekends, for breaks or whatever else.

Part-time workers earning £25 a week or more are now covered for social insurance benefits and pensions and pay Class A PRSI contributions.

There has been much talk in recent time about how well off social welfare recipients are and how it does not pay to go to work. In particular, our absent Fine Gael friends have propagated this misconception. The facts are that unemployment payments have been increased. substantially — up to 28 per cent in real terms — since this Government came into office, but we have also ensured that people are better off working than on the dole — as much as a third better off. We did this by boosting family income supplements and by introducing family tax exemptions for lower paid workers to the tune of £16.5 million. Instead of looking at hypothetical models, let us look at the situation of real people. A family at work with four children earning £160 a week gross will end up with £175.20 a week cash from the latter part of this month. This is £44.20 a week more than if they were receiving unemployment benefit. The same family were only £22 a week better off in 1987. We have doubled the incentive to work there. A family at work with four children earning £180 a week gross will end up with £168.45 a week cash. They are £38.05 a week better off than if they were receiving unemployment benefit, even with pay-related benefit. A young person getting a job at £115 a week is still some £36 a week better off than on the dole. The question of loss of extra benefits for families if they go back to work has also been spoken about in a misleading way. Let us put this into perspective. Families on family income supplement do not lose the medical card. They do now receive the back to school clothing and footwear allowance. Surveys have shown that only 5 per cent of unemployment benefit claimants live in local authority houses. It is therefore misleading to suggest that a rise in differential rents is a major disincentive for all unemployed people.

That is the danger with people academically when they start setting up models. They put things into the models to work things out, but if you look at the practical situation you find the percentages of people in that position may be extremely small so they use what would in effect be a biased model to make an argument which perhaps they wanted to make in any event. The Commission on Social Welfare report indicated that almost half those on unemployment payments have no rent or mortgage. The facts are that people are much better off at work than on the dole — apart from the whole psychological aspect of being at work, which is very important — unless they are operating in the black economy as well. We are tackling that and, as I mentioned, during the recess we hope to consider that further.

A number of other measures aimed at increasing the incentive to work for those on social welfare have also been introduced. Many long-term unemployed people were reluctant to take up work, particularly seasonal jobs, because they would lose the extra benefits associated with their long-term unemployed status if they worked for more than 20 weeks. I have now removed that disincentive and these Estimates include the cost of its removal. Unemployed people can now take up work for up to a year and return to their long-term payment without any fuss. I was very happy to be able to make that arrangement.

The extension of full social insurance cover to part-time workers is a further incentive to taking up part-time work. The part-time job incentive scheme is designed to allow long-term unemployed persons to work part-time for up to 24 hours a week while receiving a flat rate allowance instead of their unemployment payments. I see the need for a more fundamental approach to long-term unemployment that would not restrict potential work options for people who are long-term unemployed. What I envisage is the provision of incentives for a limited period to encourage long-term unemployed persons to get back to the workforce in a manner and at a pace that suits their circumstances. I hope to develop this approach further and will be working on that also during the recess. Incidentally, the Deputy should tell his colleague, Deputy McCartan, to stop calling it a holiday, because it is anything but a holiday from our point of view; it is a recess.

The problem of long-term unemployment needs particular attention. Studies have shown that there is a strong link between low educational attainments and long-term unemployment. Many of those at present long-term unemployed may not have had the opportunity to complete second level education. They had to leave school early without realising their full potential. Some will have left school when jobs were easier to come by. Many of these people found themselves among the first casualties of the recession. They now have to compete in a shrinking jobs market with a younger, more educated and more skilled workforce. The problem arises in that if you do not have the education and the skills you cannot get the first job and if you cannot get the first job you cannot get the experience. The two qualifications employers look for are experience and educational qualifications. Therefore, a person gets into a cycle of repeated longlabour market. In particular, they need job and then comes out of that job but has not the educational attainments, he cannot get back to work again; whereas those with the educational attainments get back much more readily.

Deputy De Rossa will know that in Finglas 70 people went back to Coláiste Íde this year to undergo second chance education. That was an extremely high number in that area, 10 per cent of the total number nationally, which amounted to 705. It is tremendous to see people achieving the standards they set for themselves in second chance education. These people need incentives and supports to enable them to regain a foothold in the labour market. In particular, they need the opportunity of second chance education and retraining. The educational initiatives I introduced for the long-term unemployed have been an outstanding success. Seven hundred and five people are now doing full-time courses under various education programmes. These courses engender a positive attitude, optimism and a desire to progress further. The range of options now extend to full-time third level courses. Indeed I was very happy to see that the ESRI, in a report published about two weeks ago, confirmed solidly what we have been doing in this area, and I hope it will give those who doubted what was going on a boost in our favour.

The vocational training opportunities scheme has been particularly successful in providing second chance education at second level. During the past two years the scheme has been progressively expanded and now operates in 33 centres nationwide, catering for 660 students. It will be further expanded to an additional 20 centres catering for over 1,000 students from September next. In addition, the scheme will be extended to include people who have been unemployed for 12 months or more. At present it is restricted to those who are unemployed for more than 15 months. I have managed to have it reduced to 12 months. This is something that arose from the findings in Coláiste Ide in Finglas and one of the requests they made to me when I met them. The extension will allow people to avail of the education option at an earlier stage in their unemployment. A priority placement arrangement will be introduced which will ensure that those in receipt of unemployment assistance will get first priority for places, followed by those on unemployment benefit and then those signing for credits only. This gives access to the education option to people who sign for credited contributions but do not recieve a weekly payment. This will be of particular benefit to married women.

The area-based response to long-term unemployment outlined in the Programme for Economic and Social Progress provides for the establishment of new integrated partnerships between local communities, public agencies and the social partners in 12 selected pilot areas in 1991. I am very happy that about ten of the pilot areas selected are areas which we had designated previously as community development areas. These were in the process of development and obviously were a good focal point for the area-based response. The partnerships provide an opportunity for piloting various initiatives. It is envisaged that the new task force on employment may also wish to make recommendations to the local companies. Local companies have been set up already in six of the pilot areas. Steps are in hand to develop a national structure for employers to directly fund and promote business linkages to support the enterprise of the local partnerships.

I am introducing a new management structure at regional level throughout my Department to support the continuing development and co-ordination of social welfare services at local level. This is a historic development in the Department of Social Welfare. I am committed to providing a local, personal and relevant service to social welfare recipients and claimants. This initiative will advance my wider plans to bring the services closer to the people who need them. The country will be divided into eight regions broadly corresponding to the existing health board regions. There will be regional head offices in Cork, Limerick, Waterford, Dundalk, Sligo, Galway, Longford and Dublin where regional managers, supported by small management teams, will be based. The regional managers will have day-to-day responsibility for the delivery of social welfare services to the public in their regions. This has great implications — not quite so obvious on quick reading — in terms of developing responsibility and decision-making to the local regions. They will monitor regional performance, plan the devolution of additional functions to the local offices and introduce more streamlined work methods.

The regional managers will also ensure the consistent implementation of social welfare policy in their regions and will deal with any problems arising in that regard. The regional management team will provide the organisation, personnel and training functions to support the local offices in their region. They will also monitor the performance of local offices, the quality of service delivered by reference to agreed standards, support the development of new services and operate internal control functions. Regional managers will be charged with the provision of comprehensive information services and a better quality local service.

One of the main targets I have set for the regional managers is to implement the one-stop-shop concept in all the social welfare local offices in their regions. Each region will be broken down into areas and each area will be responsible for managing all aspects of the delivery of social welfare services. This will include the management of all local offices, branch employment offices and outdoor staff. It is my intention that each local area will provide a comprehensive service to all social welfare clients, claimants, employers, employees, community or voluntary bodies and clients seeking information. The role of the local office will be to ensure that clients get this service in a dignified, effective and efficient way. In each local office there will be a claims area which will be responsible for taking all claims for social welfare payments, establishing eligibility and entitlements and advising clients of other services to which they may be entitled. The claims area will also be responsible for the ongoing maintenance and payment of claims. There will also be a review and control area to review entitlements and to control scheme payments and the administration of the PRSI system, including the control of employers.

The local office will provide an information service to give general information on social welfare services. It will also provide feedback on how clients perceive the service and how it might be improved. The information service will also organise talks to local voluntary and interest groups. I intend that the local office will have a greater degree of contact with these organisations at both regional and local level. This will enable them to keep up to date on developments in social welfare and contribute to the further developments. Regional managers will establish and maintain these links.

To support the comprehensive range of services that I envisage being provided by the local offices will require extensive use of information technology. Already almost all local offices have access to central computer systems and I expect the remainder to be connected this year. Use of computer systems means that client information stored centrally is readily accessible by any local office that requires it. In addition to the introduction of information technology, I have already implemented a number of one-stop-shop initiatives. The first of these was the extension of the computer inquiry system, INFOSYS, to local offices. This allows clients to make inquiries about their claims at any office where there is a computer terminal linked to INFOSYS.

Medical certificates for sickness benefit may now be handed in and processed at 32 of the 50 employment exchanges throughout the country. Indeed, the first of these was in Cork. Since then we have been spreading throughout the country and we have now got to 32 of the 50 employment exchanges. Approximately one third, or 13,000, of all medical certificates received each week are now handled this way.

I have introduced a new method of payment for smallholders and persons over age 55 who are long-term unemployed. These people no longer need attend their local office each week to sign on. Instead they will be given a book of payable orders to cash each week at their local post office. This new service for clients will also allow staff at local offices more time to deal with personal callers. I am sorry Deputy O'Sullivan is not present to hear that this will improve the lot of many local post offices around the country, because they will have a new system of payment which will be working through them.

Is the viability plan gone?

It might help to make some more viable.

I have also introduced a system of desk interviewing for means assessments. In many cases it will be no longer necessary for a client to attend the local office to make a claim and then await a home visit by a social welfare officer to carry out a means test. Instead, clients will now have their assessment carried out at the local office when they make their claim. Claim decision work in relation to unemployment claims is being devolved from head office to local offices. This will reduce the time taken to decide claims. We are devolving down to the local offices, acting under a regional control and under a small regional team, all the responsibility and all the services and facilities, so that they are completely in charge of their own business. In that way they can be much more effective and efficient in doing the business and still maintain the control they must have and which previously was one of the reasons there was an insistence that these should go to headquarters to be cleared from a financial point of view. By changing the whole system we are creating many new possibilities and opportunities which can be explored in the future. Until this structure was up and running there were many other things which could never have started. Much hard work has been done in this regard by the officials in the Department. I thank the unions for agreeing to this major structural change within the Department, which will have many implications. I thank the unions for the way in which they have negotiated these changes. I thank also the officials of my Department for the work they have put into these developments. This is an historical development in the way in which we deliver our social welfare services.

The Programme for Economic and Social Progress proposed that my Department take over the issue of revenue and social insurance (RSI) numbers from the Revenue Commissioners with a view to its more widespread use for social welfare and related services. This was done in April of this year. My Department are now in the course of assigning RSI numbers to all 16 to 19 year-olds and will be issuing a registration card with their RSI number to each of them later this year. This is the start of a process to ensure that everybody knows his or her RSI number and that their contribution and claim records will be readily accessible when they claim their entitlements at local offices.

In summary, I see the regional management structure as an important step towards the development of a fully localised and client-orientated service. A lot of work has already been undertaken to develop and instal facilities to support local services. With the addition of regional managers and their support teams, I am confident that progress towards providing local services for social welfare clients in all regions will be greatly accelerated.

Agreement has been concluded with the staff interests on the introduction of the regional management structure and I am now proceeding with the appointment of the regional managers and their support teams. Indeed, the first couple have been appointed in the last ten days and others will be coming on stream.

The picture in social welfare is one of unparalleled progress in the various aspects of my Department's work since 1987. If anybody doubts that, they should have a look at the Social Welfare Acts for the last four years and they will find that very few in the past were as substantial or as comprehensive. The Programme for Economic and Social Progress has set the agenda for further progress during the nineties. We have in that programme a social guarantee for those who depend on social welfare that they will achieve the full rates proposed by the Commission on Social Welfare as the economy grows over the period of the programme. Recession and unemployment are a worldwide phenomenon at present, but we have a sound economy and the right policies to benefit from the upturn which will come about.

I agree with Deputy T. O'Sullivan when he said — although he did not say it strongly — that if we want to criticise one another let us criticise one another, but as a nation let us recognise our strengths and let us not talk ourselves into any kind of depression. I was very disappointed last weekend to read a survey on industrialists talking about depression. That is the worst possible thing industrialists could do and they know that. If they know anything about marketing, business or selling, which is supposed to be their sine qua non, they should not begin to talk themselves into a recession, especially when they are basically and fundamentally wrong and when all the indicators in our economy point in that direction.

Our young population indicates clearly our ability to take on any markets if there is the leadership from the people who can give it — that can come forward from the task force set up under the Programme for Economic and Social Progress. Whatever way it comes, we should all contribute towards it. I see it as something good that people have come back to this country and that emigration has stopped. It is one of the good things that has happened recently; but, if so, it has created new challenges for us. We are capable of taking on those challenges if we set about it. We must continue to keep the economy on a sound footing to encourage investment and create jobs. By doing so we will ensure that those on social welfare will also benefit and share in the fruits of our success. One of my concerns is that we continue to grow and develop, to be in a position to improve the lot of those who depend on social welfare — the pensioners, the unemployed, whom we hope will be a more short-term category, the widows, lone parents — and to improve the leadership we give to the country.

I do not intend to respond in detail to the Minister for Social Welfare because my colleague, Deputy Byrne, dealt with that area last night. However, I should like to take up one or two points. The Minister said that instead of looking at hypothetical models we should look at the situation of real people. He went on to talk about academics who construct models based on numbers of people who, perhaps, are not representative of people in general, and drawing conclusions. I do not know whether the Minister has specific academic studies in mind but, from reading the examples he gave, there is no indication as to how representative those models are. He spoke of a man at work, with four children, earning £160 per week gross who ended up with £175.20 per week cash. Does he mean that the family qualify for family income supplement? Otherwise, I cannot see how they would end up with more cash——

Those are the examples used by other people.

I am not saying that the Minister's examples are incorrect but I wonder if they are representative of the general situation, as the Minister seemed to imply by saying that other people who have drawn up models are unrepresentative.

The Minister's third example was of a young person getting a job at £115 per week being 36 per cent better off than on the dole. That is true if a young person can find a job paying £115 per week. My experience of Finglas is that an extremely small number of young people who leave second level or, indeed, third level education can get a job with a salary of £115 per week, even gross. If these people get a job it usually pays £1 per hour. Unfortunately, because of the way unemployment assistance operates, they are probably still better off financially taking a job at £40 per week than living at home and being assessed on their parents' income.

Benefit in kind.

Young people living at home with their parents will probably get nothing; if they are lucky they might be paid £4 or £5 per week. I hope the Minister appreciates that I am not denigrating the good work he has done in social welfare. I have always given him credit for what he has done in that area but there are still serious anomalies. Deputy Toddy O'Sullivan referred to benefit in kind, which affects not only young people but single men and women in their thirties and forties living with their parents, who qualify for only £10 or £12 unemployment assistance. That is unacceptable although there is clearly a cost involved in rectifying that situation. At some point — perhaps at 21 or 25 years of age — a single man or woman living at home should qualify for full unemployment assistance regardless of the parents' income. I am sure that constituents of members of the Fianna Fáil Party have told them that they are devastated at being treated in this way. They are citizens of the State but they receive only £12 weekly to feed and clothe themselves. Presumably, they have to ask their mother or father — at 30 years of age — for the price of a dance, film or other entertainment. This matter needs to be addressed and I hope the Minister will tackle it in the next budget although I know there are difficulties in relation to how it will be framed. I do not have statistics as to how representative the examples which the Minister gave are and perhaps he will supply them.

People say that at that stage people get too much on the dole——

It is a classic argument from Fine Gael and, indeed, from Fianna Fáil's partners in Government, the Progressive Democrats, that there are disincentives to work, as if 250,000 people refuse to take up jobs which are available to them. Even if the case were correct in relation to disincentives to work, the jobs are not there for those on the dole or receiving benefit. The evidence is that, regardless of how low the pay is, people prefer to work, even for a paltry sum. People are prepared to work all hours, no matter how badly paid, because they meet friends and have a social life.

I do not accept the argument in relation to PRSI. I appeared with the Minister on a recent television programme and, unusually, we agreed on this issue. I see Deputy Briscoe shaking his head in wonderment.

The Minister must have been wrong on that occasion.

We are winning over the Minister; Deputy McCartan is wearing him down. PRSI is not a disincentive to work. I am glad the Minister for Social Welfare is resisting the pressures to attempt to fiddle with PRSI, especially the contributions of employers, because, in many cases, especially when we are talking about multinationals who repatriate 100 per cent of their profits, it is the only contribution they make to the economy, apart from the wages they pay to their employees. It is important to maintain PRSI as it is.

I do not want to make a facetious point in relation to the next issue. The recess has been described as "holidays" but I agree with the Minister that that is not the case. A recess is certainly not a holiday for me or for Ministers.

I agree with the Deputy.

I do not know if it is a holiday for Deputy Briscoe, he will have to put his hand on his heart and declare that that is the case. The point is that the perception of the public is that when the Dáil closes from the middle of July to the middle or end of October, Deputies and the Government go to sunnier climes to acquire a tan. The perception in most cases is wrong but until we organise the business of this House in a rational way which is clearly productive that perception will remain. We will have debated the Estimates for 21 hours.

Debate adjourned.
The Dáil adjourned at 5 p.m. until 10.30 a.m. on Friday, 12 July 1991.